Exploring Public and Private Homeschool Options

Homeschooling is becoming the new norm for many families across America and Santa Cruz County is no exception. In fact, Santa Cruz County boasts a number of wonderfully, rich homeschool programs. 

In this post, I hope to guide locals new to homeschooling through some options. This is not entirely complete; you may search and find more. But this is what I know off the top of my head about local programs. 

First, there is the legal aspect of homeschooling. In California, all children ages 6 and up are legally supposed to be enrolled in a public or private school. Santa Cruz has a number of options for homeschooling enrollment: 

Public Options 

Hybrid Models 

These programs offer 1-5 days per week of classroom instruction, and leadership by teachers and administrators. What I find really special about them is that you get an automatic community and your children have the opportunity to make friends.  Here are a few local public hybrid homeschool programs: 

San Lorenzo Valley Charter School: This program has components for Kindergarten through 12th grade. It offers a hybrid homeschool program with classes 2-4 days per week. They run an all character play each year that is fun and fabulous. My children enjoyed this when they were younger. Depending on the program within the school, you have quite a bit of freedom in choosing curriculum for your child. If you have heard of Quail Hollow Integrated Arts (QHIA), Fall Creek Homeschool, Coast Redwood High school– these are all part of SLV Charter School. Each of them are small semi-independent programs within the charter school, all operated out of Ben Lomond.

Ocean Alternative for grades K-8 in the Live Oak District offers community, connection and individualized learning for K-8 children. By joining a program like this, you stay in the public school system, yet are encouraged to help follow your children’s learning strengths to learn at home and in their 2-4 day per week classroom activities and teacher check ins. 

Pacific School Independent Studies grades K-6. This is a sweet and small program up in Davenport. It’s a hybrid model with classes 2-4 days per week.

Alternative Family Education (AFE) This program offers both academic and elective courses for K–12 students and is based in the campus on Branciforte.  In the past they have had a sweet and wonderful homeschool community. I haven’t heard much about it recently, but my guess is that it is still rich and wonderful.

Homeschool Non-Hybrid Models

If you have ever heard that “you can get money for homeschooling your children”- you may have been misinformed (in California at least) by people who know a little about these types of programs. These programs are PLENTIFUL in southern California, but in Santa Cruz County, we have one main option that I am aware of. And you don’t get actual money- you get access to funds to purchase curriculum, educational materials and classes from approved vendors. These programs offer some curriculum and some teacher support, but little in the way of community. 

Ocean Grove Charter School for grades K-12 is our best local example of this type of school. This program operates throughout Santa Cruz County (and beyond).  It’s good to be able to access classes and curriculum that may otherwise be financially difficult for your family. Teacher support can be good depending on the teacher you get.  You do have quite a bit of freedom in the curriculum you pick. If you are out of Santa Cruz County and looking for this type of program- I have some other recommendations; Google them to find out which counties they operate out of: Heartland Charter School (has a real heart for homeschooling) and Suncoast Preparatory Academy (started up by a dear homeschool friend) are two programs that I recommend most highly. 

Connections Academy is a K-12 publicly funded non-hybrid homeschool program. I haven’t known many kids who enjoy it- as it is truly just online-curriculum-at-home. If you want the standard school curriculum, but delivered at home on a computer, this may be a match for your family. There is not much freedom at all in what and how to learn.. They do not offer extra funds.

Private Options

If you are looking to opt out of the system altogether, a private option may be the thing for you. In the private realm, you have complete freedom to choose the curriculum that works for your child or choose no curriculum at all. There is a burgeoning number of learning pods and communities popping up for private homeschoolers where families and children can find community (see my There are Options!* section), but these are NOT schools, they support your homeschooling journey.

And you still need to enroll in a school:

Private School Satellite Programs (PSP’s): You join one of these to hold your educational records, and pass those wherever they are needed to your kids’ future schools. They offer complete freedom to educate your child how you see fit. Pacific Sands Academy is a local PSP that offers teen mentoring, family support, transcripts, report cards, support of a teacher, and some local field trips.  Sea Cliff Academy is another.

Filing a Private School Affidavit. Technically you establish your own private school out of your home, and have complete freedom about how and where you homeschool your children. As the director of your own private school, you maintain the academic records, and pass these to future schools your child may want to enroll in. The upside of this is that it is free and relatively easy, the downside is that you are on your own. 

Feature Public Options Private School Satellite Program Filing a Private School Affidavit
Freedom to choose your curriculum? Some freedom Total freedom Total freedom
Vaccine requirements? Yes, when there is a classroom component. None None
Support from a homeschool teacher? Yes Yes No
Testing requirements? Yes No No
Community and other kids? Yes There are options!* There are options!*

But what about social time and other activities?

There are Options!* (non – School Community Support)

Once you file a PSA or join a PSP, or even join a public homeschool program- you can join a program like this to help figure out your daily activities. These are wonderful in that your child gets a daily enriching experience, and you can meet other homeschooling parents, and build community. 

Visionary Villages offers a variety of wonderful classes and activities for all ages of kids- preschool through teens. They have farm days, academic classes, adventure clubs and more! There are options every day of the week, so your child can go from 1x per week to a M-F program. This is a wonderful place to build community. This is my personal favorite, as my daughter had a fabulous 8th grade year here. They operate in the West Side of Santa Cruz and have opened a Monterey program as well.  

Acton Academy is a new homeschool support community that operates on the idea of “the hero’s journey.” They provide daily activities for K-12 students. I know the founders of this community too, and they are passionate and excited about what they do. They operate out of Aptos. 

Sun for Seedlings is a sweet K-12 community operated out of a home based farm off of Freedom Blvd. Animal care, gardening, playing outside is a large part of what they do. You can go 1-5 days per week.  I know the founder of this program as well, and highly recommend it. 

Santa Cruz Learning Center offers in-person and live-via Zoom courses for k-12 homeschoolers in Language arts, science, math, and history. They have a full science lab and the director has a Masters Degree in bioChemistry. They also have a nature day camp for grades K-6 (new this year) where they travel to different locations in Santa Cruz each week and explore the outdoor riches of Santa Cruz . This is an EXCELLENT option for some families.

Beyond these sweet homeschool support Programs, Santa Cruz County offers a myriad of activities and classes for homeschoolers. The Seven Directions Art Institute offers art classes for kids. All About Theater offers year round theater  programs for kids of all ages. Little People’s Repertory Theater offers a wonderful summer program (that was a huge part of my childrens’ homeschool journey). 

There are sports programs of all kinds– from Water Polo to Martial Arts to Gymnastics. There is a UCSC Sailing program, and one operated out of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club. 

And the magnificent beauty of our coast and local parks add to your ability to allow your kids to play and explore the great outdoors and beaches year round. 

Many local museums and parks offer Interpretive activities like Natural Bridges, the Cement Ship, Seymour Discovery Center, The Natural History Museum of Santa Cruz, The Museum of Art and History in downtown Santa Cruz, Mission Santa Cruz. 

My biggest advice to new homeschooling families is to find your tribe. Find the other homeschooling parents who you like and can venture out on this journey together with. Consider and practice  the joy and natural learning of childhood .Don’t worry too much about curriculum. It’s a beautiful thing to get to spend more time with your children and play a bigger part in their education!  ENJOY!

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