A Special Reminder and Calming Vibes

If this is your first year homeschooling as a private school, you may be feeling pretty excited and a bit nervous for the coming year. It’s exciting to take that first step into independence. You’ve read all the rules. You’ve organized your files. You’ve created all the documents. Everything is in place. And then you get a letter, a phone call, or a visit from your child’s old school! Yikes! All your confidence comes crashing down. Did I do something wrong? Am I in trouble? No. Take a deep breath! You’re fine. Here’s what you should do.

For public charter folks, you have a far smaller chance of dealing with school district officials because your school takes care of that for you. For private schools, we have to be the administrator as well as the teacher so we get the calls and letters directly.

If you get a letter from the school district, calmly read it over.

If you get a phone call, put on your school admin hat and take a message. Get their name, phone number, and what they are specifically calling about, get the child’s name they are trying to verify as well. Tell them you will call them back after school hours. Most likely the school official is trying to clean up their paperwork. They are looking to verify your student’s enrollment.

If you get a visit from an official at your home, keep your children inside and talk to the official through the door. You do not let them into your home to inspect your school. Be polite and calm while you ask them what they need. If they want to know what school your kids attend, give them the name and phone number of your school. If they want more information than that, politely tell them that you are busy with your kids right now and that they can call the school for an appointment if they need more information, then give them a piece of paper with the school name and phone number on it. They will most likely leave on that note.

After any of these situations, get online and contact one of the statewide groups like CHN or HSC, or the national group HSLDA. Find their contact info and either call or email them. Don’t go to a Facebook group and post. You’ll get a quicker and more precise answer instead of having to wade through all the comments from everyone else in that group. You don’t need to panic and hurry. The school officials are dealing with lots of other things and aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for you. But that doesn’t mean not to take this seriously and wait weeks before answering. Give this your utmost attention. The sooner it’s taken care of, the less problems will be created.

The statewide groups all have legal teams waiting to answer your questions and are happy to help free of charge. They may make a phone call or write a letter on your behalf. They all want to know how school districts are reacting to homeschoolers, so you are helping them advocate for our rights and make things easier for others in the future.

Next Year’s State Conferences!

Start saving your pennies folks because the statewide homeschool organizations are announcing their dates!

CHN – California Homeschool NetworkSept. 7-10, 2017 at The Great Wolf Lodge, Garden Grove, CA
Early Bird Registration is now open. This is the cheapest you can buy tickets!

HSC – HomeSchool Association of California
July 27-30, 2017 at Hyatt Regency San Francisco AirportTickets are not on sale yet. They usually start after Thanksgiving.

CHEAofCA – Christian Home Educators
July 13-15, 2017 at the Pasadena Convention Center
Tickets are not on sale yet.

These conferences are a bit pricey but you have plenty of time to plan and budget for next year! Big state conferences are not a “must have” to homeschool well but they are just about as fun as a theme park vacation weekend and the feed your soul with much more. I highly recommend trying one out at least for a day!

What it means to “establish” a private school.

Summer is already coming to an end. I really can’t believe it! As the rest of the parents prepare to send their kids off to school, homeschoolers are looking to the new “year” for new opportunities to explore and learn in the world. Of course, we’re still stocking up on the school supplies at the sales since pencils, pens, notebooks, and backpacks are essential for anyone on the go! And who doesn’t want one of those awesome lunch boxes with all the compartments?!

If you have decided to homeschool privately this year, you’re starting to get a bit nervous as well. Is it really this easy to start a small home based private school in California? Is there nothing else to do but pick a name, create a few files, and enroll a student? Can I just send a letter to my child’s old school and request records as the new school?

The answer is YES! Yes, it is! There are two great places to get a walk through on creating your own private school and taking charge of your children’s education, setting your family free from the traditional school schedule and making your own way in the world. California Homeschool Network has some great pages about getting started. Along with reading “Just the Facts”, you should also be perusing their “How to Homeschool” pages that include details about record keeping and choosing curriculum. The HomeSchool Association of California also has great “Establishing Your Own Private School” pages that can help you.

I have noticed one thing that many new homeschoolers get a little confused about when they first start like this and that is the use of the term “establish.” When you establish your school, you pick a name and create the files required by law to keep. Then you enroll a student and communicate with the last school about sending the cumulative file for that student. The only contact your new school generally has with the State of California is when you file the Private School Affidavit. The filing period is October 1st – 15th, so what if you’re starting your new school in August or September?! Take a deep breath! ALL private schools file in October. It is expected that you will not have filed until then. The affidavit is not a permit or license, it’s like a statistics gathering tool. The Department of Education only wants to know how many private schools exist, how many students attend them, and where they are located, hence the legal term “private.” August and September are generally times for a lot of shifting in enrollment, so they wait until October to gather the information when things have settled down a bit.

Do you need to file now and then again in October for the 2016-2017 school year? No. You can start your school today and then wait until the filing window without any problems.

Is there a problem if you have already filed over the summer for the 2016-2017 school year? No. It’s really not a problem, only an extra step (and a very small one at that). You WILL need to file again in October, though. The one you filed online over the summer was for the 2015-2016 school year and it isn’t valid after October 1st of this year.

You are legally a private school in California the day you decide on a name, create the required files, and enroll a student, so go out and do some learning! If you’d like some help or just want to talk it over with a live person, please email me and we can chat online or over the phone. My email is info@californiadeserthomeschooolers.com

Also, you are welcome to download and use the forms I’ve used over the years located by clicking HERE!

Why should you support a statewide homeschool group?

Homeschooling in California is completely legal right? No one needs to hide in the shadows. Even the Department of Education itself is on board and giving the green light to public homeschool programs. Why would we need to pay $30 a year to a homeschool advocacy group? What does that group offer me? A monthly newsletter or magazine? I can get those types of articles online for free. Social support? I can get that through my local park day or charter school for free. Annual conventions? My family can’t afford a weekend in a hotel plus registration and eating out. Group camping trips? Maybe, but why do I need to be a member for that?

The real reason you should belong to one or more of the statewide groups is the same reason you should belong to any advocacy group because watching the legislation that comes through our state and federal governments takes a lot of time, energy, and knowledge. That is what groups like

CHN and HSC do for homeschooling families. And it’s vital to keeping our rights. Both groups have committees that are well versed in the intricacies of legislation. They watch what is being talked about and put forward across the state, talk about it, and inform the membership in the case of any changes that may affect our families.

It may seem like everything is going swimmingly. And in the history of California homeschooling, it is. It’s just about the easiest it has ever been to homeschool in California, but that can change with one new law and it’s not a scare tactic to say so. It’s just the way our government works. Social media has made it easier than ever to get the word out about any potential problems or laws that might change things for us, but if not for statewide advocacy groups, we’d have to just trust that someone out there is watching what the government is doing and is ready to let the citizens know about it. The annual membership dues that CHN and HSC get, in part, go toward keeping a committee of knowledgeable people that watch these things. Having a large membership base gives those groups the power to get the word out to a lot of people all at once before any bad legislation can get moving too quickly to stop.

Over the past eight to ten years, homeschooling has begun to grow exponentially, especially with the invention of public charter schools that cater to parents wanting to take control of their child’s education. But membership to advocacy groups has declined. I believe it is due to everyone feeling confident that nothing can go wrong. Complacency is a dangerous attitude in our style of government. It gives the state the leeway to take advantage of the people and they will, not because they are evil but because they believe they are doing the right thing and there is no one there to voice their opinion otherwise.

This isn’t just about homeschooling. We’ve all grumbled about how difficult it is to keep track of what laws are being passed and who to believe when it comes time to vote. Advocacy groups hold a special place in the workings of our government. They are the groups we can trust to watch things for us while we peacefully live our lives. And they are the ones that let us know when we need to pay attention and listen in on what the government is doing. Homeschooling advocacy groups got us where we are right now. They are the people that fought the legal battles to make it so easy for us today. We need to continue our support of these groups so that they have the money and personnel to keep the up the watch. It’s only about $30 a year to become a member of these groups. Like the commercials say, it’s only pennies a day to keep a good watch on our rights! Isn’t it worth it?