Private Does Not Have to Mean Expensive

I have to get something off my chest. It’s about what education is and what makes home education work. It starts with money. Education is not about buying the right stuff. A good education is not expensive. I’ll admit that in the past, people were limited educationally because they couldn’t get their hands on books or see outside their own farm or neighborhood, but that just isn’t the case in the United States today. We have public libraries in every city and an internet connection is a must in every home. Yes, there may be exceptions, but I’m talking generalities here.

The most important thing you need to educate your own kids is to be able to be at home with them. If you have a partner that can support you and the kids while they are young, you have a huge advantage over any expensive education system. If you have a vehicle and gas to get you around, you’re sitting pretty!

How can you give your kids a practically free education? Again, it starts with you. Educate yourself and take your young children along for the ride. That doesn’t mean go back to college! It means read an article online, open a book, visit a museum, watch a movie, or have a discussion. Create and cultivate in yourself the life long learner first. Do it right in front of your family. Your kids will follow suit in their own way.

Go to the library and check out any books you and the kids like and read them. Don’t study them, just read them! Go the park and explore. Walk around your neighborhood. The grocery store, the post office, the bank, etc. are all potential field trips when you look at them like a child would. Instead of rushing through the grocery store with your list, involve the kids with making the meal plan, the list, and the budget. A couple of dollars of their own to spend at the grocery store or save for the future is a lesson plan all of itself. Actually working with money goes a lot farther than talking about it. Go through the store and answer all the questions they have, have them find things, substitute things, and explore the store like you’ve never been there.

When we allow our kids to explore their world, if we can be patient and quiet while they do so, they get so much out of it. They become more interesting people. And we can see the world in a whole new way. We can do this everywhere we go.

When my boys were very little, the regional park was amazing to them. We spent hours there every week. We loved amusement parks but rarely went inside. They thought the shopping area, pond, and Independence Hall was Knott’s Berry Farm. And Downtown Disney, its fountains, people, shops, and hotels was the best part of Disneyland. We went to beaches, parks, free museum days, all over Southern California. Small local museums are usually only a couple of dollars donation and we always brought a picnic lunch for all of us. My sons wanted lunch boxes like school kids, so they each had one with their name on it and a backpack to carry it in.

My point is that you don’t need a packaged curriculum, the monthly craft/science box, the big organized field trips, or extra-curricular classes to give your kids a great education. You just need to be with them, be patient, and help them explore the world around them safely. We unschooled the whole time, but even if you want to home educate in a more traditional way, there are tons of free resources on the internet. You may have to piece it together and you may have to open your mind to some unconventional ways of doing things (i.e. Mad Libs instead of grammar workbooks), but it is very possible to do this on your own without the state school system breathing down your neck.

I always see private home education as an entrepreneurial thing, a do-it-yourself, be your own boss, kind of thing. What are the benefits of private education? No state standards to keep up with, no grade levels, no mandatory number of days, no testing. That’s just the start. To me, the best thing I got out of it was a sense of self-reliance. I second guessed myself all the time, especially when my sons weren’t behaving the way I thought they should. I’m lucky I had an amazing partner that could see outside my day to day life and remind me that many of my perceived “problems” were just parenting/relationship adjustments. It had nothing to do with school.

I don’t begrudge people the choice to use the public charters to homeschool. If the education the public schools are giving is what you want, without the crowd control and classroom bullies, then charters would be fine for you. But if you want something different, if you want the education outcome to be different than the seniors graduating this year, then there are other options out there.  Private education is feasible, even on a tight budget.

Not Back to School!

It’s that time of year again! Social Media posts, online articles, commercials, and news clips all focus on that annual tradition: the great migration back to school. Most parents are posting sniffling bits about their little ones growing up and moving away from them. Some are elated that summer vacation is over and they don’t have to figure out what to do with their kids for eight ours of each day. Bloggers and Social Media gurus are posting about how you can get your kids into the routine of the daily grind.

If you’ve chose homeschooling privately, it’s a totally different story! It’s a much more positive one filled with hope and a bit of anxiety. The park, amusement centers, museums, and theater’s have fewer families there, leaving it the homeschoolers and retirees! For those that live in warmer climates like ours, weekly park days start to meet again as the weather cools. Field trips are planned, libraries are revisited in peace and quiet. It’s an exciting time for us, but not always for our kids.

We’re different. We aren’t part of the norm. Our kids aren’t going “Back to School.” They’ve been there all summer. Our kids see the TV shows and the commercials. They hear other kids talk about “Back to School” clothes and supplies. They may feel left out. How can we make ourselves feel a part of the excitement in our own way? Our family has some traditions we’ve built over the years and I’d love to share them with you and encourage you to build your own.

Since our family chose Radical Unschooling, we didn’t have new curriculum to start on or classes we were planning our lives around. We didn’t really have a “start” or “end” of school year at all, but just like someone who doesn’t celebrate the birth of Christ knows that Christmas is on its way, we could see the signs and sense the excitement that comes in August. When my boys were little, the school bus went down our street and the first day they saw it was what we called “First Day”. We had big plans for that day that preempted any other plans. We dropped everything and usually went to an amusement park!

There were other things we did that day over the years though. We had a long day of hiking in the mountains, a short camping trip, a beach day. We went to a museum and a realy restaurant for lunch or dinner. The possibilities are endless in Southern California, but the idea was to make a big deal out of anything we decided to do. Once all we did was walk as far as we could away from the house and had Dad pick us up when we couldn’t take another step. You’d have thought we were traveling the jungles of India the way the boys acted!

We started the season getting our “Adventure Packs” together instead of “Back to School” supplies. We got new backpacks if they wanted them and we filled those packs with anything we might need on a local adventure. We filled them with, oddly enough, mostly school supplies: a pencil box with pens, pencils, erasers, a compass, a ruler, etc. We went to Target and picked out cool things to add. They also had a pocket knife, a compass, a bandana, a map, a magnifying glass, and a notebook. Those backpacks were the first thing they grabbed when we were going anywhere. I always added a bottle of water, a snack, and a couple dollars in case they needed to buy something. They were always so proud to carry those packs!

Our local group sometimes has a “Not Back to School” party or there was a “Not Back to School” something, somewhere. If you google “Not Back to School,” you’ll find all kinds of ideas for homeschoolers. A great place to start making one of your own is A to Z Homeschooling’s Field Trip Ideas. Don’t limit yourself to your own area if you don’t have to! This is an adventure!

All that being said there is some “work” to be done this time of year for private homeschoolers. We need to be sure all our ducks are in a row for the year.

If you are brand new to homeschooling this year, I’m sure you are having some anxiety about whether or not you are doing the right thing for your child and if you are doing it legally. Rest assured, you are doing something wonderful for your kids! It’s scary, yes, but you’re starting on something that will change your lives. As to the legal, let’s go over that. Everything you need can be found at CHN’s website. They have two documents you can print and note up as much as you like. “Just the Facts” and “Private School Guide” are invaluable resources and can be found on the top right hand side of their home page. If you find them useful or not, consider becoming a member! CHN has been a great resource for homeschoolers for years and they are active in keeping your right to homeschool protected. Membership helps them keep up the work that they do and shows legislators that homeschoolers are not a fringe movement!

Brand new private homeschooler? Kids never been in another school?

-Have you created your school?

-Have you enrolled your student?

Then you’re good to go!

Brand new private homeschooler? Kids are transferring from another school? Same thing plus two.

-Have you created your school? Enrolled your student?

-Have you unenrolled your student from their old school? This needs to be done right away. The school should not be looking for your child come the first day of school. Call or go over there, tell them that your child will be attending another school this year and that you need to unenroll them. They will ask for the new school’s (your school’s) name and address.

-Have you sent a letter (as the school admin) requesting the cumulative file for your new student?

You’re good to go, too! Go have some fun learning in the real world!

Returning private homeschooler?

-Go over your previous year’s files.

-Create your Course of Study for the current year.

-Create your attendance record for the year.

And you’re good for the year as well!

The next thing we all need to do officially is file the private school affidavit in October with all the other private schools in California. I’ll have another post about that in the future. For now, enjoy your freedom!

Clarification

This is something I posted to a local Facebook group. It is a subject close to my heart and I want so badly to help people not be afraid, combative, or stressed about homeschooling.
First of all, if you are enrolled in a charter school, you are in the public school system. There are only public and private schools in California, no “homeschoolers.” That’s actually a very good thing and something that advocates of secular and religious homeschooling in the 80’s and 90’s worked hard to keep that way. It’s a way of protecting us from the “tyranny of the majority,” giving ALL public and private schooled “homeschoolers” the same protections as those that enroll in the corner school or pay out of pocket for the church’s private school.
 
Second, I think it might help a lot of people to think of the local school district, the charter school, the church private school, and all the other “school” options as individual businesses trying to get you to buy their services. Walmart doesn’t lose money if you shop at Target, but they do want you to shop at their store and will do what they can to entice you to shop there first. And in meetings, they do say, “We’re losing money to that other company! What can we do to stop them?!” Businesses use all kinds of tactics to get you to buy their products, including advertising, sales, surveys, etc. And (unfortunately) since the government is now involved with more and more every day, they also have government ways to force you to shop there, from stopping other stores from coming in the area to lobbying government to change laws in their favor.
 
Schools are very similar. They want you to buy their product (enroll your child) and they will do what is available to get you do just that. The role of government in our schools has added a bit of fear to all of this because they have the use of force on their side. They made laws (long ago) that will put you in jail if you don’t enroll your child somewhere. Kind of a bit of a monopoly, I’d say.
 
That fear of the use of force is what we are all reacting to, but I’m refusing to do so. We don’t have to worry what the school district is up to. We don’t need to get them to see our side. We can just use other options, ignore what they are doing, and do what’s best for our families right now. I’ve found over the years, while working with the legislation and legal teams at CHN, that interacting directly with the school district as a community only creates stress and solves very little. Bureaucracy is an infuriating slug when your child is growing up so fast! They just want to find ways to “help” and like a vampire you’ve invited into the house, they’ve found a way to get into the homeschool community. Most of us don’t want their help. We just want to be left alone. I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t interact with them, I’m just saying you don’t have to. Sometimes the best way to fix something is to let it sit on its own, walk away, “opt out.”
 
That being said, to stay on top of legal issues, I’d recommend joining and following a statewide advocacy group. CHN, HSC, HSLDA, CHEA of CA, all have people watching the legislation that comes in and out and they warn us when we need to “do something.” I love advocacy groups of all kinds! It lightens my load of citizenship and lets me focus on my family.

Who Files The Private School Affidavit (PSA) And When?

It’s that time of year again, folks! The annual “Filing of the Affidavit”, or what I like to call “Homeschool Independence Day!”

Who needs to file the Private School Affidavit? All private school owners that have students currently enrolled in their school.

How does that apply to “homeschoolers”? In California, there is no special law for homeschooling. Our kids are all either enrolled in a public school, a private school, or being tutored by a credentialed teacher. One option is for a family to create it’s own private school and enroll their children in that school. It’s a relatively simple process and gives parents the most freedom in choice of education style and content. If you have chosen this option, you are required to file that Private School Affidavit with the State of California’s Department of Education.

If you have enrolled your children in something else, like a public charter school, a district independent study, or a private school satellite program, you should not file this form. Basically, if you filled out an “enrollment” form, you are enrolled in someone else’s school. You are a customer of that school and they will do the administration part of the job.

When and where do you file? All private schools file the Private School Affidavit with the Department of Education each year between October 1 and 15th. You can find the link here. The statewide advocacy groups, CHN and HSC have links on their sites that give you detailed instructions on how to fill out that document.

What is the Private School Affidavit? It’s a way for the State of California to know how many private schools are operating in the state and how many children go to them. It is not permission or a license to operate a private school. It’s done in October and not September so that generally people have settled down into the schools for the year and they can get a more accurate count. Filing the affidavit does not create your school. When you decide on a name, create the required documents, and enroll a student, you are creating a school. The PSA is usually after the fact that your school is created.

I might want to pull out of the school my kids are at later this year. Should I file now, just in case? No! There is no need. If you did, your kids would be counted twice, once in the school they are attending and once in the school you are creating. You don’t want that and you don’t need to. Just wait. The link to file is up year round. Yes, the filing period is October 1-15, but if you create your school in November through June you can still file that form then. It’s just that generally schools are formed over the summer and it helps them to try and get everyone to file at once.

So, that’s about it in a nutshell. I hope this helps clear up any confusion about who should be filing the PSA. Now it’s your turn. Go file your PSA and then do something special with your kids to celebrate your independence!

One more thing, if you are in the Yucca Mesa area and would like help filing, please email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com We can take some time going over it at the Enrichment Club on October 5th!

Happy Homeschool Independence Day!

Report Cards & Transcripts

There are a lot of good websites out there with instructions about how to create your own school report cards and transcripts. I thought I’d add to that with what I did for my school!

Here’s a picture of our elementary school report card.

Report Card Photo

For elementary school, we were always listed as an “ungraded elementary school”. So I didn’t have a 1st grader and a 3rd grader. My oldest was in “Year 3” and the youngest was in “Year 1” at our school. We also didn’t do letter grades, which I believe a lot of public elementary schools are also doing. We used the following scale.

4 = The student has demonstrated excellent achievement of grade level expectations.
3 = The student has demonstrated good achievement of grade level expectations.
2 = The student has demonstrated basic achievement of grade level expectations.
1 = The student is not meeting grade level expectations.

I chose the grade according to how I actually felt they were doing. Our school’s “grade level expectations” were our own and most likely not the same as other schools. That is true for all schools. Grades are very subjective! And generally they were always “meeting expectations”. When I ask them a question from what we are reading and they can answer, they are meeting the grade level expectations of English. If my little guy can play with an orange as he takes it apart and counts the sections, I may jump in and tell him he’s eating 1/8th of that orange. He’s meeting expectations. Their whole elementary career worked that way. There were no tests to grade.

I also left a comment for each child each semester. This is the part that I really put a lot of thought into. I kept a calendar of all the things we were doing and reading each day and a journal where I’d make a note about things I found awesome about them, things that worried me, things I thought they should probably work on. No one saw it but me, but at the end of each quarter I’d sit with that journal and calendar and think of a positive to write for each child. I’d write things like “Jake is an amazing reader and really loves to tell stories with his pictures.” and “Tom’s handwriting ability is really improving.” That was the end of the report cards.

Transcripts for high school I thought would be a bit tougher and at first they were. We still don’t do tests but my kids are always learning and they are learning quite a bit. My secondary school is “unaccredited” and I know that means that my grades won’t be taken for face value by a big university, but they are still real grades and they do count for things like “Good Driver Discounts” for car insurance and entry into community college. They will most likely have to take placement tests for some college classes and that’s fine. If, when the time comes, they are interested in applying to a school that needs a stronger presence, the transcripts will only be the background of an awesome portfolio that doesn’t include tests and averages.

If you are using some sort of curriculum for your home school, you can use the grades and evaluations from that. I recently read a very encouraging article on “The Home Scholar” called “How to Assign Grades without Grading”. I suggest you check it out for your elementary and secondary students!

Here’s a picture of the template I’m using for my sons’ high school template.

HS Transcript with Grades PhotoYou would include each “class” they took. We don’t use a curriculum, but we are taking “Language Arts 1” in Year 9. I see them reading great books, discussing movies and plays, learning new words, writing letters, blog posts, and comments to friends, so they received an A for that class. If one of my kids was very into writing stories and plays, I would call it “Language Arts – Creative Writing.”

I hope this helps ease your mind and give you some ideas about report cards. If you’d like the use this file at your own school, you are welcome to email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com and I’ll send it out to you!

Faculty List & Enrollment Forms

Welcome to the next post in my “Private School Paperwork” series!

This one is kind of boring but, like I said, I like forms and creating them. You can easily make your own, but if you don’t want to or like to, you are welcome to use mine! All you need to do is email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com and I’ll send you the file.

Here’s a picture of the “Faculty List & Qualifications” form I made for my school. It’s one of the forms every private school needs to keep in its files.

Educator Enrollment PhotoIn the state of California, private school teachers must be “capable of teaching”. What qualifies one to teach is determined by each school individually. A larger “for-profit” or church school may require a teaching credential or degree, but they are not required to do so by law. Your school can set its own qualifications for its teachers as well. So, did you finish high school? Go to college? Some college? Run a business, work a job, volunteer somewhere? Think about your own resume. What do you think makes you a person qualified to pass along information to your own children? You can put as little or as much information as you please on this form, but I consider it a good exercise to build up our confidence, especially when we are first getting started. Also, it isn’t required that your teachers be finger-printed or have a background check since the only students at the school are related to the teacher.

Once your new private school has a name and you’ve “hired” a teacher, you’re ready to enroll a student! Private schools in California are required to keep certain information about each student at their school. When you enroll in any school, that school creates a file and collects that data for their records. When you transfer from one school to another, that file is requested by the new school and kept with any new records from that school. Elementary school records don’t have much in them when you’re homeschooling privately. Mine have the enrollment form and related documents, attendance records, a list of subjects studied each year, and any report cards I may have generated. If you’re pulling your child out of another school and enrolling him in yours, you’ll be asking for that file and it will be interesting to see what the school kept on file for your child. When I pulled my son from 1st grade after Kinder, there was little there, of course.

The documents that must be on file (Cummulative File) with a student at his school are the following:

-Enrollment form including the legal name of student, date of birth, sex of pupil, and name and address of the parents.
-Copy of birth certificate.
-Entering and leaving date of each school year. This can be on the “report card”.
-Subjects taken during each year. This can be in the form of a “report card”.
-Marks, grades or credits if given. Marks or credits toward high school graduation.
-Date of high school graduation or CHSPE, GED equivalent.
-Health and Immunization Records.
-Attendance Records, indicating every absence of a half day or more.

Here is a picture of my Enrollment Form. Again, you’re welcome to use it if you like, just shoot me an email.

Enrollment Form Photo

Attendance Record

This may seem strange but one of the documents every Private School in California must keep is an attendance record. Even days where your kids are sick in bed can count as “present” if you are homeschooling. You may not get anything checked off your curriculum checklist, but they are learning. Most likely they laid on the couch and watched a movie, you read a book aloud, or they played a game with their siblings. So there will be few “absent” marks on your attendance record. I bet your kids may even get a “Perfect Attendance Award” every year!

But, since we are homeschooling under the same laws that big private schools use, we are required to have in our files an attendance record. I have always printed out a two sheet one from Donna Young’s site for the current year and kept it in my school folder with my calendar/planner. Every morning I check off the day for each of my students and take a look at the “Course of Study” over my cup of coffee and on my way to read my favorite blogs. Some people add to the bottom of the attendance record “Absences Marked With an X” and then leave it blank for the year. That will work as well. I’m kind of a paperwork nut, so I like checking the boxes Monday through Friday, even though we are learning 24/7.

I have used Donna Young’s attendance record in the past. You can download and print several for free. Take a look and find one that suits your personal style.

Here is a picture of mine. I’d be happy to send it to you if you’d like the file. Just email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com!

Attendance Photo

Happy Homeschool Independence Day!

For those using the private school option to homeschool this year, congratulations! Today is the first day of the filing period for Private School Affidavit. It takes all of five minutes of your day, a printed out file, and you’re done! I consider it a small token of rebellion each year as I take back from the State the responsibility of educating my own children, a sort of Independence Day!

To comply with California’s Compulsory Education law, (among other records you need to keep) you must complete the Private School Affidavit between October 1st and 15th each year. What is an “affidavit”? It’s a a “written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court”. It’s not permission or license. You only need to fill it out and keep in in your files as evidence of a statement. It is important, legally, that you do so to comply with the law.

If you’d like line-by-line help filing out the online form, you can find it at the California Homeschool Network website. There are two links there, one for the form and one for the pdf of help. Be sure to have your printer ready when you fill out the form, as you will be asked to print the confirmation and keep in your school files for several years.

When you’re done, go out and celebrate! You’re taking on a momentous task that will change your children’s lives and those that interact with them too!

Private School Affidavit

If you’ve decided to comply with California’s compulsory education law by filing with the state as a small private school this year, you’ve already started homeschooling by naming your school, gathering the documents you are required to keep, and enrolling your children at your new school. The last thing you need to do to be in compliance is to file the Private School Affidavit with the California Department of Education. The filing period starts on October 1st and ends on October 15th.

On October 1st, the link on the CDE‘s website will work and you can follow the directions there to complete the online form and print ( you NEED to print it and keep it in your schools files) the confirmation they give you.

Statewide groups like CHN and HSC will have special links with line by line directions to follow. They have to wait until the state puts up the form, go through it to see if there are any changes, and then put up a link to help anyone through the from. If you’re worried that it might be challenging or time consuming, put those thoughts aside. They only thing you should be prepared for is an internet connection, ink in your printer, and your school name.

The beginning of our school year is always August 1st. I switch out the old attendance sheet for the new year, print out a new course of study for each of my kids, and that’s about it. I look at what we might be doing that year. There are always loads of field trips being organized in the Fall. Homeschool days at museums and amusement parks are announced. My kids and I have a “meeting” we do about every three months where we discuss what they may be interested in learning. Are there any classes they might want to take? Skills they think might be interesting? Books they’d like to read?

But October 1st is when our school is official for me. I know the PSA a statistics gathering tool for the CDE and that it doesn’t grant me permission or license to school at home, but it feels official and it’s the last official school stuff I need to do for the year. It’s kind of a rite of passage I look forward to every year.