(Note- an updated post about PA homeschool law can be found here.)
As the end of the “school year” looms closer and evaluations near, I find myself obsessing over the injustice of PA homeschool regulations. I understand accountability- I really do, but from what I’ve read about other states in the US, PA has gone way overboard with its requirements for homeschoolers. While other states can choose between portfolios or standardized testing and others don’t need to do much more than notify the school district of intent, we have it much more difficult here in good ol’ PA. Homeschoolers here must keep a portfolio with work samples, a daily log recording learning and books used, and are also required to take standardized tests in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade. We must then have these items evaluated by a licensed teacher or psychologist who will decide whether or not adequate progress was made. I honestly don’t even understand why we have to waste our time and money for this evaluation because we must still submit the evaluation letter and our portfolios for them to be examined again by the superintendent. Overkill much?
This has always bothered me quite a bit, especially seeing how easy some other states have it, but I’ve never felt the sting this much until I’ve started unschooling. Since unschooling is self-directed learning, there really aren’t that many work samples in our house. Sure, I take pictures galore, but I have the feeling that the powers-that-be are looking for actual samples- not a photo album. This will be extremely difficult for us, as most of the learning done at our house is through hands-on projects that the kids initiate themselves. Are they learning? Absolutely, but it’s not through textbooks, worksheets, or reports, so I’m getting a little worked up over this.
I do keep extremely detailed records of what we do, while other people just check off a subject if it’s done for the day, but since I’ve always turned in portfolios the size of phone books before, I don’t know what the reaction will be.
This week I’ve found myself going against every instinct I have about learning, and I’ve been making my kids do an activity with me everyday for the sole purpose of having work samples. This seems so unnatural now and so pointless. My children’s learning flows beautifully throughout the day without any help from me, but here I am now throwing a wrench into the system to please, well… the system. It angers me, and it frustrates me.
Natural learning does not fit neatly into a little box where your children complete A, B, and C, and then put them in a little folder. It’s life learning, and it’s done through exploring the world around them and interacting with it. It’s done through creating and enjoying things like Minecraft towns, clay villages, homemade makeup, and beloved readalouds. The beauty is in the simplicity, and I resent the fact that I feel like I may have to dampen their passions by requiring them to do more “schoolish” projects, so that those neat little file folders in their portfolios are filled with things that, ultimately, will mean nothing to my children. Have you ever noticed what happens when you, as a parent, start showing too much interest in what your children are doing to the point of offering suggestions as to how to make it more “educational”? The light in their eyes disappears, and that passion starts to wither away. I don’t want this to happen because of a legality. Their education means more to me than that, and I wish those in charge could see that.
If you are an unschooler and have a portfolio requirement, I would love to hear how you do it.
Linking up with
– See more at: http://www.joyfocusedlearning.com/2014/03/anything-goes-18.html#sthash.VYsTP8Sr.dpufcenter>