Advice about Homeschooling

Parent Q&A

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  • My 3rd grader is not thriving in the public school system and I need to find alternatives. We live in Richmond.  Private school is not an option so I am reluctantly thinking about homeschooling. From what I understand, if he enrolls in a homeschool charter I would get some funds to use for vendors that offer classes/tutoring. Are there any disadvantages to this versus the other option, which I believe would be to set ourselves up as our own school?  How closely would we have to adhere to a curriculum with the charter option? I have discovered Hickman and Connecting waters. Are there any others I don't know about? I would love to hear from other parents who have gone with either option. Feeling overwhelmed.


    Veteran homeschooler with two kids in college here! We always filed the PSA which gives complete freedom to use whatever method of homeschooling or curriculum/resources you like with zero hoop jumping and you decide when to graduate your kid (usually with an eye towards future plans, if four year college, more vigorous and documented, if community college transfer or straight to a trade, way more flexible). A charter offers funds to use in approved curriculum and programs/vendors and provides some scaffolding throughout your homeschool journey, but also comes with requirements and hoop jumping (especially in high school) such as testing, check ins and having your plan for covering the various subjects approved by your educational specialist whom you meet with monthly (with recent regulations increasing this has become more onerous since 2020). You have a lot of freedoms in terms of what you choose, and the final “ok” that what you’re using is sufficient comes from the ES. Plan to attend the Homeschool Association of California’s free 101 session June 1st at 2pm for more info about all legal options and how to go about homeschooling no matter which way you go. Sign up at their website 
    We took a relaxed approach and even so, both of my kids have 3.9 GPAs in community college and my eldest was accepted to 3 UC’s and will be attending Davis as a junior this fall. My younger child will TAG (transfer admission guarantee) to Davis this September and if accepted, will be a junior in fall of 2023. 

    My apologies if you’ve already looked into this and it’s not a good solution, but have you considered transferring to another district? Albany is a nice, small district, it’s been more open to transfer recently, and it’s not far from Richmond. Is it possible your child might thrive in a different public school environment? My kids loved their time at Cornell. If the transfer was approved, your child would be able to stay in Albany through high school, even though they won’t officially promise that in advance. 

    Mine are now 15&17.   We now school under a PSA but were with a charter through 8th.  Our first ES was VERY schooly and a poor fit for our eclectic learning style.  We switched and the next ES had been Waldorf-trained and looooved our adventures in learning.  Finding an ES who likes your learning style will be key to liking your charter. That said, state regulations have changed WR charters and I don't think the easy breezy time we had would apply now.  Here's the thing though -- you can quit the charter anytime!  So sign up and see if you find an ES you like and if you like the trade of rules/regulations for money.  If you like it, great!  free money!  If not, quit and file your PSA.  We did a LOT of free learning from the library and local groups.  Yes, money paid for some classes and equipment, but a lot of learning came free.  Enjoy!  it's a great path!


    I homeschooled my 2 kids for a few years circa 2014-16. We went through an independent study charter school. The school made us do lots of make-work (forms, standardized testing, keeping silly attendance logs). At one point when one of my kids scored poorly on a standardized test the school kept nagging us to do the most god-awful online literacy program. It was all the headache of a brick-and-mortar school without the community of one. The money we got from them didn't feel like it was worth it. 

    If I had it do again I'd just take the leap into full independence and go the PSA route. 

    Best of luck. Maybe you'll get some good responses from folks who have homeschooled more recently than me.

  • How to Homeschool from OUSD

    (2 replies)

    There’s so much information on homeschooling I don’t know where to start. Can anyone share their experience from leaving OUSD to homeschool and steps on how to do it? Tips/what to avoid? Anyone do this with an IEP? Anyone happy or not with the Independent Study Program? Are there homeschooled kid groups where they regularly socialize? Any information is greatly appreciated!

    I homeschooled my son last year instead of keeping him in zoom school. This was AUSD, not OUSD but the process is similar. You simply file an affidavit declaring yourself a private school with fewer 6 students. It’s free and asks fir almost no detail. No one follows up. You inform your district you are withdrawing your child. Then you can do whatever you want, from nothing to hiring tutors and taking a la carte classes and attending homeschool camps. You can also homeschool through a charter, but this way gives you the most freedom. There would be no IEP support because you are on your own to cobble that together however you see fit. If you want services from your district, your child has to be enrolled in the district. Independent study is not homeschooling at all but just another type of enrollment. 


    I’m a veteran homeschooler with two kids in college. Homeschool Association of California offers free homeschool 101 sessions. The next one is coming up on November 4th at 3pm. Sign up at Also, here is some quick information regarding the various ways to legally homeschool in California,
    The only way to keep an IEP is to enroll with a public school charter. If you homeschool independently by creating a small private school and filing a private school affidavit, it’s possible to have an ISP (individual service plan, sort of IEP “light”) through your local public school but you likely will not receive services due to budget constraints for that program, and only have a yearly evaluation and plan. Depending on the level of services or accommodations your child currently receives, homeschooling can mitigate many of them such as more time, sitting close to the front of the classroom, use of a fidget toy, etc. If your child is receiving OT, PT, speech therapy, etc., then you will have to provide those out-of-pocket or via your insurance if you file a private school affidavit.

    The 101 will give you a comprehensive overview of all of your options, record keeping, sample curriculum, classes, methods of learning, and how to break away from school centric thinking and take advantage of homeschooling freedoms as well.

    It will also help direct you as to where to find others who homeschool/community.



  • Seeking Hybrid Homeschool

    (1 reply)

    I recently read about Hybrid Homeschooling that mixes homeschool and classroom time (e.g., a couple days in a classroom or learning center and school work at home the remaining days). Through the pandemic we've realized there are aspects of remote schooling that work well for our family, however we're not prepared to fully homeschool and think our children (currently in 1st and 4th grades) could benefit from some in-person instruction and socialization. Initial searches seem to bring up either online/remote only or full homeschool programs. Are there Hybrid Homeschooling programs in the Bay Area? We're open to private or public, ideally in the East or North Bay. I'd also be interested in hearing from anyone that has experience with this schooling option.

    Trackers is a popular program serving homeschoolers. I think they are based at Camp Herms (A Boy Scout property) in the El Cerrito hills now.

    I homeschooled my kids in the mid-elementary years about 5 years ago and used a couple different hybrid programs. Both were quite small and homespun and have closed up shop. I would say that challenge with homeschooling around here is that the community is quite small and transient so it's difficult to pin down. I found myself having to travel more than I was comfortable with in order to find other homeschooled families to hang out with. There was a Ninja-Warrior gym in Concord called Apex that held classes for homeschoolers, for instance. 

    If you are in Alameda County there is a charter school called Hickman that holds in-person classes for homeschoolers:

    Lastly the Waldorf school in El Sobrante closed and is now a "community school"--maybe they have a part-time option, not sure.

    Best of luck.

  • Due to a variety of reasons I won't get into here, I have lost all faith in BUSD being able to provide any manageable school solution for my elementary school kids. There are some spectacular teachers doing a good job, but I've learned that when we don't get one of those, it's a total mess. As a result, I'm trying to find a sustainable solution for our family for the next academic year. I am willing to consider a range of options from private school to supplemental online instruction or tutoring to some sort of paid, in-person small group day camps that meet the COVID requirements to any other ideas out there.

    My primary goals are to keep my kids occupied and engaged in something - anything - during the school year so that my spouse and I can work during the day. We are not looking to fill 8 hrs per day -- our kids are pretty independent and can keep themselves occupied. Rather we are looking for 1-3 hrs per day to provide some sort of structure to the endless days at home. Right now we're either dealing with crying and giving up on school work because there is no instruction, or we are peppered with questions all day long because there is no teacher available to ask for help. I don't care if my kids "fall behind" in the traditional subjects as long as they're occupied with something interesting and somewhat educational that doesn't cause continuous strife in my house. 

    What is working is the project based "independent" experimentation type stuff. For example, my kids built a marble run out of cardboard & are expanding it into a very basic Rube Goldberg machine with dominos - this has consumed many many hours over a couple of weeks. My kids have also taken very engaging online lessons with outside organizations that they enjoy and where actual instruction happens and where they get feedback on their efforts. In an ideal world, we would find one organization / school / person / etc. who would put together these types of opportunities that are functional for working parents and provide regular daily engagement, teaching and feedback for our kids either in-person or on a videoconference. This could be a support for what BUSD sends out (and we would keep our kids enrolled), or it could be completely independent (and we would pull our kids out). Any recommendations?

    You might want to check out Berkwood Hedge School ( in downtown Berkeley. The school excels in project based learning and that seems like a good fit for what has been working for your kids. I have two kids there, an older child and and younger child who have enjoyed the abundant SIP distance learning that honestly pale in comparison to the rich curriculum offered in person. Right now my kids have a combination of 1 on 1 feedback meetings with their teachers, small group working meetings and live art, music, PE and dance class. The school already has a plan for what will happen in the fall. It is a small school that can be responsive to changing situations. Good luck!

    Hello fellow Parent,  Just today I was researching homeschool and independent study alternatives to placing my 10 yr old back in to public school.  Surprisingly, becoming a homeschool "teacher" to my child was not as difficult as I imagined. Rough at first but, once we got into a groove, it went well. Most importantly, I noticed that my ADHD child was actually was making greater progress with me at home than during her attendance at the school. A few of the reasons being, at home she had little to no physical distractions, no social emotional issues (academic level comparisons/ anxiety about who "likes" her..etc), and we had a schedule that was flexible. I decided to pursue the possibility of homeschooling my daughter through the next year (and beyond). However, I am uncertain how to continue without having to "work" nearly full time myself. I've been contemplating a variety of possibilities and one I would consider is to be a "Nanny" or "In-Home Parent's Helper". I've been a parent for 10 years. I have 4 years experience as a Personal Assistant which included Shopping, Cooking and Childcare, I have 5 years experience as Building Maintenance & Resident Manager, 20 yrs experience as a Bookkeeper. I have been a creative artist all my life and I have a plethora of other skills as well. I also have a college degree in Film Production. I have a lot more to offer a family than the average Nanny. Upon reading your post I thought that together we could figure out a way to support each other. I'm not seeking an income, only collaboration. Taking care of children is easier to do as a "tribe". If interested...please let me know. I live in North Berkeley on Josephine Street. 

    Please take a look at Aurora School, where we have a current 4th grader. Aurora is a progressive K-5 in Upper Rockridge, and although (pre-COVID) we had a little commute coming from Berkeley, it was always well worth it! The school is small and full of caring and thoughtful teachers, and they have a strong emphasis on socioemotional learning. In addition, they have adapted pretty brilliantly to all the changes wrought by the pandemic. Currently the teachers are offering academic classes via Zoom from 9am-noon, with specialist classes (art, music, Spanish, PE) in the afternoons. Families all differ, but my own child is pretty self-sufficient during school time, and my husband and I are both able to work without much interruption. Aurora is planning for on-site school in the fall, with many contingency plans in place (including the ability to switch to all-remote learning if need be). There are a few families asking for an all-remote experience in the fall, and the school is preparing to offer that as well.

    Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Good luck in your search!

     Hi there!  You mentioned that your kids have enjoyed doing "project based/experimentation" activities...I highly recommend looking into Crestmont School in the Richmond Hills.  It's a small private school and their program emphasizes the type of project-based learning that you mentioned. 

    My son currently attends Crestmont and the school is offering parents the option to have kids learn "in house" in small groups or participate in a distance learning program.  Best of luck to you.

    I can understand the desire to find the richest learning opportunities possible.  Although I am a stay-at-home mom, I considered evaluating private schools as well based on their covid-19 game plan.  However, unless a vaccine is out of reach for several years, switching the school environment now means at least one more transition in the very near future if private school is not part of the long term plan.  I think I'm going to bet on this being a 1 year disruption.  For working folks with solid careers, this may be the time to take a leave of absence.  For folks like me:  no more pet projects, no unrelated volunteering for a year so that I can focus on the needs of the children.  For the youngest lower elementary kids, homeschooling is actually fairly easy and fun.  I did it for 1 year for the 1st grade level and our child was at the equivalent of first grade completion by February.  We took weekday trips to the beach.  With dad's help, we built a duck run and incubated duck eggs.  This then 6 year old helped me rent a van and load 30+ pieces of 8 foot long PVC at Home Depot.  She took a weekly in-person homeschooling class in her favorite subject with a rock-star teacher.  I cannot overstate that new school transitions are hard for the kids and stressful for the parents.  Staying at home is not a curse if your work situation allows an LOA.  Some families just pack up for another country so that the adults can decompress while the kids get the experience of a lifetime.  As kids get older, their social circles get bigger and are also a bigger part of their lives... that's a whole different and possibly more explosive scenario.

  • Hi all!

    I am going through a tough time thinking of sending my two boys back to school during this time. It is so hard for me to imagine for them to get sick and I am seriously thinking of homeschooling them until this all really has an almost endpoint. And now hearing that the winter maybe even worse, I am seriously panicking. Granted, my boys are still little (1 and 3) but the oldest is getting ready for PreK and I don't want either one of them to fall behind.

    Wanted to get some advice for homeschooling. Are there any programs or how do parents homeschool their children? What are the typical schedules for homeschooling and are there any online courses that one can take or online teachers? My sons is bilingual in English and Spanish, but I want him to have more structure and I want to make sure I am teaching him correctly or if there are other ways of teaching him.

    Thanks so much!

    Nooooooo way do you need to worry about homeschooling curriculum for kids your age! Just read with them, talk to them/with them, give them hands on activities like blocks, duplos, playdoh, and relax! Nobody falls behind *before* PreK.


    I agree with the last post about not needing to overly-worry about your little ones being behind. However I just wanted to share a link that I use to come up with ideas to keep my 3.5 yo entertained while learning. Also this is our schedule.

    8 am - get up, stretch- water garden
    9 am breakfast
    10:30 am (zoom meeting w daycare friendsTTh)
    11 am free play
    12 pm walk around neighborhood- discussing colors/shapes/size of objects, counting numbers we see or letters
    12:30 pm lunch
    1 pm read 2 books and then nap
    3 pm water play outside
    4 pm free play
    5 pm video call Grandma
    6 pm dinner
    7-8 pick up toys ready for shower
    8 on read books and sleep by 9.

    Usually at bed time we discuss our day, what we discovered, etc. Kids take so much in but in the end I think they learn the most by spending quality time with parents and being able to have conversations.

    I do have to note that both my husband and I are also working from home and we take turns as we can to make this possible. It's not always perfect but it's ok!

    Best wishes to you as you find a learning routine that works best for your family.

    Check out

    This is an East-Bay support and social group for home learners and their parents. We usually meet in pre-selected parks on Thursday afternoons for lots of social time for all ages. There is a wealth of knowledge and ideas from all kinds of families and their learning styles. 
    We are not meeting currently due to COVID-19 guidelines but I hope we can resume soon. 
    Good Luck!

    Your concern is how most parents initially feel when starting to homeschool their children after leaving a traditional public school setting. Your worry shows that you value education. There are many groups on Facebook you can join to glean advice and insights on homeschooling. California Homeschool Network and The Homeschool Association of California are excellent state organizations to review, but you do not have to be a member to get answers to questions about homeschooling. If you are looking for structure and support starting out at a public charter school that offers individualized instruction may be an avenue to explore. They have credentialed teachers that help parents select curriculum and supplemental resources during the school year as well as provide support. My child has an IEP and we left our district five years ago. During this time he has been appropriately supported and keeps making steady progress in academics. When schools closed we kept having classes because some of his instruction is online and no transitions had to be made. Children in charters I know of are distributed Chromebooks and hotspots (mobile internet) at the beginning of school so I do not know why school districts cannot gather these resources for students that need them. The perception that public charters do not meet the needs of students they serve has not been my experience. Homeschooling requires work and commitment and parents typically have to put in more time than at a public school. For many homeschooling families home is our home-base and our classroom is anywhere that brings learning alive. We learned pretty quickly that our homes will not survive being turned into mini classrooms. Each family needs to be true to the values, style, and rhythm that works for them. We are also concerned about what the new normal will evolve into as many community spaces like museums, libraries, and parks may not be as safe to visit due to an even larger community spread of COVID 19. My child's charter school resource center may remain closed as well in the next school year. Therefore, homeschooling for safety reasons may not be realistic if you think staying inside all day with worksheets is all homeschooling is about. If on the other hand you can tolerate great uncertainty with even greater creativity, you will do fine homeschooling. We are all in this together.     

  • Hello Parents, I am a solo Mom of one 9 y.o. child. My daughter has had difficulty regulating her emotions on a recurring basis while attending traditional public school. She qualified for an IEP but, that only assists her academically. There is no one at the school to comfort her when she is triggered. I am often called to come to the school to calm her down. Which interrupts my work day. My daughter is very social and sweet most of the time but, her occasional outbursts turn off the classmates so very few are interested in creating a bonding friendship. Her teacher is not experienced in managing an emotionally sensitive student. Since I work mostly from home, I decided to consider homeschooling my daughter. I'm wondering if any parents with similar situation have had great results with homeschooling or un-schooling their ADHD child. Do you know if there is an IEP offered outside of the traditional public schools (for homeschooling families). I would appreciate advice on how best to juggle the schooling and my work (both at home) schedule. How often to include breaks, recess, field trips, meeting other homeschooled kids. Please offer links to un-school and homeschool sites, and/or local groups. Berkeley, Alameda, Oakland  ~Thank you.

    Rather than pull her out if school altogether, I would try to get her diagnosed with an official anxiety disorder, document how the condition is affecting her learning (missed lessons, impaired group work, etc.) and push for accommodations.   Consider seeking an out-of-District transfer if you need to.  And get her a pediatric therapist with a cognitive behavioral approach.  My worry is that she won’t have an opportunity to learn to address her social problems at home with you. I notice that when kids who have been homeschooled for these kinds of reasons return in middle school or high school, they are very out of step and stressed and it’s discouraging for them. They are not used to balancing their own needs and desires with those of others.   But teaching the  academic material will probably get harder for you as she gets older, and puberty will make so much one on one time hard.   And in any case, she needs to be preparing to live in the world.   

    An IEP should not only cover academics but behavioral issues as well. It is required that the school address this and not just tell you they don't have the resources for you. I would encourage you to request an evaluation because her emotional regulation challenges are affecting her education and it is on the district to meet her educational needs and this falls under that. The evaluation should give recommendations and you don't have to pick anyone from the list that they give you. You may request your own at their expense. (They would have to pay for whoever they get too, and you want someone who is not going to just say what the district wants them to.)I would also encourage you to go to DREDF's monthly free parent training and they can certainly help you navigate all of this. If you want to talk to me, I have experience in this with my own child who is now 15.


    I homeschooled  my daughter first through 5th grade. She’s finishing up 5th grade now. She really needed 1-on-1 emotional support that no school could provide. She needed bonding with me and a low-stress environment. Kids under severe stress cannot learn nor develop social skills. She needed multiple hours a day where she was not triggered. She got that homeschooling. Soon she will be going to “real” school for 6th grade in an expensive but supportive setting. She has tools for calming her nervous system. She understands what she needs and can ask for help. Still, it will be a very challenging transition. 

    Although our kids have the right to free education, in my opinion there is no successful model for kids who need regular emotional reassurance and comfort. That’s just not what school IS.

    i understand the argument that kids need to learn to get along, to toughen up, to function in a large group setting. However, the unsupervised school setting does NOT foster personal growth and development in sensitive/easily-disregulated kids. It does the opposite. 

    We did Harry Potter homeschool class for three years with Mary Ellen Hill in Oakland (Tuesdays 10-2) where L got beautifully-facilitated support sharing, transitioning, playing, and crafting. We joined AOHL Alameda-Oakland Home Learners for our school community of many families learning in as many different ways. Thursday afternoons 12-5 we meet in a different park for social play. Parents (mostly moms) talk, kids do everything. It’s a welcoming group. There are homeschool Charter schools you can enroll in that can implement IEP’s, some better than others. 

    My daughter also has therapy twice a week, OT once a week, takes a weekly ballet class. Does Aloha Mind Math class weekly. Depending on your kiddo’s ability, there are so many options for homeschoolers. 

    I had no other choice for my daughter. She’s amazing and has grown emotionally so much. She has worked hard to build resilience so she is ready to navigate all-day school.

    Endlessly failing socially, emotionally and academically is a terrible Plan! Our culture does not get it yet. I don’t have many answers but if I were to do it over again I would build even more support for L starting even younger. 

    I also hired a private teacher to help teach. L was too oppositional to learn from me. It was expensive but just what my daughter needed. 

    Good Luck, I’d be happy to talk/meet with you. 

    I basically agree with the prior two posters (and I have a fifth grader in public school with ADHD). She should stay in public school (although I suppose you might want to try for a transfer and a fresh start, if you feel like the pros to that outweigh the cons). Over the summer, get some additional/clearer diagnoses in writing from her medical team, and request an IEP meeting RIGHT at the beginning of the school year to discuss how it will be edited and implemented. You should also go to the DREDF training over the summer (as recommended in another post).

    Keep in mind the school is not supposed to suggest medication because they are no medical professionals. I however, despite ALSO not being a medical professional, can tell you that Prozac has helped my son manage his emotions, and Adderall seems to be helping the focus during the school day. If you haven't tried medication with your daughter, at her age you can approach it as a partnership with her to help HER manage what's going on and do the best she can. My son knows that chemical imbalance is one of his problems. Is he happy about it? No. But at least he's as informed as a 10 year old can be.

    I can't imagine homeschooling my ADHDer, or his younger sister who is difficult/emotional too. The structure and routine of school really seem to help them. Good luck.

  • Unschooling logistics

    (2 replies)


    We're a full time working family (we don't have any other choice financially) living in Oakland.  I have a 12 year old (7th grade) and a 9 year old (3rd grade) who have been traditionally schooled in public schools.  We are limited financially, and even if we weren't, aren't interested in a traditional private school.  I was wondering if there is a such thing as an unschool or free range learning or even loosely structured coop for working parents who want something different for their kids?  I also have a 3 year old who attends a montessori day care 4 days per week.  Thank you in advance.  I'm off every Tuesday and every 3rd wednesday since I have a non-traditional career.  

    We've been homeschooling for a couple of years now and it's been the been the best thing for our family. Locally, you might check out SFBUN (look for them on Yahoo groups), AOHL (Alameda Oakland Home Learners,, or the multiple local homeschooling groups on Meetup. People in those groups would also be good for leads on coops and microschools (Trackers has one, for example, and I think there are at least a couple others in the East Bay). There are also a ton of Facebook groups--Secular, Eclectic, Academic (SEA) Homeschoolers might be a good one to check out. It's not limited to the Bay Area, but there are a ton of helpful people there with lots of different approaches to homeschooling, and they may give you some ideas. You could also check out independent study charter schools -- Connecting Waters, Valley View, and Hickman serve Alameda County, and they give families money for classes/curricula, organize field trips, and some offer in-person classes as well. We're entering the enrollment/registration season for charters, so I'd check those out soonest. Good luck!

    You can unschool while getting funding for schooling - try  We unschool with Ocean Grove, a charter with a similar organization to connecting waters.  It has been a great fit for us.

  • Homeschooling in Castro Valley

    (2 replies)

    Hi all, planning to homeschool my boys. Oldest will be 5 next year I just haven’t decided if registering as private is best or joining a co-op or any other groups... wanted to get some advice or pointers from other homeschooling parents here. We live in Castro Valley. Thank you! 

    There are several charter schools that offer homeschool / independent study programs, and you might want to consider one of these. We are enrolled at Valley View Charter Prep. This allows us to meet with an educational specialist once a month for advice, go on organized field trips, and get official transcripts. They also provide intervention services if your child needs extra help with anything. We get $2500 credit per student per year to spend on educational expenses like classes, athletics, tutoring or supplies, which is nice! We also know homeschoolers who are enrolled at Hickman and Connecting Waters. Good luck! 

    Legally, kids don't enter school in CA until the Sept after they turn 6; Kindy is not mandatory in CA.  So you have nothing you NEED to do next Fall.  That said, if you join with a homeschooling charter, you will have access to classes and funding to educate your child.  We rec'd $2400/school year/kid.  At the lower ages, this paid for art and science classes.  You can use it for horse lessons and dance. You can buy books and art supplies for home.  Charter school means educational funds for your child, state testing, and monthly meetings. If you want to go the PSA route, there is no gov't oversight, no testing and no need to do anything until Sept after your child is 6.  

  • Homeschool Charter Schools

    (1 reply)

    Our daughter is turning 6 this month. I have been contemplating enrolling her in one of the charter schools geared toward homeschoolers. We live in Contra Costa County.  There are many schools and models to choose from, and I would love to whittle down the list ahead of a deeper dive into the specifics of each school's offerings. I am looking for a program that is not religiously affiliated and that allows families latitude in determining curricular content, assessment, and structure. I am currently exploring Valley View, Vista Oaks, Connecting Waters, and Visions in Education. I am open to learning about others as well, but am especially interested in hearing about people's experience with these schools. Thank you for the feedback.

    We are the proud parents of a "homeschooled" son who is enrolled with Connecting Waters Charter. For two years we searched for the best option after leaving the public school system.  We enrolled in a couple of private schools each promising so much only to discover numerous problems down the road.  After extensive research we decided Connecting Waters was the best fit for us.  Contrary to what many might believe, "homeschooled" kids have many options and choices on how to meet the requirements for graduating from Elementary, Middle and High School.  We work with an "Educational Specialist" and receive funds each year to spend on approved vendors for classes.  The counseling staff at CW was very helpful when we first enrolled.  We struggled at first thinking this would not be a legitimate way into college.  However, it has been the best situation despite many outside concerns that our son get the "socialization" skills through the traditional route in the public school system. Really? I think some of the greatest kids I've met have had non-traditional educations.   We supplement with many outside activities that include sports, music, art etc. where he is exposed to kids his own age.  

    It would have been easy to just stay in the public school system where the emphasis seems to be to teach to the test so the school receives accolades for exemplary work. The fact that you are thinking about this at age 6 is fabulous.

    Best of luck in your search!

  • New to Homeschooling

    (0 replies)

    I don't know where to begin with homeschooling. I am in Oakland and I have a 6 and a 4 year old. Where should I go to begin?

    [moderator's note: BPN has lots of advice on this subject:]

    No responses received.

  • Trying to figure out school options...has anyone tried home schooling for kindergarten in Berkeley? My main concerns are socializing--and I don't feel any need to be my child's only teacher. If anyone has any current resources or general advice, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

    I suggest you reach out to AOHL, or Alameda-Oakland Home Learners, and visit their website. They are a great group that meets regularly on Thursday afternoons and would be able to answer any questions you may have. We were one of several Berkeley families who regularly participated. Best of luck!

    If you are open to looking at schools, I cannot recommend Aurora highly enough. Both of my children are in elementary school there and have been thriving. It is a small, progressive school with mixed-age classrooms and the pedagogy is really focused on social-emotional development as well as helping each student embrace kind of learner they are. I have watched so many different kinds of kids really thrive there. The community is very open and responsive. The teachers and administrators are so skilled and available. I feel very grateful to everyone there and it has been just wonderful to watch my children develop in themselves. They love school and they love learning - how great is that?! I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about the school.

    Hello! Welcome to the awesome, exhausting thrill ride of homeschooling!

    I am sure you'll get a ton of replies about this. You might want to join SFBUN (unschoolers, but homeschool friendly). Also, there's the HSC (HomeSchool Association of California) on facebook and other parts of the internet. These are two groups, but there are many, many others. I don't know which homeschool-friendly charters serve the East Bay, but there are probably at least a couple.

    My daughter (age 5) attends the Trackers Bay homeschool day on Mondays. It's right near the Ashby BART station. She loves it. I believe that at least one charter might consider Trackers Bay a vendor? 

    And if you mean socializing like mixing socially--many local homeschool groups have regular park days, field trips and get-togethers. If you mean socializing like growing up able to move acceptably through society--you'll probably find that is an enormous non-issue when homeschooling.

    I am sure that other responses will be far more informative than mine. I just wanted to chime in to let you know that it's not uncommon to homeschool in Berkeley. You are not alone!

    I homeschooled my daughter K-8, she's in a brick and mortar high school now. We used Hickman Charter. I was a nervous nelly in the beginning and liked the idea of the support system of a charter. Hickman has a resource center in downtown Oakland on 9th Street. You meet with a teacher/ advisor (an EC) about every six weeks, but there is a lot of lattitude about what/ how you teach, because homeschooling is really about customizing the education to your child's needs, interests etc.... For instance we used community classes and outside tutors a fair amount in order to flesh out our "school". Hickman also has some arrangements with some local groups, such as Kids N Clay, which we took full advantage of. The ECs at Hickman are amazing folks!!! They have lots of experience with homeschooling/ education and helpful advice about parenting in general when/ if you need it. Hickman also has a day of workshop type classes every Wednesday up at Live Oak Park in Berkeley, which is good for the socializing factor. The yearly Shakespeare play is something of an institution. 

    Plus of course, for more socializing, there are groups like SFBUN and Oakland's AOHL for park day get togethers...There is also Connecting Waters Charter, but since we never used them, I can't really speak to their program.

    I worried a lot, when we were starting out, and the more experienced homeschoolers all told me to relax and just follow my daughter's lead, which is what I did... so now I'm passing on the same sage advice :))


    We homeschooled for a few years in the middle/upper elementary years. My kids are both now back in school.

    The good news is that there are definitely other folks out there homeschooling. The challenge is that they can be hard to find. The bad news is that you may find you have to schlep all around the east bay to find enough social opportunities to meet your needs.

    Some resources:
    SF Bay unschoolers hold a lot of park days in Berkeley:

    Another Park Day group:

    In Addition Education Center is a small resource center for homeschoolers where you can drop your child off a few days a week:

    Trackers Outdoor Education program is quite popular:

    Good luck. I think it's easier when kids are small. 

    Hi! Look into Berkeley Independent Study, on Derby st. My middle school sons go there but you can do any grade K-12 and you meet with a teacher once a week and there is art class and garden class with other kids. It is a great little community!

  • Homeschool Co-op Elementary?

    (4 replies)

    Hello All,

    We have recently relocated from Brooklyn to Oakland. In Brooklyn, our 6 year old daughter attended the RAD School, which was a "homeschool collective" where several families shared the cost of a private teacher. Does anyone know of something similar here in the bay? Is anyone looking to start something similar here?


    Hi there,

    We are a homeschooling family in SF. My son is 7 yrs old.

    Oh, I would love to find/start a Homeschooling group/coop. 

    Somethng in the East Bay would be perfectly fine with us; doesn't need to be in SF.

    Please contact me via my BPN username.


    Also interested in something like this in SF. Anyone have any leads? Thanks

    If you are interested in a co-op school (rather than a homeschool co-op), check out Crestmont School in Richmond.  My daughter goes there and we love it.  Because Crestmont is a co-op, there is a high level of parent involvement in and out of the classroom and a very strong community.  There's still a few seats available if you were looking for something this school year. 

    SF family (billynare) please contact me via my username; let's talk about what might be possible. There is a need!

Parent Reviews

We made the decision to homeschool and it has been great. We're enrolled through a charter school independent study program, although some regular public schools also offer independent study programs. Some people also choose to just register themselves as a private school, but we have enjoyed having a little guidance and structure. We have a lot of control over what curriculum to choose, which classes to sign-up for, etc. The school pays for educational expenses like online or in-person classes, supplies, sports and music lessons. Your kids can learn about things that interest them, and you can choose the methods and pace that work best for them. There is a huge homeschool community in the Bay Area, with lots of classes, field trips and park days, in addition to all the after school activities you can already do, so socializing is really not a problem at all. Your child also has more time to pursue their own interests and passions (my kids also love music), without worrying about peer pressure, which has been especially important in the middle school years. If you can afford to do it, I'd recommend giving it a try - especially next year, which promises to be full of chaos otherwise. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews





One-day school options for homeschoolers?

Aug 2014

Looking for a one day per week program for my homeschooled kids (elementary age) which will allow them to socialize and have some group-learning experience. So far I know about Hickman and Quantum Campus. Anything else out there? Any private schools or afterschool programs offering hybrid homeschool programs? HomeschoolMom

Lawrence Hall of Science used to have classes for homeschoolers I think held during the school day. Maybe they still do. anon

Homeschooling programs to recommend for 7-year-old?

May 2012


We are moving to Berkeley in the fall, and signed up to homeschool through Hickman's Charter school. We are looking for a few homeschooling classes for our seven year old, anything from science groups to game groups to theater... Any recommendations? Julia

We are new to homeschooling ourselves but would like to pass along a few suggestions:

1. There are several homeschool charter options: Hickman, Connecting Waters, Visions, Fame. Hickman offers classes one day a week and has a local resource center. The others, from what I have heard, offer more money for classes and curriculum materials. You should check to see which organizations are vendors for the different charters schools if that is what you are interested.

2. Quantum Camp is an organization that has excellent science and math classes for homeschoolers (math is for Middle and Hight Schoolers). They are located in Berkeley - google them

3. Kids 'N Dance 'N Theaters Arts offers lots of musical theater for homeschoolers [Full disclosure: I work for the Kids 'N Dance program]

-just getting the hang of what is out there


Homeschooling a kindergartener in Contra Costa County

Feb 2012


We have decided to homeschool our kindergartener in the fall and had hoped to enroll him in Connecting Waters Charter, though we have just learned that they do not serve our county, nor does Hickman Charter. I am in need of advice and direction. Most importantly, is there another Charter school option that does offer enrollment to Contra Costa County residents? Given that Kindergarten is not mandatory in CA, is it even worth the trouble to complete the necessary steps and paperwork to homeschool? (we are not sure about whether or not we will do the same after Kindergarten) I would love any advice and direction! Thank you, Kristin

I don't homeschool in CCC, I'm in Alameda, but I know many who do and I can put you in touch with a few of them. You could also contact the HSC (Homeschooling Association of California) county contact, who would have most of the answers you need: The short answer, however, is that Kindergarten is not required in California- you do not have to enroll your child or file a Private School Affidavit until your child is 6. Info found here: Hope that helps! Samantha


Homeschooling support thru Oakland Charter Schools

Sept 2011

I am leaning towards homeschool, or at the least small class size for my future kindergartener. I was appalled to see that even the Montclair Elementary schools have class sizes of ~30 kindergarteners. Wow! So I'm looking at the charter schools. It seems that BPN reviews don't include 2 of the charter schools I've heard about. So I'm wondering if there are any current thoughts about some of the charter schools that folks like. Or if anyone has experience with Connecting Waters and/or Hinkman? Thanks, Ruby

Hi- I'm not sure where you got your info, but Montclair Elementary School has about 20-22 children in their kindergarten classes. It's an amazing school, and has just out-performed ALL the Lafayette and Piedmont schools on the State API scores (if you care about that sort of thing). I really like all of the fabulous enrichment the kids gets in class, in addition to the strong academics and strong sense of community. Come check it out before writing it off. Also, smaller class size doesn't always translate to a better education... Happy Montclair Parent

HI I homeschooled at Hickman Charter School - I liked having the homebase office to visit, the staff it upbeat and energetic,like them alot. They offer more socialization for mom and child with classes and fieldtrips. I loved the parents and weds kids classes. My daughter had a blast doing carpentry and sewing classes ( better for older kids) the other homeschool programs are not as social and you have to find groups to affiliate with. renee

Ruby, I suggest you visit an AOHL park day or a Home Grown Kids parkday. There are plenty of folks to talk to and many have experience with Hickman or Connecting Waters and other options. Also you'll get to meet lots of people with soon to be kindergarteners. Homeschool groups welcome people who are considering homeschooling and those with preschool age children who plan to homeschool. Call Marianne (see page below because the schedule has changed and it is good to let people know you are coming) We're a longtime Oakland (formerly Fremont) homeschooling family and new to Hickman. You can contact me if you'd like to talk about the options and tradeoffs. Susan

Both of my children have gone K-8 with Hickman Charter School. The resource center is in Oakland, but it is not actually through the Oakland schools. Here is my advice, and obviously, I am a happy customer. Call them up, come to an open house or arrange to visit, and see what you think. The first time I went to visit, I was able to ask many questions and talk with teachers, and meet other parents, and it was a great fit for my child instead of traditional K. There are many resources in the area for homeschooling. You can find lots of kids to play with, so the common concern about being lonely is not real. My daughter who is still with Hickman spends time with other kids at least 6 days per week. Hickman parent


Homeschooling a first grader in Berkeley

August 2011

I am thinking of homeschooling my son next year (for first grade) and am wondering what experience Berkeley families have had with homeschooling. We are interested in developing our own, Montessori based curriculum as we really love the method. We are currently in an incredible Montessori program for kindergarden (program is pre-school to 6 years) and are considering homeschooling in addition to our public and private school options. I am planning to attend some Homegrown Kids park-days and am devouring resources on-line but am curious to hear from experienced homeschoolers in the BPN community. Thanks! Homeschooling Curious

A public school homeschooling option is with BUSD's Berkeley Independent Study's (BIS) Home School Program. In the K-8 Home School program, parents/guardians accompany students to weekly 90-minute meetings with teachers. Assignments adhere to state curriculum standards while accommodating students' interests and abilities. BIS provides instructional materials, and tutoring is available. Parents/guardians act as home teachers for all of the K-8 lessons. They need to be available to supervise their child's studies at home for 20-25 hours per week. For some students, this program is an excellent alternative to the regular classroom and home teachers can engage in a collaborative approach to learning for their children. Please contact me if you'd like more information. KamalaAsher [at] 644-4500 ext 14301 Kamala Asher, K-8 Home School Facilitator


Homeschooling an only child

Feb 2011


Are there any homeschooling families with one child out there? I would love some advice as we begin are journey. I am starting to doubt my decision because my picture of homeschooling usually involves a big family. How do you handle the challenges of having just one child at home. Anon

please check this out (from a teacher) about things to think about before you homeschool: anon

I would be happy to discuss our homeschool journey with you. Please feel free to contact me. Kim

I homeschool my 3 kids, but we have plenty of friends who are homeschooling only children, very successfully I might add. Feel free to contact me and I will put you in touch. Or let me know if you would like to come to any one of a myriad of homeschool park days that happen all over the Bay Area, where you could chat with all kinds of families on this journey, and I will pass along the times/locations. Sam


Understanding Homeschooling

March 2010

As we ponder preschool options for our daughter, my husband and I have started to have conversations about schools in general. One thing that keeps coming up for us is the possibility of homeschooling. We have some deep concerns about institutional learning, not to mention the Oakland public schools, and many other reasons. Homeschooling seems like a real option. But...

I have to admit that on some level I just don't seem to grasp what homeschooling would really be like. I'd love to hear from those of you who homeschool. How structured is your day? What does a typical day look like? Are there things that in hindsight you wished you'd known/thought about? Regrets? When you total in classes and activities, supplies, etc. what does it really cost? I know there are homeschooling groups out there, but are there any co-ops out there (shared teaching days, shared curriculum)?

I'm not looking for advice on whether we should homeschool or not. I'm more looking for a glimpse into what it would actually be like for us. Of course I know that each family is very different, but hoping that any homeschoolers out there could at least give me an idea. Questioning Mama

You are right that homeschooling is different for every family. Most families take a while to find out what works best for them.

Homeschooling exists on a continuum from ''School at Home'' where parent and child sit down for several hours a day with a premade curriculum to Unschooling where parents provide an enriched environment and plenty of trips and allow the children to pursue their own interests at their own pace.

In my experience most people exist somewhere in the middle of this range, using a mixture of curricula, classes, co-ops, clubs, groups, field trips and free time.

In our family we have used online math 3 days/week for several months and then not used it for a while. We have a math tutor who does math challenges and math circle type problems once per week. We used Saxon math for a few months and Harcourt math for a few months several years ago.

We had a Latin club for half a year that turned into a co-op that lasted a year and now Latin continues as a class for the small group of kids who are still interested. We have gone in and out of co-ops over our 7 years of homeschooling.

We try to travel for 2-8 weeks every year and we don't try to do any ''school'' work during our travel.

My kids spend 1 day/week at Trackers outdoor nature clases. There is a terrific preschool class, by the way.

We've done Kids N Clay, writing classes with Ivy Sandz, acting classes with the Berkeley Rep and Cal Shakes.

The kids all have music lessons one day/week and some of them ice skate and have Lawrence Hall of Science classes.

Many of these classes are paid for by Charter Schools like Connecting Waters and Hickman.

One way to see what it is like is by following some local homeschool blogs:

These 3 are all Oakland homeschool blogs: Wonder Farm Tricia has written a great article on homeschooling that was published in Mothering My own blog:

Of course, you can always come to park days and chat with moms about what it is really like. Alameda Oakland Home Learners Home Grown Kids SF Bay Area Unschoolers

I guess the bottom line is that homeschooling can look like whatever you want it to!

There is an email link on my blog if you want to talk further. Susan@Homeschoolinginthekitchen

We are HSing our 5DD so do not have years of experience to share. I would recommend you join some of the online HSing groups as you'll get a good sense of the breadth of ways families 'school.' I easily spent a year lurking and learning on some of the groups before we decided to be 'official.' In answer to your specific questions, our day is not very structured at all. We occasionally to math worksheets, and are always reading, but most learning happens throughout the day. We joined Ocean Grove Charter which provides us with state funds for some expenses. We have monthly meetings with a teacher to confirm DD is learning; when she's older we'll be required to do state testing (or opt out same as public schoolers). We joined local groups for classes, seminars, friendships, and other resources. We do know other HS families with more structure to their day - there are many ways to build YOUR school. Some kids thrive on set plans, others learn readily in a more freeform fashion. happy homeschooler


Homeschooling in the Oakland Unified School District

Feb 2010

I would like to know more about homeschooling elementary school aged children in Oakland. Was it hard to get started? What other activities do you do with your kid(s) beyond the fundamentals? Was OUSD accommodating? The OUSD website states that parents and children must meet with a teacher several times a week, and I'm wondering how that works in practice. If you try it and it doesn't work out, how difficult is it to get back into a school mid year? I am considering homeschooling because I am very disappointed in our ''excellent'' public elementary school and therefore discouraged about OUSD schools in general. I'm also wondering how it works out if you have children of different ages. There is some general information about homeschooling in the archives, but it seems to relate to BUSD and/or older kids. Is Hickman an option for Oakland kids? If not, is there something similar? Thanks! anon

The homeschool teacher (K-8) in Oakland Unified School District is a wonderful amd experienced educator and homeschooled her own daughter through middle school. Services for homeschooled children come through Sojourner Truth Independent Study School. I would make an appointment to speak with her if you are interested in enrolling your child. You will not get a lot of information if you ask anyone beyond the school (central office, etc) because they just don't know. It's kind of a secret although that is not the intention. Good luck. love homeschooling

It sounds like what you were looking at on the OUSD site is an independent Study program. This is the least common homeschooling choice. Oakland residents can use hickman charter which offers classes or connecting waters charter which offers more money for materials and classes. The option which offers the most academic freedom is filing a PSA private school affidavit. You file a short, simple form declaring your home school a private school. The only requirement is that you take attendance. I use a google calendar and once a year I mark my three pupils present every weekday for the preceding year.

For more info contact alameda oakland home learners (AOHL) or Homegrown Kids and come to a park day. Susan Http://

i found the part you're at, with all of the questions, the hardest thing about getting started homeschooling *grin*

there are several options for homeschooling in oakland (& only going through ousd itself would require the amount of meetings you mentioned)

hickman charter school is an option (they have several ''activity days''/open houses throughout the year, always on wednesdays from about 10am-1pm at live oak park in north berkeley ~ that's the best way to get a feel for them & you can meet lots of other families)

in the state of california, you have to reside either in the county a charter school is located in or a neighboring county, other charter schools available are listed here

there are several different homeschool groups that offer various activities & support, most are listed here

*lots* of families homeschool with children of different ages, visiting some of the groups listed above will likely really help

wildcat community freeschool is a homeschool-friendly program with intimate, mixed age classes offered 3, 4 & 5 days a week ~ many families carpool from oakland. they're having an open house sunday march 21st from 10am - 2pm & also offering a summer program if you want to check it out. from a single homeschoolin mom who's been there before *grin*


Homeschooling a BUSD 4th grader

Oct 2009


Hi there, I'm thinking about homeschooling my elementary aged kids, who are currently 2nd grade and kindergarten. Does anyone have any experience with the BUSD Independent Study program at the elementary level? All the archive comments are about the high school program. Thanks!

I homeschool my son, 11 years old. He was in 4th grade in Berkeley last year, until he developed high anxiety around having to attend school, that and a germ phobia. He has Aspergers. I'm not aware that Berkeley has a IS program for elementary students, I remember being told it's just for the upper grades. There is information about homeschooling through: The HomeSchool Association of California at and Einsteins Clubhouse at John

I am a former math teacher at BUSD IS. Please call the school to see if they are currently accepting 4th - 8th grade students at: (510) 644-8592. The Coordinator of the elementary program, Kamala Asher, is caring, creative, organized, thorough and an excellent teacher and all around nice person. However, she can only support parents to be involved in their childrens education. You must commit yourselves to teach in order for your children to benefit. If you can, I highly recommend the program! It has some of the most dedicated teachers I have ever worked with.


Home Schooling Info: Free and Not Christian?

Sept 2009


Hi, does anyone know an internet resource for home schooling curriculum ideas that are free and not Christian Bible study focused? Currently have a preschooler, but I am looking into possible future home schooling too. Thanks so much!
Cheap Heathen Needs Curriculum

Have you heard of Hickman Charter school in Berkeley? Free and Public! Stephanie

Hello fellow heathen,

There are lots of choices out there for you. A great place to start is the HomeSchool Association of California:

It gives an outline on how to homeschool legally in CA, as well as offer advice for new folks starting out on their homeschooling journey.

Another thing to do is to join a homeschool group. Two large ones in the area are HomeGrown Kids and Alameda-Oakland Home Learners (AOHL). Both groups offer ''park days,'' where we all congregate at a park for socializing and for idea-swapping. This is a great opportunity to talk with other parents who have homeschooled for years and find out how to connect with other parents of preschool-aged kids. AOHL is primarily focused in Oakland-Alameda area (duh) and HGK goes to parks in Orinda, Berkeley, and El Cerrito. My advice to you is to come to both groups' parkdays and try to hook up with other parents. It can take a while so be patient. If you are specific in your goal (i.e connecting with other parents of preschool-aged kids), you'll probably find it easier to send an e-mail through the yahoogroups of both groups. See which group you like best, or hang out with both!

Googling ''free preschool homeschool curriculum'' will get many, many hits. You will get lots of ideas.

Have fun! Feel free to e-mail if you have any questions.

Fellow Heathen laurel

Most local public school districts have an independent study option. Sign up your child for this when it comes time for kindergarten. Your public school district should provide all the resources you will need, including a supervising credentialed teacher that you and your child will check in with a couple of times a month. public school mom

I can highly recommend the book ''The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home'' by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise - see here:

The authors - a home-schooling mom and her adult daughter - provide a very detailed outline to an academically rigorous home schooling curriculum. The curriculum is based on a pretty good understanding on a child's intellectual development, and focuses on the core subjects of Language (writing, reading, spelling, grammar, literature), math, science and history. The authors provide detailed advice on materials to use in each subject (book lists, teacher guides) as well as instructions on how to approach the teaching and specific schedule suggestions.

I likely won't homeschool - but I found this book very helpful in understanding what a good academic program should look like, and may well use it to supplement my kid's school education at home.

There is also a good magazine, called 'Secular Homeschooling' that you can subscribe to online - just google it. Inspired to Homeschool


Thinking about Homeschooling; how to network?

June 2009

I am thinking about home schooling. I am interested in finding families who are also home schooling to begin building a network of support. Any suggestions? ms

Yay! We're embarking on homeschooling with 4-year-old twins and it's always wonderful to hear about others who are considering this option. We're in Alameda and are gradually building a network of wonderful homeschooling families. Feel free to email me and I would be delighted to share the resources I have. Kathryn

I wanted to let you know about the Bay Area Learning Alliance. We are a California K-12 Private School Satellite Program that helps families homeschool. Our director, Amalia Darling, is an experienced parent educator who has successfully homeschooled her three children who are now grown. Please visit our website at: and contact us for a free introductory interview: info [at], 510-620-0939 -Amalia


Homeschooling vs. Unschooling

Jan 2009


What's the difference between homeschooling and unschooling? anon parent

Homeschooling has a set curriculum, and unschooling is strictly led by a child's passionate interest.

This is from a mom I know who unschools her kids:

''The purpose of unschooling is to have children who grow up happy. Most unschooled kids find their path in life a lot sooner then schooled kids. Once they find what it is they would like to do they pursue it with a lot of passion and are willing to learn and do what ever it is to follow their dream.''

Unschooling is a system that doesn't force unwanted facts on children at a set rate, nor does it put them in a box. It is very free-flowing and loose. There is no pressure to learn to read, for instance. But when a child decides on her own that she is interested in a subject, it is the parents' responsibility to provide her all she needs to learn all about her interest. Also, parents are supposed to keep the materials around, but never push the subjects, as the children will show an interest when they're ready.

Homeschooling is the same thing as public school, but the parent is the teacher in all subject and there is much less peer interaction.

Unschooling is a branch of homeschooling. Homeschoolers use different methods. Some are traditional and use regular textbooks or take community college classes. Unschooling is less traditional, usually interest-driven by the children, who tend to immerse themselves in a topic and explore it thoroughly. I have known many unschoolers who are bright, creative, talented, and socially adept. Homeschooling, any kind, is a wonderful choice.

As a parent exploring learning options for my toddlers, I have read extensively about homeschooling and have been intrigued by unschooling. For a thorough explanation of unschooling, I highly recommend Joyce Fetteroll's website at Whether or not you choose to unschool or even homeschool, the ideas of unschooling can be useful for healthy and happy relationships between parents and children. Kathryn


Switching to homeschooling for 7, 4, 2 year olds

Aug 2008


Hello, I have three daughters, 7, 4, and 2. We tried two years of public school for our oldest, and all my fears came true. So, finally I have convinced my husband to give homeschooling a try. I'm wondering, does anyone know if we can get gov't help to pay for things like music classes, art classes, etc? I know about a homeschooling group here in Alameda, but what about field trips, clubs, etc. for girls? Also, perhaps my biggest ??, are there any families out there where the father had been hesitant, and is now happy with the idea? Preferably younger (30), and of not great economic status? This is not my problem, just an insecurity of his, and he tends to be more open to people more like him. Anyway, thanks for any info or advice, and looking forward to meeting some of you homeschoolers!!! alison

Think VERY carefully about homeschooling before taking it on, especailly since you have 3 children. It can be stressful and while sometimes the best option for the parents, not always the best option for the kids. My mom recently homeschooled 2 of her kids (my younger siblings) for a couple of years with the assistance of the Berkeley homeschooling group (a great group of teachers and parents). The kids totally resent it now. They are upset that they were kept out of ''regular school''. Also it was not the best thing for my their relationship. It's a challenge to be mommy AND teacher. Also, it can be very difficult for some kids to go from homeschooling back into the normal school environment so make sure that it's really the best option for you, your family, and most importantly your daughter. It might save money but is it worth it? Also if your husband isn't a full supporter, it could make it even more stressful for you--that more of the responsibility will be on you. Good luck with your decision. think about it carefully

Hi, There is a wonderful independent study charter school called California Virtual Academies that provides curriculum and credentialed teacher support to each enrolled student. It has been open since 2002 and has a large number of students in the bay area. You might want to consider it as you look into homeschooling options. Here is the website: Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about it. Nancy

I know that you can avail yourself of these offerings through your local public schools even if you home-school. My father was a school superintendent and worked with local homeschoolers to 'fill in the gaps' in the parents' curriculums (lab sciences, advanced mathematics, team sports, band/orchestra, theater) Granted, this was earlier in the homeschool 'movement.' I am talking '90s.

Poke around your public schools. They may not work overall for you and your family, but you may find aspects complement your efforts. Many in the public school system may be hostile or think that you are nuts, but there are plenty who will respect and support your efforts.

Finally, before you make the switch, you need to ask yourself if the all of your fears were realized, because you were looking for them to be realized (are you blowing stuff out of proportion...) or are the problems with the public schools really that big. Maybe your husband isn't jumping on your bandwagon because he thinks that you are making a mountain out of a molehill. Just a thought... -anon

You have to be careful about the advice you recieve on this topic. I just decided to homeschool my children, and I have found that many people who are against it tend to be people who don't know all the facts and/or don't have any personal experience with it.

Since I don't know your personal situation, I can't tell you if it's a good decision. I have decided it will be best for my family, and many others have too. My best advice to you is to seek support from a nearby homeschool-support group. You can probably find one using google. They can offer so much information, advice, homeschool oppurtunities, and fellowship. You'd probably meet veteran homeschoolers in your area who've been through very similar situations as you have. Good luck-and remember, the right path is not always the easy path.

P.S. There is a deadline to file as a homeschooler, it's in October, just so you know. offers information on this. d


Part-time homeschooling for kindergartener?

March 2006


I'm wondering if anyone has any experience or advice about home- schooling just one day a week. I have a son in Kindergarten who is pretty bored. We could skip him, he has a Fall birthday and is on the older end of the age spectrum, but I think that might be more stressful for him than the boredom. Neither my husband nor I have the temperament or inclination to homeschool full-time, but a friend of ours has been homeschooling her daughter one day a week in Southern California which sounds intriguing. I'd be particularly interested to hear from Albany parents about working with that school system, but any thoughts would be helpful!

I too, am very interested in homeschooling my 2 children parttime. I feel that 5 days of school 8:00 - 3:00 is just too long for these little ones to stay focused and productive. Then it's the hectic pace of after school programs, having a family dinner, homework and getting ready for bed. With one day in the middle of the week for homeschooling I feel that it will benefit my children tremendously. First, it will give them a chance to relax a bit in the middle ot the week (my 1st grader asks me every day,''Mommy, how many more days until I am off?''). It will give them a chance to catch up on studies from school that they don't quite understand (and are afraid to ask in front of their peers). And it will give them a chance to learn about things that they are interested in and not just what the school thinks that they should learn. The other day my 6 yr. old daughter asked me to teach her how to sew. Well, that's something we could do on a homeschooling day. I am not so sure if any school would support this way of thinking and I am not sure why not. (Besides the fact that public schools get paid per child attending classes each day.) If they truly have our children's best interest at heart then I think the schools should look at each child individually. If anyone has any advice on selling this idea to their school please respond. Or if anyone has any other advice about this topic please respond. Thank you. Homeschooling Mom

My children attend Wildcat Community Freeschool in Richmond (at the end of Arlington) across the street from Wildcat Canyon and it offers a 3, 4 or 5 school day option. Many of us were homeschooling our children until Wildcat opened and it has been an ideal middle ground between homeschooling and school. When we started we sent our son 3 days a week but quickly increased it to 4 becuase he loved being there so much. We still like to keep Mondays open though to go to the zoo or the exploratorium or other outings without the crowds. Check out our website and feel free to e-mail me directly with any questions. Molly

In response to the point about keeping a child home from kindergarten one day a week, in my daughter's kindergarten I think this would be a problem. The kids are doing projects that last over multiple days, plus they have special things they do on particular days of the week (e.g., music, library). Fact of the matter, kindergarten is largely a group thing. I think a child who regularly missed school would be somewhat disconnected from the classroom community and the need to bring the child back up to speed every week would be disruptive for the other children. kindergarten parent

Thats what I hope to do - either a day at home or taking days as needed to do stuff we love or if he is just overwhelmed and needing to be at home, just like we do now in preschool. So glad you posted this idea...I hadn't thought of it as homeschooling so it is nice to give it a name. A friend of mine is planning on doing the same thing in the fall (K). Seems a 'civilized' way to raise our children - spend time with them...share our values and interests and let them 'be' just kids some times! Wish more parents who feel and think this way would share their thoughts on this. I feel energized and would love this to be doable for those that want to especially in the public school system. inspired mom

As someone who volunteers in my child's classroom one-day a week, I would see that pulling your child out of school part-time would be very disruptive. The school days and weeks are carefully planned out by the teachers and the curriculum is integrated through all subjects. Days are not compartmentalized. It would also be socially awkward for your child because they would not be able to be a stable part of a group of friends. Miss a day, miss a lot

I have been thinking about this question a lot over the past week. I am not sure I know what the original poster is looking for. Is she looking for ways to supplement her child's education, and thinks that spending a day at home doing academics would help? Is she looking to spend time with her child? I guess I am wondering why she thinks ''homeschooling'' one day/week would give her what she is looking for. My definition of homeschooling is not merely supplementation; it is a full-time, enriching, educational program involving the whole family.

As some poeple have responded, consistently taking a child out of school one day per week, for whatever reason, is a bad idea. The school and classroom is designed to build community, and constant absences would be detrimental in that regard. I don't believe the school would agree to do that anyway, because the school's funding depends on the child's presence in school. Not only that, but your child would be considered truant the days that he or she was absent under CA law, which states that ''[A]ll children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend a public full-time day school unless otherwise exempted.''

It also states that ''Any child who will be six on or before December 2 of the school year is subject to the compulsory school requirements.'' If your child will turn 6 after the December 2 deadline, you don't even need to send your child to school. Kindergarten is not compulsory; 1st grade is. So you may have another year to decide what it is you're looking for. homeschooling parent

My oldest daughter doesn't attend Albany schools, but we live in El Cerrito and she attends a small school in the Richmond hills -- Wildcat FreeSchool. All of the kids who attend there are part-time homeschoolers. It's a wonderful school and a wonderful system for the kids. Families get to choose how many and which days they attend or stay home. Our daughter goes four days per week. We, too, lack the inclination to homeschool full-time, but we also feel strongly about having our choices and about spending more time together as a family. No stress, no boredom, the best of all worlds. If you'd like to know more about it, you're welcome to email me. You could also attend an open house at the school; there's one last one coming up at the end of this month, March 25th from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Anne


Homeschool versus preschool for almost 5-year-old??

March 2006


We are moving from the UK to Berkeley in April. My son is 5 next dec and will just miss the cut-off for K. I'm actually relieved about that as I think an extra yr will do him good, socially and emotionally, and I'd also like to have more time with him. However he's a bright kid who seeks out intellectual stimulation and also loves music, dance, arts etc. He has been in a Waldorf program for the last year and a half and has loved it. I'm really battling with deciding between finding a (part time) pre-K program for him for sept or keeping him home and following something like the Oak Meadow homeschool program for a year. I'll be home with my toddler anyway and we could certainly use not spending $ on preschool. My biggest concern is that he really thrives in having independent time away from home and connecting strongly with other adults. I'm not sure how I could provide this without school. I also am concerned about not finding friends for him of his own age or older who are not busy in school. And lastly, I'm wondering how he would adjust socially, and academically, to a BUSD K after being in Waldorf and at home. Has anyone been in a similar situation? What did you decide, and how did it work for you? Thanks for any thoughts and experiences. maya

I am a homeschooling mom of two (7 years and 5 years). You are welcome to join our homeschool group, Homegrown Kids ( There are a lot of kids your child's age (both boys and girls) who participate in the group. Our group has parkdays every Monday at different parks throughout the East Bay. We also have weekly co-op day at various members' homes, field trips, potlucks, and other fun activities. A good way to meet other kids and families is to participate in afternoon sports, art classes, music classes, etc. Many children do these activities after school. My children have friends who are private, public, and homeschooled. One way to maintain these friendships is through afterschool classes. We do a lot of activities at the Berkeley YMCA (swimming, yoga, martial arts, dance, etc. for both adults and kids) and that is also a good way to find connections outside of a school environment. My children often participate in the classes at the Lawrence Hall of Science ( and enjoy them. The East Bay Waldorf School may have information for you on waldorf-inspired preschools ( or playgroups. You're welcome to contact me directly for more information. Good luck and welcome to Berkeley! Laurel

Hi, I can totally relate to what you're feeling right now, my daughter will be in kindergarten for 2 years at East Bay Waldorf School. She did the pre-kindergarten program this year and absolutely LOVED it. Even though I go back and forth between homeschooling and Waldorf, she is the driving force that tells me that staying in Waldorf is the best, even though it will strap our finances in ways I don't care to think about. BUT, there are so many resources for homeschooling around here, this is the place I would do it if any. For my daughter, she gets so much from being exposed to Waldorf...the atmosphere, thoughtfulness of the curriculum, the nurturing of her individual character, and for me the community of parents and teachers is beyond what I think I could provide her, at least in these early years. Maybe I'll change my mind later, or maybe she will show me what she wants if/when the time comes to change. I would say if your son is used to Waldorf, and you're moving from far away, it would be good for him to experience something familiar, to sing a familiar song, or to partake in a familiar activity he enjoyed back home. If the choice is between homeschooling and public, I think the best would be homeschooling. Good luck in your decision! Melissa

You may be unpleasantly surprised when your son enters K in a year, especially if he has a great year homeschooling (which usually advances their academics quickly). I'm not sure what we're going to do with our 4, nearly 5 yo, for this next school year (his K year). He already has 3rd g math skills, reads relatively well, and has phenominal reasoning skills. I've found the Berkeley schools to be extremely ''relaxed'' in their academics, ie they teach skills at a later age than they need to. I'm deeply disappointed that this university town which could be & should be a model for other towns (in the Bay no less!) is so slow to help kids reach their potential. Good luck. Mother of three, wishing & working for better


Thinking about homeschooling my child

Sept 2005


I have an almost 4 year old and am just stepping into the murky waters of school options - public, private, montessori - and am curious about homeschooling in this area. Any people out there doing it and loving it? Tried it but hated it? I'm trying to gather information and am curious about how this would really impact our lives. Any personal stories or contact information would be appreciated. anon

After two years of a private school and one disasterous year in a Berkeley Public School, we just weren't sure what to do for our kids who were bored in the classroom. Another private? Move? We went for homeschooling. It certainly was never in my plans as an older mother with a career to devote this kind of time and energy to my kids, who were in K and 3rd. What a glorious suprise to find that it is easy, joyful, rewarding, successful, fun, and the best education I could offer my kids. There is homeschooling, and then there is homeschooling. Lots of flavors. Check out for our local public charter school, and and ! for general info. There are thousands homeschooling in the Bay Area, so the educational and social resources are enormous. Good for you for thinking outside the box. Sold on Homeschooling

We are a homeschooling family. I have a 5 year old girl and 7 year old boy. We originally started homeschooling our son because of his temperament combined with and fluency in reading by age 5. (By fluency I mean, reading intermediate chapter books). We were really concerned that his reading fluency combined with his temperament would result in his disrupting the class, over discipline by the teacher, and resulting low self esteem. (OK, I probably was thinking too much about it, but whatever) A major part of kindergarten these days is all about teaching the kids how to read. As he already knew how to do that, we felt it would be a big! waste of time for everyone concerned. So we homeschooled. There were other reasons, but that was a big one. And it was an easy one for non-homeschoolers to understand. People homeschool for different reasons. Last year was our first year homeschooling and this year our 5 year old is staying home with us as well (instead of going to kindergarten). We discovered over the past year that homeschooling has brought us closer as a family. It is really hard to articulate how wonderful homeschooling has been for our family. It used to be that I could explain our reasons from a typically academic standpoint; now it's becoming more emotionally charged and hard to pin down. Now it's about honoring our family rhythym, having a more relaxed lifestyle. I feel lucky that I am a SAHM and we can spend time together as a family. We don't have to rush out the door every day at 8am; we don't do afterschool activites, then homework, then dinner, then fall into bed exhausted. We can sleep in if we want, stay up late if we want, etc. We do lots of activites, but since my kids don't spend 6 hours a day at school, thei! r days are less crazy.

A homeschooler's dirty little secret is that we can go to parks without sharing it with a mob of kids. Museums, pools, parks, libraries, zoos, etc. are quiet and open. Being able to go midweek makes a much more relaxing outing compared to the weekend, for sure. Good websites to check out are: 

Every Monday my homeschool group, Homegrown Kids, meets at different parks in the East Bay. There are lots of 4-5 year olds for your child to play with. Come and check it out! Laurel

Homeschooling is a viable and popular choice in the Bay Area. Almost anyone can homeschool and be successful at it. There are many different styles of homeschooling, and a lot of curriculum to choose from, since homeschooling has become so widespread, especially in this area. You will find a lot of support!

  Pros of homeschooling: - You can tailor the education to your child's needs - It takes less time to get through a day's lessons - Kids have more time to pursue other interests or just play - No rush in the morning, no homework at night - You set your own schedule, which includes the ability to travel mid-week and off-season - No lost time driving, volunteering, or fundraising - I enjoy the satisfaction that comes with helping my kids grow  Cons of homeschooling: - You may not have as much personal time - Substantial loss of my income - Sometimes it's hard to get errands done with kids in tow 

My kids are 10 and 7 and have never been to regular school. They have friends who are homeschoolers and friends who go to regular school. They are very active in community groups, sports, music, and other activities. We take a lot of terrific field trips and classes. You would be welcome at any of the support groups to meet some homeschoolers and ask them questions. Most have weekly park days. If you live in Oakland or Alameda, check out There are also groups in Berkeley, Lamorinda, Hayward, and everywhere else. You can also find books (even at the library) which can give you a basic overview. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions! Jennifer

I'd like to give some downside-input about homeschooling, as I saw only upside-input in the recent posts. I'm a fellow mom, educator, & ex-social worker. While I can certainly see some advantages to homeschooling (protecting kids from bad influences, the options of many educational fieldtrips, more individual attention), and the testimonials given by homeschoolers here were interesting & cogent, there are some real drawbacks that should be considered. At the end I will suggest ways homeschoolers can solve the problems I raise.

Children need to learn how to relate with many adults, not almost exclusively their mother. The mother relationship is so important, and so loaded, but it should never take the place of most relationships to adults. Parents are naturally not objective about their kids, and kids usual! ly behave worst (at least part of the time) for their primary caregivers. A comment I once heard from a child-development lecturer really struck me as true: ''Your child is not the child you see, she's the child other people see when you are not there. You are there to allow her to fall apart, work feelings out, and let it all hang out.'' So what if you are never not there? And how can you judge how she is doing?

Every parent comes from a limited background and education (no matter how brilliant), because she/he is only one person with one perspective. Exposure to many other adults - even a few not- so-great ones - broadens kids' understanding of personalities and cultures immeasurably, and teaches trust of the outside world, confidence in negotiating it, flexibility and resiliency. And the bonds between teachers and children are wonderful and special, and would be such a loss to miss. Think of teachers you loved or emulated. Some fine teachers really saved my bacon, when my parents could not.

The mother should help her child learn to go out into safe, nurturing places in the world, and let her go. When a parent holds on so tightly to her kids, is she doing it for them, or for her own needs? Does she have enough outside relationships of her own? (Does she just want an excuse not to have an outside job?) If the kids stay at home for so many years, won't it make it harder for them to separate when they need to? Will Mom let them go when they need to go? I can't help thinking of the psychological concepts of enmeshment and the rubber-fence family. Fresh air, fresh people and ideas are good for families.

Yes, the world is a scary place, but there ARE excellent schools, and superb teachers out there, who will only enhance your child's understanding of life and relationships and the world. The experience of being part of a group of children is wonderful for kids, so much fun and so instructive about people and life. Kids are naturally social beings, especially before they hit puberty. (As an aside, I could see where homeschooling AFTER puberty might really be beneficial to certain kids.) It seems detrimental to restrict their interactions to just mom or siblings, or occasional play with other kids at the park. They may fear or avoid large group interaction in future if they never have a chance to learn what it's like. Their social skills may not develop, and they may be shy or easy to bully. So, some ideas on how to make sure homeschoolers avoid these problems - and I know many smart, community-building homeschoolers already do these type of things: develop a big network of fellow-homeschoolers, and coordinate large-group classes or playdates. Trade kids with a mom or two several days a week, so that they get experience of other moms. Team-teach with other moms & kids. And really do these things a lot, not just one day a week or something.

You might also want to check out the alternative of enrolling your kids in parent co-operative school settings, where you can work in the classroom and contribute in other ways. My son is in a school like this (Crestmont), and I get to be in the class one day a week, and see the amazing teachers in action, and watch him making relationships and growing. I'm good, but I could never teach him all this. And I have plenty of time to have a strong relationship and have a strong positive impact at home. Remember, school does not run year-round. Anyway, some points to consider. Blessings on all parents & kids. C. D

I missed the original question posted about homeschooling, but I saw the most recent response. My son homeschooled for four years and has just returned to school for 8th grade. We've had a very good experience, both with our homeschooling years, and with the transition back into school, but homeschooling is not for everyone. I would urge strongly that anyone making a decision about it speak directly to people who have done it. Otherwise, you are just weighing people's fantasies, both positive and negative. The most prevalent anxiety is that taking a child out of the institutional setting is damaging for social development. Another common one is that the mother-child relationship is inimical to development. Both these anxieties are misplaced. Weigh pros and cons based on real information. I'd be happy to provide contacts. Best wishes. LS


Logistics of starting to homeschool

Nov 2003

How do you decide if homeschooling is the best for your family? Do you need a special room in your house? How do you also care for younger siblings? Do people who are homeschooling feel their children are missing out on learning how to make friends, socialize? Linda

You definitely don't need a special room in your house! I don't know a single homeschooling family that has a schoolroom. That is because homeschooling, no matter what your approach is, rarely looks like school. I just read a storybook to my two daughters 3 and 5 on counting money sitting on the couch. Now my 5-year-old is reading to her sister. Yesterday the kids did outlines of their bodies on butcher paper out on the driveway and we drew and talked about internal organs while I cleaned out the car! When you are homeschooling everything you do turns into an educational opportunity. When the kids got tired of drawing their organs they helped me sort the contents of the car: books, garbage, recycling. How many old water bottles did we have in our car? I am embarrassed t! o say we had to group them and count by fives. We do fractions at breakfast. The kids now ask to have their french toast cut into twentieths. We do workbook activities, particularly math and handwriting, but we do them at the kitchen table. I bought window chalk and we often practice math or spelling words on the sliding glass doors (everything is more fun when written on a door).

Homeschooling groups abound and you need not worry about a lack of social opportunities for your child. We live in Fremont and have found a wonderful group in the Tri-City area. The group has park days, field trips, social events for parents as well as children. We also joined a homeschool charter school which hosts activities, occasional classes, and provides curriculum help and materials. Most homeschoolers avail themselves of a variety of classes to round out the education. Art, music, science classes at regional parks or Lawrence Hall of Science. A few moms of K-aged children in our homeschool group have formed a coop. Every Friday we gather the kids at one house, two moms have the morning off and two moms run a day centered on a theme such as dinosaurs, or apples, space, whatever. We read stories and do activities for 3 hours.

As for what to do with younger children, somehow you find a way. We have a sand and water table that I put warm soapy water in for my 3-year-old to play with. Sometimes she likes to do workbooks or color or paint while I work with my older daughter. I try to alternate between them so that the little one gets attention, too.

How do you decide if it is right for your family? That is a hard one. One thing to remember is that you can always change your mind. Give it a try! Many people worry that it will be too demanding and hard on the family. I believe that it actually removes a lot of stresses. School puts a lot of stress on families. Nightly homework, behavior issues, social concerns, negative behaviors the kids pick up at school, negative attitudes towards learning, trying to get an education that fits a kid who has learning disabilities, who is gifted, or both, or otherwise special. Also kids at school are very peer-oriented, while homeschooled kids are family-oriented.

I suggest you check out a homeschool group (or several) in your area and see if you like what you see. Here is a list of bay area homeschool groups. All the best to you, susan

Looking for homeschooling communities

Feb 2000

I looking to make contact with the homeschooling community(ies?) in Berkeley. Can someone help me? Thanks,

Search the Berkeley Information Network under homeschooling or home schooling and you will find two main homeschooling groups in Berkeley. They both have helpful contact people you can call. Both groups are pretty active.

We aren't very hooked in but for getting started you can call the Independent study program through Berkeley Unified School District and ask for Susie Bailey (I think she is the director). She is the GREATEST!!! Although she is under the confines of the school district and therefore the State, we would have had a hard time getting started without her. We got curriculum from them for the first year and then had some idea of how to proceed from there. Also Family Village Homeschoolers was a reference we got but haven't had time to try out. A good beginning trial might be their park days on the first, third and fifth Mondays at 12:30 at North Field Live Oak Park (that is if this rain ever stops). Good Luck.

There are many resources on the Internet. Just type in Home Schooling. Its a little overwhelmong but you decide how to navigate once you see the choices. I don't have the particular sites that I found especially helpful and interesting with me but I'll find them and send them in later. I think you can get all the questions you mentioned in your posting answered that way. (June 1999)

I work at the Lawrence Hall of Science here on campus where we have a lot of wonderful math and science teacher's guides which can also be used by parents. Please check out our website at You can also come up in person and check out our store, where we have even more useful, educational and fun stuff.

Editor note: see also: Homeschooling groups