Pauline's Guide to
Homeschooling in PA

Overview of the Pennsylvania Homeschooling Law

This page is designed as an OVERVIEW of the PA Home Education law.  I have included many links, which will help you to understand the details of the law. Don’t get overwhelmed!  It’s easier than it looks! 

Before You Begin Home Educating:  Registering with Your School District:

Annually, the parent (or guardian or other person who has legal custody of the child) must file a notarized Affidavit with the local school district.  The first year, you must file before you begin home educating.  In subsequent years, you must file by August 1.  The affidavit must contain a list of Educational Objectives – this is usually a brief, 1-2 page list covering the required subjects.  (Don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds and there are plenty of examples on my site that you can use.)  There are also certain basic Medical Requirements to be met.  (Some exemptions for medical, religious, philosophical, and/or ethical reasons are allowed.)  If your child has been formally identified through the school district as special ed, you must have a qualified person sign off on your objectives.

If your child is age 8 or under, or 17 or older, you will want to read more about the compulsory attendance age in PA.  You might not have to file at all!

During the school year:

During the year, you must provide instruction in the Required Subjects for the Required Days/Hours (180 days or 900/990 hours).  Do not worry – this needn’t be anywhere near as formal or school-y as it sounds.  To demonstrate that you have done this, and that your child has made progress, you must maintain a Portfolio, including some samples of student work and a Log of Reading Materials.  (I offer many Useful Forms, to help you find a logging method that works for you.)  The portfolio, typically kept in a 3-ring binder, need not be huge! 

In third, fifth, and eighth grades you must also do Standardized Testing, and include the results in your portfolio.  There are many testing options to choose from, ranging from traditional group fill-in-the-bubble tests, to gentler, less stressful individual tests. 

A few useful notes:

Home educators in PA can borrow textbooks from their local school district.  My curriculum page lists a few homeschooling suppliers, some websites where you can buy used curriculum, and homeschooling conferences/conventions across the state, where you can browse materials offered by vendors and attend workshops on various homeschooling subjects.  It also has some links to “what to teach and when to teach it” info.  My Useful Forms page provides forms to help you plan and/or document your child’s education.

For PA homeschoolers in High School, there are various options for earning a diploma.  As your child nears the high school years, becoming familiar with your options can help you plan the path that’s best for your child.

It can be extremely helpful to contact Local Homeschool Groups and Co-ops.  They can help you find resources, events, and classes (and make friends!) in your area. 

A recent PA law requires school districts to allow homeschooled students access to many public school extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, etc.), an option that may or may not be the right choice for you.  (In many cases, similar opportunities are available in the homeschool community.)  In addition, some districts allow homeschoolers to take a class or two, though the law does not require them to do so. To learn more, see my page on Homeschoolers in the Public Schools - Sports, Clubs, & Classes - Why & How

At the end of the school year:

Your child must have an Evaluation by a qualified evaluator.  You should hire an evaluator who is comfortable with your style of homeschooling.  (See my List of Evaluators or ask locally to find one.)  The evaluator will interview the child and review the Portfolio (which includes the Log of Reading Materials, samples of the student’s work, and, in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades, scores from Standardized Testing).  Assuming all is well (and it usually is), the evaluator will provide a report certifying that an appropriate education has occurred. 

The evaluator’s certification must be submitted to the school district superintendent by June 30. 

The October 2014 change in the law does not require the superintendent to respond in any way to the submission of the certification.

If you fail to submit the certification to the superintendent by June 30, "the superintendent shall send a letter by certified mail" to you, "stating that the certification is past due and notifying the supervisor to submit the certification within ten (10) days of receipt of the certified letter. If the certification is not submitted within that time, the board of school directors shall provide for a proper hearing..."

See my due process page for more information about the rare circumstances under which a school district superintendent can challenge a home education program.

Other Ways to Learn at Home in PA:  Alternatives to the Home Education Law:

Most families in PA homeschool under the PA Home Education Law.  This is the option that is described above.  However, there are a number of alternatives to the Home Education Law.  Each has pros and cons, and some only fit certain situations.  You will need to decide which option is the right choice for you and your child. 

Some parents who hold a PA teaching certificate, or who hire someone who does, homeschool under the Private Tutor Law, which has fewer reporting requirements.  There are two publicly-funded learn-at-home options -- the new Public Cyber Charter Schools (these are public correspondence schools, and there are quite a few to choose from), and Homebound Instruction, where the student is tutored for a few hours a week by a school district employee.  (Homebound instruction is generally only offered to children who cannot attend school due to illness, discipline issues, or other reasons.  It is a form of public schooling).  There are several other options that are rarely used (generally because of legal issues) but which may fit a particular family’s circumstances.  These include an Umbrella School, a Church School, a Religious Exemption claim under the Religious Freedom Protection Act, and Underground Homeschooling (which is illegal). 

If you are considering having someone else homeschool your child, see Is the parent required to do all the teaching?  and Can someone else homeschool my child?

Who can help me with legal questions?

Local and state-wide Homeschooling Support Groups can be helpful in answering legal questions.  It can be particularly useful to talk to other homeschoolers in your own school district, who will know about your district's usual practices.

Unfortunately, however, local school district personnel are not always familiar with the details of the laws regarding homeschooling, and sometimes provide inaccurate information.  The Homeschooling Liaison at the PA Department of Ed (PDE) can be very helpful when school districts overstep their bounds or when homeschoolers have questions about the law.  I also offer some Tips on Handling School District Problems and some Homeschooling Statistics.

There is no substitute for reading The Law yourself!

Where else can I read about the PA Home Education Law?

         The Home Education Law Itself
The Pennsylvania Home Education Law, on my web site. Like all laws, it's kind of hard to read, but it gets clearer each time you try.  Everyone should read the law for themselves!
This page also contains the text of various other parts of the law and code that may be relevant - but don't get overwhelmed, just start with the Home Ed law!

         Home Education in PA - FAQs
Frequently asked questions about PA's law, answered by the state Department of Education.  Also makes a useful handout to educate new homeschoolers, or anyone who is making a decision involving homeschoolers in PA.
(Note that, as of January '08, this FAQ list was out-of-date; specifically it was written before the law requiring school districts to allow home educated students to participate in extracurricular activities was passed.)

         Pennsylvania Home Education Network (PHEN)
A page with information about complying with the homeschooling law.  These folks emphasize keeping things simple. 

         PA Homeschoolers
These folks have a page about PA's law.  They also sell a booklet that explains the law in easy-to-read form, along with lots of examples, sample forms, etc.  They advocate keeping a bit more documentation than PHEN.

         PA Home Education Handbook
Another source that breaks down the homeschool law is The PA Home Education Handbook.  I have not looked at this source.  Written by Diana Baseman.  Can be purchased for $14.95 plus $3.05 S&H at 54 Fielding Ct. South Orange, NJ 07079.