askPauline's Guide to Homeschooling in PA

The Affidavit

In Pennsylvania, the Home Education process begins with the affidavit. This page contains information about filing the affidavit with your school district. This page assumes you will be filing under Act 169, the PA home education law. There are several alternatives to the Home Ed. Law - you might want to review them first to be sure the home education law is the best fit for you. If your child is age 8 or under, or age 17 or older, you will want to review the compulsory school age before filing, as you may be able to avoid filing entirely. The affidavit requirement sounds like a big fat pain the first time around, but it's essentially just filling in a few forms. You can do this!

Rarely, a district asks for more than is required. If you have problems with your district asking for more than you feel the law requires, see my district problems page.

Affidavit Deadlines:

"A notarized affidavit" must be filed by "the parent or guardian or other person having legal custody of the child or children", "prior to the commencement of the home education program and annually thereafter" on or before August 1. The affidavit is filed with your local school district.

If you are filing for the first time, the August 1 deadline does not apply to you; however you must file before you commence (begin) home education. If you will be starting in September, you may wish to get your affidavit in as early as the previous July 1, so you can “count” things you do in the summer (camps, trips, etc.) as “school”. (The academic year – the “accounting year” for homeschoolers - runs from July 1 to June 30.) This is not a huge deal, though, so don't sweat it if you don't get it done until the end of August.

If you are taking your child out of school mid-school-year to home educate, you can do so at any time during the year, provided that you file the affidavit before withdrawing the child from school. It's generally accepted that you can count the days/hours your child has already attended school towards your 180 days (or 900/990 hours) of home education. You can begin home educating the day you file.
-- Note that a very few folks have had problems with truancy charges due to paperwork that remained incomplete for several days (as in this HSLDA case), so double-check you've got it all before submitting it. (My impression is that this is rare, and that it is more likely to happen in situations where there is already some tension between the family and the district, and/or where truancy may have been an issue in the past, and/or where the "unexcused absence" lasts more than three days.)
-- Of course, if it is an emergency/safety situation, you may want to keep your child home, file as soon as possible, and deal with any possible fallout later.
-- Note also that sometimes the office which processes the affidavit doesn't tell the school which your child has been attending that the child has withdrawn. To avoid confusion, and as a courtesy, you may wish to notify the school directly. You can do this by phone or in a letter. (If you are uncomfortable telling them you will be homeschooling, some suggest saying the child will be "privately educated".) Obviously if you are withdrawing from a private school you will want to notify them!

If you filed last year, you need to file for the coming year on (or before) August 1. Many home educators submit their affidavit when they submit the evaluator's certification from the previous year, so that they only need to deal with the district paperwork once a year. Regardless of when you file, as a returning homeschooler your "accounting year" runs from July 1 to June 30, so you can still count July “school days” or hours even if you don’t submit your affidavit until August 1. (While the official deadline is August 1, there are usually no serious consequences if you submit it later, so long as it is before school starts.)

Filing Late: Note that if you are very late filing, at some point there will not be enough days left in the year to get in the required 180 school days before the June 30 deadline. If your child was enrolled somewhere else at some point in the year (public school, public cyber-charter school, private school), then you can count those "school days" towards your total. Note also that home educators can count days OR hours - 900 for grades 1-6 and 990 for grades 7-12; this may be a better approach if you file late.

Thoughts for families who are filing late or considering "going legal": Every year, there are families who legally should have filed before school begins, but for one reason or another did not. Minor lateness - filing a few weeks into September - is usually not an issue. However, some families, for various reasons, find that they are several months late. Families in this position have a choice to make - they can file late, or they can continue to educate their kids without filing, often called "homeschooling underground". Homeschooling underground, though not uncommon, is not legal, and thus carries a risk of truancy charges. On the other hand, filing late calls attention to the family and gives the school district the "heads up" that the family has already been homeschooling underground and therefore has been truant (at least for the beginning of the year, if not for longer). What to do? Each family in this situation must weigh the pros and cons for themselves.

Similar issues apply when a family who has in previous years chosen to be underground decides to "go legal" and file. Generally speaking, it's probably best to do this at the normal time (sometime between July 1 and the start of school in your district), as it is less likely to raise red flags. If you miss this opportunity, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of filing late.

I cannot promise you what will happen if you file late or "go legal" after being underground. Obviously, it only takes one person at the district to push the issue in a negative way, and it only takes one person to say "thanks for the forms" and file them away as usual without incident. Any one case can go either way, depending on the particular people who handle it. That said, I've spoken to a number of people who have filed late and/or gone legal after homeschooling underground, and in the cases I'm aware of, they've generally gotten a stern talking-to and nothing more. Nonetheless, it's important to be aware that the school district would be within their rights to pursue truancy charges for the time before filing. In each case I'm aware of, the parents were intelligent, well-spoken, calm and rational people who had been underground but were "doing school" in a defensible way. Pleasantness, an air of competence, and an obvious intention to "do the right thing" seem to go a long way. In addition, the situations I'm aware of were cases where the family filed before their truancy was brought to the attention of the district. Cases where the family's truancy is discovered during an investigation of other concerns (child welfare, etc.), obviously may not go as smoothly.

Where to file: 

In theory, you file your affidavit with the superintendent of your school district. In reality, every school district has a different procedure. (For example, the Philadelphia SD has had several different procedures over the years; at one point they accepted them at a regional office.) If you are concerned about your affidavit getting to the right person once you've mailed it, or having to go from office to office if you go in person, you can call your district’s main administrative office, and ask them where they’d like you to submit it. 

By mail or in person? 

Some folks prefer to take the affidavit to the district office in person, so they can be sure it gets to the right place without delay, so they know for sure it has been received, and so they can get a receipt. Other folks, (busy moms or those who prefer not to deal with the district in person), mail their affidavit, certified mail, return receipt requested, to the superintendent or the appropriate office. Whichever way you choose, be sure to keep a copy of everything you submit, and be sure to get a receipt. Every year a few affidavits go missing, and it can be difficult to deal with the resulting red tape unless you can show that you did submit the required items.

Affidavit Forms:

Your school district may have an affidavit form which they give to new home educators, but many home educators create their own affidavit, following the requirements in the PA home education law. As the PDE notes in the most recent home education BEC, their sample affidavits "are not exclusive and the use of other forms is also permissible as long as all required information is provided". If you use the district’s form, be sure it correlates with the law (some do not), and includes any additional statements you wish to make.

Here is a basic affidavit form, in three different formats. It is taken directly from the law.

basicaffidavit.doc ~ basicaffidavit.pdf ~ basicaffidavit.html

Here is another version, with spaces for multiple children and a quote from the PA homeschooling law at the top. (If you have lots of kids, use the .doc version and add more lines for their names.) If you have several children, filing one affidavit that covers all of them can save you a bit in notary fees.

basicaffidavitmorekidswithlaw.doc ~ basicaffidavitmorekidswithlaw.htm ~ basicaffidavitmorekidswithlaw.pdf

If you use one of the above forms, you will need to attach the following:

~ Your objectives. (See Educational Objectives)

~ Any medical forms you feel are necessary. (See Immunizations and Health/Medical Services)

~ Special ed forms if your child has been identified by the district as needing special education services. (See Affidavits for Special Education Students )

Links to other versions of affidavit forms are on the sidebar to the left.

Affidavit Contents: The affidavit must include the following items:

This section describes the details of what the affidavit form must contain. The green text is quoted from the law. Unless otherwise noted, all of the affidavit forms I've linked to include the required information.

Supervisor's Name

"the name of the supervisor of the home education program who shall be responsible for the provision of instruction" "Supervisor" shall mean the parent or guardian or such person having legal custody of the child or children who shall be responsible for the provision of instruction, provided that such person has a high school diploma or its equivalent."

It is the PDE’s opinion that you do not have to submit a copy of your diploma with your affidavit.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education advises that the statement in the notarized affidavit itself testifies to the fact that the supervisor possesses a high school diploma. They do not list the supervisor's diploma as part of the required documentation on their web page about the affidavit. Nonetheless, sometimes a school district will ask for a copy of the supervisor's diploma. If this happens to you, you can simply say "I'd like to check on that with the PDE - let me get back to you." You can then contact the PDE, and/or request that your school district do so. (Give them the contact info so they talk to the right person.) The PDE will back you up.
To avoid this problem, some folks print this Letter from the PDE re: diplomas (in .doc form) and include it with their affidavit so that their district can become aware/reminded of this policy.
Sometimes a district will ask for a child's social security number, or birth certificate. The PDE believes these are not required either. Again, simply call the PDE or ask your school district to do so. See also my district problems page.

Child's Names and Ages

"the name and age of each child who shall participate in the home education program"

Note that birth date, grade level, and social security number are not required.

Grade skipping & Grade determination: In the past, HSLDA has stated, in support of a family who grade-skipped their student, that "students in a home education program are not subject to acceleration policies developed for public school students" and that "the grade level placement of a student in a home education program is determined by the supervisor of the program, not public school officials."

In contrast, the a previous version of the PDE website stated that "Homeschooled students do not “skip” grades, although they may cover the usually grade-specific material more quickly." (Retrieved 1 July, 2011.) They gave no legal reference for this statement. Interestingly, they also stated, on another page, "In a home education program, the parent sets the grade of a child."

The old PDE website also advised:

"Since the affidavit is based on age, not grade, many districts are concerned about fulfilling their obligation for oversight (curriculum, testing, and immunizations and medical exams) when a parent chooses to declare only the age of the student and not a grade. This is compounded by the fact that students may be in differing grades depending on the subject.
In a home education program, the parent sets the grade of a child. In other words, if the child is struggling, they could be in a lower grade; if the child is accelerating, they could be in a higher grade. It is not unusual for a child to span more than one grade, depending on the subject – this is the beauty and flexibility of a home education program. Of course, the child likely would have an “overall” grade.
Comparing the age of the child listed on the affidavit with the law and regulations and the state board definition of age/grade appropriate materials, in conjunction with a yearly review of the portfolio contents, may help the school district reasonably infer the grade of the child from year-to-year and determine whether an appropriate education is taking place. This would give guidance on minimal standards, not the accelerated education which could occur."

Address and Phone Number

"the address and telephone number of the home education program site"

Certification about Criminal Convictions

"a certification to be signed by the supervisor that the supervisor, all adults living in the home and persons having legal custody of a child or children in a home education program have not been convicted of the criminal offenses enumerated in subsection (e) of section 111 within five years immediately preceding the date of the affidavit."

There is a listing of these offenses at Section 24 P.S. 1 -111. This is basically the same rule that public schools must follow for their employees.

Generally speaking, the crimes include criminal homicide, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, indecent exposure, incest, concealing death of child, endangering welfare of children, dealing in infant children, prostitution and related offenses, offenses involving obscene and other sexual materials and performances, corruption of minors, sexual abuse of children, and felony charges under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. They also include similar crimes committed in another state or country.
In 2012, the law was changed to include also offenses related to luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure, institutional sexual assault, sexual intercourse with an animal, unlawful contact with minor, solicitation of minors to traffic drugs, and sexual exploitation of children.

English Language Statement

"that such subjects as required by law are offered in the English language"

Immunization and Health/Medical Services Statement

"evidence that the child has been immunized … and has received the health and medical services required for students of the child's age or grade level…"

There is considerable variation in how school districts handle this part of the law, and also variation in how homeschoolers handle it. More information about the medical/dental/immunization requirements, ways to comply with this part of the law (including medical & religious/ethical/philosophical exemptions), and links to handy-dandy forms, are on my Medical Requirements page.

Affidavit is Satisfactory Evidence Thereof

"and that the home education program shall comply with the provisions of this section and that the notarized affidavit shall be satisfactory evidence thereof."

Educational Objectives -- Must be included with the affidavit.

The affidavit must also include "an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area""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..."

This requirement can sound overwhelming at first. Some homeschoolers view it as pointless busy work - another hoop to jump through before you can begin homeschooling. Others point out that this requirement makes it clear that parents set the goals for their child's educational program, and are therefore under no obligation to follow the local school district's or the state's standards or curriculum (other than teaching the subjects required in some way) - a very important distinction.

You may choose to treat it as an opportunity to do some serious thinking about what your goals are for the year, or you may take a minimalist approach and give very broad objectives to the state, whether or not you have more detailed personal goals. (That's what most folks do). Either way, it is not necessary to provide details about your specific choice of materials/textbooks/curricula.

Are you getting nervous? Maybe because you really don't have a plan yet? That's OK! It's not uncommon to take the plunge into homeschooling without having the details figured out yet. This objectives thing sounds hard, but with a little help, you'll be fine. First, take a look at this list of objectives. It's a good solid list that gives a pretty good idea of the kinds of things the child will be doing, but it doesn't get at all specific about materials or subjects. You might want to tweak it a bit depending on your child's age, interests, and abilities, but it's a good start. You see, you don't have to write your objectives from scratch! It's OK to copy what other people have written (with their permission, of course), or use their ideas as a starting point when writing your own. With that in mind, here are several sample objectives that have actually been used by experienced PA homeschoolers. The authors have given permission for you to use part or all of them in writing your own objectives. So open up your word processor, do a little cut-and-paste, include some of your own thoughts, and before you know it you'll have your own objectives!

Be sure you include all of the required subjects for your child's grade level. (Read more about required subjects on my Subjects page.)

  • For elementary (Grades 1-6), you need English (spelling, reading, writing), Arithmetic, Science, History of the US and PA, Civics, Geography, (you can group those three under something like "Social Studies" if you like), Safety Education (including the dangers and prevention of fires), Health and Physiology, Physical Education, Music, and Art.
  • For secondary (Grades 7-13), you need English (language, literature, speech, and composition), Science, Social Studies (geography, civics, world history, history of the US and PA), Mathematics (general mathematics, algebra, and geometry), Art, Music, Physical Education, Health, Safety Education (including the dangers and prevention of fires).

Elementary Sample Objectives (Grades 1-6)

~ Ungraded Basic Elementary Objectives - suitable for any grade, written by me (inspired by objectives shared by those who walked this path before me). Feel free to use these as-is or as a starting point for writing your own.
This one is designed to print-and-use, so I have it in several formats: 
./homeschoolobjectives.doc (in .doc for MSWord, so you can modify it yourself), or
./homeschoolobjectives.pdf (in .pdf for Adobe Acrobat)

~ Elementary Objectives (by Catherine) -- very general.

~ Elementary Objectives (by an eleven year veteran homeschooling mom) -- Particularly nice if you're looking for something to use year after year, child after child.

~ Third Grade Objectives -- More detailed and specific, from

~ Fourth Grade Objectives -- More detailed and specific, from

~ Objectives for a 10-year-old unschooler

~ 5th Grade Objectives -- More detailed and specific, yet still general.

~ 6th Grade Objectives (by Evelyn Apple) -- more specific

~ PHEA's Elementary Objectives – very minimal

~ PHEN’s Elementary Objectives – very minimal

~ NHCH's Elementary Objectives - very minimal, from North Hills Christian Homeschoolers.

Secondary Sample Objectives (Grades 7-12)

~ Secondary Objectives (by Catherine) -- very general

~ Objectives for a 14-year-old unschooler

~ 10th Grade Objectives (by Evelyn Apple) -- more detailed & specific

~ PHEA's Secondary Objectives – very minimal

NOTE: While most districts are fine with the more general objectives, now and again a district wants something more specific. (These 5th grade objectives were written in response to such a request, from the Penn Delco district.) In this case, there are several things that you can do. It might be helpful to contact other homeschoolers in your school district, and ask them if they'd be willing to show you their objectives, so you can get a sense of what kinds of objectives the school district has been seeing from others. (That doesn't mean that you have to do what they are doing, but it will give you some sense of what the school district has come to expect, which is a useful piece of information to have.) Look on my Support Groups page for help in finding local homeschooling families. You might also want to give the PDE homeschooling liaison a call and see what she says about whether your district is being reasonable or not. You can find more specific examples of objectives in the Guide to PA Homeschool Law available from PA Homeschoolers. Ultimately, you will have to decide whether you are comfortable giving the school district what they want, or if you prefer to insist that they take what you are willing to give. See my School District Problems page.

By the way, do you remember that second sentence in the law about the objectives? "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..." That’s an important sentence! It means that you cannot be found out of compliance for not fulfilling your objectives. If you find yourself changing your plans mid-year, or find that what you were planning was totally unrealistic, (and, especially if this is your first year, you’ll almost certainly be making some changes as you go along) there is no need to “revise” the objectives you submitted. The flexibility to change your approach overnight is one of the advantages of homeschooling.

Additional Requirement for Special Education Students:

If your child has been identified as needing special education services must have their home ed program approved and the approval must be submitted with the affidavit.

"Any student who has been identified … as needing special education services, excluding those students identified as gifted and/or talented, shall be in compliance with the requirements of compulsory attendance by participating in a home education program… when the program addresses the specific needs of the exceptional student and is approved by a teacher with a valid certificate from the Commonwealth to teach special education or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist, and written notification of such approval is submitted with the notarized affidavit..."

"The supervisor of a home education program may request that the school district or intermediate unit of residence provide services that address the specific needs of the exceptional student in the home education program. When the provision of services is agreed to by both the supervisor and the school district or intermediate unit, all services shall be provided in the public schools or in a private school licensed to provide such programs and services."

Some evaluators are qualified to do the approval for you – check my Evaluator List for help finding one. If you can't find someone locally, contact a qualified person from the list anyway - some people are willing to do these approvals through the mail or over the internet. You can also have a friend or neighbor who meets the requirements do it for you, even if they've never done it before. Once you've found a qualified person to sign off on your objectives, this added step should go pretty smoothly each year.

Note that the PDE says that if the person doing the approval is "a teacher with a valid certificate from the Commonwealth to teach special education", they do not have to have an active certification. The PDE has previously stated that, "The law does not stipulate that the certification must be active, but only that it exists. This is similar to the regulation for evaluators of home education programs and private tutors – neither of which are required to be current in Act 48 credits (professional development)." See my Act 48 information for details.

Does this requirement apply to your child? 

Some parents aren’t sure if this clause applies to their child or not. This is only a requirement for kids who have been formally identified by the school system as “special ed”. If your child has gotten special help in school, but hasn’t been formally identified as special ed, this clause doesn’t apply. It also doesn’t apply to kids who may qualify for special ed but haven’t been through the identification process (perhaps because they have never attended school). Generally, you would know if your child has been officially identified as special ed – you will have signed forms about it, and probably had IEP meetings. 

Is there an alternative? 

An alternative to going through the pre-approval process is to go through the process of getting an existing special ed label removed. This would not be a good choice if you want special ed services from the district, either now or in the future. For example, if at some point in the future your child returned to public school, perhaps due to significant changes in your family (illness, divorce, death of a parent), it would be good to have the label already in place, so that there is no delay in starting accomodations. Having the label may also help your evaluator (or anyone else who takes a critical eye towards your home education program) have realistic expectations for your child's progress. In addition, a label might provide access to accomodations for standardized testing, in college classes, or in other settings. However, removing the label may be worth pursuing if you do not want services now and are sure you will not want them in the future. The details of this process are beyond my area of expertise. PHEA has a nice summary of the pros and cons.  This summary of PA special ed law from the Education Law Center, and/or the PDE's special ed info site, and/or the PDE's page on homeschooling exceptional students may also be helpful. You can also call the PDE’s Special Education ConsultLine at 1-800-879-2301, where a special education adviser may be able to answer your questions or direct your concerns to someone who can help you. You may also want to ask the PDE’s home education liaison.

Can my child get a special ed evaluation and/or services from the district? 

The PDE's old FAQ page said: "If you believe your child is disabled and in need of special education services, but has not been evaluated, the school district in which you reside is required to evaluate the child, without charge, when you make such a request in writing. The district must explain the results of the evaluation to you.
If you desire special education services, you may enroll your child in the public school to receive a free, appropriate public education, or you may ask the school district to provide service(s) as a part of the home education program. If you ask for services, then you and the school district may come to an agreement as to what services will be provided and where. The school district is not obligated to provide special education services if you do not enroll your child part-time, however. Any services which are agreed to may be provided in a public school or private school which is licensed to provide such programs and services; these services will not be provided in your home. (24 P.S. 13-1327(d))."

Special Ed Approval Forms

There is not an official form for special ed approval. Folks who regularly provide this service most likely have a form or style of letter they prefer to use. Some folks discuss the specific ways in which the home ed program meets the needs of the student, others simply state that it does and leave it at that. If you’re using a qualified friend to approve your program, you might like to use one of the forms below, either as-is or as a starting point for creating your own. 

-- specialedapproval.doc (in .doc for MSWord), or specialedapproval.pdf (in .pdf for Adobe Acrobat)
This is a simple special ed pre-approval form. Includes a quote from the PA home education law about the pre-approval requirement. Have a qualified person fill out the form and submit it with your affidavit.