Affidavit Filing Day, or, Why I love the saints.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I filed the affidavit.

For those of you who don’t know, we live in Pennsylvania which is one of the stricter states in terms of homeschooling regulations. Back in Colorado, if you wanted to homeschool, all you had to do was write the district a letter telling them you were going to homeschool, and then administer the occasional standardized test. No big whoop.

Here, it’s like the GESTAPO STATE OF HOMESCHOOLING. You’ve got to file a signed and notarized affidavit that lists your educational objectives and all sorts of other such things. You’ve got to keep attendance records. You’ve got to keep lists of books you read. Then you’ve got to have an annual evaluation, and submit a portfolio of work to the district, not to mention all the usual standardized tests.

It sounds daunting. But it’s really not. There are enough people here that have been doing this for so many years and that have kindly made their information available to those of us who are just starting to do this little song-and-dance, that it’s actually quite easy to assemble the information. And the other quirky thing that makes this all more manageable is that Pennsylvania doesn’t legally require kids to actually attend school until they’re 8 years old. So, you don’t actually have to report on your kid until she’s 8. Or almost 8, in our case.

Anyway. So, having told you all of that, and having sat down one evening at the end of July and typed up (well, copied and pasted from the Internet and then tweaked appropriately) all the documents I needed to submit, I gritted my teeth and promised myself that I would wake up the next morning and get the affidavit filed.

So, the next morning, I cancelled regular school work. It was July, after all, and we were sort of on a bit of a break. Besides, dealing with administrative bullshit is one life lesson you don’t want your children to miss out on. What better way to prepare them for all those grueling hours at the DMV than dragging them along with you as you File the Affidavit?

I carefully mapquested the address of the school district’s administration offices. I then called them on the phone to confirm they were open for business before driving out there. I then fed the children a nice healthy lunch and made them use the bathroom. I combed their hair. Made sure their faces were clean. Made sure my 5-year-old was wearing underwear. The right way. I explained to them that these errands were probably going to be REALLY BORING but that they were VERY IMPORTANT and asked them to make the best of it.

Then I piled them into the car and drove to the business services office in our nearby shopping mall. There was a notary there. I knew this because we’d actually used this notary back when we were selling our house in Colorado last year. I felt secure in my knowledge of the location of this notary. I felt QUITE ON TOP OF THE SITUATION. But, of course, when we got to the notary’s office, there was a teenager behind the counter and a little sign posted on the wall explaining that the notary was so sorry to have missed us, but he’d just had some significant surgery two days earlier and would be out until the middle of August. The girl behind the counter told me that the bank up the way had a notary, and I thanked her and started to leave, but the girls tugged on my shirt and asked for a piece of candy from the little glass jar on the counter. I let them choose one each, and we left.

We drove up to the bank and walked in and I stood in line. The girls spotted a water cooler with these little teeny conical paper cups and became INSTANTLY THIRSTY, so I let them go get a drink each. A few minutes later, a teller opened up and I stepped to the counter and asked if they had a notary. The teller hemmed and hawed and said, “wait… I think she’s off today.” My face fell a bit and then she said, “you could come back tomorrow. Or you could just leave it here and pick it up tomorrow.” Giant klaxon alarm bells went off in my head. It took me weeks to actually get this ready. I wasn’t ready to just hand it over to a bank teller. Besides, I was pretty sure the reason you got a notary in the first place was so that your own signature could be witnessed. While I was thinking all these thoughts, the woman said: “Are you a bank member?” I said no, and she said, “Oh, well… our notary is for bank members only. Sorry.” I gathered my now slightly damp children and left the building.

We drove home so I could look up a notary in the phone book. There was a notary nearby our house. I’d seen his sign many times, driving by, but after two failures I was determined to call first and make sure he was there. And not in surgery. And that membership in something wasn’t required. So, I looked up notaries in my local phone book and found one listing for my town other than the dude having surgery. That had to be the guy. I called him up and he said to come on down. So, we got back in the car and drove to this guy’s house. He ran a little insurance business out of his converted garage, it seemed.

It turns out that this wasn’t the guy I’d called. This was some other guy. The address wasn’t the right one. But, dammit, he had a sign out front that said NOTARY, so I knocked and waited. And knocked again. And eventually, this guy came to the door and opened it and waved us in.

“I need something notarized,” I told him. “Are you available?” 
“Sure, sure,” he said. “I’m on the phone, though. Just hang on a sec.”

So, we waited. And eventually, he hung up. And I pulled out my little (slightly crumpled now) affidavit, and he watched me sign it, and then he did his notary-thing and wrote it up in his book, and then I said, “Do I owe you anything?” and he said, “Yes. Five dollars.” And I pulled out my VISA card and he said, “Oh, I don’t take credit cards.”

I had no cash on me. I took his business card and promised to mail him a check. And we left. Outside, the sky was darkening quite a bit. A pretty big thunderstorm was on the way, the kids were getting squirmy, and I now owed some guy five bucks. But I pressed on. I was determined to get this thing DONE.

We drove across town, going a way I hadn’t gone before, and that’s how I found the shrine. (I know this post is already long, but bear with me as I explain about the shrine.)

When RegularDad’s mom was little and they’d all just moved to America after World War II, her mother used to take all the kids to this shrine in eastern Pennsylvania. It’s the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and RegularDad’s family being old world Catholics from Russia and Poland, they all liked to go there from time to time. And what a funny coincidence it was that we ended up moving to practically the same exact town where this shrine is, what, like thirty years later? Now, when RegularDad’s grandmother comes to visit her great-granddaughters, she always makes sure to visit the shrine while she’s in town here, just like she used to all those years ago, when being a great-grandmother was the furthest thing from her mind. So, for a year and a half now, I’d been hearing about the shrine, and how wild it was that we lived so close to it, but I’d never been there myself, and really had no idea where it was, and I’d been thinking in the back of my mind that at some point I should figure this out and go see it, because it really is a cool coincidence, and all the sudden, as I was driving along with my BY-GOD, I-FINALLY-GOT-IT-NOTARIZED affidavit, I saw this golden statue of a robed woman perched at the top of a pillar, shining in the sky underneath these dark storm clouds, and just like that, I’d found the shrine.

I’m sure there’s a saint I could have prayed to (there’s a saint for EVERYTHING after all), but I’m not up on my saints, and I was still focused on filing that little piece of paper, so I told the girls: “Look, there’s the shrine that Grandma used to go to when she was little!” and we kept going. I cocked an eyebrow at the sky and said a mental thanks, and called it good.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the district offices. We raced inside under the first roars of thunder and I handed the affidavit to the woman behind the desk. And as I handed it to her, I realized that I hadn’t made a copy of it. I asked if she could do that for me, and she smiled and said, “sure”. Then she date-stamped it and opened the closet door behind her where they keep their copier and set it on the glass. Then she pushed a button, and the machine coughed and choked and then tried to spit out a chewed-up wad of paper. “Oh, it’s jammed,” she said. “Hang on. I’m not the person who usually works this desk. I’m just filling in. Let me go find someone.” She came back a minute later with another woman and the two of them began inspecting the machine. “She’s here to file her homeschooling affidavit,” the first woman said to the second woman. “Oh.” said the second woman.

Meanwhile, the kids were inspecting the various things in the reception area. There were statues of birds of prey on a low shelf. “Look, Mommy!” said my 5-year-old, pointing at them. “Yes, I see,” I said to her. “That’s a bald eagle. It’s got a white head. Remember, like what we saw at the zoo?”

My 7-year-old was inspecting a wall map of the county. “Can you find the Delaware River?” I said to her.

Inwardly, I cringed and admonished myself to STOP TEACHING THE CHILDREN IN FRONT OF THE DISTRICT ADMINISTRATORS. One of them, after all, wasn’t even a regular employee. And the probable truth of it was, neither one of them would have been interested. Why was I bothering? It took every ounce of self-restraint to not casually ask my 7-year-old if she was excited about beginning Latin this year.


Finally, they got the copier working. They handed me my copy, wished us good luck, and we left. I’m pretty sure I threw in one more educational moment for everyone’s benefit, but it’s all a merciful blur now. We drove home and managed to get inside before the downpour began.

And for two weeks, nothing much happened. I kept waiting for Someone In Authority to call and tell me I’d done it wrong. But all that happened really was that the new curriculum I’d ordered for the upcoming year arrived in about three different shipments, and the girls drooled over all of it and BEGGED me to start school early. PLEASE, MOM??????????????? OH PULLLLLLEEEEEEASE?????

So, we did.

And two days ago, I received in the mail, a letter from the district, telling me that my homeschooling program has been approved (which I thought was quaint, because I wasn’t exactly LOOKING for their approval when I went on that particular little pilgrimage) and also offering up various services at our local public school, should I so desire any of them. Which I do not.

So. It’s official, now, I guess. They know we homeschool. And I know where the shrine is. And I still owe some dude five bucks.

But dammit, I got my affidavit filed.


11 Responses to “Affidavit Filing Day, or, Why I love the saints.”

  1. 1 Mom #1 August 11, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    What an adventure! I’m glad you got the affidavit filed, and now you know where the infamous shrine is. Shrines really creep me out, but some people love them. Kind of like cemeteries. I can’t stand even driving by them, but I know people who go hang out in them for hours. . . what’s up with that?

    Congratulations on being accepted and approved, whether you like it or not?

  2. 2 ami August 12, 2008 at 10:34 am

    That’s what YOU PEOPLE get for HOMESCHOOLING.
    If you just did the normal thing and sent your kids to school JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, you would not have to deal with all this.

    So there.


  3. 3 Urban Mom August 12, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Wow! One good thing about Illinois…just don’t show up on the radar and no one should come looking for you. No paperwork, no filing, no People In Authority. When I tell non-homeschoolers that, they are sometimes just astonished that I’m not accountable to someone in government. Y’know, like someone who can make a copy.

    Neat about the shrine, though!

  4. 4 AztecQueen2000 August 13, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Not looking forward to the paperwork at all. (I live in NY, the other homeschool Gestapo state.) Also, my kid has a November b-day, and NY sets their cutoff in December. That means I have to register my kid when she’s FIVE for first grade work.
    Congratulations on filing the paperwork. Do you think a shrine visit would help a Jewish family?

  5. 5 RegularMom August 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks everyone.

    Aztec, a shrine visit couldn’t hurt, I guess. That’s a bummer about the NY reporting. I knew they were the OTHER GESTAPO STATE OF HOMESCHOOLING, but I didn’t know the details of their requirements. Next time I drive by the shrine, I’ll cock an eyebrow at it for you. 🙂

  6. 6 Fairly Odd Mother August 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Wow, that is a whole lotta stuff to do! And, I think we have it ‘so hard’ in MA b/c we have to file some paperwork! Congrats on getting it all done!

  7. 7 RegularMom August 16, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Fairly Odd Mother,

    Thanks. And the sad part is, that’s the least labor-intensive part of the process. At the end of the year, there’s evaluations and portfolio submissions, and sometimes testing. I can’t wait to see how that all pans out, considering what it took to simply get this affidavid notarized. Ah, well. No sense worrying about it today. 🙂

  8. 8 SabrinaT August 18, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Do you and the girls get to name your school now? RegularSchool?
    Monday starts my fun here. I have to meet with both the Elementary school and Middle school. They have to KNOW what we are doing. I have to have to boys tested, and fill out attendance sheets.
    I think you should just move right next door to your shrine. A lot of us need that nod!

  9. 9 RegularMom August 19, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Ooooh… RegularSchool. I like that. 🙂

  10. 10 Maria May 25, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Just read this for the first time. My daughter is on to me now when I try to teach in front of people. She is likely to respond with something idiotic on purpose just to show me up. GRRRR. But I like the idea of saying things like “No, honey, that quote was from the TEMPEST, not HAMLET, but you were close!”

  1. 1 Evaluation Day. « Like I Have Time For This? Trackback on May 25, 2009 at 9:54 pm

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