2015-07-16 10.23.53My son is in eleventh grade.


Did I really just say that?  Could that adorable little boy who used to run around the block to watch the garbage truck every Thursday really be a junior in high school? Oh, where has the time gone?

Well at least planning a junior year in high school was easier the second time around.  I've already been through it once with my daughter who is a junior in college this year.  (Don't get me started on those tears again!) I learned from a few more years experience, more research, and yes, from the mistakes I made the first time.

So what exactly are we doing this year in our homeschool for his junior year? Thanks for asking!

In Pennsylvania, the following credits are mandatory for graduation:

  • English -  4 credits
  • Math - 3 credits
  • Science - 3 credits
  • Social Studies -3 credits
  • Arts & Humanities- 2 credits

For English, this year, I decided to focus completely on Literature and a Research Paper.  My son is on the local school district's football team and, as I learned last year, there's a lot of time in his schedule devoted to football so I determined to wait on the research paper until the Spring semester.  He'll be taking an online course - probably here. For the literature aspect, I decided to give him some more of his own leadership this year - which is not easy for me - but I'm thinking it may be beneficial.  Basically, he needs to read about  15-20 books (depending on length; some longer works may count as two books).  I have only made three specific titles mandatory this year:  All Quiet on the Western Front, All Creatures Great and Small and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Yep- that's it. He has to decide the rest for himself - with some guidance of course!  All the books that he chooses must be sound quality literature and NOT considered TWADDLE (he may pick ONE book that I would consider twaddle just for fun if he chooses but one is the limit!).  A minimum of 2 books that he chooses MUST be considered 'classics' by at least one reliable source as deemed by myself. He will be giving both oral and written narrations of all the books he reads (including a few that we will use as read alouds).

For Consumer Math & Finance, we are using a combination of the Abeka Consumer Math curriculum and Dave Ramsey's homeschool curriculum titled Foundations in Personal Finance as well as taking part in the monthly budget meetings held by my husband and myself.

Science this year will be an Anatomy & Physiology class taken with the local homeschool group. I wasn't thrilled about taking part of this since it would take up our Tuesday afternoons and affects my ability to get my youngest son to swimming lessons but as my older son thinks a science major may be in his future, I felt it important enough to find a class with a teacher that knows more about this subject than me!

One credit will also be given for Home Economics.  I have devised the course myself and have a set number of mandatory hours (120+ total) in a variety of subcategories including cooking, home maintenance, automotive, nutrition, sewing and laundry.  Most of the requirements is hands on participation but some will involve reading articles and other reference materials.  I love the fact that we have recently found a new handyman that would be a great resource to use to teach my son a few things that my husband and are not capable of teaching. I just hope that eventually my son will be here when the handyman is! So far the football season has interfered with that quite a bit!

He will also have two half credit courses this year.  One such course is Economics.  He will be using the well known source Whatever Happened to Penny Candy as well as the Bluestocking Guide Economics and The Money Mystery to complete the course.  All of these books are pictured above with Amazon links!

The other half credit course that I created for my son is Introduction to Christianity.  He will be using the book Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick as well as The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware (Bishop Wares book has actually been used in college Introduction to Christianity classes).  We will be using a Charlotte Mason approach with this class in that he will be giving both oral and written narrations for these book selections in addition to related articles that we find through the year.

Finally, my son will be taking a Study Skills course which I have assigned a full credit as he is using several sources to complete the course and give him a firm foundation in skills essential to success in his college career.  For this course, I have selected College Study: The essential ingredients by Sally A. Lipsky, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania as well as the other text used by the same university, How to Study in College by Pauk and Owens.  He will also be watching a very old video course that my husband thrived on, Where There's a Will, There's an A.

So there it is!  The plan for the eleventh grade year.  I think it will work well.  But only time will tell!  I’ll keep you posted in other posts this year as well as my monthly updates!



The Pennsylvania Homeschool Law just got better!

     As of October 31, 2014,  the homeschool community of Pennsylvania sighed in relief as the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, signed into law House Bill 1013 - effective IMMEDIATELY!  This law change greatly improves the homeschool law of Pennsylvania. 

Here's how:

  1. This law ELIMINATES the public school superintendent's review of the student portfolio at the end of each school year.  The parent, however, must continue to submit the portfolio with the log and other materials to be included with the portfolio as well as evidence of testing(when applicable) to a qualified evaluator as part of the end of the year evaluation. The evaluator, in turn, will  determine whether the student is receiving an 'appropriate education' and write a letter to verify that this is taking place.  The only thing that needs to be handed into the school district is the evaluator's signed letter.
  2. The law now requires that a parent-issued high school diploma be given the same rights and privileges by the Commonwealth as other diplomas, including the Pennsylvania Higher Education Agency (and all state colleges!)
  3. The law establishes an administrative procedure to resolve any and all claims by a superintendent regarding the possibility of a parents failure to comply with the homeschool law.  The superintendent must send a certified letter to the supervisor of the homeschool program specifying the reason for belief that appropriate education is not taking place and request and evaluation.  Thirty days are then given for a certification from an evaluator to be submitted.  If the certification letter is submitted (certifying that appropriate education is occurring) the superintendent must accept the certification.
  4. The law also states that the home education program may continue through the course of time it takes to work through an appeal from an adverse ruling regarding the homeschool program.

Please spread the word of this new change in the Pennsylvania Homeschool Law!  Keep in mind that not all school districts may be aware of or understand these changes.  It is possible that some may still request to see portfolios at the end of this school year.  Be sure to tell your homeschool friends not to comply to these requests as they are no longer bound by law to do so. If a district asks you for a portfolio or other materials, simply inform them of the new law changes (HB 1013)and urge them to research it for themselves. Or, you can refer them to HSLDA or hand a copy of information regarding the HB1012 from this source.

For further information regarding the Pennsylvania school law, I've written several posts that pertains to its requirements:

The Pennsylvania Homeschool Law

The Pennsylvania Homeschool Law #2 - Required Subjects

Homeschooling in Pennsylvania - Affidavits and 

Know the Homeschool Law

***Please note that as of today's date, these posts do not reflect the information regarding the new changes.  In time, I will update those posts but will likely not get around to doing that until the end of the school year!

If you have further questions regarding the law changes, please don't hesitate to ask and I'll hopefully be able to answer!  My Number One "Go-To" source for the homeschool law is HSLDA. If you homeschool, it is my opinion that a membership with HSLDA is most definitely worth it.



According to HSLDA, the most frequent legal problems in Pennsylvania (at least those addressed by HSLDA for its members) has to do with documentation handed in to school districts regarding immunizations and other health/medical services (medical and dental exams, hearing tests, etc.). The Pennsylvania Homeschool Law states that parents must file a notarized affidavit with the school district which, among other things, states that the child has been immunized and has received medical services required for public school students. Apparently the Pennsylvania Department of Education has stated that the evidence must be in the form of separate documentation and handed in along with the affidavit. HSLDA holds a different interpretation of this law.

The courts have not  specifically addressed or ruled on this issue.  Therefore it is my inclination to go with the lawyers of HSLDA on this one. Any member of HSLDA would be supported by them in their decision to do so.  HSLDA stands with their view in that the receipt of health and medical services are shown by a statement within the notarized affidavit itself and therefore additional documentation demonstrating the parents are  following this part of the law is not necessary. While the state law does require public school districts to be in possession of their public school students health records, the homeschool law only requires that evidence be submitted to the district (superintendent) each year that services are received.

However, in regards to immunizations, there is a variation on documentation needed.  Section 23.81 et seq. of the Pennsylvania Administrative Code regarding immunizations does specifically address children in home education programs.  This requirement is that a certificate of immunization must be provided to the school district for homeschool students each year.

State Law DOES recognize that parents do have the right to claim a religious exemption from immunization and medical services.  In fact, HSLDA has actually developed a form that can be used by its members (if you are not a member  yet, I strongly urge you to consider it - the information, forms they provide, and peace of mind they offer is worth the yearly fees) who wish to claim such an exemption from immunization and/or medical services.   A medical exemption is also available if the child's doctor were to provide a written statement that immunizations may be detrimental to the health of the child.  These exemption forms are to be handed in with the affidavit each school year.

If you have any other questions as to what is required to be handed in to the school district each year for homeschooling, please see my previous posts on the Pennsylvania Law and PA Homeschool Law II.

If there is anything I haven't covered there, please feel free to ask!  🙂

Blessings to you on your homeschool adventures!


Homeschooling is flexible in many ways but there are requirements that must be fulfilled.  Graduation requirements, of course, are important to understand and follow - but also allow for flexibility.

In Pennsylvania, a total of 15 credits are required by law in a home education program:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of Mathematics
  • 3 years of Science
  • 3 years of Social Studies
  • 2 years of Arts and Humanities

When deciding on what subjects to teach to fulfill these requirements, one must also take into consideration the subjects that must, according to the law, be taught at the secondary level (grades 7-12):

  •  Language( grammar, vocabulary and spelling), literature, speech and composition are to be covered within the subject of English- though not necessarily each of these elements every year.
  • Science
  • Geography
  • Social Studies courses are to include, at some point, civics, world history, history of the United States, and history of Pennsylvania; but again, not all of these need to be incorporated into each year.
  • Mathematics should include general mathematics, algebra and geometry
  • Art
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Health
  • Safety Education, including regular(yearly) and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires.

Any subject meeting the above requirements taught in 7th or 8th grade does not need to be repeated during the high school years.  For example, my son took piano lessons in both 7th and 8th grades, fulfilling his music requirement.  Therefor, while he would not receive a credit in music for his transcript, he does not need to take music in his high school years if he would rather focus on another subject rather than music.

If your child is planning on attending college, you will want to obtain more than the 15 credits required by law.  A suggested amount would be 20 or more credits. This is because most colleges require course work beyond the basic coursework outlined above and look for students who have a rigorous high school curriculum.

I strongly recommend that you and your child sit down together and discuss his or her plans for the future (knowing that a middle school child or high schooler may have no idea what they really want to do yet and could change their minds repeatedly--- that's OKAY...It's NORMAL... don't let the pressures of society tell you different!!) and what coursework may be most beneficial for them to cover. For example,  If your child has strong interests in science, you'll know you need to plan for extra time and coursework in this subject area - more than what is required by law.  If they have no interest in science, then this helps you know you only need to fulfill the 3 credits with general courses with curriculum that is not as intense as others. Or if your child knows with all their heart they want to be a child therapist, you know you'll want to incorporate at least a psychology course and a child development course into their high school requirements.

Consideration For College Requirements

If your child is planning on attending college, you'll want to consider additional requirements that colleges ask for in addition to the Pennsylvania Law. Consider, for example, that most colleges require a lab be given along with a high school science.  If your child is not planning on college, a biology textbook may be all that's necessary for graduation but if college is even a future consideration, it would be wise to include a lab within your coursework.

Many colleges require 1-2 years of a single foreign language.  Some ask for more.  If you are considering college, it would be wise to do some research into what colleges your child might be interested in and see what their foreign language requirements are.  If your child is unsure, I would recommend 2 years of a single foreign language to be included in your plans for high school.

Most colleges require two years of Algebra and a geometry course.  Most high schoolers planning on attending college automatically take these courses because achieving well on the mathematics portion of the SATs are dependant on knowledge of this coursework.

How much time/work makes a credit?

In short, 120 hours is equivalent to one high school credit.  This can actually be determined in a variety of ways though without keeping track of every minute/hour spent in the course.  A basic guideline on ways to determine what constitutes a complete course is as follows:

  • complete 2/3 of a textbook
  • Log 120 entries or hours of study for the course
  • Complete a research paper or long-term project
  • complete a 3 credit or 1 semester college course
  • Pass an AP or CLEP test
  • work as an apprentice or do on the job training
  • a variety of other ways -  get together with other homeschool parents and find out what they did to make up a high school course for their children!

One further note that most don't know about - You do not need to begin or finish a course in accordance with the school year.  You may actually start a course early, finish early or you may carry a course through more than one year!

This was a very basic outline to get you started thinking about high school graduation requirements.  There is much more I could add here, but I believe it's enough for one post!!  I am sure to cover more material at a later date, but if you have specific questions or would like to share what you have done to cover course requirements for your high schooler, please feel free to ask or share!!  Have a wonderful day!

Additional Resources:

Donna Young - Homeschooling High School



          In response to a recent question and one that I actually get quite often, I've decided to post today about the subjects required to be taught according to the Pennsylvania Homeschool Law.

           Each year, the home education program must provide at least 180 days of instruction(this is 900 hours at the elementary hours if the parent chooses to keep track of  hours rather than days or 990 hours at the secondary level). At the elementary level, the student must have English (reading/literature, spelling and writing), math, science, geography, history of the United States and Pennsylvania, civics, safety education (including fire prevention), health, physical education, music and art. At the secondary level, the student must have English (grammar, composition, literature and speech), science, geography, social studies(American history, Pennsylvania history, world history, civics), mathematics (including algebra and geometry), art, music, physical education, health and safety education(again to include fire safety).

          That's a long list of subjects.  But know that not all of these subjects need to be taught every year.  Each subject only needs to be covered at some point during the elementary or secondary level as specified.  The majority of homeschoolers cover English, history (American, world, ancient, etc., usually one per year), science and math as well as art and/or music, and some form of physical education and fire education during the course of a year.  Health is usually thrown in with science at some point.

       However,  it doesn't have to be done this way.  The law really allows for flexibility.  For example, if the idea of teaching both science and history in one year seems daunting, it's okay to teach one at a time every other year so as to cover more material and have the time to do more intensive projects.  Geography can be taught as one individual subject or can be included in with history each year. Pennsylvania history, contrary to popular misconception, does not have to be covered every year (nor do the other subjects other than fire safety).  It can be added in small amounts yearly or as a single subject during half or all of a single year.

          Art and music also do not need to be taught each year. A lot of homeschoolers do teach them, in some manner, each year.  Art can be included easily by way of drawing illustrations or making art projects for the other subjects. Some homeschoolers take art lessons and some study famous artists from the history time periods they are covering that year.  Music is often covered in the way of instrument lessons or voice lessons.  Some cover this by studying composers of the history period they are currently studying.  Again, they do not have to be covered each year so some homeschoolers may pick just one year to do a more intensive study of one of these subjects.

          Physical education also does not need to be covered each year...but I urge you to do so for the health and well-being of your child.  It does not have to be any type of specific sport, though many opt to participate in homeschool co-op sports or participate in a sport offered by the local district as it is in the law that homeschool students are allowed to take part in these extracurricular activities/sports.  A daily walk or bike ride could also cover this requirement and gets your child out in the outdoors and good exposure to the sun offering its' natural vitamin D supply!  A list of such activities in the portfolio or a few photographs of your child participating in one or all of these is enough to demonstrate that this requirement is being filled.

          Fire education does need to be represented in your portfolio each and every year.  It can be covered in a field trip to the fire station with your local homeschool co-op or you may draw out a fire escape plan with your child and discuss a meeting place outside your home in the even of a fire.[ ***PLEASE have a meeting place established!!  If you don't have one yet, do it NOW.  You can never predict when there will be a fire.]   There are lots of online resources as well.

           In regards to high school classes, some Pennsylvania homeschoolers seem to think that speeches must be done each year due to regulations set by the diploma agencies.  Please note that getting a diploma through an agency is NOT required and not at all necessary.  Parent-issued diplomas are equally legal and this is what the majority of homeschoolers across America use.  So while speech is listed as a requirement for the high school level, it is not a yearly requirement.  Research papers are not a yearly requirement by the state either.

          This is a summary of this part of the law.  I'm sure I have not answered every question you may have regarding the teaching of these subjects.  Feel free to comment below with any additional questions you have and I'll do my best to provide an answer.  I also always recommend to other homeschoolers that they become a member of HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association).  HSLDA provides not only legal counsel but a wealth of information regarding the law, curriculum and so much more on their website.  They have answered a considerable number of questions for me over the years and I can always rely on the website for an abundance of resources.

I'm sure my readers would also love to read in comments below what other creative ways you've used to apply these subjects!

Have a blessed day!


Apparently, Pennsylvania is known for having tough homeschool laws. Supposedly there's a lot of paperwork involved.  As a former public school teacher, I can assure the rest of the homeschool mom's out there that, in retrospect, what we have to do as homeschool teachers is nothing in comparison.  Sure, as a homeschool mom, I can understand not wanting to have to do one more thing for the state.  I get that.  But it really is not as time consuming or difficult that some homeschool parents are making it out to be.  In my experience as a homeschool evaluator, I find most parents doing MORE than what they need to do.  So I'm going to try to put it all here in a nutshell.  What do we really need to do in Pennsylvania?

If you want to read the actual law, Session of 1988  Act 1988-169,   there are many sources online that provide this.  The link above is one from CHAP (Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania).

But what does this really mean?

The Beginning:

You must fill out a notarized Affidavit and hand this in to the local school district before beginning to homeschool your child either at the  compulsory attendance age of 8 (or the school year in which he or she will be turning 8) or before pulling them out of the public school if he or she has already started or been registered for attendance there, regardless of age or grade.  An affidavit  will include the names of your children (that are to be homeschooled), the name of the supervisor of the homeschool program (this is usually the mother though I recently saw that CHAP actually recommends the father),address and telephone number of the home education site,  and a statement that no one in the house has been convicted of a felony and that the homeschooling parent has a high school diploma. The affidavit should also include a statement that the students listed have received the health and medical services required by the Public School Code (dental exams upon entry into school and in 3rd and 7th grades and medical exams upon entry into school and in sixth and eleventh grades as well as immunizations OR an exemption due to religious beliefs or medical reasons). The affidavit must be legally notarized.

Along with the affidavit, the supervisor must hand in a listing of proposed objectives.  This does NOT need to be difficult!  As a former teacher, I struggled with this one.  I really wanted to give very long, drawn out, detailed objectives.  It's not necessary.  Your list of proposed objectives is really a set of goals.  List each subject you plan on covering through the year (Note the word "PLAN" here:  It is okay to change your plans.  You are not required to fullfill the exact objectives you hand in.  It is just that.  A PLAN.).  For each subject that you list, write about 3 vague or specific obejectives.  For example,  if you are covering 3rd Grade Math, the objectives may be:  - to introduce multiplication and division facts,  - to use math skills in everyday situations as in grocery and Christmas shopping,  - to continue improvement of math skills on a 3rd grade level.   See?  Very easy!  If you are wondering about a subject and what to write for objectives, let me know.  I'd be glad to help!

This is all for the beginning, UNLESS your child has been formally identified throught the school district as having special needs.  In this case you must submit objectives that have already been approved by a "licensed clinical or certified psychologiset or a teacher with a valid certificate from the Commonwealth to teach special education".  In other words, find an evaluator ahead of time that can approve your objectives ahead of time.  (More on evaluators later.)

During The School Year:

Teach.  Duh, of course, right?!     🙂   (But don't teach your kids to say duh....just a little humor...hope you're smiling)

You are obligated by law to provide instruction in the required subjects for 180 school days or 900 hours if your child is in elementary grades, 990 if he or she is in secondary grades.  Most people use a list to show days rather than hours but this is entirely up to you.  Keep the list of days in calendar form or in some other form of logging style to show your evaluator and put into your portfolio for the end of the year (see below for more information on portfolios and evaluators).  The 180 school days is no more than the public school child.

Standardized testing is required just as it is for the public school children but, thankfully, only in grades 3, 5 and 8! So during the course of the year, you will need to find a resource that allows your child to take a standardized test that is one of the approved tests and include the results of this test in your portfolio at the end of the 3rd, 5th and 8th grade years.  The approved tests at this time are:  California Achievement Test, Comprehensive Testing Program (CTPIV), Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Metropolitan Achievement Test, Peabody Achievement Individual Test --Revised Edition, Standford Achievement Test, Terra Nova, and the Woodcock Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement.  Some homeschool co-ops offer one of these tests on a yearly basis to their homeschool group.  One of these tests is actually available online.  Most require another adult to be present during the testing time other than the homeschool parent/supervisor.  You will need to do your research in advance.  Do NOT wait until the end of the year as you need the results to give to your evaluator and to put in the portfolio.

Keep a portfolio.  The portfolio is NOT that big of a deal.  But do yourself a favor.  Decide at the beginning of the year how you are going to set up your portfolio and start saving and organizing the samples to put in it through the course of the year instead of being an overwhelmed homeschool mom at the end of the year who isn't sure what to do with all these stacks of paper!  My suggestions is just purchase a 3 ring binder... no bigger than one inch!  Put dividers in the portfolio for all of your subjects you are covering.  Now as the year goes on, every month, put in one sample of each subject behind the divider for it.  At the end of the year, you will have enough samples in your portfolio!  Easy peasy!

Keep a Log.   This is probably the most contraversial piece of material in the PA law because there are soooooo many interpretations as to what this log is, besides a list of reading materials.  There must be a list of reading materials.  There is no doubt about that.  So keep track of those books your child is reading.  HSLDA provides a thorough explanation of interpretations of this part of the law on their site. Their recommendation is keeping a calendar form and marking the materials you use each day in a type of code.  I will confess, most people do not use this method.  Usually, people hand in a simple reading log within the portfolio that lists all reading materials for the year and often includes curriculum used as well.  This seems to satisfy the majority of school districts. In addition to the reading list, they have a type of calendar form or number list showing the 180 days that have been covered in the year.  It is preferred by most evaluators that this list does show the actual dates of school and not just the numbers 1-180.

The End of the Year:

Before handing your portfolio in to your school district, your child must be evaluated by a qualified evaluator. Most evaluators are certified teachers but some are psychologists while others are homeschool parents who have taught at all levels.  The certified teachers and psychologists are automatically qualified (as long as they have experience testing at the level your child has completed),but those not having certification must be pre-approved by the school district.  Most homeschool co-ops are able to porvide you with lists of evaluators in your area but there are websites that also provide this information:

              CHAP Online         Askpauline.com            PHAA

Be sure to ask the person you call what their qualifications are.  Some are only qualified for particular grade levels (elementary vs. secondary) while others are qualified for all grade levels as well as special education.  Ask their price for the evaluation.  There can be a great variation with this price.  Some, but not many, will come to your home or meet  you somewhere. Some automatically do a long extensive write up for the district that is required by homeschool accredidation agencies (which are not necessary to join) while others hand in a simple form that meets the expectations of the law without providing more than necessary to the school districts.  This may affect the price as well.  Also, be sure to make your appointment in advance!  Do NOT wait until the end of the school year to make an appointment!  Many of these evaluators already have an extensive client list and book up fast for evaluations.  Others may not evaluate past a particular date.  So please, contact them early.  It is not unheard of to at least contact an evaluator early in the year to find out when to call them to make the appointment. Also, by contacting an evaluator early, they should be more able to help guide you in preparing the portfolio and knowing what to expect during the evaluation and possibly answer any other questions you might have about the process or homeschooling in general.

Once you have the evaluation, you will be ready to hand in your portfolio.  Your evaluator will probably all ready make sure it contains all that it needs to contain:

  • reading log
  • 180 day log
  • samples of each subject covered (there should be about three samples from the beginning, middle and end of the school year for each subject, totalling approximately 9 samples for each subject) Samples may be workbook pages, tests, essays, book reports, pictures of events, activity, art exhibit, etc., or artwork.  Unschoolers often use lots of photos in their portfolio with captions to explain the subject being covered.
  • Test results if it is a year of required testing
  • Evidence of Fire Safety being covered (Fire saftey is the ONE subject that MUST be covered EVERY year)
  • A copy of your signed evaluation form given to you by the evaluator

That's it!  Just walk into your district office and hand it in, always obtaining a written receipt that states you have handed in the portfolio with the above pieces included (I always type up my own form, listing everything that's in the portfolio as in the list above and just have the secretary or who I hand the portfolio to sign my receipt).

I usually advise to my evaluation clients that this is the perfect time to hand in the affidavit for the next year as well along with the objectives and to get a receipt for that too.  This way, one is free to begin homeschooling and counting days on July 1, the first day of the school year, if they choose to do so.  This is great as it allows those great summer field trips to count as school days! 🙂

I love helping fellow homeschoolers, so again, if you have any questions, let me know!  If I don't know the answer, I might at least be able to offer a source that would!

Happy homeschooling!