Being a homeschool evaluator myself, along with homeschooling my own children, I am on a number of local homeschool pages. I recently saw a parent searching for a homeschool evaluator. It was followed by evaluators commenting saying they didn’t need to worry about it until the end of the school year. As a chronic procrastinator, I must vehemently disagree. The reasons below are exactly why you SHOULD be looking for an evaluator as soon as you can and not wait until the last minute- though most of us are able to squeeze in the later-taters.
- Pennsylvania has some fairly hard fast laws. Actually, some of the toughest in the country. Letters from your evaluator must be turned in by June 30th. We can not complete evaluations prior you you fulfilling your 180 days. If you get to day 180 on June 29th, you’re giving nobody enough time to get what they need together and done, including yourself.
- Every evaluator has varying requests/needs. Our job is to assess that your child is learning in compliance with state law. How that is done and what that looks like can be different for each. Some evaluators require stringent records and binders over flowing with work examples, while others prefer digital or a “less is more” approach. If you wait until last minute, you may find yourself scrambling to “back plan” or collect what you need for your evaluation.
- You want an evaluator that works for YOUR FAMILY. There’s a really good chance you’re not in the public school system because it wasn’t working for your family. There’s a really good chance your evaluator is in the homeschool world for similar reasons. We are humans and thus our personalities are obviously going to be different. If you wait until the last minute to find an evaluator, they may, “get the job done” but the experience may not be as pleasant as it could be.
- To go along with the above point, there are a LOT of homeschool curriculums. There are also a LOT of homeschool philosophies and styles. Some evaluators are more comfortable or knowledgeable in some than others. These variables can make your evaluation process a breeze or more difficult. Classical education is very different from Unschooling. Finding an evaluator that understands your style of homeschooling means that you’re more likely going to get along (#3) and be in alignment with necessary expectations for the actual evaluation (#2).
- All evaluators offer various additional services. Some of these services are free. Some of them come at an additional cost. For example, I do homeschool consults. I LOVE to help new homeschool families work through getting started, answer questions about PA laws and connect them to resources. It’s a free service and there’s no strings that require you to then use me as your evaluator at the end. I just have a heart and joy in seeing families discover homeschooling! Others only do evaluations. Some will proctor exams/state testing, others offer diploma programs, etc… Again waiting last minute may mean missing out on additional support and avenues.
- Most evaluators have consistent families each year. This means that along with bringing on new families, they are already filling their schedule in their brains with current ones. Though evaluations don’t always take very long, they do still take time. It’s just nice for us to know that you’ll be on our schedule sooner rather than later.
Now that you know WHY it’s important to find an evaluator sooner rather than later, here are some questions to ask as you get started. Do NOT feel bad for asking these questions, or interviewing a few evaluators before choosing. And if an evaluator gives you push-back for asking, #redflag. Some evaluators have websites and may already have this information freely and readily available to you too- that’s a win!
- Where did you go to college and earn your education degree? What degree do you have?
- This is important because if you need a special education evaluation, only those with their special education certification can complete your evaluation and sign off on your yearly objectives.
- Did you teach in a classroom?
- This may not be the top of the list, BUT it can potentially tell you that your evaluator has an understanding of state standards, and can accurately assess your student. I am personally wary of those who have their license, and never taught in a classroom of any kind (home included). I had a terrible experience with a professor that actually had no classroom experience outside of teaching college classes.
- Did or do you homeschool your children? What kind of style did you use?
- Again, you want to know that your evaluator will jive with your style, that they understand homeschool life, and have maybe even homeschooled children successfully themselves.
- What is required for them to complete their evaluation?
- As per state law, we must have record of 180 days of schooling (truancy), test scores (depending on year), as well as examples. Really, it’s the examples portion that can vary drastically. Know what you need before you need it so you don’t go insane trying to gather 180 days of work on June 27th for you evaluation on June 28th, so you can get your letter June 29th, to turn it in June 30th.
- How much does evaluations cost?
- Again, this varies a LOT and is dependent upon the age of the student, and what you also need as the parent for their records (test scores, diploma, etc). Some have a higher fee for the 1st student in the family, and then all subsequent ones are at a discount. Most charge a bit more for high school evaluations than elementary ones as they require more in-depth reporting.
Hopefully you now feel MUCH more confident in not only getting started, but finding the right evaluator for you and your family!
If you have any questions about homeschooling, or my evaluation process, check out my TNB Homeschool Evaluation page!