A common source of confusion about the homeschool law is mingling the log requirement with the time requirement. I get questions all the time about what form is best for the log (calendar, planner, etc) signaling that a parent is confusing it with keeping track of days or hours.
The PDE and the HSLDA don’t make it any easier since both advise creating the log with some indicator of date (though they disagree about the form that’s acceptable) to prove the law’s instructional time requirement.
True, both are required but only the log must take some physical (or digital) form and be included in the portfolio. Let’s look at the relevant provision of the homeschool law.
“The portfolio shall consist of a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used”- 24 P.S. §1327.1(e)(1).
There’s a lot of debate about the definition of “contemporaneously” but let’s put that aside for now.
According to the language, the log is simply a list of titles of reading materials used. Dates or any other indicator of time is not required or even mentioned in the language. Only the title is required. Therefore, a simple list is acceptable.
How to Prove “Contemporaneously”
The legislature left it completely up to the supervisor to record the log “contemporaneously” by not further defining or elaborating on that term. When you think about it, dictating specifics in this regard would have been impractical and unrealistic.
For example, some homeschoolers don’t rely on reading materials at all, others employ field trips, project-based learning and other rich experiences to educate their children. A log would be minimal or non-existent in this situation. Others choose a textbook for each subject and the student works from it for the entire year. I would argue that recording the textbook title repeatedly isn’t required by the law. My own practice was to record the title for any year-long texts once at the top of the log.
I’ve heard evaluators suggest that a coffee-stained or well-worn paper written with different pens or pencils is the only way to show that a log was kept “contemporaneously with instruction”. What about a google doc or a well-preserved page in a binder? My point is….there’s just no way to tell.
Now, let’s look at the separate provision in the law dictating the time for instruction.
Instructional Time Requirement
According to the homeschool law, the home education program must provide:
“a minimum of one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction or nine hundred (900) hours of instruction per year at the elementary level, or nine hundred ninety (990) hours per year at the secondary level:” 24 P.S. § 1327.1(c)
The law does not dictate any method, manner or procedure for a supervisor to keep track of those days. Neither does the law require a particular form of “proof”. No mention of record of attendance, calendar, planner, etc.
How can a supervisor “prove” the time requirement has been met? The law leaves that entirely up to the supervisor who, by signing an affidavit, sworn under oath, attested that the home education program would comply with the law.
Some evaluators require some written proof that the time requirement was met, whether with the log or separately. In my view, a checklist of days or a detailed calendar is no more verifiable than the statement on the affidavit.
Let’s be honest, a planner, calendar or checklist can be fabricated and there’s no way to tell whether a log was recorded daily, hourly, weekly or at the end of the year. Ultimately, you have to trust the supervisor.
To summarize, the log is not an attendance record. It’s a list of reading materials used by the student. Whether it’s extensive or brief is irrelevant and shouldn’t be confused or mingled with the instructional time requirement by an evaluator to determine whether an appropriate education is occurring.