Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Preparing for Regulated Homeschooling

The To-Do List
Transferring a child from public school to a homeschooling environment can be tricky. From what I've learned so far the red tape in some states is a bit of a nuisance. I live in Pennsylvania and its one of the seven strictest states for homeschooling. Aside from just filing the paperwork there's also adjusting on the childs part. We're gearing up for the big day. January 3rd will not only be the last day Riley attends public school but it will be the day that we attend our appointment at the superintendents office. We will be official homeschoolers. So I've researched and reviewed lots of websites and resources for homeschooling in the past weeks. I wanted to relay some of the information that I've come across. I guess I sort of hope that it helps someone else who might be out there struggling or questioning the process. So here's what I've come up with, my Homeschooling To-Do List follows. 

#1- Research
I read somewhere that the best thing to do when considering homeschooling is to read the top ten homeschooling books available. For me this was not an option for multiple reasons, one I only found a few homeschooling books that appealed to me and two, I'm working on about a two week time frame. (with kids running around like rabid monkey's and the holidays to boot) Although there are an abundance of resources for homeschooling I've found that for some reason or another the opinions are biased or un-useful to me. I do highly recommend that you research as much as possible.  In fact I would say its pretty much mandatory. You don't want to make a decision that you find out the hard way will not work for you. I really did rely heavily on googling, lots of it.
  • State Law- First you will need to research homeschooling laws and regulations in your state. The strictest states are primarily in the Northeast and New England.  (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, North Dakota) Pennsylvania requires that you notify them that your homeschooling at the beginning of each year, you will sign an affidavit and provide your objectives for the year at this time. If you are starting in the middle of a school year or homeschooling for the first time you will need to write an official letter stating that you will be homeschooling your child/children. If your pulling your child for some reason or another you do not want to air your dirty laundry, or state why your homeschooling. It simply needs to say I will be homeschooling. Don't forget that it is your right and there's no reason they should question it. You will be working with these people the entire time your homeschooling so theres no need to burn bridges. In Pennsylvania by the end of the school year you will need to have your child evaluated by a qualified  professional, either a certified teacher or psychologist, and provide a portfolio that documents the progress you've made.
  • Curriculum & Learning Style- Second you will want to really look into what curriculum and style of learning you want for your family. Some families have no official routine or curriculum, some families have strict routines and designated spaces for their school time. If you want a set routine or space, or a certain variety of curriculum you will want to have this in order before your child is removed from their current learning environment.
  • Local Support- Last but not least the one thing I found absolutely most useful...Finding someone local who's a veteran homeschooler. Find a local homeschooling family or support group, they should know what your local laws are, where to find the curriculum and other resources you need. (what sports and library events are around, what store has the most useful educational books etc.) I'm lucky enough to have a neighbor a few doors down that has homeschooled her children all of their lives. As bad as this sounds she is my single most useful resource. She knows the local superintendents office, she knows the laws and she's got time on her side. (meaning she's been there and done it.) If you live in a more lenient state, or your less of a lunatic than I am this may not be as crucial.
#2- Objectives-(Due before Aug 1st of each year)
Pennsylvania requires that you give them a list of objectives at the beginning of each school year, (or in my case the beginning of the homeschooling process.) The objectives are basically an outline that shows each individual child's goals for the year. According to your states requirements you will want to detail which subjects your child will be learning and what progress they should make.  For children in Pennsylvania the Elementary curriculum should include  English- spelling, reading and writing, Health and Physiology, Gym, Music, Art, Geography, Science and safety education. This does not mean you have to refer to their curriculum but simply that you will teach them these subjects. From what I can tell of the law, the superintendent may not use the objectives to determine whether or not your child is getting an adequate education. The law states a required 180 days of instruction. So the objectives should keep a years progress in mind. I simply referred to scholastic's website for what progress I should look for. You could simply do a search for objectives by grade for example: 1st grade objectives, or there seem to be a good deal of books available that detail schooling your child year by year. If your using a specific curriculum I don't see any reason why you couldn't simply provide them with a copy of the syllabus. From what I can tell this is simply insurance that your child will have some sort of schooling structure or guidelines. It will also help you to understand what your child's skill level should  be close to or around.

#3- Portfolio-(Due before June 30th of each year)
The portfolio is simply documentation of your years work, simply put it seems to  be a glorified scrapbook. It shows the progress made and hopefully it highlights your childs strengths and what they have improved on within the year. A lot of states require homeschooling portfolios but even if it is not mandatory it might be nice to keep one anyway to keep track of the progress made. The things you want to highlight in the portfolio are those subjects you laid out in the objectives, more specifically the subjects your state requires your children to learn. Following are the things you will want to maintain throughout the year and ultimately this is what your finished portfolio should include.
  • A copy of Your Objectives
  • Your evaluation report- From what I've read so far Pennsylvania requires that a certified teacher or psychologist must evaluate your child and write a report noting their homeschooling progress and overall development for each year. I guess I'll figure this out as I go and verify that later.
  • Journal & Calendar- You will want to keep a journal and calendar that notes what days you did school work, what days you went on field trips, where you went, etc. Its simply notes on what subjects you touched on or simply notes that you did school work that day. A calendar is useful for jotting down quick notes on what you did each day as you did it.
  • A list of books and Resources- You can keep this in the journal or separate but you want to write down what books your child has read on their own and what books you have read together. This will insure your evaluator that your child is learning about the required subjects. (For instance if you read a book on the liberty bell your child is learning about history.) You will also want to note what text books you used and what workbooks you've utilized. If you have purchased a curriculum you will list what it is.
  • Photo Album- A photo album can contain photos of field trips, sports or even nature walks,and things around your neighborhood. You can take pictures of your child's artwork and include it in the photo album instead of having mounds of loose papers. You can document what sports or local activities your child is participating in, trips to museums or zoo's etc.
  • Samples of your child's work- Worksheets, artwork, book reports etc.

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