Area mothers discuss homeschool law

Mothers with The Elk County Homeschoolers said that while homeschooling has traditionally drawn criticism for a perceived lack of oversight and regulation, Pennsylvania's Home Education Law establishes strict requirements that homeschoolers must follow. The mothers explained that while there is a great deal of freedom afforded homeschoolers in teaching and enriching their children the guidelines for doing so as spelled out in Pennsylvania's Home Education Law, Act 169 of 1988 are stringent.According to the law a child receiving a "home education" must receive a minimum of 180 days of instruction or 900 hours for each year at the elementary level, or 990 hours per year at the secondary level.Prior to commencing homeschool instruction the mothers said an affidavit of intent must be filed with the local school district's superintendent.This includes the parent or instructors high school diploma, child’s medical and immunization records, and general objectives for the year for each child receiving a home education. In addition, Pennsylvania law requires that a record be kept listing instructional materials as well as a portfolio containing samples of writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student.A yearly evaluation conducted by a state certified evaluator is also required and consists of an interview with the student and review of the portfolio at which point it is determined whether or not the child is demonstrating progress. If a child is deemed to have shown insufficient progress an evaluator may require that portions of instruction from that grade level be repeated.As SMASD Superintendent Ann Kearney explained, following an evaluation, "All of the information then is turned in to the local school districts with a letter from a certified teacher who has reviewed the portfolio and verifies that the student has done the year's work.""Also the (standardized) testing that those students do is done through their advisor," Kearney said.In Pennsylvania standardized testing of homeschooled children must take place at the third, fifth, and eighth grade levels.The mothers said that while Pennsylvania homeschoolers have the option of taking the PSSA's can take other nationally normed standardized achievement tests are acceptable. One such alternative accepted by the Commonwealth is the California Achievement Test which can be administered in three to four hours.Pick up a copy of the Friday, May 4, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.