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What Are the Different Types of Homeschool Groups

written by Lucinda Hsu (2021) All rights reserved. Some aspects of this address some California specific circumstances.

Do you know the difference between a co-op and a pod? Or an enrichment class day and a co-op? 

This is a basic overview of various types of homeschool groups so that you understand what each kind is and why they aren't interchangeable. This list is organized in order of lowest cost to most expensive groups.  

Park Day/Meetup/Support Group: These are groups that meet in public spaces for social interaction and mutual support/community. Some may have a specific purpose or activities they organize around. Some may be affiliated with an organized co-op. Some may have little co-ops which have forms organically within the group as people find each other. Groups vary in size and "flavor" and it is common to be a part of more than one of these. These are a good places to ask questions, meet people and start to find people who share a common homeschool philosophy. These groups tend to be casual in nature and may meet as frequently as once a week or once a month. Usually free. This is a list of area grassroots groups. 

Hybrid Homeschool: This is a public charter school program generally with on campus days mixed with at home learning. The number of days can range from 1-4 days on campus. The type of on campus classes can range from academic to enrichment oriented. Your student is legally considered a public school student aka public homeschooler. How this works pratically in terms of oversight, support and rules varies from school to school. Curriculum is generally provided. Some may also offer some flexibility in curriculum that is used. Generally a low amount of enrichment funds are available since on campus classes are provided. Parental involvement is required and coordinated and overseen by the charter. These schools are subject to the same rules and regulations as traditional brick & mortar schools. This model of charter school is unique to California. Currently, this type of charter program is facing increasing regulations from the state legislature. Free.

Non-Classroom Based Homeschool: This is public charter school where there is no classroom based instruction is provided. All instruction is happening outside of the public charter school since there are no campus days. Some charters are completely online aka virtual schools. Some charters will allow you to choose your own curriculum or you can use their selected curriculum. Some charters offer enrichment funds. Some charters offer a non-classroom based program alongside their hybrid homeschool program. Your student is considered a public school student aka public homeschooler. This is known as non-classroom based instruction. How this works practically varies from school to school. A lot of parental involvement is required as you will be providing the bulk of whatever instruction, supervision and guidance is required and coordinating those efforts with the charter. These schools are subject to the some same rules and regulations as traditional brick & mortar schools. Exceptions to these rules and regulations are generally address in specifically non-classroom based instruction. Recently, legislation has introduced regular class time for these students with a teacher with the charter. The frequency of this and what that looks like varies from school to school. Currently, this type of charter program is facing increasing regulations from the state legislature Free.

Independent Study Program: This is an at home independant study program that is offered by local school districts. The curriculum is generally identical to what students in the district are using. There are no enrichment funding available. You are considered a public school student of XYZ school district. As a student enrolled within the district, the district may have some established agreements for accommodations with their district schools for access to their extracurricular and sports programs. Recently, students are now required to have some sort of regular class time with a teacher. The frequency of this and what that looks like varies from district to district. You may be able to enroll as an out of district transfer to participate in an ISP with a district outside of your attendance area. Schools districts have signifcantly increased their ISP programs as charter school have increased enrollment. Free

Dual Enrollment: This is a program offered through California community colleges to allow any junior and senior high school students to take CC courses (up to 11 units) free while still in concurrently enrolled in high school. You are only guaranteed college credit for courses identified as transferable to UC/CSU system and other California private universities with transfer agreements. Within California, there is generally recognition of CA community college coursework. However, you need to be aware that are not may not receive any transfer credits for out of state schools as credit by each institution per their policy and is generally on a specific institution to institution basis. California is unique in allowing "double dipping" of credits which is when college credits used to both meet high school and college matriculation requirements. It is also possible to enroll in community colleges earlier than junior year as well. This is a helpful group for discussions on this topic: CA Homeschool College Seekers

Co-ops These are usually parent led, volunteer based groups. The costs tend to be for the cost of supplies and curriculum. Nobody is paid in a co-op. These groups meet on a regular basis such as once a week, every other week or even once a month. Co-ops can rangle in size from small ones with just few families meeting in a home to very large ones with many classes and dozens or even over a hundred families. Larger co-ops usually will have a facility fee to cover facility cost, supplies and liability insurance. These larger groups generally cover a broad range of ages as entire families work together and participate together. Some larger co-ops may invite teachers to offer a specific class(es) for a fee, but the majority of the classes offered are taught by volunteer parents cooperatively pooling their efforts. Co-ops can range in focus from enrichment-based to academic or a mix. They can be more specific subject based (i.e. a preschool, science, art, etc.) Some co-ops meet for an entire day or multiple days while others may only meet for a couple of hours at a time. Families should expect to participate together as these are not drop off situations. All parents are expected to contribute and be present in some way. Co-ops may be comprised of solely private homeschoolers or a mix of private and charter depending on the co-op's philosophy. This model is used by homeschooling families to supplement their homeschooling, and the parent still has the primary responsibility to homeschool. Cost: $

PSP: Private Satellite Program. This can rangle from a simple record keeping, transcripts and adminstration type of PSP to a more full service one offering support, coaching, classes, clubs, sports, and other activities. There are some private schools who operate a PSP program under their private which allows students to access classes and programs at their campuses and more importantly the sports program as this meets the rules of CIF which prohibits homeschoolers from participating on school atheletic teams. There is usually a tuition to be a part of a PSP. The cost vary depending on the level of service. The most expensive being the ones associated with a private school. This model is usually used by privately homeschooling families who do not want to file a PSA (Private School Affadavit) and maintain their own records, who wish to access more resources under a single umbrella without engaging with public school system, or who want to access scholastic atheletics. This is used as a resource by homeschooling families, but the parent still retains the primary responsibility to homeschool. Cost: $$-$$$ 

Enrichment Centers, Learning Centers, Class Days, Cottage Schools: These are paid private programs which not a formal licensed school under any oversight. While many of these are using names or descriptions which imply that they are schools, they are not in fact not actually schools. No one is required to have a teaching credential or meet any licensing requirements. Some of these program may ask for some volunteer hours to lower overhead costs for operating. There are some calling themselves a co-op as well, but they are not actuallya co-op if substantial fee is involved to participate and tuition is charged or instructors are being paid. These can be drop off programs, or they may require a parent to remain on site. They may offer a wide variety of classes that range from enrichment to academic staffed by instructors who charge tuition directly or collected by the umbrella program. Some programs may be smaller offering just a few classes while others are large multi-day programs with multiple locations with many classes. Some programs are more formal with selected curriculum. Generatlly a full range of grade levels are offered. There are often a mix of private and charter homeschoolers. There may be secular or religious based program. Secular ones may often be vendors for charters that provide enrichment funds and function for these non-classroom based charter programs as their defacto class days. These programs are used as a resource by privately homeschooling families but the parent is still responsible toto homeschool. If these programs are used by public charter families, then it is overseen by the charter school of record. Cost: $$$ 

Online Classes and Schools: There are a wide variety of classes offered from single subject to large online full service private school programs of which some are accredited and some are not. Accreditation is a concern if you are a privately homeschooling family concerned about NCAA elibigility. Full programs usually offer transcripts, college counseling, enrichment, and diplomas. Some programs even offer dual enrollement credits in partnership with private or public universities. Some are religious and others are secular. These are all tuition based program. Some secular programs may be vendors for charters that offer enrichment funds. There are asynchronous (aka self-paced, live, hybrid, and flipped classroom models. There are a vast universe of options. This is an excellent youtube video from OG3 about what to consider with online learning options before you enroll for anything. It is critical you understand your student's learning style and needs before making any decisions about online learning. These programs are used as a resource by privately homeschooling families but the parent is still responsible toto homeschool. If these programs are used by public charter families, then it is overseen by the charter school of record. Cost: $$-$$$$$ 

Pods (Educational): - This is not something that existed in the homeschooling world before COVID. Pod is frequently confused with co-op. Who is teaching, drop off and the exchange money are the key differences. This is not to be confused with social pods which are closed circles that were used by families for socialization during Covid. Generally a pod consist of small group of students of a specific grade or a specific grade range. This is often a group of former public school or private school families leaving traditional school to form a pod. Usually a teacher is hired to teach this group of students covering all subjects. Sometimes pods may have some shared parental responsibilities and is a drop off program. Most of the teaching is outsourced to the hired teacher. Pods offer an entire week of instruction or  multiple days of the week. During COVID, this was a closed group where families socialized and interacted only with each other. Well thought out pods generally have some sort of contract of how the pod would operate. You will not find pods commonly used among the homeschooling community and veteran homeschoolers because of the more rigid structure and the extremely high costs associated with pods since the most homeschoolers are on a single income and are cost sensitive. This is not considered "homeschooling" as everything is outsourced full time to a teacher. It is considered an alternative school model even though families will tend to use a PSA or credentialed tutor option to avoid the costs of establishing a formal school for legal purposes. Families using this model should to carefully consider the liability issues around forming pod.  Parent's role is similar to when with a traditional brick & mortar school. However they will have to be the supervisor of their paid teacher and oversee pod coordination as they will be functioning as the employer and in the role "school administrator." See checklist linked below. Cost: $$$- $$$$

Microschool: This is a small private school that has been formed by a small group of families or a small group of teachers. Tuition based on the number of paid staff and curriculum and any associated facility costs and insurance. It is more formal that pods with rules and organization about how it is operates. It must adhere to guidelines pertaining to licensed private schools because of the number of students it serves. These tend to be licensed to exist as private schools. Microschools tend to be 10 to 100 students. Commonly these are are used by former private school families as the costs are comparable to private school tuition. These are drop off and full time prgrams. Some cottage schools may operate like this. You will not find this commonly used among veteran homeschoolers because of the more rigid structure and the high costs associated with microschools since the many homeschoolers are on a single income and are cost sensitive. This is not considered "homeschooling" as everything is outsourced fulltime to the microschool. Parent's role is similar to when with a traditional brick & mortar school. Cost: $$$$$

Checklist for considerations when forming a pod or microschool 
from Ten Fold PSP and homeschool consultant.

Private Education Associations. Recently there are entities known as Private Education Assocations being talked about in homeschooling circles. This is not a one of the current legal options to homeschool in California under California homeschooling laws. Whether or not it is permissible in other states depends on that particular state's homeschooling laws and you would be well advised to consult with your local homeschooling state advocacy groups who have legal counsel. Remember that homeschooling rights are determined on a state level. This is the position opinion of CHEA and FPM with a brief comment from HSLDA.