Archive for May, 2009

Evaluation Day.

So, today we went and got our first evaluation done. Evaluation, you ask? Yeah, in Pennsylvania, there’s all sorts of meaningless tiresome bullshit gestapo-like rules and regulations for us crazy homeschoolers. The evaluation is only one of them. I also have to submit a portfolio of attendance, a list of books read during the year, and samples of completed work. And even before you get to this point, you also have to file a notarized affadavit at the start of the school year, informing the district of your intent to homeschool, and your planned course of study for the year. (If you missed it the first time, and want to read about Affadavit Filing Day, click here.)

All these requirements sounds like a lot, and can be a hassle, but mostly I’m finding it’s not such a big deal. One thing I’ve realized after going through this whole process is that getting the evaluation done wasn’t the hard part of getting the evaulation done. No. The hard part was actually Finding An Evaluator Who Didn’t Make Me Want To Rip My Own Eyelids Off. That was the hard part.

You see, the number one person that all the local homeschool groups I belong to recommended EVERY TIME people asked: hey, does anyone know of a good evaluator?  was this one particular woman who was so FREAKISHLY FUNDAMENTALIST that I just couldn’t imagine sitting down with her and discussing my child’s educational progress. Because, you see, we DON’T start our day with Bible readings here. We just don’t do that. It’s just not how it works here at my house. I’m not an atheist, but I’m not a Fundamentalist either. And I certainly didn’t get into this whole homeschooling gig because I believed that my kids needed a good solid foundation in Biblical Bullshit. And when I say that this woman was FREAKISHLY FUNDAMENTALIST, I mean that she was seriously FREAKISHLY FUNDAMENTALIST.

For example, when someone posted in to the message boards a question like How do you keep track of attendance, this woman responded with a post that stated that she kept track of attendance by reading a chapter out of Psalms and Proverbs every day during the school year. Because taken together, the chapters of both books equals 181, and 180 is the required number of days to attend school. THERE IS NO COINCIDENCE! she assured us. She then went on to describe the ideal portfolio, and the first subject listed in her ideal portfolio was (of course!) BIBLE study. She rambled on for a while longer and then ended her post with a substantial quote from the Book of Deuteronomy. And, reading that, I was all: Yeah. NOT for us, hon. Not in a million FREEKIN’ years.

And, on a side note, I’d just like to state that it’s really not all that hard to keep track of attendance, provided that you a) own a calendar and a pencil or pen or other writing instrument, b) know how to use said calendar, pencil, pen or writing instrument, and c) can count to 180. If you can answer yes to those three items, then all you gotta do is look at the calendar, note the date, and put a little check mark on the appropriate box in the calendar. Do that each day you and your kids sit down and do school in whatever shape doing school takes for you at your place. When you get to 180 days, you can stop and call it a year. This does not seem hard to me. Yet, at least once a month around here, someone posts in: hey, what’s the best way of keeping track of attendance?  And again, I find my fingers desperately twitching and I have to turn off the Internet, and sit on my hands for ten minutes to protect my eyelids.

As for the whole Psalms and Proverbs coincidence? Yeah. Well, I’m no theologian, but I do know that there are tons of fascinating theories regarding the endless numerical codes and patterns scattered through out all the books of the Bible. But I really honestly would like to believe that if there is any numerological significance to the number 181 with regards to the total number of chapters in Psalms and Proverbs, that it’s something more earth-shatteringly significant than God realizing that a bunch of crazy people in eastern Pennsylvania would lose the ability to reason out a simple way to get from 1 to 180 when counting up the number of days their kids learned something. I’d like to think he wasn’t forced to WASTE that highly significant 181 on something like THAT!!!

But, I digress.

So, all year long, all I knew for sure was who I DIDN’T  want evaluating us. Which is a long stretch from finding someone who I did want as an evaluator. It seemed that everyone I knew either used the Fundy, or were enrolled in a cyber charter and didn’t have to have an evaluation. Finally, I came across someone who was using a different evaluator, and having gotten a good recommendation, proceeded to email this woman and ask about her being our evaluator. She responded with some hemming and hawing about whether or not my district would accept her as a certified evaulator. I checked all the statutes and emailed her again, asssuring her that it didn’t seem like it would be a problem. And she simply never wrote back.

Almost a month went by, and I gave up on her and started looking around on the Internet, and finally I chose someone blindly because she seemed to have a professional air about her. She had a nice website that made no Biblical references at all, had no dancing cherubs or irritating blinking text, and wrote on her website about how committed she was to being An Advocate For Homeschooling. Sounded good. I emailed her and within a week, I had an appointment all set. I assembled a quick draft portfolio of what I planned on giving the district, piled the kids in the car and drove on down to her place this morning.

We sat in a little playroom with enough toys to keep my 6-year-old happy and she looked through my materials, complimented my 8-year-old on all her hard work, mentioned that my district tended to be one of the easier ones to work with, and in the end, called everything satisfactory, printed off a letter in duplicate for me to give the district and never once made any religious references whatsoever. After we were done, she offered to show the girls her baby chickens which the girls were more than happy to see. Then she brought out her white dove and let us hold the bird on our hands. Then she took us out to the backyard to see the koi pond and chicken coops. We left not long afterwards, with a dozen of the freshest eggs you could ever hope to have, and what started out as an annual chore had become a wonderful, relaxing field trip.

And now I’ve got a name up my sleeve for the next time someone posts in hey, anyone know of a good evaluator?

And life is good.


Crossing a biggie off the list.

The list being, of course, the BUT-WHAT-ABOUT-THE’s. When people find out you homeschool, if they know you well enough (or even if  they don’t know you at all and they’re just THAT KIND OF PERSON) they’ll feel justified in engaging in some serious protesting and worrying and cajoling. These protestations often begin with the phrase “But what about the–”

There are quite a few BUT-WHAT-ABOUT-THE’s floating around out there. The top three I’ve come across are: 1. But what about socialization? 2. But what about the PROM? and 3. But what about the SCHOOL PLAY? The socialization horse is so dead it’s becoming a national tragedy how people won’t stop beating on it.

The prom question — yeah, that’s the big one for the high school set. It doesn’t matter how old your kid is. Your kid could be in kindergarten and just starting out with some very basic phonics and people will have already imagined the poor kid’s entire academic childhood: 12 lonely years that culminate ultimately with the Lack Of A Prom. These concerned people have then immediately determined that your kid will be SCARRED FOR LIFE IF YOU HOMESCHOOL AND SHE DOESN’T EVER GO TO A PROM.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to a couple of proms. And they both just sucked. I don’t want to get into the details, but having survived a prom or two and lived to tell the tale, and finding it exceedly difficult to find anyone who actually looks back on their proms fondly, I just don’t see what the big deal is about the prom. Besides, homeschoolers are having proms nowadays anyway. There’s a group near here who started having proms a few years back. And apparently, the hotel that hosts the homeschool prom loves the homeschoolers because they’re all so mature and well-adjusted and polite and not interested in destroying the hotel’s property or sneaking a keg into the ballroom. So now when those horrified individuals who, upon hearing I homeschool my daughters, immediately rend their garments and gouge their eyes out with raking fingernails and moan desperately BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PROOOOOOMMMMMM?????????? I’m able to say matter-of-factly “Oh yes, we’ve got that too.”

I won’t pretend that it’s not fun to watch them struggle.

If the prom thing is covered, then the next thing to come up will undoubtedly be: But what about the school PLAY????”  This one is geared more towards the elementary grades. Apparently, I shouldn’t homeschool because I’m depriving my second grader of the essential opportunity to dress up like — oh, I don’t know — a carrot or a little carton of milk, or some other food item? Or perhaps – even worse – a Pilgrim or an Indian for that ever-popular farce we call the First Thanksgiving?

For a few years, the nay-sayers had me at the PLAY. The ubiquitous, meaningless PLAY: a piece propagandized drivel that I’d probably have to sew a costume for  (badly) if I put the kids in school. So, having successfully shut-down both the socialization and prom protestations, these people would still manage to triumph over me at that moment where I’d freeze over the issue of the school PLAY, and they’d exit the conversation victoriously – another blow against homeschooling successfully delivered.

But, not anymore.

Not too long ago, I signed the kids up for a Creative Theater class run by a local homeschool dad around here. For ten weeks, the kids got together with other kids, learned about stage direction, acting skills, and then proceeded to write their own production, rehearse it, come up with costumes for it, and then perform it for our little community of homeschoolers. The idea was to take the imaginary play that all kids like to do when they’re just jumping around in the living room, channel it, and turn it into the Real Thing. The kids got to pick what character they’d most like to play, and then as a group, they had to create a storyline that incorporated everyone’s character.

I’m happy to report that not one child opted to be a carrot. Or a Pilgrim. Mine, of course, opted to be a unicorn and a pegasus, and for 2 joyous months, it was their JOB to act like those kinds of creatures.

Here’s my little unicorn, backstage during the performance, dealing with some last minute costuming issues.


So, at last, I’m crossing another big one off the list.

But what about the PLAY, you ask?

Yeah. We got that.

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