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When writing about charter schools that cater to homeschooled students, I got curious about just how many San Diegans homeschool without the help of such programs.

Tracking homeschooling is tough, because parents who homeschool can do so through a variety of venues — independent study programs sponsored by school districts, the charter schools I wrote about, and starting up a program at home, from scratch.

The main way to start your own homeschool program legally is to file a private school affidavit, which exempts a child from attending public school. Private schools file the same affidavits, but California makes a distinction between private schools and homeschools, which enroll five students or fewer.

So here are the numbers: In San Diego County, 686 homeschools are on file for this school year. These are totally parent-run programs, not the charter-assisted schools we highlighted. (Homeschool parents who enroll in a charter program don’t have to file an affidavit, because they’re enrolled in a public school.) If every program enrolled five students, that would bring their enrollment to 3,430 students. Actual numbers are likely far lower.

Now compare that to the number of students enrolled at just one charter program, Classical Academies, an Escondido-based system of three charter schools that provide elective classes and academic guidance for homeschool families. Classical Academies now enroll more than 1,400 students — and they’ve got a waitlist.

What does that add up to? In San Diego County at least, charter schools are a major way to homeschool — and possibly the norm. Keith Edmonds, an education programs consultant for the California Department of Education, said his office often promotes such charter programs to homeschooling parents.

A charter “doesn’t leave everything up to the parent’s imagination,” Edmonds said. “We try, when possible, to make sure they’re aware of some of the options that exist.”

EMILY ALPERT

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