J.B. Blackford

Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.

Once upon a Homeschooling Story…

Such a large portion of almost every American’s life is education: We do the mandatory baker’s dozen of school years and increasingly go on to undergraduate, post-graduate, and sometimes even doctoral work. This is no longer the country where my grandfather used an eighth-grade education to start his own business and support a family of six. 

Coupled with the amount of time dedicated to education are the continually proliferating ways in which we are now able to access it, particularly since the propagation of for-profit schools and online education. To me, how we educate our children, what it is we deem important enough to drill into their memories, and the why — the end goal of it all — is clearly a complex conversation about a broken system. Also, my perspective of it is unlike a large majority of my peers’ in that I never attended a traditional public or private school. 

Technically, I was home educated, but homeschool-schooled, schooling are the usual referents. (On a punctuation side note, you may still see the term written as the hyphenated home-school, but as the practice becomes more prolific, the kenning has dropped the hyphen). My mother (a supervisor in the lingo of the law) chose to homeschool my sister and me — entering first grade and kindergarten respectively — less than a year after Pennsylvania legalized it in 1988. This was a complicated topic at the time, and can still be attacked from psychological, social, cultural, and economic angles. In the future, I will devote some time to more personal treatments of being a homeschooled child, but the purpose here is to give a basic structure of the process. Many people with whom I’ve discussed homeschooling were shocked to discover that there are state-legislated requirements and that, when I graduated from high school, I received a state-certified diploma. 

In Pennsylvania, for a parent, legal guardian, or certified teacher to homeschool a child, the following requirements must be met: 2320641928_4513023506_m

  • Prior to the school year, the supervisor must submit an affidavit with the school district including goals and objectives for that year.
  • Students must complete 180 days of instruction, or, more specifically, 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours at the secondary level.
  • At the end of the school year, students and their supervisor must meet with a certified teacher, generally referred to as an evaluator, whose responsibility is to closely examine work in each subject and submit a written statement to the school district’s superintendent indicating whether or not the students, in the evaluator’s opinion, successfully passed their grades.
  • Samples of work in each subject must be given to the school district superintendent who has the final responsibility to pass students to the next grade. Although you may simply leave your work for review with the superintendent, the supervisor may also choose to schedule a meeting in which to display and discuss the year’s work.
  • There are further specifics to ensure that homeschooled children are adequately educated, like a mandatory number of years devoted to each subject and what that study must include; for example, in grades 9-12, students must complete a minimum of three years of mathematics which must include instruction up to geometry at the very least.  Standardized achievement tests are also required, although only in grades 3, 5, and 8 (but the supervisor may choose to test students at his or her discretion. I took my first achievement test in first grade so that my mom could, “make sure she wasn’t screwing this up too badly.”).

And to avoid going into vastly more detail than anyone could ever desire on this topic, I’ll end here with a mention of PA Homeschoolers (PHAA) — an accreditation agency begun in 1991 to provide homeschooled students with diplomas. In addition to the state’s prerequisites, PHAA has their own addendums, such as requiring secondary students to read at least twenty-five books beyond those which are necessary for basic subject instruction, and a minimum of four of those twenty-five must be pieces of literature deemed “classics.” 

None of this is to say that homeschooling is necessarily “better” than the other types of education available to us; it is simply one of the options that can be a success or a failure, like all of the others, with its own advantages and disadvantages (which I’ll address in a later blog). Yet I find that, although homeschooling has been legalized for over twenty years and continues to gain supporters from a wide range of demographics, the process is still obscured by a haze of mystery and “Otherness”; I still experience open hostility from parents and educators who deem the practice to be selfish, unsubstantiated, or just too unknown to accept. So this is where I rig the framework of requirements within which I was educated so that you, the reader, can more fully appreciate the personal, anedcotal perspective of homeschooling with which I will follow this post in an attempt to illuminate an often-dismissed mode of teaching and edification. 


5 comments on “Once upon a Homeschooling Story…

  1. Pingback: Consider the Con: Obstacles to Homeschooling | JB Blackford

  2. Geri
    January 18, 2013

    Thank you so much for your blog. I have been wanting to find out the perspectives of experienced homeschoolers who are now adults. Helps me to understand the experiences that my child may go through should I decide to homeschool her. :)

    • JB Blackford
      January 18, 2013

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! This is exactly the type of help I was hoping to offer in blogging about this perspective of homeschooling, and I’ll be happy to answer any more specific questions that you have :) Plus, I have more posts on the way about both the tangible elements of homeschooling — resources, projects, etc. — and the developmental ones, like how it affected my experiences in undergrad and grad school.

  3. Jen Reyneri
    February 9, 2013

    Hi- I’m Mary’s friend in FL- and a home-educating mama! This is a fantastic post, and I look forward to reading more! I’ve just started a new blog- about travels and homeschool and returned from a homeschool Blogger’s conference- Beech Retreat. Your perspective as a “graduate” I know will be encouraging to many moms in the midst. Look forward to connecting- as I too, am discovering, can happen in the gap even across the cloud.

    • JB Blackford
      February 11, 2013

      Hi Jen! I’m so glad that you found my blog; it’s always a pleasure to connect with homeschoolers and to get the perspective of parents who are home educating. I look forward to checking out your blog!

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