“Our daughter has absolutely flourished in Bridgeway’s homeschool environment. For the first time in her high school education, she does not feel singled out because of her dyslexia.”
Cheryl, Bridgeway Parent
By Jessica Parnell - Principal Bridgeway Academy – Pennsylvania Homeschool Evaluator
PA Homeschool Links
No doubt Pennsylvania has some of the most stringent homeschooling laws in the country. Affidavits, portfolios, daily logs, evaluations, standardized testing, June 30th, August 1st . . . all terms you will find in the Pennsylvania homeschool law. See Top 6 simple steps to Pennsylvania Homeschool Law below.
However, I suggest to you just the opposite is true.
Pennsylvania laws are good for homeschoolers.
- First, we will never have to go through the battle that is going on in California, where homeschoolers are scrambling to retain their rights to homeschool.? Because early homeschoolers fought for a specific homeschool law in Pennsylvania, we know exactly what we must do to retain our rights to homeschool in our state.
- Second, our school district officials cannot simply move in to our homes and try to take away our rights to homeschool here in Pennsylvania. Because our Pennsylvania homeschool law clearly defines the process for us, we can simply follow that process and take advantage of the freedom we have to homeschool in Pennsylvania. As long as we follow that process, we retain the freedom to do it our way.
- Third, our homeschool laws require an evaluation by a certified teacher. I have mixed feelings about this.
As an evaluator, I spend much of my time providing advice on how to address specific learning problems, how to provide advanced courses for exceptional students, how to handle electives, how to prepare students for college or the workforce, how to work with struggling readers, how to meet the expectations of the Pennsylvania homeschool law, and so much more. Parents have often expressed their appreciation and look forward to meeting with me each year.
As a homeschool mom, I did not want to participate in the evaluation process.? The thought of? maintaining a portfolio of our school year seemed daunting and an appointment with an evaluator? sounded like more trouble than it was worth. However, I found the homeschool evaluation to be valuable for my kids, who really enjoyed showing their homeschool evaluator all that we accomplished throughout the school year. And that portfolio becomes a wonderful record every year of the accomplishments of my kids.
As the principal of Bridgeway Academy, the face to face evaluation is a wonderful time to put a face to the many names of Pennsylvania Bridgeway Academy homeschoolers. It is an opportunity to get to know our students and to see more than just their academic accomplishments.
- Homeschoolers in Pennsylvania also have the distinct advantage of access to public school extra-curricular activities. On November 11, 2005, Pennsylvania became the 15th state to open public school extracurricular activities to homeschoolers. Although, individual Pennsylvania school districts can still make their own policies on who is eligible for sports, Pennsylvania homeschoolers can no longer be excluded simply because they are homeschoolers.? Pennsylvania homeschoolers are also eligible to participate in school bands, school plays, and all other extracurricular activities.? This was an exciting addition to the homeschool laws in Pennsylvania and we were quick to take advantage of the opportunity for my daughter to join the chorus in our local school district.? Although not all homeschoolers wish to take advantage of their ability to access extra-curriculars, Pennsylvania homeschool laws have made it an option to consider.
- Pennsylvania homeschooling law also requires children to be tested in grades 3, 5 and 8. This standardized testing requirement prepares our children for the reality of SATs, ACTs, and other testing that they will experience if they decide to continue their education at the college level. Although many parents find the testing to be intimidating, the reality is that it can provide an excellent assessment of areas that we need to work on with our kids. I encourage parents not to put too much stock in standardized testing, but to watch for huge gaps that need to be filled. If we do not allow standardized testing to be our measurement for success, we can certainly use it as a tool in our homeschool program.
- Homeschooling laws in Pennsylvania have also encouraged homeschoolers to organize and work together to meet the requirements established in our Pennsylvania homeschool law. Homeschool support groups organize field trips, enrichment classes such as art, music, physical education, foreign language, etc., while local organizations open their doors to homeschoolers.
My children have had the opportunity to take part in science classes at the DaVinci Science Center in Allentown, where they studied physics, chemistry, and biology. They took advantage of monthly animal science classes at the Philadelphia Zoo; they were involved in art classes at the Baum School of Art in Allentown; physical education classes at Parkettes, a gymnastic training center in Allentown; and saw history come alive in Gettysburg, PA. They traveled with Bridgeway Academy students to Hershey Park for a homeschoolers day, and visited a model space shuttle and station with a group of other Bridgeway Academy students.
Many of those specialized classes would not have been organized if Pennsylvania homeschoolers were not working to meet the specific requirements of the Pennsylvania homeschool law.
So my encouragement to fellow Pennsylvania homeschoolers is to follow the requirements of the law and enjoy the freedom inherent in that law.
Six simple steps to the Pennsylvania Homeschool Law:
- File an affidavit by August 1st. Download your affidavit here or pick one up from your local school district.
- Include the following:
- A copy of your high school diploma
- A list of objectives for the school year (these will likely change throughout the school year but will give you a basic plan for the year)
- Medical records as required (check the law for specifics on when you must submit eye and dental exams, etc.)
- Maintain your portfolio as you go.? This makes it so much easier when evaluation time rolls around.Simple things to include:
- A daily log (this does not need to detail what you did in each subject, but must simply record specific school days throughout the school year and should total 180 days). I usually recommend using a calendar and checking off the days in which you conducted school.
- A few samples from each subject
- Tests from each subject
- Two to three writing samples
- A list of field trips (and/or brochures, pictures, etc.-not required but fun)
- A reading list
- Standardized test results
- Samples of art projects
- A list of art, music, health and PE activities
- Participate in standardized testing for students in grades 3, 5 & 8
- Schedule an evaluation for late spring
- Turn your evaluation and portfolio in to your school district by June 30th.
Follow these simple steps to meet Pennsylvania homeschool requirements and enjoy the freedom that the law provides.
The information provided above is deemed correct when written, May 2008. Please call our office to confirm any information provided here, Bridgeway Academy, full service homeschooling.