Quick Facts for Getting Started with Homeschooling
One of the absolute #1 questions I get is, “How do I start?”
Pennsylvania has some of the most stringent homeschool laws in the country. Education in PA in general is some of the toughest. Did you know a PA teaching license can transfer to almost any state in the country? Programs are so rigorous some states purposely advertise teaching positions here. As a homeschool mom myself, I do not want our state in our “business” any more than you do, but let me share a story.
I was a full-time, public school teacher. We had a new student start the beginning of our second semester. I was told they had only ever been homeschooled. They were placed in my 10th grade class. We did reading skills tests every week, required by the school. This particular student had a 3rd grade reading level, as a 16yr old 10th grader. In this instance, I do not “blame” whatever parent was supposed to be doing their education, but the evaluator that wasn’t doing their job to help support the parents and student.
I knew that when I started doing homeschool consults & evaluations, that I would never let a child get so far behind and would diligently work to the best of my ability to help be that middle person to make sure stories like the one I experienced don’t repeat. There is something to be said for a bit of checks-and-balance.
With that being said, here are a few key points to help get you started:
-The compulsory age of education in PA is 6. Unless you have already registered your Kindergartener for public Kindergarten, you do NOT have to register as a homeschooler until after your child has turned 6.
-If your child turns 6 June of 2023, you would need to register them before the start of the school year in the fall of 2023.
-If your child turns 6 after the start of the school year, say December 2023, you would not need to enroll them until the following school year 2024. You can still choose to homeschool them, and just register them as a 1st or 2nd grader.
-If your child has an IEP with the school district/IU, you CAN still homeschool.
-Your objectives to turn into the school district must be signed off by a teacher with a special ed certification or psychologist.
-Your evaluation at the end of the school year must also be completed by a teacher with a special ed certification or psychologist.
-You CAN work out an agreement with the school district/IU for your child to continue to receive services while also homeschooling.
-You do not have to answer or provide anything to the school district unless they send it by certified mail.
-The last 2 years has seen an uptick in school districts “over-reaching,” and asking parents for all kinds of additional information. It’s not necessarily ILLEGAL, but it also isn’t totally kosher. But what this does is set precedence. If enough unknowing families respond, it will become expected- and not everyone wants to share that information. To the letter of the law, you do not have to provide them any additional forms, curriculum, medical records, etc. Keep all information to the bare-minimum, and if you have a question, reach out to your evaluator- or me!
-How do I track my days?
-PA requires 180 school days. As a homeschooler, you can register as early as July 1st, and must have your days completed and evaluation in by June 31st. You have a full 365 days to complete your 180 days. And the bonus is, you have all 7 days of the week to get in learning.
-How you need to track those days is dependent on your evaluator. I tell families you can track this however works for you. Check marks on a calendar, detailed days in a planner, a tracker page, etc.
–What counts as a day? Any day learning happens. That includes making cookies, playing in the snow, if your child helps take care of your chickens…learning doesn’t have to be “classically academic.”
How do I know what kind of curriculum or homeschool style I have?
The bulk of homeschool families are a combination of “styles.” I don’t know any homeschool families that fit into any of these moulds perfectly, or are so strict that they “do not cross borders.” It may even take you some trial and error! Within these styles there are dozens of curriculum, co-ops, book lists, etc. Part of what I do during consults is help you answer questions, sift through your options, and if you are one of my evaluation families, talk out when things aren’t working and ways you can adjust.
–Charlotte Mason is a personal fav, and one I tend to lean towards
– Wild + Free is built on many CM principals
–Unschooling has gained popularity the last few years and essentially is allowing your child to choose their direction of study and learn organically (in the most broken down short explanation possible)
–Classical is another very popular HS style. It is based on the “trivium” model, children move through three main stages of learning: concrete learning (the grammar stage), critical learning (the logic stage), and abstract learning (the rhetoric stage)”
–Montessori style is typically focused on early education, and gives children a lot of freedom to be creative and imaginative!
–Waldorf is very similar to classical in that it is typically focused around 3 “age groupings,” with many of the skills and focuses of CM and Unschooling.
Homeschooling is not school at home.
Stick with me here. It can be very hard for parents who went to public school themselves, or even already have child(ren) in public school to get out of the thought that they should be “doing school” at least 6hrs a day. So let me break it down a bit.
-There’s usually 3-5min between periods/classes. Multiply that by 8-10 periods and you’ve got anywhere from 30min to an hour just doing class transition.
-Elementary still does group bathroom breaks. 2 of those in a day are 30-40min total, maybe even more.
-Somewhere around 30-45min for lunch.
-Ever have a class with that one kid? The teacher gives instructions, and they ALWAYS ask, “what am I supposed to do again?” And that’s before we go into teachers having to handle any behavior problems.
By the time you break a school day down, your child may actually only really be doing 2hrs of direct instruction. If they are fast in one subject, they have to sit and wait for everyone else before moving on. If they need time in another, they get rushed through.
Homeschool affords you the ability to take as much time as you need on a subject, while moving through ones you can, at the speed of your child. You have the flexibility to go to the bathroom whenever, snack whenever, go outside any time, or decide to pick up and go on a field trip any time you want. If the chapter book you chose isn’t working, you can pivot and switch. 1-2 hours for littles is pretty standard, working up to 4ish hours at the secondary level.
Have more questions? Overwhelmed by curriculum? Panicking about homeschooling your high schooler? Ready to take the next step?
Check out my consult, evaluation, tutoring, or contact page!
As an educator and a mother myself, it is my joy to help support families on their own personal educational journey. If none of the above resources are what you are looking for, please feel free to contact me