The state of California offers me, a homeschooling parent, $2600/year in educational funds for each of my kids. I, along with so many other homeschooling families in California, have crafted a customized and well-rounded education that reflects our family’s interests, priorities, learning styles, and values.

Thanks in large part to our educational funds, I believe homeschoolers in Southern California are at the forefront of 21st-century learning. We are empowered with financial resources to truly customize our children’s education. The network of homeschool vendors is huge because homeschoolers have those financial resources to pay for their educational offerings.  Most families would only be able to afford a fraction of these learning opportunities without the funds.

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have promised to usher in an era of educational choice. Perhaps one outcome will be that homeschoolers across the country will be given the CHOICE to receive educational funds similar to how we currently do in California? Homeschool families in my state still have the CHOICE to remain independent.

The ecosystem of classes, programs and enrichment opportunities for homeschool families in Southern California is enormous, and I credit much of that to the educational funds. With such tremendous infrastructure in place, it makes for a thriving and dynamic place to receive a 21st-century education and explore one’s passions.  Personalized learning is all the rage amongst education circles these days. Homeschoolers have been doing this for years. With educational funds, it makes it even easier to facilitate a top-of-the-line education for our kids.

I’d like to share with you how educational funds work in California for homeschool families:

  • Educational Funds–Charter schools for homeschoolers offer educational funds. There are multiple charter schools and each competes to attract and retain students. The charter school I selected spends, on each student’s behalf, $2600/year to use with vendors to provide for a well-rounded education. The parents direct what they want to spend their funds on and the choices are colossal. Funds can’t be spent on religious curriculum or classes. I don’t know any two families who spend their funds in the same way. Our options are vast. Here is how we are spending our funds this year:

    • Piano, flute and saxophone lessons
    • Flute and saxophone rental fees
    • Basketball clinics and gymnastics lessons
    • Weekly field trips
    • Weekly project-based learning classes that correspond with our field trips
    • Weekly sailing lessons
    • Technology classes
    • School and office supplies
    • Curriculum–Amazon and Rainbow Resources are two examples of curriculum vendors. The options and combinations seem almost endless allowing for a wonderfully customized curriculum.
  • One-hundred Percent Personalized Curriculum–We can use any method or program of our family’s choosing.
    • I select the mix of curriculum that fits each of my kids’ needs and am free to change it up as needed without permission from anyone. Here is what we do for math.
    • Faith-based materials can’t be purchased with state funds.
    • Some people use funds for core classes like math, language arts, etc. The parents can choose the teacher and program that best fits their kids’ learning styles. I  prefer to use our funds on experiences and activities. I expect as my kids move into middle or high school that I will begin to use some of the funds for writing and math classes. For now, however, my children are thriving academically, emotionally, and socially. My 10-year old son’s blog and my 9-year old daughter’s blog offer a glimpse of our incredible homeschooling lifestyle and educational opportunities in SoCal.
    • If a child or family is fascinated by a subject, then it is our option to linger in it and dive deep without making sure we are hitting all the quick and shallow standards of public school.  This creates passion and love of learning.
    • There is no state-mandated curriculum.
    • One of the benefits of homeschooling is instruction is individualized. If a child learns quickly then s/he can jump ahead. For example, my oldest two kids are above grade level in virtually every academic subject freeing them up to move at an accelerated pace. This is not usually an option in conventional school. Additionally, kids that do not learn as quickly are able to slow down until they understand it without being made to feel dumb. One nice thing about homeschooling is most of the kids have no idea at which rate their friends learn math, read books, etc. Instead, they are learning together joyfully on hikes, field trips, in science classes, etc.
    • We are also part of a weekly homeschool co-op with about 60 families. Parents volunteer their gifts and passions to teach classes so we only pay for supplies. We do not use funds, and about half the families file independently and not with a charter school. I teach Blogging and 21st-Century Skills. My kids take art, science and other classes here with other wonderful homeschool families.

Thanks to educational funds for homeschoolers, a tremendous infrastructure of classes, programs, and opportunities have emerged allowing kids to learn and thrive in such diverse ways that best fit their needs and passions. The funds have created a competitive market that has dramatically amplified opportunities. 

  • Standardized Testing–Since we accept funds, homeschool charters prefer that we take the same standardized test in the spring that public school kids take beginning in third grade. I have no problem with that. I do not spend any time teaching to that test, and the charter school does not put any pressure on us to do so. So far, my kids have been in the top tier of each standardized test we have taken. Many of my homeschool friends also score much higher than their district school counterparts. I find this interesting considering how much time public schools spend teaching to the test, and we spent none.  Rather, we focus on a well-rounded, quality education.
    • I am not pressured to teach to the test at all.
    • There is no reward or repercussion for test results.
    • I tell my kids to do the best they can on the tests and advise them they will probably see some unfamiliar language and terminology. We do not follow a Common Core curriculum or use classroom lingo. If they don’t know an answer, they can use process of elimination.
    • Last year’s standardized tests only took about 3 hours total and was divided into two days. Our wonderful teacher surprised them with homemade lollipops with encouraging notes attached for their hard work after test completion. We also went to her house a few days later to watch her ducklings hatching. We witnessed a duckling peck its way out of its shell. She is an example of the many caring teachers who support homeschool families.
    • You simply get the results in the mail. It is your choice to open it up and look at the results. Some parents choose to not look at the results because they do not believe in standardized tests for their kids.
    • Most people will need to take tests throughout their lives. I see this as good preparation and a partial barometer of how we are doing. However, I don’t believe those tests account for many important successful life skills or for the uniqueness in each of our children. Many brilliant kids don’t test well.
  • Meeting With Your Assigned Credentialed Teacher–We are required to meet with our assigned teacher approximately once every 3 weeks. However, some families who prefer additional support may be in contact with their teacher more often.
    • Samples are required. Each student is required to provide one to several samples per month depending on the charter school. All samples must be secular.
    • I have always worked with supportive teachers who have trusted me with my children’s education. They are simply there as a facilitator and to offer guidance for those families who need it. I have occasionally heard of some demanding teachers. In that case, a family simply switches teachers or changes to another charter school. It is the free market in action.
  • Educational Vendors–We have thousands of products and vendors from which we can choose from to use our homeschool funds. One thing I love about homeschooling is that my kids are out experiencing the world in a variety of settings and learning from different instructors who are so passionate about their field. Families are empowered to ask their favorite provider of services or products to become a vendor. Here are just a few of the vendors in Southern California offering programs for homeschool kids:

Amazon and Rainbow Resources are my two favorite vendors for curriculum. The prices and selection are great, and shipping with Amazon is fast.  We can create thousands of combinations customized to our children’s learning styles and abilities.

 

  • Charter School Options–Charter schools compete to attract and retain students. Each year, the choices, funding and options seem to get better. Here are just a few examples:

I know some people vehemently opposed to accepting educational funds from the government. In California, you have the option to stay independent instead of receiving charter school funds. However, sometimes they give out false information and say you can’t teach what you want if you accept funds. This simply is NOT TRUE. I customize my kids’ education every bit as much as a family who does not join a charter school. I find their misinformation confuses new homeschool families. If I ever felt dissatisfied with the charter school, I have the freedom and choice to file independently again. I have multiple friends who were fiercely independent and resisted joining the charters. However, when some amazing opportunities opened up two years ago for students in my charter, they signed up. They are enjoying their activities and extra funds and have not looked back. crown-group-shot-end

In summary, the educational funds have played a tremendous role in creating a huge infrastructure for homeschool families. I am in charge of what and how my kids learn.  If I ever believed it impacted my ability to teach what I wanted, then I would simply go independent. I am so excited and hopeful that homeschooling families across America will also have the opportunity to receive educational funds, if they desire, and see an even greater expansion of the homeschool infrastructure and learning opportunities.

I would love for Secretary DeVos to come to Southern California to see what has been built for homeschool families–in part due to educational funds. It is learning for the 21st-century at its finest!

 

You may also be interested in:

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

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Note: I have updated this post to answer readers’ questions and provide deeper explanations for you.

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37 thoughts on “The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

  1. This is so cool! We are moving to CA, and I’ve been researching this. My only concern is that we will move there too late and might not have an address in time to apply for these charters. I was also looking into the ones with enrichment days, though, and those might be the more competitive ones (lottery). Hoping that we can tap into this. And I do hope that programs like these become more widely available.

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  2. I’m curious… I’m assuming those who do not vaccinate (and therefore cannot participate in Charter) this does not apply?

    Sent from my iPhone

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    1. We do not vaccinate and have loved being a part of Inspire Charter School. My kids love the enrichment classes and field trips and I love the funds that allow me to teach the way that’s best for each kiddo. Not vaccinating has not been an issue for us there as it was at our previous charter school.

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  3. This is great information! I live in southern California and have been looking into unschooling for my kids when they get old enough. How does the process work for receiving funds? Can you point me to any resources? There are two charter schools I’m looking at that offer different tracks of home and in-class time, but I wasn’t aware of any public funds associated with them!

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  4. This is not “customized” at all. 🤔

    Approved curriculum is not customizing, it’s choosing from a box set before you.

    Standardized testing is not customizing, it’s forcing your child into a parameter set by a failing system.

    Assigned teachers are not customizing, it’s oversight to be sure you are in compliance.

    Good grief, the lack of critical thought here is baffling. Actually it’s not a lack of, it’s flat-out disregard for the obvious, to make the free money more palatable to the sheep who will jump off the cliff behind you.😉

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    1. Dawne, I can see you are passionate about this topic. I appreciate that. However, you must not have read my post very carefully. I do not use a box set at all. I customize our curriculum entirely. For instance: 1) I have created our writing curriculum from scratch for the past 2 years. Last year, I developed a full-year curriculum called the Lego Writing Club. I volunteer my time at our homeschool co-op for writing classes I have created that make kids want to write. Additionally, I wanted to bless others so I shared an overview of the Lego Writing Club on my blog several months ago for free. https://thecontemporaryhomeschooler.com/2016/08/23/teaching-with-legos-to-develop-21st-century-skills/ This year I have created a writing curriculum in which my 9 and 10- year old kids write a blog about our lives and things they love. In fact, I am volunteering my time at our private co-op teaching a class I created called Blogging and 21st- Century Skills.They also collaborate with those kiddos on creative stories using Google Docs in the cloud. They are all writing terrific stories together. The writing is top-notch. Seriously, it is something you could pick up and think it comes from a professional writer. So, I am proud of our writing accomplishments and all that I have created and customized for them. 2) Regarding history, which we study chronologically, I research and hand-pick every single book. We go to various libraries a couple of times per week. I do not believe in teaching history from a textbook or one source. I want to hear it from a variety of viewpoints. I love studying history through living books, both historical fiction and non-fiction. Furthermore, we do lots of living history and other types of history-centered travel and field trips. 3) Literature–I also research and hand-pick every book that I read aloud. That is a huge component of our homeschool. Here are some of my favorite read-alouds. https://thecontemporaryhomeschooler.com/category/living-books-and-high-quality-reading/ My kids are also ravenous readers and pick out their books at the library. We do not receive any kind of list or box set from our charter school. 4) With respect to math, I researched and tried out so many programs for our first few years. However, for the past couple of years I have been extremely happy so decided to bless others with a blog post about what has worked for us.Horizons is our main source but we also use Singapore, Khan and others. https://thecontemporaryhomeschooler.com/2017/01/12/how-we-do-math/ 5) Now onto science. We do science in our private co-op each year with labs and experiments. This year, it is botany. Last year we chose Anatomy and Physiology and the year prior we selected Chemistry and Physics for our private co-op science class. Additionally, we go on weekly field trips and a participate in weekly project-based learning class. Much of that involves science. Their weekly sailing lessons are also a great teacher of science. Additionally, I hand-pick science books from our library. So, this is not everything we do, but it gives you an idea of how much research and effort I put into our homeschool. Can you tell me what yours looks like?

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  5. Thank you for sharing! We are in a similar program in WA with a few differences: 1) we don’t ever see any money. Any curriculum we purchase is done with our own money, but our school district allows us to check out homeschool resources 2) we can opt out of testing 3) our work samples are very easy to submit – even a photo of a project is accepted.

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  6. Homeschoolers in Illinois receive a tax credit that can be used towards homeschooling expenses, but they are able to use it for religious materials too. There is no testing or Assigned Credentialed Teacher meetings required. Several other states have similar tax credits as Illinois. Parents just mail in receipts with their state tax form.

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  7. Thank you for giving a glimpse at the Homeschooling options in Southern California! Having options to homeschool, let alone funds to fund homeschooling, makes this so much easier for all families to customize educations for their students….Interest led learning 🙂

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      1. You are so welcome! As caretakers, parents, mothers….we have the opportunity, and I daresay obligation, to support one another and know that we each make the best choices for our families based on our own experiences and situations…offering more choices, encouraging diversity of learning and interest-led learning? Brilliant 🙂 {it’s what we do too!} ❤

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    1. I’m glad you are happy with your choice for your family. I am happy with mine. And yes, I feel like I have much more freedom than if I filed independently. I have a load lifted from my shoulders with regards to finances. My kids are able to experience so much more than if we did not receive the funds. Additionally, the funds have created a vast network of opportunities–many of which would not have arisen with the proliferation of educational funds. Our homeschooling life is beautiful! I am so grateful for it!

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  8. Here in Texas, we do not receive funds and we have absolutely no requirements on our homeschooling. And we have ALL the opportunities your kids have. You see, homeschoolers just do that. They do not need state-funded programs to create opportunities for their children. You say you are “free” and have no “requirements,” but your post was full of required this and that. Can’t have this or purchase that. I get that California is substantially different than Texas, but I fear you and all CA homeschoolers will regret this Trojan horse one day. State funds in my private homeschool? No thank you.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Nicki. Homeschoolers around the United States have many wonderful opportunities. It is so exciting. I’m so happy to be part of this community.

      I grew up in Texas so am quite familiar with it. In fact, I was just there in December. I love Texas and sure miss Tex-Mex , bbq and Gulf shrimp.
      I have a friend who moved from Houston last year. She homeschooled her son there for 5 years. She joined my charter school to take part in the many opportunities we have. She would not been able to afford the things we do like spend the day sailing each week, project-based learning workshop, weekly field trip, etc. without the funds She is amazed with all SoCal has to offer homeschoolers and has remarked numerous times how much more there is here than in Texas. In fact, I hear this over and over from homeschoolers who come from other areas. The funds have resulted in many companies opening programs and classes for homeschoolers–on a scale that probably nowhere else in the United States has seen. It is absolutely wonderful! I know there are so many outstanding opportunities for homeschoolers across the United States and those are growing more and more each year. However, SoCal is on a whole different level.

      I agree California and Texas are different in so many ways. I love so much about both states. I have no problem doing a little bit of work to receive funds and, most importantly, have the tremendous array of opportunities that we have here. I am also glad and believe all homeschoolers who want to remain independent should ABSOLUTELY have the freedom and right to do so. I also believe that those who would like to receive educational funds and have a few requirements should also have the choice to do so. I appreciate everyone showing respect for one’s decisions. We are all on the same team to promote a great education for our kids.

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  9. I am of the correct understanding that is California you are not free of government in any form of homeschooling?
    From what I have read you must be registered with the state teach a certain number of days a year for a minimum number of hours?
    http://www.pheofca.org/legalfactsheet.html

    In Texas what freedom to homeschool mean is absolutely no government control. In fact the state of Texas has not clue how many homeschoolers there are because there is no list or requiments. There has never been a state law past to over see homeschoolers. The state had left that completely up to the parents and given them complete freedom to educate their child as they see fit.

    From what I am seeing you have to be an accredited teacher or enroll your child in a charter school, sign up with the state and more. Does this seem like freedom to you? Obviously it does but if you compare it to state with true freedom you will see it is not.

    I have had many friends who moved here to Texas from California because of the state control over the homeschoolers.

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    1. In California people are free to homeschool independently without enrolling with a charter school. They do not need to be an accredited teacher. That is a myth. I know many people who are independent and were never teachers. It is very easy. I believe they just fill out a simple one page form once per year and send it in. If you are interested in finding out the details, I think HSLDA has that information.

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  10. Thank you for this informative post! I am moving to CA from AZ next year. However we are moving to NorCal. Does this program only apply to SoCal Charters?

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    1. Yes, this program does also exist in NorCal. I don’t think their offerings are nearly as extensive, but you can join a charter school and receive funds. There is a Facebook page for Bay Area homeschoolers. I suggest you join that page and ask which charter schools families like up there. Best wishes!

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  11. I did CAVA with my son years ago. It was right for him at the time. Now, I am in the process of finding the right method of homeschooling for my daughter in SoCal. I am seriously considering iLead and Inspire instead of a standard online setting. I definitely like online move at your own pace classes to supplement, but no way do I want her in a “whiteboard/blackboard” setting at all. Defeats the purpose and will work against all that I am trying to do for my child. It’s the whole do-it-yourself approach that scares me a bit though. I also want to be able to leave the state for extended periods while she is still schooling. I do like the funding provided to customize learning to your child instead of the one size fits all online homeschooling offers. I need to read through your blog to learn more as there is very little out there to really give you a view of how to benefit from what home school charters offer. Thanks.

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