Dear Representative Rohrer,
We have homeschooled our three children in Pennsylvania for the past 18 years graduating our youngest just this past June. It has been a rewarding experience for our whole family. We were one of three families who in 1984 started the local homeschooling support group. We experienced the challenges of being pioneering homeschoolers without a homeschooling law in PA. The enactment of the present homeschooling law brought welcome relief and protection to homeschool families in PA.
HSLDA had worked closely with state homeschool leaders in the passage of that law. It is hard for me to understand why something that HSLDA felt was so good then is now in their opinion so bad. The homeschooling law has been an encouragement to me personally by providing a framework for accountability. I identify with a comment on this issue by Debra Bell when she said, "I believe accountability deals with the realities of the sinful nature of man. If folks can claim to be homeschooling without demonstrating to any earthly authority (governmental or otherwise) that they are responsibly overseeing their children's education; some of us will progressively slide towards greater and greater abuse of this right and threaten the freedom of all."
The inclusion of the yearly educational objectives in the affidavit gave me motivation to realign my goals for the coming year. The portfolio gave my children and me a look at academic accomplishments during the year. Although I'm not a proponent of standardized testing it did not harm my children to have that experience the three times they were required to be tested. My children always enjoyed the time of evaluation and the opportunity to show to someone outside our family the accomplishments of the year. The portion of the proposed law summarized by HSLDA as "Protect home education programs from any state oversight except what is contained in the statutory law enacted by the General Assembly in this bill". This isn't happening now and I don't see how it will happen in the future either.
When our family discussed whether or not to participate in a state program which offered a diploma to homeschoolers, we concluded that it was not a high place but would provide a guide and standard of academic achievement that would benefit our family. Choosing to participate in a program that offers a diploma is an option that should continue for any family who wants to make that choice. Incorporating the guidelines for achieving the diploma into our educational goals was neither burdensome nor difficult. These easily blended with the homeschooling program we used (Advanced Training Institute International). When our oldest graduated from high school and went to the headquarters of the parent organization of our homeschooling program, he was admired and respected for having a high school diploma. An article on the HSLDA web site recently told the story of a young man who was unable to become a conductor because he did not have a diploma. None of our children is presently choosing to pursue higher education. Therefore, for us the diploma provides our children with a symbol of their academic achievement.
Our homeschooling program (ATII) provides contact with homeschoolers nationwide. I find homeschooling families in unregulated states to be conscientious and committed to doing their best for their children. They have made comments that they see PA's diploma programs as a way of establishing credibility and accountability which would be a help to them personally.
We therefore would urge you to support the McIlhattan amendment and make your bill an alternative, not a replacement, of the current home education law.
Thank you for your consideration of our view on behalf of the future of homeschooling in Pennsylvania.
Ted and Karen Holt