It’s pretty common for someone moving to PA or moving within PA to ask how a school district treats homeschoolers.
Another version of this question is, “are there any school districts I should avoid?”
I hope I can convince you that this concern is irrelevant and shouldn’t be the basis for your decision to move to a certain area or neighborhood. Below, I’ll try to explain in more detail why I feel that way.
1. PA Law Governs Homeschool Procedure
I can’t stress enough that the best defense against an unaccommodating school district is familiarity with the PA homeschool law. If you read it a few times, you should be able to recognize if someone is asking for something that isn’t required.
Even when we are familiar with the law, our cognitive bias toward procedures and paperwork that applies to enrolled students sometimes pollutes our interpretation of the provisions in law. For example when we read that the law requires 180 days of instruction, our brains tend to default to a school-like schedule but that’s not required at all.
If you’ve read the law a few times (which I strongly advise) and aren’t sure about the language of a certain provision, do a search on this site. Chances are, I have written a post about it. See that magnifying glass in black on the menu bar at the top of the page? Click that to do a search.
The stronger your command of the language of the different provisions of the homeschool law, the more confident you’ll be in complying without overcomplying and recognizing misinformation when you encounter it.
2. “Friendly” Doesn’t Always Translate to Legal
Many school administrators support homeschoolers or are super friendly but still ask for things that the law doesn’t require because they don’t know any better.
I’m usually a little leery when a homeschool parent raves about how “wonderful” the school district is to deal with. When you dig further, you find out that the superintendent raved about her child’s portfolio or was lovely or enthusiastic during the personal interview or provides a long list of “approved evaluators”.
Hopefully you see the problem here. In case you don’t, portfolios are no longer reviewed by superintendents, interviews with school adminstrators aren’t required and you can choose any qualified evaluator. I wouldn’t advise using an evaluator preferred by the school district.
I’m not implying that every nice administrator asks for too much, rather a friendly tone doesn’t always indicate that a district is compliant.
3. Personnel Changes Are Common
Administrative responsibility for homeschoolers tends to be passed around a district like a bottle of hooch at a hobo camp . In the 10 or so years that I homeschooled my children, at least 4 different administrators were in charge of the homeschool files. That’s four different people who I had to explain to that teacher certification isn’t required for supervisors, a copy of a diploma is not required by the law, no I didn’t have to register my children. And yes, my district still asks for all of those things and then some. It’s exhausting.
If you move to a particular area based on the notion that the district is “homeschool friendly”, that could change the next year if a new person who isn’t so homeschool friendly is in charge of the files.
My own district’s cluelessness has had no bearing on the quality of our home education program or opportunities. I live in the best neighborhood imaginable. If I would have moved in our first year of homeschooling to find a more informed district, not only would I have missed out on lifelong friendships for me and my children, I’d still be looking for the perfect district!
4. Different Procedures Within a District
We have two elementary schools in my district, one for each town. The building principal for each elementary school is charged with handling the homeschool paperwork for the elementary students in her respective area or town. I know for a fact that a parent in the other town had a much harder time than I did because she reached out to me. The secretary at the neighboring elementary school was harassing her about medical records and birth dates of her children. By harass, I mean persistent and wouldn’t accept this person’s affidavit without the information that she was requesting.
Even though I did not provide either of those things to the principal of the elementary school in my borough, I was never asked for them.
Can you see how an endorsement from a parent dealing with one group of people could be totally opposite from the experience of other parents in the district?
5. Different Procedures For Different Families
Back when superintendents reviewed portfolios, I received a note when ours were returned verifying that an appropriate education had occurred but with a laundry list of suggestions to adhere to the standards and type of assignments that the public school children were completing.
I reminded the administrator that homeschoolers are not subject to the same standards as their public school counterparts and only samples of work were required, so she had no idea what wasn’t in it. Regardless, it was irrelevant. I got no response and thereafter, she limited her language to a brief “an appropriate education has occurred” with no other comments or suggestions. One year, when I picked up the portfolios, there was no indication at all that she had reviewed the portfolios (that wasn’t my problem so I took them back anyway).
The weird thing is, she continued to criticize and make suggestions to other homeschool parents about their children meeting the same standards as their public school counterparts. I only know it because other parents asked me about it.
I hope I have convinced you not to consider how school personnel treat homeschoolers or handle homeschool paperwork because it can constantly change. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t inform yourself and be firm when districts are asking for information or actions that aren’t required by the homeschool law.
If you’re not confident in your ability to resist inappropriate requests by uninformed and persistent school administrators, the guide I created will help.
“School District Shenanigans” was created to provide parents with a series of templates to help them reply to the most common unauthorized requests by school administrators including:
- request to “register” your child
- copy of diploma or GED
- medical records
- proof of evaluator qualification or address and phone number of an evaluator
- birthdate or grade level
- proof of teacher certification (for parents who aren’t filing as private tutors)
and many more.
Now is a great time to buy the guide because it’s $5 off until July 31, 2017. Enter code “July5” at checkout to get this resource for only $10.