Principles Behind PHAA Diplomas

by Howard Richman

One joke asks, "What is the difference between someone who is illiterate and someone who is functionally illiterate?" The answer, "The functional illiterate has a high school diploma." We tried to design requirements for our diploma to insure that the same thing could not be said of people with a diploma accredited by PHAA.

The diploma requirements of PHAA are based upon seven principles:

1. Homeschool graduates should be literate. They should be able to read, write, and speak. I expect that over time employers and colleges will prefer home education graduates to school graduates not only because home education graduates are more trustworthy and honest, but also because they are more literate.

2. Requirements should be construed in flexible ways. Homeschoolers are round pegs and graduation requirements are square holes. Our idea was to make the square holes flexible enough so that they could fit round pegs. For example, people will have a choice on whether to use textbooks or not, on whether to grade their children or not, on whether a course consists mostly of study or mostly of real-life activities, and on whether to teach a half-year course in a half-year block or spread it out throughout the school year.

3. Homeschooling Families Can be Trusted. Homeschooling families can be trusted to do meaningful activities to fulfill reasonable requirements. If these same requirements were given to school students, many would figure out meaningless ways to achieve them.

4. Outside Structure Can be Helpful. There is usually a certain amount of power sharing between parents and teenagers, and it is not always easy for parents to get their teenagers to do reading, writing, or a particular subject area (depending upon the student). With these requirements the parents can be on their teenager's side helping them to do the required work but not have to be the heavy who makes the requirements.

5. Requirements Should be Clear. We have tried to specify the minimum requirements so clearly that students can know exactly what they have to do in order to achieve them.

6. Diplomas Mean More if Someone Outside the Family is Involved. Since Pennsylvania families must already have evaluators certify each year that they are giving the student an appropriate education, it is natural for the evaluator to sign the transcripts and diplomas along with the supervisor of the home education program (i.e. parent).

7. Graduates are not Drop Outs. Since our diploma is based upon meeting the requirements of Act 169 of 1988 we cannot award diplomas to people who "drop out" from complying with the home education law. Also, we don't want our graduates to be perceived as "drop outs" by the school superintendents and the general community. So, on the transcript form, the supervisor of the home education program will have to sign this statement: "I certify that this student met all of the requirements for graduation from a home education program as specified by Act 169 of 1988, and that the home education program was in full compliance with Pennsylvania law at the time of graduation." This means that the supervisor filed an affidavit with the local school district at the beginning, or during, the senior year and will turn in a portfolio at the end of the senior year. Parents who want their children to "drop out" from complying with the home education law once their children pass the compulsory school age should choose another diploma option.

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