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"Boxadoo" -- a new homeschool digital portfolio tool! BETA testers needed ;-)
Editor's Note from Susan Richman: This sounds like a very interesting new product that many in Pennsylvania might especially want to explore. A small but growing number of homeschooling families in PA are now creating digital portfolios on their computers, rather than physical notebooks-- and I'm sure this trend will grow. In thinking about this option, I'm reminded, too, of the young friends of mine now in college who have been compiling *digital portfolios* of their work in education studies, demonstrating all they've been learning and doing and creating over their 4 years of study. This homeschooling family who has developed 'Boxadoo' is specifically looking for families ready to help them *test* their product-- can't think of a better group than homeschoolers in Pennsylvania to help with this project! Could give your family a whole new motivation for working on portfolios *early* this year! Let me know if you opt to take part-- and how you find this particular option, designed with homeschooling families in mind. And if you help out in this testing stage, you'll earn a 20% discount on the very reasonable annual fee of $49 for a whole family. Take a look!
Hi, my name is Joanna Herndon, homeschool mom of 4 from Wesley Chapel, Florida. My husband, Jason and I have created a homeschool management tool called Boxadoo that we would like to share with the homeschool community. Boxadoo is an online tool that allows you to create a portfolio, record grades, upload photos, videos and manage events. We are currently working on sign-ups for our BETA that will take place in the next few weeks. We are excited to sign up homeschool families and allow them to check out the features and hear feedback during this initial BETA testing. If this is something your homeschool community might be interested in or benefit from, please pass this information along!You can find us at www.boxadoo.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/boxadoo. On our website, we will be collected email address for those interested in participating in our BETA. Please feel free to check out the site and email me if you have any questions!
Boxadoo right now features the following...
Newly Updated PA Department of Education website re/ homeschooling....
Editor's Note from Susan: Sorry it's been so long since a new posting has gone up!! Howard and I are just now (almost!!) feeling caught up on things after our Fall Testing trip around PA. We've also been *very* grateful and happy that our wonderful daughter Maya (Molly) and her husband just welcomed in their first little baby in Israel where they live-- the baby's name is Nitsah (rhymes with 'pizza' ;-), and means 'little flower bud' in Hebrew ), and the new family is just doing wonderfully! And I've never been so *grateful* for our hi-tech ways of communicating-- getting to see the baby on Skype has been a delight! Amazing times we live in ;-). We'll now be getting back to regularly updating things on our website, and being more in touch with homeschoolers. Thanks for your patience!
Just the other day I went to use the PA Dept of Education (PDE) website link on our right-hand sidebar and realized it was non-functional-- the PDE has changed their website extensively, and they now have a whole new section for homeschooling, and I wanted to give you the link and let you know some of the excellent new resources you can find there.
Their opening 'general info' page is at this link titled Home Education and Private Tutoring HomePage. From here you'll also see helpful sidebar links for: educational options, evaluators, private tutors, diplomas, statistics, laws and regulations, and 'overview of homeschooling'. Explore all these sections-- you'll find valuable information, and I feel most is very accurate and helpful and concise.
The section on homeschooling diplomas may be especially helpful-- it spells out....
My Friend, the Piano
Editor's Note from Susan Richman: I know you are all going to feel inspired by Ginger Frack's wonderful major personal essay about her experiences over many years in playing piano-- and I wanted to give you a sense of why she happened to write this paper. In the PA Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency (PHAA) guidelines for high school English credit, we require students to write at least one major paper that's at minimum 2500 words long each year-- this is roughly 10-pages double spaced typed. Ginger is one of my (wonderful!!) evaluation students, and this was her paper for this past school year -- her 10th grade year. I think this paper is a terrific example of what we're hoping to inspire by this writing requirement-- and may inspire other students to consider tackling a personal topic rather than a subject area 'research paper'. I always hear from families each year who somehow thought we were requiring only a formal research paper. Though those types of writings can certainly meet this requirement, a personal experience extended paper like Ginger's is also a very meaningful way to meet this goal-- and in Ginger's case, I knew this paper deserved a broader audience as I think she has a lot to say to other homeschooling families about the persistence that needs to be shown, and the key role of positive experiences with others, before real motivation might actually 'kick in'. Enjoy this thoroughly-- and know that Ginger is just as delightful and lively in person as she shows herself to be in this paper. I know she has a very meaningful future ahead of her-- and I'm so grateful that she shares both her growing up years with her piano and her future musical dreams here through this paper.
My Piano... My Friend
My number was given; my name called. As I walked past the rows of distraught faces I wondered what had happened to the beautiful world that I had known just hours before. Here, shut up in the dimly lit room with so many others who wished for an escape, I trudged to the front to face my doom. This was my first time, but I had heard many tales of horror from those whom fate had also chosen to undergo such torture. This was….my first piano recital.
I can hardly remember life without the piano. When I was very young, my grandma promised her three children, (my mom, my uncle George, and my aunt Gwen) that she would buy them all pianos if they would get lessons for their children. The entire family took the bait. Through this choice, the piano has changed my life, and I believe that God is going to continue to use it to change my future.
I began taking piano lessons when I was only four years old. I can still remember Miss Julie putting a blue crayon sticker on the back of one of my hands, and red one on the other. I couldn’t believe I had to know my right hand from my left hand to be able to play that huge black monster. Was piano really going to be this hard?
After about a year of lessons, we had our first piano recital....
Reflections on the PA Homeschool Evaluation Process...
We plan to have a series of articles over the next several months from a variety of writers, sharing their experiences with the Pennsylvania homeschool law evaluation process, including what makes a meaningful portfolio. Every year there are many families starting in on this for the first time-- both families new to private homeschooling and those with 8 year olds who are filing under the PA homeschool law for the first time. We'll have thoughts from experienced evaluators with lots of perspective on working with a broad range of families and children, and thoughts from parents (both those who've been homeschooling for a long time, and those newer to evaluations...). To get this feature started, I wanted to post first an article I wrote a number of years ago reflecting on the evaluation process. This photo is the cover of our daughter Hannah's portfolio from her 3rd grade year-- still proudly having a place on our family room portfolio shelf... Hannah has now graduated from college, after majoring in studio art and sociology and Judaic studies in college... and yes, she even has a wonderful fulltime job!:
Like every other homeschooler in PA, I’ve done lots of reflecting about the Pennsylvania homeschooling law. I’ve heard all the arguments against it— the law is burdensome, we don’t need anyone to help us, we should not need to be accountable to the government, we could use our time better actually teaching our children instead of documenting everything, it’s a matter of freedom, it’s our right, they do it in other states, who needs diplomas.... and more and more.
But then 1:00pm comes, and I’ve (hopefully...) gotten the dining room table cleared off, and I’m ready to welcome in yet one more family for homeschooling evaluations. I’ve seen over 150 children this spring, and each one is unique— from the eager little 4th grader telling me about his 4H project raising chickens, to the elegant senior showing me her original jewelry she designed and made in the community college class she took this year, the programs for the harp concerts she performed in, and the major research paper she completed on textile embellishment techniques. Or there’s the girl who hadn’t known what in the world she wanted to do with her life after graduating— but in her senior year, she’d gotten a job at a local restaurant, and was now being trained to develop staff at new restaurants all across the country. She’s the top employee, and has a whole new sense of direction and a whole new confidence— and I rejoice with her about it all. I’m immersed in looking into each family’s educational world for an hour or more, focusing intently on what they’ve accomplished and learning all about their approach to learning. We talk together, usually laugh a good bit, share stories, share about many new resources, and more. It’s my work, but it’s also my time for really enjoying these very different families. I appreciate each one, and feel blessed to be a part of their lives.
And then it hits me again— this law isn’t just about ‘paperwork’. It’s about people. About kids and parents, sharing about their year with someone who really wants to hear all about it, who’s eager to see the highpoints and celebrate them with the family....
Starting in on your Homeschool Portfolios-- Now!
Susan Richman is editor of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers and the Coordinator for the PA Homeschoolers AP Online classes, leader of one of the AP US History class sections, and a homeschool evaluator. This is an article that first appeared in our print magazine back in the Spring of 2000, when our daughter Hannah was in 8th grade-- and it's still appropriate now. For those readers in other states, here in Pennsylvania we have a homeschool law requirement of preparing a portfolio of our students' work, which is reviewed at the end of the school year by a private evaluator of the family's choice. Interestingly, creating a portfolio of meaningful student work is considered a very worthwhile activity when preparing for college. You might find developing a portfolio a very special way to really preserve best work and communicate with family and friends about all you do in your homeschooling.
(This was one of Hannah's portfolio notebooks from 3rd grade-- what a family treasure!)
Is this a familiar scene to you? It was January, halfway through the school year, and my daughter Hannah’s homeschooling work for the year was piling up. It was stacked in various ‘portfolio bins’ about the house, as well as in folders and backpacks and cluttered desktops, and many computer files. But none of it was yet organized in our final 3” thick portfolio notebook for the year. That notebook was still sitting on a shelf in our project room quite empty and forlorn.
I kept on saying that we’d get to it this coming Friday, or on Sunday afternoon, or next Monday— but I kept letting these little deadlines slip away as the normal busy pace of our days took over instead. But finally we did it— we took that most important step of getting started. I usually like my kids to work on their portfolios themselves, but I quickly realized that the task was too daunting for Hannah to begin herself at this point. It was my fault we’d waited so long to get going, and so it was my responsibility to get us started....
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