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Reflections on the PA Homeschool Evaluation Process...
Susan Richman, 12/30/2010

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!:

hannah portfolio.JPG

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....


Comments: 10

Teens and health and safety-- fabulous resource in 'The Survivors Club'
Susan Richman, 12/13/2010

When I'm consulting with families about homeschooling at the high school level, sometimes parents ask what they should use for health and safety education-- especially safety. My 'old' answer used to be, "Well, you'll be teaching them to drive at some point?? There's your safety credit." But now I have something extraordinary to add to that.

Last spring when I was about to head off on a weeklong evaluation trip, seeing lots of wonderful homeschooling families way over in Eastern PA, my husband kindly borrowed a whole set of CD audio books from the library, hoping I might enjoy one of them on the long drive. Looking them over, I passed over the novels, the non-fiction US history books, the biographies, and instead zeroed in on something that I wouldn't have thought initially that I would have found intriguing. It was Ben Sherwood's new book The Survivors Club.

 Listening to the open chapter, talking about how to survive an airplane crash, I was hooked-- the writing was vivid, the stories and interviews with experts in the field (including those who'd survived plane crashes...) were rivetting, and I couldn't wait for my upcoming 6 hour drive east. I ended up listening to the book through about three times-- and every homeschooling family I met with on the trip got to hear about the latest chapter I'd just heard.

And I realized that a book like this, along with using the accompanying website at www.thesurvivorsclub.org,  would make one of the best homeschooling safety and health courses I could imagine-- and I knew this would be much more engaging for teens....


Comments: 18

Math Games-- great for holiday gift giving! here are some ideas.... some free!
Susan Richman, 12/8/2010

Have you ever added math games to your homeschooling program?? Many families only do math textbooks day after day-- and often by sending their kids off to 'do their math work' all by themselves. Then they wonder why their kids 'hate math'! If you look at the families where math is really enjoyable, often you'll see at least one parent who enjoys math learning-- and someone who is ready to introduce their child to a wide range of intriguing math games. I'm not just talking about games that 'drill' math facts either-- but games that require real thinking, evaluation, strategy, and fun... along with math skills.

Check out our online store for some good choices-- the game TWENTY-FOUR has always been a real hit with kids, and I've rarely seen groups of kids having such a good time thinking fast as when playing SET. And 'Rat-a-Tat Cat' is great fun even for the 'younger crowd'-- my grandkids loved this one even at the pre-school stage, but elementary kids can really play it well. Full descriptions of each game in our store. Games can be nice 'stocking stuffers'-- and most homeschool kids won't fault you for buying an *educational* game for the holidays! And by the way-- in this photo of '24', the object is to make the 4 numbers on the card equal 24-- by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. You must use each number once. Can you figure this one out?? Let's see.... 5 x 4 = 20... plus 5 = 25, minus 3 = 22... oh, doesn't work. But do you get the idea? Can you solve this one? Post your solution below as a comment!

And here's a new math game called QUADSUM that is sort of like a more mathematically challenging version of Sudoku-- it's played on computer (for just $7.95 you can download the game-- a bargain...), and there's a demo game online that's free to try....


Comments: 310


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