Monday, August 8, 2011

Homeschooling in PA

I thought I'd write a few more posts about our venture into the homeschooling world so if you're following me and totally not interested, feel free to ignore me in the next week or so. I can promise that this won't become a strictly 'homeschooling' blog!
While it's all fresh in my mind though, I'm going to lay it all out in case it will be of use to anyone and so I can remember the whole process.

Apparently, Pennsylvania is one of the strictest states regarding homeschool regulations and requirements. Hooray! (That's sarcastic, just in case you were wondering.) I'm thankful that we have homeschooling friends who have given me great insight into what we need to do and some helpful websites.
First up.... askPauline. I don't know who this woman is but I'd like to send her flowers on her birthday every year! She has a great site that she put together with lots and lots of info and details about navigating hs paperwork with the state. It's very thorough and extremely helpful. 

Before you begin...

Our first step is to file a notarized affidavit. If you are a first-time homeschooler, it needs to be filed before you begin your schooling. If you are a continuing hs'er, then it must be filed by August 1st.
Portfolios are due by June 30th so many people recommend submitting your end-of-year portfolios and next year's affidavit at the same time near the end of June so that summer activities will count towards your next school year.
You do NOT need to file for children under the age of 8 unless they were enrolled in a public school for first grade. If they were enrolled in private school, the law is a little hazy so it's probably better to file, in this instance.
AskPauline has sample affidavit forms that you can fill in and print out. I got mine from her because it was just plain 'ol easy!

With your affidavit, you must also submit proposed educational objectives.
Following the advice of some friends, I borrowed objectives from two of the samples on the askPauline site and mashed them up a bit to fit what I'm hoping to do. I kept them very general and nonspecific. I printed it 2x and just headed the page with each kid's name but kept their objectives the same. We'll be able to use these year after year if we continue hs'ing.
For example, our math objective states, "The math program will cover previous skills and introduce new concepts through incremental development and review."

Medical Info:
PA requires medical care, dental care, and immunizations (or exemptions) for children at various grade levels and for 1st time hs'ers. So I also printed 2 very basic forms from askPauline and had our dentist and doctor sign that we had check-ups and are up-to-date with PA state required immunizations.
A quick summary of requirements by grade level:
Medical: first time hs'ing, 6th, 11th
Scoliosis: 6th, 7th
Dental: first time hs'ing, 3rd, 7th
Hearing: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 11th
Vision: annually
Height and Weight: annually

During the year...
We are required to keep attendance records (180 days or 900 hours for elementary), a log of work that is done, a book log, and a portfolio. We are also required to do standardized testing in grades 3, 5, and 8.

Attendance: I'll be using a one-year calendar where the younglings can check off their attendance. We're going to go by the 180 day requirement which is easier to keep track of than the 900 hours. (Found at I'm telling ya' this woman is wonderful!)


From samples I've seen online, there are a million and a half ways to do this. What I'm planning to do is to type out a spreadsheet for each child in 1 week increments. I'll have the days across the top and their subjects down the side. For each day, I'll type the work that they need to complete. As they finish their assignments, they'll initial it showing that the work was completed. If they don't finish, I can adjust the log accordingly.

Book Log:
Again there are multiple ways to do this but I'll be just listing the resources we use in an excel spreadsheet. My headings will be title, author, subject, media type (book, CD, DVD, etc), and student name. At the end of the year, I'll just sort the list based on which kid used what and then print their list for their portfolio. I don't think this will be too hard to maintain. I'll fill in the textbooks and readers that we'll be using all year and then list additional resources as we come to them. With this method, I don't need to list the book each time we use it but only once no matter how many times we'll reference it throughout the year.

In the portfolio binder, I'll include all of the above along with samples of work that show progress in each subject. I'll have tabbed dividers for their logs/book list/objectives, each subject, and field trips. Again, askPauline has great tips for what to include.
This blog also has some helpful info about creating a portfolio.

At the end of the year...
To finish off the year, we need to assemble our portfolios and then secure an evaluator. The PDE (PA Dept. of Education) has a list of qualifications to be an evaluator. So once we find someone that fits, they'll review the portfolio and interview each kid. Then they'll write a letter that we'll include in the portfolio. We submit all that to our local school district office and voila.... that's it.

Piece of cake, right??
At first glance, it seems like a lot. Once you get through all the legal mumbo-jumbo (thank you, Pauline!!!) it's not nearly as burdensome as you'd think. There's a lot of paperwork to keep track of but a little organization will go a long way. It's been super helpful for me to see the logs and portfolios that my friends have created in person. I'm an Excel junkie so spreadsheet files are fun to me, and I also found a great hanging file box at Target that I'll use throughout the year to collect worksheets and field trip brochures, etc. (School room reveal and paperwork organization tips coming soon!)

A few other sites for first timers that I found to be really helpful:
Christian Homeschool Association of PA
Coalition of Homeschoolers Across Lancaster County (PA)
Raising Arrows: the Homeschooling Mother
The Old Schoolhouse (magazine)
Everything Homeschooling

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