There are some things about homeschool laws that I just don’t get. Keeping track of homeschool days or hours is one of them. I live in a state that requires us to homeschool for 180 days a year and to somehow document it.
The end of the week is finally here, and I. am. exhausted. At the last minute (Sunday, actually), I decided to scrap homeschool activities for this week in order for my kids to participate in our church’s CaveQuest Vacation Bible School. For those of you who are familiar with my blog, you might remember that they just did VBS last month, and, although our church was a sponsor of that one, they weren’t the hosts. CaveQuest is the first VBS we’ve attended at this church, and I’m just blown away by it. Continue reading “A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers-VBS- The Sequel”
I ran into you today as I was dropping off our homeschool evaluations at the school district. As I walked in, the secretary looked at me with relief and said, “She homeschools!” Remember me?
First off, I want to say congratulations on making the decision to take the reins on your child’s education. Honestly, there’s no better time to pull your kids out of school than in this day and age we are in right now.
Before the secretary saw me come in, I heard her telling you to hire an out-of-district teacher to help you find curriculum. I wanted to jump in front of you and scream, “No! Don’t!” but I had to compose myself because, after all, we were in the school administration building. Frankly, I was relieved when she turned your attention to me and tried to enlist me to help you. While I did give you some very basic information, the name of my evaluator, and some helpful websites (including mine!), I was dying inside because I couldn’t help you the way I wanted to. Not there. Not while the school employee was standing there listening to us.
I can only hope that you’ll soon type in my web address and find this post here just for you because here is where I will have the freedom to say what needs to be said. It’s not that I don’t trust the school district. I do, but they are school employees and probably don’t understand what homeschooling is all about. So here is what I wanted to say to you then and there:
-Don’t ask people at the school district for help with homeschooling. They likely don’t know any more than you do, and in fact, may well know even less. As school employees, they have been trained in the methods used in the public school setting, which is fine, but homeschooling is nothing like school– at least, it shouldn’t be. It is for this reason that I would strongly recommend that you would not ask a school teacher for help with your curriculum. Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of teachers who homeschool, but the vast majority do not and don’t understand what it’s all about. If you need help, there are so many great homeschooling books and websites out there. Google is your friend. 🙂
–Don’t ask people at the school district about homeschool laws. Speaking from experience, they do not fully understand them, which is why it is so important that we as homeschooling parents do. Do your research. Visit the website I gave you that explains the law. Ask other homeschoolers. The problem is that if you don’t know the law and rely on the school district for information, they are likely to require more information than they legally should which will, in turn, cause problems for other homeschoolers. Our state laws were recently changed so that the only thing now required to give to the school district is our homeschool evaluation letter. That’s it. Yet, last year the district tried to get our standardized test scores, as well. Thankfully, I knew they were not entitled to them and told them so. Interestingly, I noticed that the paper they hand out still asks for test scores. I’m assuming that’s for homeschoolers who don’t know better. I truly think this is just another way for them to have control over us. If you know the law, this won’t happen.
–The first thing you asked me about was where to find curriculum. I’m here to tell you that that’s the last thing you should worry about. I wasn’t comfortable saying that in the school building because sometimes people fear what they don’t understand, and I didn’t want the employee jumping to conclusions. But honestly, just spend time with your kids. Watch how they do things. Look for what interests them. This is how you can choose your curriculum. You just may discover that your child will do better with library books than with textbooks. Remember, textbooks are not mandatory. They are simply a tool for learning that often aren’t a great fit for most kids.
–As the homeschool facilitator, it is up to you what your children will learn. Homeschoolers do not have to follow the school itinerary, although some choose to. You had expressed concern about knowing whether or not you were on track with what you would be teaching. If you are teaching something that you and your children find valuable, then you are on track. There are very few things specified about what we must cover (PA history, US history, fire safety, etc.) I don’t even go out of my way to address these issues because these are topics that come up in day to day living and don’t need any additional materials other than a newspaper, a discussion with you, or reminders about the dangers of fire. You certainly don’t need to waste your money on a curriculum for them, unless your child is so interested that it would be worth it. And even if they are, there are many free printables online on so many different things. You’d be amazed.
In closing, I just want to wish you the best on what can potentially be an awesome journey. Just keep reminding yourself that homeschooling is not school at home, and you’ll be on your way. Maybe someday we’ll run into each other again. Until then, enjoy the ride!
(Image courtesy of panuruangjan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Google “homeschooling in PA” and you’re likely to come across a myriad of articles and blogs lamenting the fact that it’s one of the strictest states regarding homeschool law. I myself am guilty of having written a rather lengthy diatribe about the injustices of what Pennsylvanians have to endure compared to other less-regulated states.
Since the end of the year is looming and evaluations are creeping up on us, I felt that now was the time to clarify that homeschooling in PA is not so bad after all. As of October 31, 2014, some changes were made to this law that make our situation much more palatable than it once was. Here is a quick overview of the changes, but I do encourage anyone with questions to visit askpauline.com for a more detailed description of what is expected of homeschool facilitators.
Portfolios and standardized test scores are no longer to be turned into the school district. Present them only to your evaluator. All that is now required to give to the school district is the evaluation letter you receive from your evaluator. That’s it. If your school district asks for anything else, inform them that you are in compliance with the law.
2. Evaluator-signed high school diplomas are now given equal weight with accredited diplomas. There is no longer any need to go through a third party for your child’s diploma if you do not wish to.
Beyond these changes, there are also a few things I learned about the existing law that I either misinterpreted or was misinterpreted for me. Since my former evaluator was a bit strict, I always believed that the required log was to include a short description of what was accomplished each day, or at the very least, some check marks to show which subjects were covered. This is not the case. The log is merely supposed to be a book log. That’s it. Some people write the dates they use each book and include any websites, DVDs, or documentaries used. I do not even do that.
I spent years writing down what my kids did for “school” every.single.night. This is not easy when you have a large number of kids to do this for. It would sometimes take me a good hour or more just to do this. When I discovered that this wasn’t necessary, I just about (or maybe did…) break out into the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I wish someone had told me that years ago. I could have saved so much time.
As for documenting the 180 day “school year,” this can be done several ways. If you enjoy writing out a detailed log, you can easily number the days. Otherwise, you can simply mark off 180 days on a printable calendar. My own evaluator only asks for a written statement that we homeschooled for 180 days because she, like most homeschoolers, believes that requirement is silly since our kids are certainly home and learning every single day, since living and learning can’t really be separated.
So, if you’re new to homeschooling and are more than a little anxious about PA homeschool law, I’m telling you now… it’s a piece of cake.