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Newly Updated PA Department of Education website re/ homeschooling....
Susan Richman, 11/17/2011

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 all the varied ways homeschool students might earn diplomas (online program, umbrella schools, parent-issued diplomas, Commonwealth diploma / GED, *and* the PDE process for recognition of home education organizations in PA (like the PA Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency program). All names of current organizations offering home education diplomas in Pennsylvania are listed in this section, in a very helpful chart at the bottom of the page. Right now there are nine programs listed!! Many good choices for families. 
There is a good section of the site that discusses the PA law governing homeschoolers taking part in extra-curricular activities at public schools, sharing the guidelines involved in this process. Of course, left out of the discussion is the myriad ways that homeschoolers are involved in extra-curricular activities *outside* of the public school system, through homeschool sports programs, music and theater programs, co-op activities, and local community options. 
There is also clear information on standardized testing for homeschoolers, although it unfortunately doesn't contain a direct link to the PDE list of standardized tests that meet the requirement--here's the link (you'll need to scroll down just a bit on this page to come to it...). including an info link to the new Keystone Exams for various subject areas at the high school level. I wasn't aware till now that these new exams were now 'in place'. Homeschoolers of course do NOT need to take these exams, but the PDE site does state that if a homeschooling family would want  to take part in this subject area testing program for secondary students, they would be welcome to do so. Tests are now available in Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Literature, English Composition, Biology, Chemistry, US History, World History, and Civics and Government. Testing would of course be free for homeschoolers. I could imagine there might be some homeschoolers that would welcome this sort of extra level of assessment as a motivational tool for their students, and their is full info on the website on what is involved in each test to help you make this decision. Sometimes it's just interesting for us to see 'what the schools are aiming at', to help us feel grateful that we are not a part of that! 
I commend Suzanne Tallman, the PDE contact for homeschooling issues-- she has really worked hard to update the PDE website in helpful ways, and she is ready to hear from you if you have questions or feel something might not be correct on the site. She is also helpful in getting information about the homeschooling law to school districts, and in helping families work through challenges with a particular district. 

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