I'm moving to PA next month from KY. It seems the past 30 years have been a hard fought battle to make homeschooling even possible out there. They require lots of proof you're performing up to standards and are qualified before and after each school year (sworn notarized affidavits, vaccine records (or exemptions), doctor records, dentist records, certified teacher evaluations, portfolios, AND professionally administered testing). Here you really just send a note to the person in charge of attendance to let them know not to expect your child in school because they will be home schooled, and keep some record of days you had school and what your students are working on (that's never evaluated). I am grateful for one thing though, they don't start requiring school or documentation and testing until age 8 there, so we have some time to just do as works for us and not stress. I'm very glad not to put my 6 year old through standardized testing, but 8 isn't far away. Anyone else in a strict state? How do you deal with it? Ever been audited on things or anything?
Both my sisters homeschooled their kids for many years in PA and my impression is that there is a very large and active homeschooling network in PA. My sense is that everyone has really learned how to just work around the regulations. After their first couple of years I never heard them complain. Can you plug into a network right away to get the skinny?
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I'm unschooling in PA. The regulations sound worse than they are. The standardized tests do not have to be professionally administered. We mail order the CAT for, I think, $25, and ds takes it at home over the course of a week. The only stipulation is the parents are not to administer it. An older sibling, neighbor, grandparent can do it. Or you can trade kids with another homeschool parent. There is no minimum required score to "pass."
Check out Pauline's website if you haven't already. You can see examples of what other people do and you can print off handy forms. www.askpauline.com
So I print off an affidavit and get it notorized, my first year reporting I included a vaccine exemption (on philosophical grounds), write up a vague list of educational objectives (and use the same one every year) for the beginning of the year. Technically the school district doesn't need medical records although they frequently think they do. Mine was satisfied with a doctor's note saying my ds had a physical. They've never asked about the dentist. They called me this year because they were required to have vaccine records up to date. I reminded the secretary that they had an exemption on file for ds and that there was nothing to update since he is unvaccinated. That was all they needed.
I picked out an evaluator who understands unschooling. She charges $35. I give her samples of work my ds has done throughout the year. Some samples are photographs of activities or experiments. She also needs to see a chart with 180 checked off squares (attendance chart), test results if it's a testing year, and a book list of things we've looked at or read that year. She asks ds a couple of very open ended questions and writes a letter saying an appropriate education is taking place.
I then mail her letter along with the things I showed her to the school district. After you've done it once, it isn't that bad. It's a little paperwork for me but it hardly impacts ds at all.
Find an evaluator you feel comfortable with. I would avoid tutors, especially those that work with your district, as I had an unpleasant experience with one. You didn't specify if what part of the state you're in. The Pittsburgh area is the headquarters for phen (pa home education network) and can recommend evaluators. I believe there area also lots of homeschooling groups there. The Philadelphia area has more Christian homeschool groups. I'm not sure about other areas.
The regulations are not bad, once you've been through it. Maybe you can find an evaluator and get a prortfolio reviewed next spring, just to get a feel for how well you and the evaluator work together.