Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Pennsylvania Homeschooling Adventure, Part II


When I first began the homeschooling adventure, I was afraid to do it on my own.  I envisioned the task of writing objectives as a daunting one.  I stuck with the virtual charter school for two years because I didn't think I was capable of getting all the beginning-of-the-year paperwork done.  When a friend showed me all that was required for the affidavit and writing objectives, I wondered why I ever thought I wouldn't be able to do it.  There is really nothing to it.

The PA Homeschool Law states that the affidavit must contain "an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area."  It also states, "The required outline of proposed education objectives shall not be utilized by the superintendent in determining if the home education program is out of compliance..."  There you have it.  It is very clear, right?  Sounds to me like writing objectives ought to be very simple.  It is up to you what you want to teach.

Technically, you must have at least one objective for each required subject.  In the elementary years, your required subjects are "English, to include spelling, reading, and writing;
arithmetic; history of Pennsylvania and United States; civics; health
and physiology; physical education; music; art; geography; science;
and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in
the danger and prevention of fires."

At the secondary (high school) level, your required subjects are "English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry;
art; music; physical education; health; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires. High school credit requirements: 4 credits of English, 3 credits of
math, 3 credits of science, 3 credits of social studies, and 2 credits of
arts and humanities."

As you can see, there are a few more things required at the high school level.  This next year will be my first time writing objectives for the secondary level.  Let's start with elementary, since I have done that for the past 9 years.  I've had to write brand new objectives for my oldest child each year, but one of the great things about homeschooling younger siblings is that you can reuse the objectives from your first child.  It may require a little tweaking on your part, however, depending on the interests or abilities of the child for whom you are using them.

I have been taught over the years to make the objectives relatively vague.  Remember, the superintendent cannot use the objectives to determine whether or not you are in compliance.  You do not have to teach what they are teaching in the public school at your child's age.  Sometimes I will use the PA education standards as a guide.  I imagine them looking through my objectives and seeing a state standard and saying, "Oh, look, she's trying to follow our guidelines."  I do various things in my obligatory paperwork to go above and beyond what is required so that the state's need for control will be appeased.  Many people give only what is required and nothing more.  My philosophy is if I do a little bit more than is required they will leave me alone and have nothing to complain about.  It has worked so far.  Anyway, the state standards can be found here  Each required subject pulls up a PDF.  It lists the grade and many, many standards.  Pick and choose, if you use any of these.  You certainly don't have to use all or any of them.  It is sometimes a good starting point if you have never written objectives before.  It does, though, give me a good idea what is being taught in the areas of mathematics and language arts.  These are two subjects that I try to stay either at or above the level of what is being taught in the schools.

There are many ways to determine objectives for each subject for your school year.  Don't be intimidated by objectives.  Ask friends who have homeschooled if you can look at their objectives.  Why reinvent the wheel?  If someone you know has homeschooled a child in the past in a grade your child is now in, it would be okay to reuse those objectives (obviously putting your child's name at the top and tweaking for what you will be teaching, specifically).  If your friend taught about the middle ages for history, but you are planning to teach on  Columbus, obviously you'd want to adjust.

There is a website that lists many ideas for objectives,  This site has a ton of great information about homeschooling.  I encourage you to check it out.

Another thing you can do to figure out what objectives you will write is to look at the table of contents of the curriculum you will be using.  Take some of those topics and make them your objectives.  Let's say, for instance, that your math book will teach fractions and multiplication.  An objective could read, "Student will gain further understanding of math concepts including multiplication and using fractions."  Take that a bit further.  Where would they use multiplication and fractions?  Cooking?  Great, use that as an objective!  "Student will apply mathematical concepts through everyday situations such as cooking and reading recipes."

In subjects such as science and history, you may have purchased a great program and used the table of contents as your guide for writing objectives.  What happens if you get halfway through the year and decide you don't like the program and you want to change your subject matter?  One way to write your objectives so that they are vague is to say, "Science: May include one or more of the following.." and then list some objectives.  This allows for getting to or not getting to each of the objectives listed.

As I close, I will give you some of my objectives in each subject (these are for sixth grade) so that you can see some other examples of things you could use.  If you want more, please send me a message so I can help you.

English (to include reading, writing, spelling):
-to demonstrate fluency and comprehension in reading
-to be able to research a topic using various sources
-to be able to present research orally

(There are many more you could choose.  These are just a few examples.)

-to demonstrate an understanding of mathematical concepts such as multiplication, division, time, money, geometry, fractions, etc.
-to be able to use mathematical concepts in everyday situations

-to gain a greater understanding of various fields of science such as geology, biology, botany, etc.
-to gain knowledge through use of hands-on experiments

-to be able to read a map
-to gain an appreciation of different cultures through the study of other countries (history, people, geography, culture, etc.)

-to be able to recognize prominent people in history and their contributions
-to develop a greater sense of patriotism
-to be able to describe places and regions
-to participate in activities that will facilitate learning of U.S. and world history
-to use various resources to increase learning about world history, culture, etc.

Civics/PA History:
-to be able to explain the purpose of government
-to understand rights and responsibilities of citizenship
-to continue to develop an understanding of the history of PA through books, videos, field trips, etc.

-to learn about famous composers through history and to recognize their music
-to demonstrate knowledge of musical theory

-to learn about various artists throughout history and understand their technique, subject material, etc.
- to use various mediums and techniques in art projects

Physical Education:
-to demonstrate good sportsmanship
-to learn the rules of various sports and be able to put them into practice
-to participate in a sports program of choice and regular bike riding, hiking, etc.

Health/Safety Education:
-to demonstrate good hygiene and safety
-to understand fire safety
-to understand how the body functions and how to take care of self...

You can include foreign language, enrichment activities, etc., but these above are the required subjects.  My objects will be slightly different for each grade.  They will also differ depending on what I choose to teach each child.  This decision can be based on their likes.  My middle child loves astronomy, so I may choose to teach him all about the stars and planets one year instead of botany.  My objectives would reflect this choice.

I hope this helps.  Again, if you have any questions, please send me a message.