This post was a comment in an unschooling group written by one of the matriarchs of unschooling, she’s also an expert in homeschooling in CA. I wanted to have a place to send people who are asking this question, so here it is:
Five Ways to Homeschool Legally in California by Pam Sorooshian
It seems confusing at first because there are so many options.
Once you’ve chosen an option, it will be simple.
1. Establish your own private school. This is MUCH easier than you might think. (PSA)
Decide to establish your own school. Choose a name for your school. Keep the following records on file: statement of your qualifications to teach, a course of study for each child, health records, an attendance register. File a Private School Affidavit each year between October 1 and October 15. No reporting requirements about your child’s academics. No testing requirements. No permission required. You are entirely responsible for your own child’s education.
2. Enroll in a Private School Satellite Program (PSP) like Pacific Sands Academy.
Private PSPs vary widely in offerings, philosophy, and structure. Some offer complete curricula and home study assignments; others serve only as administrative record keepers for independent homeschooling. They may offer group activities or field trips. The prices also vary widely.
Parents with a valid teaching credential can act as tutors for their children or they can hire tutors with a valid teaching credential. Parent-tutors or hired tutors must fulfill some very specific requirements: tutoring must take place for 3 hours per day, 175 days per year, between 8AM and 4PM, and must be in English. No reporting required.
August 2020 Update: At this point during these inprecedented times, the above two ways to homeschool are really the main options available to new homeschoolers. The below options are genreally full, but are worth getting on wait lists for.
4. Enroll in a Public School Independent Study Program (Public ISP)
These programs are offered by many school districts or county departments of education. They provide curricular materials that are state-approved and typically require approximately the same course of study as the public schools while allowing for more flexibility. Teachers are state credentialed and meet with parents and students (usually about once a month or more often if needed). Work samples and standardized testing are required.
5. Enroll in a Charter School Independent Study Program (Charter ISP)
There are many charter school programs that cater only to homeschoolers. They offer funding for learning resources which are chosen by parents and are not limited to state-approved curricular materials. These may include payment for learning activities including dance classes, martial arts, photography, etc. A credentialed teacher meets with the parent and child approximately once a month. Learning samples and standardized testing are required.