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!

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!

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!

Homeschool P.E. & Health

One of the subjects all schools need to offer each year is Physical Education and Health. We all remember these classes when we were in school, right? Did you have P.E. in elementary school? I remember a time of day we used to play some kind of team sport like volley ball or four square. Pretty much everyone has nightmares about picking teams. I remember having to dress in a uniform when I started Jr. High., which was pretty much the worst part of the new school. From then on it was “dressing out”, stretching and running, and some kind of team sport for fifty minutes a day. Health was similar. Videos and workbooks about things that were so obvious, boring, or embarrassing to discuss in room full of peers.

I realize I have an unhealthy relationship with my school days. Is there anyone that looked forward to those classes or at least had a good time while there? Did anyone leave school with a healthy attitude toward daily exercise and nutrition due to the influence of those twelve years of classes? My guess is probably not.

So how do we, as homeschoolers, “offer” this subject in a better way? That’s the real point of homeschooling isn’t it, to make a more personalized and productive education option for our kids?

I’d like to write about what we’ve done through the years out as an example, not of what you should do with your kids, but of an alternative to the classes we took at school.

For elementary school aged kids, getting out to the park regularly, going for walks, jumping rope, hiking the hills, running games, etc., are all acceptable forms of P.E. And you need to “offer it”, not force them to play. I’m not an active person naturally. I’ve never been enthusiastic about any sport. I’ve never felt the need to exercise on a daily basis or workout at the gym. But I do love the outdoors and I realize my kids are way more active being kids than I am. We always had jump ropes, hoops, balls, bikes, etc. in the yard. I put it on my planner to ask the boys if they’d like to learn a game I used to play when I was a kid, like jump rope, hopscotch, or hand ball. They usually very excited about that and if they weren’t we did something else. I wrote it down on my planner, “played jump rope – 30 minutes”. P.E. DONE

Your local parks and recreation department can be really helpful as your kids get older and want to try new things. Karate, Soccer, Baseball, even Yoga can be pretty cheap to start out. And if someone is interested in learning more or going beyond what the class offers, you can look around the neighborhood for regular classes. Write that down in the planner and P.E. is done. It doesn’t need to be 45 minutes daily. Regular, one, two, three days a week is fine.

Jr. High and High School are different. Your kids are really coming into their own. They know what they like and don’t like. Team sports or solitary pursuits. If you have a teen that really isn’t into the idea of getting regular exercise or sports, you’re not alone. This is where we need to get creative. The state says our school needs to “offer” physical education. So we offer it, that doesn’t mean he has to learn it. I know that sounds crazy. But there are lots of ways to offer a subject that gets them learning without the sweat. Yes, you could force him to take karate or baseball but is that really going to build him into a better person? Will he come away from your school with a life skill that takes him into adulthood?

The better option in my opinion is to start doing more active things yourself and asking your teens to come along. Go for a daily walk around the neighborhood, take a hike, practice yoga, etc. Ask them if they’d like to join you. They might not the first fifty times. But they do see that you think the exercise is important and they may follow suit. But they may not. It’s really up to them. As in all education, it’s the example you set not the curriculum you use that is most important.

“Health” can be done in a similar way. At any age, planning meals and going to the grocery store is a great way to learn about nutrition. Watching tv shows, YouTube videos, and reading books about how your body works and how you can stay healthy are free. A regular check up at the doctor or dentist can be a learning adventure. When one of my sons cut his arm in a tree, the subject of blood and why you have it came up. We went to the library that day and found some cute books about blood and watched a “Magic School Bus” that afternoon. They were interested, so it just flowed. The same thing happened when one of our friends had a bad cold and couldn’t come to play. We just had to learn about how germs work and how best to defend ourselves.

There are great books and videos online that teach adolescents about the changes their bodies are going through without the embarrassing public class. If you can’t find them, go on one of the bigger statewide chat groups online and ask what other people have used. You can review them before you offer them to your kids to be sure they are appropriate for your family. If it was a video or website, I’d leave it open in my browser and tell the boys there was an interesting article there, or share it with them in an email. If I bought a book or borrowed it from the library, I’d leave it on the coffee table for them to check out if they were interested. Being open to talk about things like this as they grow up helps as well. Young kids that have been told the real answers to their questions as they’ve asked them, without silly euphemisms or awkward “you’ll find out when you’re older” dismissals, tend to be more relaxed teenagers.

Write these things down in your planner as they come up through the weeks and years. The details don’t need to be planned out in advance. According to California’s education code, private schools only need to offer all the subjects that the public schools offer. Big schools need to plan ahead with so many students in each class, but as a small private school with only a couple students we don’t need that much planning. Also, we don’t need to do something different for each of our kids depending on their grade. If you have a 6, 9, and 11 year old at your school, PE and Health can be the same for all of them. They are all going to explore to their own individual needs. You just need to be there to encourage and support them.

My sons took up motocross a few years ago. At first it was just riding dirt bikes but then they wanted to race. They started watching their favorite motocross racers on TV and online videos. I got them magazine subscriptions. After a while they started asking for a mountain bike to ride daily and imposed on themselves a regular workout routine they found in one of their magazines. They also started going to the grocery store with me and asking that I make certain high protein and low sugar foods to help build muscles. They are almost adults and do things the same way an adult would. They find an interest, look into it, research, discover, work. It goes round and round until they feel they have done enough, or move on to another goal.

What are you doing to encourage physical education and health this year?

High School Tests

Many people confuse the high school tests, CAHSEE and the CHESPE, so I decided to look into it and clarify some things.

CAHSEE is the “California High School Exit Exam”. It is for public high school students. They must pass this test to graduate from public high school despite passing classes and appropriate credits. New Common Core standards, state law changes, and budget concers are making changes to the CAHSEE program. That would affect public school students only. Private school students are not required to take this test. Private schools make their own graduation requirements.

Here’s an older article from 2013 regarding the coming changes.
Future of high school exit exam unclear as California revamps testing requirements

and this more recent letter from the CDE.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/hs/cahsee16statusltr.asp

The CHSPE is the “California High School Proficiency Exam”. Under Education Code Section 48412, students who have reached the age of 16 can take this test instead of finishing high school. Once the test is passed and the student has permission from their parents, they are exempt from compulsory education. This test is not required of public or private school students. It is only for students wanting to leave high school early.

Here’s an article from the CDE about the test.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sp/cefchspe.asp
And the link to the company that administers the test.
https://www.chspe.net/

If you file as a private school for your high school student, you will set your own graduation requirements. Your student must remain enrolled in a school until they are 18 years old. When they reach that age and have satisfied your graduation requirements, you can give them a diploma. It is a valid high school diploma.

If you are enrolled in a charter school or an independent study program, when your student reaches 18 years old they must satisfy that school’s graduation requirements and pass the CAHSEE (or it’s equivalent depending on the new laws) to receive a diploma from that school.

Or your student can take and pass the CHSPE to leave high school before they are 18 years old.

I hope this clears some things up.