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Old 05-21-2012, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I live with my husband, my 8 yo dd, my best friend and her 3 kids.  This year we all unschooled and had a successful, fun and interesting year.  We did A LOT - museums, day trips out of town, days in the woods collecting plants and animals, lots of trips to the library, documentaries etc.  We all felt like the kids were learning and having a great time with it.

 

We live in PA and in PA you have to submit a portfolio to an evaluator and the school district.  The portfolio has to include a log of all the days spent schooling, a list of every book that was read, and worksheets showing sustained progress (among other things).  I didn't have to submit anything as my daughter was not yet the compulsory school age in September, but my friend had to submit 3 portfolios and I helped her put them together because schooling all the kids this year was a joint effort.  It was a lot of work but in the end we felt pretty pleased with the portfolios. 

 

Well, they got sent back and my friend was told they were inadequate.  Some of the problems were that there wasn't enough worksheets to show sustained progress, despite the fact that we included the 3-5 pages per subject that we were told to include. (It was difficult to wrangle up 3-5 pages in some subjects, being unschoolers. We had next to nothing for Social Studies despite reading "Story of the World" all year and learning a lot of history through books and docus.)  Another problem was that the 13 year old's handwriting (on reports he did of his own free will) was "iffy". (How in the world do we correct his handwriting within the next couple of weeks?!)  We mistakenly submitted papers with mistakes on them, thinking this would show progress because papers dated later were correct, and all of those got rejected.

 

So, now we are in this mad rush to gather workbook pages and have the kids do them, sooo not what we had envisioned having to do.  Not to mention they aren't learning anything this way, it's too much at once.  All of the 13 yo's really well written and thoughtful reports on topics that interest him will probably be scrapped in exchange for workbook pages - which is sad.

 

This experience has been difficult enough that we've decided not to unschool next year.  My daughter and my friend's youngest will be enrolled in cyber school, the two older ones are going to school.  There are more reasons than JUST this for enrolling them in school - they are lonely and want to be with friends also - but this experience has been a big part of why.

 

BTW, the evaluator we chose was the most "unschooling friendly" one in our area.  

 

No real question, just wanted to send out a warning to unschoolers in PA - generate paperwork!


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Old 05-21-2012, 04:28 PM
 
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Good to see you back on here, it's been a little while....

 

Sorry you are having such a rotten experience with evaluator.  If this one is the best, who else does s/he evaluate?  How can one be "more unschooling friendly" if very few are able to unschool?  Except the ones whose unschooling experience ends up looking a lot like classical schooling on paper?

 

Not really needing a response there!

 

You are making me very pleased to live where I do.  So sorry!


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Old 05-21-2012, 04:37 PM
 
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Could you call the evaluator and talk to her about specifically what she needs to see?  Or talk to other unschoolers/relaxed homeschoolers about what they have sent in the past?  I'm guessing that she needs something specific to feel like she can check the appropriate boxes, and if you find out precisely what that is, you'll be in a much better position.

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Old 05-21-2012, 05:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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She listed unschooling specifically as a style of homeschooling she is open to evaluating.  In fact, years ago, when my daughter was under 3 she came to our house and introduced us to unschooling!  I had found her through online and had a lot of questions for her so she came to our house and met with my husband and I and some friends and "taught" us about unschooling.   We felt confident choosing her to evaluate, and I still think she was the best choice for our area.

 

I am sure there ARE people who are able to unschool in PA, I didn't mean to imply there aren't.  But somehow we screwed up, and at the end of what felt like such a successful year that is really frustrating.  It sucks to be under this sort of pressure and to put the kids under this sort of pressure at the end of a relaxed and happy school year. 

 

We did get a clear idea of what she wants but some of it is not so easy to do.  And there's a lot.  The biggest hurdle is the 13yo's handwriting.  We have no idea how to remedy this in the next couple of weeks!  Can a 6th grader fail because of his handwriting?  I have no idea, I just know she made it clear that it wasn't likely to be deemed acceptable by the school district.  

 

I would love to talk to other unschoolers in our district and find out how they do it, but we've never been able to find any.   It may be more of a district problem than a state-wide problem, it just occurred to me.


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Old 05-21-2012, 06:58 PM
 
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So it's the evaluator "rejecting" things? You presumably haven't sent anything to the SD since you are still trying to get a letter of approval from the evaluator...

 

Some evaluators do distant evaluations, with an "interview" over the phone. I suggest you find a new evaluator!  She doesn't need to be local. What you sent should have been fine. 3-5 pieces per main subject (and all subjects are not required every year) is what all the unschoolers do and recommend to each other.

 

Some school districts don't even want to see a portfolio. In mine, I show it to the evaluator (3-5 pages, TOTAL) and she writes a letter. I send that letter, the book log, attendance chart, and test scores if it's a testing year to the SD. I have never given a sample of my ds's handwriting. There is nothing in the law that requires handwriting samples. His composition samples are typed. 

 

Are you on the PA unschoolers yahoo group? 


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Old 05-22-2012, 04:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I really don't think the problem is the evaluator.  She's just telling us what, in her experience, the school district wants to see.  She's been very helpful, but that doesn't change the fact that there is a ton of work we are scrambling around to get done.

 

No, I am not on the PA unschoolers yahoo list.  Sounds great, but being that we won't be unschoolers soon, I probably won't join now.


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Old 05-22-2012, 09:02 AM
 
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As long as what the school district wants to see isn't exceeding what's required by law... The school district doesn't get to determine pass/fail exactly. They can't "fail" the 13 yo due to bad handwriting. The main goal of the portfolio is to show "sustained" progress and that you've covered the required subjects including fire safety and PA history.

 

Have you checked out Pauline's website? www.askpauline.com It's a good idea to read the law for yourself, of course. But Pauline's site has it broken down with excerpts and clarifications from various sources, and examples of how different people do things.

 

You might want to try to look at other homeschooler's portfolios and get a sense of what others do in your school district, regardless of homeschool style. See if you can find what other people with other evaluators are doing. 


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Old 05-22-2012, 10:20 AM
 
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I am in agreement w/ 4evermom.  I'm in PA too & even if that's what your evaluator *thinks* the district will want, it sounds like they want way more than what the law actually requires.  Do not assume that the district or even the evaluator knows the law.  Have you read it recently?  Perhaps that will help.  Also, there's been a lot of buzz here lately surrounding the PDE's changing of their website & *their* interpretation of the law.  Seems it is causing districts to believe there is a new law & maybe your evaluator has gotten caught in the mix?  (You could read more about it on the pa-unschoolers list.)

 

I'm giving anywhere from 2-5 samples of the subjects I'm submitting paperwork for plus the one sheet my dd did on fire safety & the info on the trip I arranged to the fire house.

 

IMO, your evalutor is supposed to help you to comply w/ the law.  It doesn't sound like this is happening for you.  

 

It sounds like you found this evalutor on a list but did not get a personal recommendation/s, is that correct?  I wonder if it's like various local homeschool lists: they say they're friendly to unschoolers but they really have more of a school-at-home or eclectic bent?  Perhaps your evalutor is comfortable evaluating unschoolers provided they provide what s/he wants?  

 

My two cents & questions ;-).

Sus


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Old 05-22-2012, 11:03 AM
 
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More ideas and thoughts:

 

Since my ds does not naturally generate paperwork, I usually document some of his projects with photos. Generally, they fall into the science category but it's a good technique for art. Then, I mount them on an 8 1/2 x 11 paper and label them with a brief description. Some people include pamphlets from field trips, as well. That's good for PA history, around here. There are so many historical sights. Oh, that reminds me, ds went to Valley Forge and did one of those worksheet things where you find the answers throughout the exhibits to earn a badge... And here I thought I needed to get a PA history book read so as to have a book title for the log. Seriously, you can't leave the house without tripping over something historic so we always have PA history well covered but like to have something obvious in the port.

 

And fire safety always comes up since ds loves fire. This year, he experimented a bit with burning oils. You could also burn different fabrics to test their natural fire retardancy. Look at the labels in PJs and note how the flammable ones (cotton) are made to be tight fitting and the flow-y nightgowns are either treated or made of a material that melts and pulls away from the flame rather than burning. A photo of a campfire with the ideal precautions (cleared area, emergency bucket of water, shovel for dirt) would also cover fire safety for kids who don't like doing worksheets or drawing escape routes.

 

I'm feeling like I need something mathy, this year. We didn't submit any math, last year... I know he does a ton of math playing Minecraft, though!

 

I did print out some punctuation worksheets because I wanted a visual for reviewing some things before ds took the 5th grade CAT but he didn't write on any of them... One is just drawing lines to match contractions (I am - I'm). Not sure if that's 5th grade but I know it's something many 5th graders don't have mastered. I don't really worry about grade level since my ds is asynchronous and young for his year. He should be 4th grade for some things but his science interest has always been more advanced. I just tell people that's the beauty of homeschooling, that kids can work on different "grade' levels. You really just have to be confident and be able to support your interpretation of the law. There is nothing in the law that says a child needs to be doing the same grade level work in all subjects. It's only the fact that there are "testing years" that has me thinking of grade level at all.


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Old 05-22-2012, 03:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think the evaluator IS helping us comply with the law.  She told us similar to what others here have said - 3 to 5 pages in each subject.  Problem is we are doing them all now because the ones we submitted didn't get accepted for various reasons.  We did get this evaluator on the recommendation of an  friend as well as knowing her for years and learning about unschooling through her.  

 

I honestly don't think the problem is the evaluator.  She knows the school district and what they want to see and what we submitted wasn't adequate.  Anyway, we had a sit down and start doing worksheets session today on the last of the portfolios.  It's almost over, then we just have to cross our fingers that "take two" doesn't get rejected.


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Old 05-22-2012, 05:45 PM
 
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So basically, you have an evaluator who isn't comfortable writing a letter that an appropriate education for these children is taking place based on their portfolios. I still think you have an evaluator problem if she is "rejecting" samples of the children's work because they have mistakes. Work that schooled kids do are not all mistake free, just like they don't all do well on standardized tests.   

 

So this is the first year your friend has homeschooled there? And you don't know any other homeschoolers with kids the ages of hers who would let you take a look at their portfolios?


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Old 05-22-2012, 06:07 PM
 
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I am not from Pennsylvania, so I don't know the specifics of the law, but in general, folks I know who live in more restrictive states seem to do better when they either use a charter school or a private school to supervise instead of calling it homeschooling. Some find creative ways to use their unschooling journey as a curriculum, but that can be tricky. One unschooling mom from PA says, "I will stress again to only include the absolute minimum number of required pages for the portfolio…do NOT be one of these parents with portfolios the size of a phone-book — it only hurts your fellow Homeschoolers." see:  http://www.naturalattachment.com/wordpress/2009/07/11/evaluations-portfolios/

I would also look into what the legal folks at the HSLDA say about it -- see 

http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp?state=pa and also 

http://www.pahomeschool.com/PAlaw.html

http://www.time4learning.com/homeschool/homeschooling_in_pennsylvania.shtml 

http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/regional/PennsylvaniaLegal.htm 

Are there any local yahoo groups you could join for support? If not, I'd start one if I were you!

Good luck! 


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Old 05-24-2012, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We completed the portfolios with printed off the web worksheets instead of the reports.  It's unfortunate, the reports were much more representational of what was learned this year, but it would have been too much work to rewrite them.  We included the recommended 3-5 pages per subject, the book list, the log of days (just a calendar with days we schooled circled) and that's pretty much it.  Now we are just waiting to see if it's acceptable to the evaluator, I think it will be, and then we are submitting it with the letter from the evaluator to the school district.  In our school district they want to see it all, not just the letter from the evaluator.

 

This was and wasn't the first year she homeschooled.  It was the first year she had to answer to the school district, the previous years she homeschooled the kids weren't yet 8.  In between then and now the kids went to Montessori.  It wasn't really a successful school experience, hence the desire to homeschool.

 

At this point my friend's feeling is the worst the school district can do is force her to enroll the kids in school and that's what the plan is anyway.  It feels sad to give up on unschooling, but this end of the year stuff has been a nightmare and it wasn't really working for us.  


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Old 05-26-2012, 02:34 PM
 
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FWIW, I think that if they are unhappy with the 13 year old's handwriting, it sounds like you could reasonably respond by explaining that you decided to homeschool because of a bad school experience, and the handwriting is a deficiency that occurred during his school experience that you've been working on during the year.  

 

I would encourage you to wait until you've successfully gotten through the end-of-year stuff before you decide to give up on unschooling.  It sounds to me like you've figured out what they want now and so jumping through the hoops should be a whole lot easier next time, right?  

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Old 06-11-2012, 10:12 AM
 
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The evaluator IS the problem. I, too, live in PA and unschool. If there hasn't been an evaluation letter yet, change evaluators! PM me for recomendations.

Eliminate handwriting samples, if that is a problem.

Progress is, I believe, more about advancing to more 'difficult' subjects, than improving. By that I mean spelling more difficult words, not getting more correct at the same level.

Less emphasis should be placed on impressing the school district. The point of homeschooling, which the evaluator should be supporting, is meeting the child's needs. NOT the school district.

Honestly, I've never heard of a school district rejecting a portfolio with an approving evaluator's letter.

Wishing you all the best!
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:53 AM
 
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If the kids are going to school or cyber school next year no matter what, does it matter if you do not meet their evaluation standards?  What are the consequences for failure to meet standards?

 

Op, you seem to like the evaluator and are resistant to  changing her, but I am confused as to why.  it is hard to switch professionals if you like them as a person, but the bottom line is she is not giving you what you want and need.

 

I would switch evaluators or send in the information you have as is, if that is an option.

 

I would type up the 13 yr olds essays if they need essays.  If they do not need essays, I would simply not supply them.  

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Old 06-19-2012, 02:29 PM
 
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Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

If the kids are going to school or cyber school next year no matter what, does it matter if you do not meet their evaluation standards?  What are the consequences for failure to meet standards?

 

Op, you seem to like the evaluator and are resistant to  changing her, but I am confused as to why.  it is hard to switch professionals if you like them as a person, but the bottom line is she is not giving you what you want and need.

 

I would switch evaluators or send in the information you have as is, if that is an option.

 

I would type up the 13 yr olds essays if they need essays.  If they do not need essays, I would simply not supply them.  

 

I believe the consequence for not having a portfolio that the school district "approves," is a hearing.  If, after that, it's decided that they are not getting an appropriate education, they are made to enroll in a public or private school.

 

I live in Pennsylvania.  I believe the problem in this situation is an evaluator who either doesn't understand or does not approve of (personally) unschooling.  I've been reading the local lists & a state-wide list for a least a few years.  Frequently when a person asks for a recommendation for an evaluator, the suggest is made to find one that is at least tolerant of your hs'ing style; understanding & supportive would be the ideal.  An evaluator that wants to see lots of school-like evidence that learning is taking place may have a difficult time believing that learning has taken place when evaluating an unschooled child.  

 

Any person coming across this thread & wanting to unschool in PA, please do not think that this is a typical experience.  There are resources available to unschoolers in PA.  A great website for homeschoolers of all kinds is askpauline.com.  There is at least one yahoo group listed on her site that can be joined to find out how to make unschooling in PA doable.  

 

Sus


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Old 06-20-2012, 05:41 PM
 
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Any person coming across this thread & wanting to unschool in PA, please do not think that this is a typical experience.  There are resources available to unschoolers in PA.  A great website for homeschoolers of all kinds is askpauline.com.  There is at least one yahoo group listed on her site that can be joined to find out how to make unschooling in PA doable.  

 

Sus

Yes, sometimes evaluators say they are unschool friendly but their understanding of unschooling is different. I literally had a three page portfolio, this year, with no handwriting samples. My school district is one of the easier ones, but if it weren't, I'd only have a slightly bigger portfolio (maybe 12 pages, some of which would be photos).  It's still much much easier than the amount of paperwork ds and I would each need to do if he were in school or cyber school. 


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