Education

Home schooling in California: 'We do not have a home schooling law in this state'

Angel Nicols, 12, does his school work in the tiny caravan he shares with his mother as they travel around England with Mr. Fips' Wonder Circus on April 7, 2014.
Angel Nicols, 12, does his school work in the tiny caravan he shares with his mother as they travel around England with Mr. Fips' Wonder Circus on April 7, 2014.
Mary Turner/Getty Images

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As the story of two Riverside County parents accused of abusing their 13 children grabs national headlines, questions remain about how this could happen at a home-school.

The family's address in Perris was listed in a state Department of Education directory as the location of the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 campus, the L.A. Times reported. The children's father, David Turpin, was listed as the principal.

Pam Sorooshian, a board member with the Home School Association of California who home-schooled her own children, explained to KPCC how home schooling works in this state. Here's how homeschooling is — or isn't — regulated here.

Who do home schooling parents answer to?

"We do not have a home schooling law in this state," Sorooshian said. The way it's handled is that typical California home-schools usually fit into one of these categories:

"So they're all as regulated as any private school," Sorooshian said. "People are often surprised to find out that private schools do not require accreditation, or even licensing by any government agency. It's just set up your private school and follow the law ... and, that's it. And it's the same thing for home-schoolers as every other private school in the state."

Why shouldn't home-schools be more tightly regulated?

Sorooshian argued that extra oversight wouldn't help. She noted that there are teachers who abuse students in regular schools as well.

"I don't know that homeschoolers having more oversight than private schools or public teachers or anything like that can stop that," Sorooshian said. "I don't know that we should have the burden of it."

She added that she believes that the people who would comply with regulation are those who would already be fine, while those who abuse children wouldn't comply with regulation.

"Those are the people that won't show up," Sorooshian said. "It's very, very easy for people to not comply with home schooling law, because the school districts are really supposed to be checking on it, and because they don't check very closely, as far as we know, then it's pretty easy to fly under the radar and not do anything."

She said she was surprised that the Riverside County family was complying with the law with their home-school.

How do home-school kids socialize with other young people?

While they aren't around children outside of their family during school, Sorooshian explained that they have what they call "park days" where home-schoolers gather together.

"They usually meet once a week, for many hours, usually a long time on that one day," Sorooshian said.

Activities include a wide variety of extracurriculars, such as musicals, film production, sports teams and more, Sorooshian said.

"Homeschoolers will laugh a lot at that question. Because, as homeschoolers, studies have already shown that we get involved in way more extracurricular activities than kids who go to school, and sometimes it can almost get to be too much," Sorooshian said. "We have so many social opportunities, and outside activities, that we have to tell the kids, we have to slow down a little. We have to have more time — some time at least — at home."

How does the Home School Association of California help home-school families?

Getting started with home schooling can be difficult, so Sorooshian said that her organization works with families to provide legal information to make sure they do everything legally.

"We explain to them exactly what they need to do, what records they need to keep, what things they need to follow in order to be in compliance with the requirements," Sorooshian said.

Beyond the legal requirements, Sorooshian said they also help them figure out how to get started, how to find home schooling materials and how to decide the best methods for the particular family.

"The beauty of homeschooling, of course, is that it's completely individualized," Sorooshian said. "If something's not working for your kid, you can find another way to do it. Many, many of our homeschooling kids are what I would call 'quirky' kids, for example, who just don't fit well in a standardized education. And the parents are able to really make their education unique to them."