ISP, PSA, PSP? What do all of these abbreviations mean for homeschooling? Which one are you doing? Which one do you want to do??
We're dedicating this blog post to outlining the different legal options for homeschooling in California. We hope this will help you decide which path is right for your family!
If you're looking for more extensive information in a video format, please check out our recent blog post, California Homeschooling: Legal Options for Educating Your Children at Home, where you can watch our 30-minute video on YouTube detailing each legal option.
ISP = Independent Study Programs
What is an ISP?
Independent Study Programs are public school alternatives to traditional classroom instruction. These programs are offered through local public district schools or through public charter schools. Program benefits, requirements, and restrictions will vary from school to school.
Differences Between Local District-Run ISPs and ISPs Offered Through Public Charter Schools
District-run ISPs usually issue each student a prepared curriculum, which the school pays for. Additionally, students may have options for extra-curricular activities and unique enrichment opportunities offered through the school. When you register with an Independent Study Program your child is enrolled in a public school. You will be expected to follow state standards for student learning, and your child will be assigned a credentialed teacher to oversee their progress.
Most public charter school ISPs allot funds for each enrolled student, which are managed by the school. These school-managed funds provide parents with the ability to choose curriculum and enrichment materials for their students. Most public charter schools also allow classes, which are limited by the vendors the schools have relationships with.
In general, the curriculum options for a district-run public school ISP are much more limited compared with those of a public charter school. However, things are changing with recent legislation, and many public charter schools that offer independent study are increasing their requirements and limiting their program's flexibility.
The credentialed teacher has an important role in all ISPs. They serve as a teacher, a support system, and a liaison between the school and your family. It is essential for success in an Independent Study Program to have a teacher for your child who understands homeschooling, is kind and supportive of your child, and has the patience to help you navigate the school's processes.
We recommend you explore both locally district-run programs as well as charter schools that serve your area. We have a list of charter school questions and tips we recommend you utilize when researching which public charter school to choose. Many of those questions/tips are appropriate to use when researching your district-run independent study programs, too.
Why You Might Want to Choose the ISP Option
Parents who choose either of these Independent Study Program options frequently do so because of the economic advantage of having the State pay for curriculum, supplies, and classes. Parents also choose this option because they are planning to homeschool for only a short time, or they are planning to homeschool only one of their children while keeping the others registered in their local public school. Independent Study Programs allow families to feel like they are keeping pace with state standards for their children's re-entry into their local public school. Other homeschooling families start out on this path, thinking they want more support, but find that these options only work well for a short time. As their children grow older, and they continue their homeschooling journey, families may want more educational freedom and autonomy. This is especially true beyond 8th grade, as things become increasingly difficult for both the parent and student in an Independent Study Program during the high school years.
For help finding a public charter school ISP option near you, please visit our list of California Independent Study/Non-Classroom Based Charter Schools. This list is conveniently organized county-by-county to help you easily identify programs that serve your area.
PSA = Private School Affidavit
What does it mean when you file a PSA?
Homeschool parents who file a PSA with the California Department of Education are legally establishing their home and their family as a private school. Through filing the simple, annual online PSA form, and adhering to the straightforward requirements outlined in the affidavit, families remain in full legal compliance as their own private school. It's really that simple.
Private School Affidavit Filing Period
The statutory filing period is October 1 through 15; however, the online PSA filing system is usually open throughout the school year to accommodate new private schools. Private schools established between July 1 and September 30 need to wait to file an affidavit until the PSA filing period begins in October.
Why You Might Want to Choose the PSA Option
Families who privately home educate their children are responsible for selecting and providing all curricular, instructional, and enrichment materials. They are fully, and completely in charge of their children's education. There are no rules, no funds, and no oversight from governmental agencies to structure or limit private homeschooling. Families are free to create the homeschooling life they would like for their children and are able to enjoy all the freedoms and joys that go along with that. This is the reason that most families choose to file a PSA.
Contrary to what you may have heard, it isn't expensive to privately homeschool! We've published a list of Free Resources to help direct you toward dozens and dozens of wonderful, quality curriculums, websites, and programs offered for free. We recommend you consider free resources when you're just starting out, to learn and explore what's out there before you purchase a big boxed curriculum set or an expensive online program.
PSP = Private School Satellite Program
What is a PSP?
A PSP is a private school that files the Private School Affidavit on behalf of homeschooling families. When you enroll in a PSP you become a teacher (of your own children) in that school. The administrator of the PSP will collect the required records from families. There may be other requirements, which will be at the discretion of the school.
Some PSPs offer a newsletter and activities like park days and field trips for their members. Some PSPs offer classes or curriculum packages; some have administrators who give guidance. As with all educational choices, it is up to the parent to investigate carefully to make sure the PSP is the best choice for their children.
There are many PSPs available to students in California. Each PSP is unique. You can view a list of PSPs on our website HERE. Please also take a look at our Homeschool Experts PSP Recorded Webinar to learn more, and meet a few PSP leaders.
Why You Might Want to Choose the PSP Option
Are you looking for the freedoms of the PSA but with more support? Maybe a Private School Satellite Program (PSP) is right for you. PSPs offer administrative support by filing the Private School Affidavit (PSA) with the California Department of Education (CDE) on your behalf, as well as maintaining the required school records for you.
Additionally, there are PSPs that specialize in high school support. They help students prepare for their next journey, whether that's an academic career, finding an internship, taking a gap year, or embarking on a vocational trade. Many long-time homeschooling families find the reasonable enrollment fee of a PSP a great option for their teens.
Administrative PSPs Specializing in High School
Beach High School - At Beach High School you can pursue your interests in ways you choose. You can immerse yourself in a few or in many constructive endeavors which may or may not resemble conventional schoolwork. Even if you choose to engage in the most unusual pursuits, you can gain entrance to the best colleges if formal college education is something that suits you. A diploma from Beach High School, earned very quickly or after months or even years of enrollment, may help get you where you want to go.
Pacific Sands Academy - Run by a homeschooling mom and geared toward teenagers, Pacific Sands Academy allows teens to find and follow their interests while studying traditional and nontraditional high school subjects—and pursue various topics of interest, earning credits while doing so. For families, they provide eclectic homeschool or unschool support, helping them find freedom and joy in their homeschooling journeys.
CONSIDER EDUCATIONAL-SCHOOL CHOICE CONSULTING IF YOU NEED HELP RESEARCHING YOUR OPTIONS AND FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
We offer a specialized form of consulting, for families looking for help finding the right independent study charter school, or another alternative school. We have over 10 years of experience working within independent study charter schools, as well as over 15 years as charter school parents, including experience graduating two students from independent study charter schools in California. We are happy to share that expertise with you through educational and school choice consulting.
Please visit our Consulting page for more information. We currently have a Back-to-School special going on for $99 for (4) one-hour sessions, and we also have single sessions available, for $50 per hour.
Happy Homeschooling, everyone! It's going to be a great year! :)