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7 things to know about homeschooling in California

What makes homeschooling a good option for families?
What makes homeschooling a good option for families?
Flickr creative commons (jimmiehomeschoolmom)

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There are lots of different types of schools parents can choose from in Southern California, but for some families, none of the options really fit. That's why some turn to homeschooling. 

Pam Sorooshian, a member of the Board of Directors of the HomeSchool Association of California, joined Take Two to answer some frequently asked questions about homeschooling:

1. When did the homeschooling movement start to take off and why?

Probably it can be traced back to the early 1980s with John Holt, who was a school reformer and then sort of gave up on reforming schools and turned to writing about parents taking their children out of school altogether. His concern was that we've basically overdone it when it comes to instruction. That it's one thing to put a bunch of kids together and sort of help them learn for a few hours a day, but it's another thing to keep them in school all day. The idea is that there's no reason to do that, that kids are natural learners and that they're better off in home environments rather than being in a classroom and forced to all march along to the same curriculum timing.

2. How many different homeschool options are there in California?

We have five different legal ways to homeschool in California, none of which are actually called homeschooling, so it can be kind of confusing. You can establish your own private school, you can join a charter homeschool program, school districts have homeschool programs where they support homeschooling, there are hybrid programs, there are private schools that support homeschool programs or have hybrid programs.

The learning set-up really varies too. There are co-ops where parents take turns offering lessons to each other's kids and there's a lot of collaboration among homeschoolers.

3. What's the curriculum like? Do some mirror the public school curriculum?

Every family and every child combination is going to homeschool in their own way. There are probably a lot of people, mostly those just starting out homeschooling, who mirror the public school program. But "natural learning" is something that most homeschoolers turn to after they've been home with their kids for a while. That means, for example, going out into nature or to a science museum to learn about science rather than the really conventional read the text book, answer the questions, take a test type of approach to learning.

4. How many kids are homeschooled in California?

It's hard to say, but it's probably about 1.5 to 2 percent of the school-age population.

5. What sort of regulations are there? Is there a guarantee that a child who is homeschooled will be as well educated as a child who goes through the traditional schooling system?

There's just about as much guarantee as there is in public schools. There's no more or less guarantee. When it comes to regulations, many homeschoolers go through home-based charter schools and they have all the exact same requirements as a regular public school. They have standardized testing, they have a teacher that's overseeing them. If they're enrolled in a private school, they have the same regulations as any other California private school, which is essentially none. Once you've established your own private school, you don't really have to report to anybody. There are requirements, you're supposed to cover the general branches of study that are required to be offered in regular public schools (English, Math, Science, History, P.E., Fine Arts), but there's nobody looking over your shoulder and there are no testing requirements of any kind.

6. What should parents consider if they're considering homeschooling but are concerned about going it alone?

One of the things they can do is join a Private School Satellite Program (or PSP), these are private schools that support homeschooling, and so you have private school administration who help you find curriculum, help you find the support you might need when you're just getting started. They can also join a charter school homeschool program. They're going to provide you with the curriculum and you can meet with the teachers as often as you need to and get the guidance that you need. But the independent homeschoolers are also going to find a lot of support from organizations like the HomeSchool Association of California, other groups and online support groups.

7. What makes homeschooling a good option for families?

What makes a good homeschooling parent is a sense of curiosity, enjoying learning, and really enjoying being with your kids. If you're wishing that you could be a bigger part of your child's learning, then homeschooling might be a really good option. 

Series: Good Schools

As part of its Good Schools series, Take Two looks at the education landscape in the Los Angeles area. That includes its public schools, magnets, charters, private institutions and dual-language programs. You’ll hear from parents, academics, teachers, kids and even a couple of TV show producers.

Read more in this series and let us know your thoughts on Facebook, or tweet us @Take Two and @KPCC with the hashtag #goodschools.