California's compulsory education law technically doesn't allow parents without a teaching credential to educate their children at home. Yet the state is considered among the least regulated in the nation when it comes to home schooling.
Barbara Beach-Courchesne, a consultant for pupil personnel with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said families within the jurisdiction of L.A. County schools can home school by taking advantage of what she and others statewide consider to be a loophole in California law.
Specifically, uncredentialed parents who want to educate their children at home can file a private school affidavit with the county education office stating that they are running a private school.
That way, Beach-Courchesne said, they are able to sidestep the credentialing requirement, which does not apply to private-school teachers.
Parents who follow this procedure are free to choose whatever education style suits them--from packaged curriculums and rigid schedules to an unstructured blend of activities guided by the child's interests.
But like more traditional private schools, parents are required to assign grades, keep attendance, and keep their homes open to annual fire and health inspections.
Determining the size of the home schooling population is difficult because no agency keeps count.
In Los Angeles County, there are about 300 private schools registered for six or fewer students, "and I would make a presumption they are parents choosing to educate children in their homes by establishing private schools," Beach-Courchesne said.
But other families teach through independent study programs and many more, it is estimated, simply don't file the forms.