for the past four years, we’ve been homeschooling our boys. it was only last august that our school district was informed of this information, and i only had to register our oldest.
in Pennsylvania, the compulsory age (the age at which your child better at least be registered for kindergarten) of school children is 8, which means i didn’t have to let anyone in the education system know that we were homeschooling until my oldest turned 8. they still don’t “know” about the other two boys we’ve been schooling, but they’ll find out once they reach the golden age of 8.
the only other rules you have to follow in PA is to keep a log of all the books you used in the teaching program, proof that you schooled for 180 days, and have the child evaluated at the end of the school year. all that goes into a portfolio that shows examples of each subject covered throughout the year and the school year is officially over once that is handed in.
this week was rowan’s evaluation, and as i commented at facebook, i think i was more nervous than he was. although i could tell he was quietly nervous. i gave him this advice: “show off! you’re a bright, smart kid. show the evaluator that!”
the evaluation took just under an hour. we had a great evaluator who homeschooled her two children several years ago and currently works in special education. she carefully went through our portfolio, and asked rowan a lot of questions about himself, about his favorites, about the school year, and about his favorite subjects (he loves skip-counting, he said. that was news to me! ) she had told me to have him bring a book that he could read from to her. he chose a book that he had gotten for christmas from his godparents, “Blaze and the Mountain Lion” and he carefully chose his favorite page in the book. i loved listening to him read and was amazed that he never asked to stop reading…he went all the way to the end of the book. i was also impressed that the evaluator didn’t stop him…she just let him keep going.
she also impressed me by her questions of the book to rowan: why did they need to find the mountain lion? what has happened up until this point in the story? reading comprehension is something that i read about a long time ago while researching homeschooling. i also remember it being a part of the achievement tests from my own elementary years. our writing program incorporates at least one lesson a week in just reading comprehension. it’s one thing to read a paragraph, it’s another thing to have comprehended what you’ve read. (and it’s still another to put that into your own words, and yet another to write those words on paper.)
we walked out of the evaulation relieved and ready to celebrate with an end-of-the-year dinner and ice cream.
i can assure anyone who hasn’t gone through the school system yet in their homeschooling program that it’s really not a big deal. i was nervous for the past few weeks leading up to the evaluation wondering if i was doing enough for my kids. as i pulled together everything that we did this past school year for rowan’s portfolio, i was amazed that i actually felt that way – we had a full and busy year! the home-education rules are in place to ensure that homeschooling parents are actually doing the work they signed up to do: to educate their children. although i don’t know one family who homeschools that doesn’t educate their children. in fact, the majority (if not all that i know) are passionate about education and put in hours and days and months into their childrens’ education and development. i guess the rules are there for the very small percent of homeschool households who are taking advantage of the system. i repeat, “very small percent of homeschool households.” i’m sure there are bad apples in every bunch, but i’ve yet to meet one of them.
my advice: follow the rules, but mostly have fun educating your kids. no matter what that looks like (parent-involved-in school, homeschooling, PTA involvement, after-schooling, etc) it’s the absolute best calling for parents, i’m convinced.