Getting started and keeping it together while homeschooling

Because chemistry should always include candy!

Because chemistry should always include candy!

It can be very daunting to get started homeschooling so I thought I would share the documents that I use with the hopes that they will bless someone else. I have also included some of my favorite tips and links too!

In Pennsylvania, you have to file paperwork the year you pull a child from school or the school year in which they turn 8 (6 in Philadelphia), and then each subsequent year by August 1st: What’s required? A (notarized) affidavit, a list of educational objectives (by subject) and documentation that the child is getting health and medical services required by law. I used take care of this paperwork immediately at the end of the school year and drop it off with my children’s portfolios. Now with the change in the PA law, there’s no need to drop off the portfolios. I’ll still stick to dropping off the new paperwork as soon as the school year is finished and I have the evaluator’s letters. This is mainly because summer notoriously sweeps me off my feet and I am me (i.e. chaotic) so I’m afraid I’ll miss the deadline. All documents go to the superintendent or their designated representative of your local school district.

Affidavit:

The best affidavit that I have found is on one of my favorite homeschool groups’ website.  I used to use PA’s affidavits but they state that evidence of immunization is attached. Since I don’t feel that the school district is a secure location for my child’s medical records and it is not required by law, I no longer do this. The affidavit on CHAP’s website is much less intrusive.

Educational Objectives:

I have used the same generic Educational Objectives for years. They were in a book that I read back in the 90’s and they have served me well over the years. (I wish I could remember the book name so I could give credit where credit is due.) I keep them generic so I can tailor the lessons to my child’s needs. I send a Letter of Intent with my affidavit and educational objectives.  It’s probably not necessary but, hey, I’ve got issues.

Some other great generic educational objectives:
http://davidrforrest.com/homeschool/objectives.html
http://cherylpitt.com/2014/08/printable-homeschool-goals-and-objectives/

For those who want to make their own, there’s good guidance here:
http://donnayoung.org/forms/planners/goals.htm
http://pahomeschoollaw.com/how-to-prepare-objectives-for-homeschooling-in-pa/

Health/Medical Services and Immunizations:

I’m not going to get into the very personal debate over vaccination. Suffice it to say that PA law requires that you get our child immunized or file an exemption form. If you file an exemption form, file it with your yearly paperwork.

During the year:

You commit to providing a minimum of 180 days or 900 hours for elementary students or 990 hours for secondary students. I like to make a yearly calendar and divide up the lessons right away. I know of others who do lesson plans weekly or monthly. Because I have either been working or going to school while homeschooling, I have needed to be prepared a little further ahead. It also allows me to tailor our field trips and educational experiences better if I have an idea of topics to be covered.

To save time, I reuse a calendar template with certain subjects already plugged in. For example, I don’t write out the kids’ math lessons on our calendar because the program we use (Switched on Schoolhouse) has its own calendar so lessons are pre-assigned. I start with the first week’s calendar and put in the repeating items then copy and paste that calendar. Here’s an example of what our calendar may start out looking like and as I’ve modified it along the way.

Throughout the year, we just keep a 2-3” binder for each child and we hole-punch the work and put it right in. You also need to keep track of any books read. For older kids, this should be their responsibility. Doing this throughout the year makes getting the portfolio ready at the end of the year much less overwhelming.

Joining a homeschool support group can be fun and helpful but it is not necessary. Some people join or form co-ops to help each other with the teaching, especially in the older grades.

Standardized Testing:

For children in grades 3, 5, and 8, standardized testing is required.  The approved tests are listed on PA’s website. Our school district includes a list of test administrators in their homeschooling packet. I have heard that some school districts may allow the student to test with their students but I’ve never known one who did. This is direct from the PA state website: “If the supervisor of the home education program requests that the student(s) take the PSSA, the school district must allow the student to take the test at the school building the home education student would normally attend or other accommodations agreed to by the school district and the parent.” Hmmm. Interesting.

At the end of the year:

You take your portfolio to an evaluator who certifies that an appropriate education has been given. Our evaluator also may have the younger kids read to her. A copy of the standardized test results and the evaluator’s letter are then given to the school district at the end of the year.

If there’s anything else you’d like to see or questions you’d like answered, please feel free to ask.  Remember that the most important thing goal is to instill a love of learning in your children because that will serve them better in life than worksheets and fact memorization.  So, relax and have fun!