Is traditional high school not a good fit for your student? Is your student ready for high school work, but is much younger than most high school students? The California education system is not designed for these kinds of students, but there are ways to navigate the maze of educational requirements while leaving the doors open for your student to attend college in the future. One way is to home school your student through a private school that you establish yourself. When they are ready for college level work, your student can take a test that guarantees them entrance to community college, even if they are younger than traditional college students. At the community college, they gain experience taking college classes, learn to navigate higher education systems on their own, and earn college credit. By the time they are traditional college age, they are usually ready to apply to a four-year college as either a freshman or transfer student. This post gives details on how you can help your student on this path.
First, establish your home school by filing a Private School Affidavit (PSA) online with the California Department of Education. You can start your home school at any time during the school year, but the PSA portal will not be available until October. The name of your home school will be the name of the high school your student will graduate from, so choose something suitable. If your student is already doing high school level work, record their grade level as “ungraded secondary”. List the highest grade your school offers as twelfth grade. This allows you to register them in a variety of activities at whatever grade level is appropriate.
If your child is currently enrolled in school, whether it is a traditional public school, charter school, home school charter, or brick and mortar private school, you will need to officially withdraw your child from the school in writing. For details and sample letters, take a look at the materials at California Homeschool Network. I recommend that you obtain a California State ID card for your student since they will not have a student ID. This will serve as their photo identification for exams. Another option is a US Passport Card, which is more expensive. Don’t rely on home school student ID cards since in many cases only government issued ID cards will be accepted.
Record all high school level coursework in your student’s high school transcript. I used a free tool to create basic transcripts called Homeschool Sked Track. Also collect and record brief course descriptions and any textbooks used. This will be part of your student’s descriptive transcript, an additional document that your student will need for their four-year college applications.
When your student is ready for community college (CC) level work, have them take the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE). If they are younger than 16, list them as “Will complete tenth grade within a semester of the next test administration.” Submit a copy of your PSA along with the registration form and payment. Home schools do not need an official seal or a non-family member to sign the form. When your student passes the test, they will receive a CHSPE certificate, but do not graduate them from your home school high school yet. Continue to file PSA yearly, every October.
Have your student register for CC classes using the CHSPE certificate and a brief transcript of whatever high school work they have completed so far. It may help to list the coursework by subject rather than by year, especially if your student has been doing high school level work for several years. It may also smooth the path to assign letter grades on a regular 4.00 scale and give your student a GPA. Your student will be treated the same as high school graduates by the CC, but you do not need to officially graduate them from your home school high school. If you are getting resistance from a particular CC due to your student’s age, remind them that they are required to accept students with a CHSPE certificate or try a different CC. Some community colleges are more welcoming of younger students than others.
As an additional benefit of the CHPSE certificate, your student will also be eligible for paid employment without needing to obtain a work permit from your public school district. Work experience is a great way for your student to build independence and learn basic finance skills.
Record all CC work on your student’s home school high school transcript as concurrent college level work, along with any other additional high school level work they are still doing at home. Your home school high school is allowed to grant credit for whatever you deem appropriate. Keep the California high school graduation requirements in mind. There are multiple paths to admission to the University of California, but your student will be guaranteed a spot at some UC if they complete the a-g requirements with a good GPA. Some of these can be satisfied by Advanced Placement (AP) or SAT subject tests as well as certain community college classes. Many homeschoolers decide that they do not wish to be constrained by UC a-g requirements, which were designed primarily for public school students. Your student will still be eligible for UC through regular admission, admission by exam, or transfer admission even if they do not complete a-g.
At least a year prior to applying to four-year colleges, your student should probably take either the ACT or the SAT. Some colleges do not require college entrance exams, but most do. If your student wants to be eligible for National Merit Scholarships, in the year prior to their final year of home schooling (ie what would correspond to their eleventh grade year) they will need to take the PSAT/NMSQT. It can be difficult for home schoolers to find a high school that will administer PSAT to their student. Check with local home school groups to find out which high schools offer PSAT to home schooled students, and start early if you want to do this!
When your student is ready for a four-year college, they will either apply as a freshman or as a transfer student. This depends on how many college credits they have already earned. If your student is going to transfer, make sure they have completed all the transfer requirements. There are different transfer requirements for the University of California, California State University, and private colleges or universities.
Either way, your student should officially graduate from your home school high school prior to four-year college. If you wish, you may create a High School Diploma for your student yourself, or order one online from a site such as HomeschoolDiploma.com. When signed by you, this is a valid legal document. Make sure to include on your student’s high school transcript that a “High School Diploma was awarded on [date]”. Submit this final transcript to the college they will attend to along with any official community college transcripts. Your student will legally be a high school graduate even though your private home school is not accredited, with or without CHSPE. Their graduation date is not the CHSPE certificate date, it is the date you awarded them a diploma. Students who receive a CHSPE certificate are legally allowed to continue high school, either public or private (which includes private home schools) and receive a high school diploma.