Pauline's Guide to
Homeschooling in PA
Overview of the Pennsylvania Homeschooling Law

ON THIS PAGE: 
Beginning to home educate  /  During the school year  /  Homeschooling Tips  / 
End of the year documentation
 / 
Alternatives to the PA Home Ed Law
  / 
Help with Legal Questions
 / 
Other sources of info about PA home ed law.

There’s lots more homeschooling info on my site! 
Check out my
Homeschooling Main Page.

Homeschoolers have a lot of choices available to them.

Please take the information you find useful from these pages and ignore the rest.

If you decide to homeschool, please read The Pennsylvania Home Education Law (at the DOE's site) for yourself! 

Opinions vary on some points of the law.  There are 501 different school districts in PA.  I have tried to present the range of opinions and practices so that you may understand them and choose the approach that’s right for your family.

When in doubt, the Homeschooling Liaison at the PA Department of Ed (PDE) can be very helpful.

(By the way, if you haven't done so yet, now is the time to make yourself a notebook or file of "homeschool legal stuff" - it will be handy to have all of this information in one place to refer to at the beginning and end of each school year.)

I might be wrong! I am not a lawyer!  Please double-check legal information with appropriate sources!

This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk, askpauline@comcast.net.
Contents may be copied if credit is given

 

 

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.  Assuming all is well (and it usually is), the evaluator will provide a report certifying that an appropriate education has occurred. 

The portfolio (including the Log of Reading Materials, samples of the student’s work, and, in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades, scores from Standardized Testing) and the evaluator’s report must be submitted to the school district superintendent by June 30.  The superintendent will review the portfolio and evaluator’s report.  Again assuming all is well (and it generally is for 98+% of home educating families), the superintendent will return your materials and you can continue homeschooling. 

What if there is a problem with my documentation?

In the rare case where there is a problem, the superintendent must notify you by mail of the problem, and you will have 20 days to submit more documentation.  The vast majority of such situations are cleared up at this point.  In the extremely rare case that there is still a problem, there will be a hearing.  If you do not like the hearing examiner’s decision, you can appeal.  If there is still a problem, the student must enroll in the public school or a private school, and may not be home educated for a year.  THIS IS EXTREMELY RARE.

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 Homeschooling Law, on the Department of Education's 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!

         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.