Homeschooling laws can change, so be sure to check the Pennsylvania Department of Education website for updates.
Are you ready to start homeschooling in Pennsylvania? You may have many questions about topics like what you need to do to begin, what recordkeeping and testing is required, and how you need to interact with your local school district. You will want to start by understanding Pennsylvania homeschool law. You may feel overwhelmed as you start this process, but there are resources available and other homeschoolers who have already succeeded on this adventure!
Here is some information on Pennsylvania homeschool requirements to get you started:
Pennsylvania Homeschool Law
According to Pennsylvania Statute 1327, “Except as hereinafter provided, every child of compulsory school age having a legal residence in this Commonwealth, as provided in this article, and every migratory child of compulsory school age, is required to attend a day school in which the subjects and activities prescribed by the standards of the State Board of Education are taught in the English language.”
“Through the enactment of Act 16, the definition of compulsory school age was changed to “the period of a child’s life from the time the child’s parents elect to have the child enter school and which shall be no later than 6 years of age until the child reaches 18 years of age. The term does not include a child who holds a certificate of graduation from a regularly accredited, licensed, registered or approved high school. 24 P.S. §13-1326” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, “In 1988, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 169 (Senate Bill 154), amending the Pennsylvania School Code. It amended section 1327, Compulsory School Attendance, to define a properly qualified private tutor and to allow a parent, guardian, or person having legal custody of a child to home school their children as an option for complying with compulsory school attendance. It added section 1327.1, Home Education Program, to specify the rights and responsibilities of the parents and the school district where the family resides.”
What do I need to be eligible to be a homeschool parent?
“The supervisor of the home education program must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Examples include a diploma awarded by a home education supervisor after October 31, 2014 or a diploma awarded by an approved diploma-granting organization (Act 196 of 2014); or a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma awarded by passing a high school equivalency test or completing 30 college level credits from a United States accredited postsecondary institution” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“A parent has no legal requirement for any particular skill or certification to homeschool a child with special needs. The only limitation is that their affidavit must address the specific needs of the child and be approved (24 P.S. § 13-1327(d))” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Also, in order to homeschool in Pennsylvania, “all adults living in the home and persons having legal custody of a child or children must not have been convicted of the criminal offenses itemized in 24 P.S. §1-111 (e) within five years immediately preceding the date of the affidavit” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Do I need to notify the school district of my intent to homeschool my child?
Yes! “The homeschool supervisor must submit the notarized affidavit and other required documents to the school district before starting a homeschool program. If there is an intention to continue to homeschool, the homeschool supervisor must complete a new affidavit for each student” each year (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“In addition to the notarized affidavit, the parent, guardian or legal custodian must attach:
- an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area,
- evidence (records or a letter from the physician) that the child or children have been immunized as required by School Code Sec. 1303(a) unless a physician certifies the child has a medical contraindication to immunization and
- evidence (records or a letter from the physician) that the child or children have received medical services required for students of the child’s or children’s age or grade level in Article XIV, or religious exemption for these two requirements” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“The affidavit covers the school year (July 1 – June 30) and must be submitted to the superintendent’s office no later than August 1 of each school year a child is homeschooled. The exception is the first year a student is homeschooled; that year the home education program may begin at any time, as soon as an affidavit and supporting documentation is submitted” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
What educational options are available to my homeschooler?
You do have options as a homeschool family. For example, “parents have a legal right to borrow copies of the school district’s own planned courses, textbooks and other curriculum materials appropriate to the student’s age and grade level; these are provided free of charge” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
There are also many alternatives to public school in Pennsylvania. See the Home Education and Private Tutoring Guide for more information on a variety of options and to specifically compare private tutoring versus home education. “One strategy for parents is to have their children privately tutored through eleventh grade and then switch to homeschooling in twelfth grade so that the student can obtain a state-recognized high school diploma. If this strategy is followed, the parent will need to ensure that the private tutor structures the student’s education in such a way as to complete the requirements for graduation from a home education program” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“Some options provide both curriculum and secondary oversight of the work (parents exercise primary oversight); these options are referred to as “umbrella schools.” When using an umbrella school, care must be taken to ensure the mandatory courses and graduation requirements defined by law are met; specific programs may need to be augmented to ensure this” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“A school district may allow students that are homeschooled or being privately tutored to attend classes in the district’s schools or a career and technical educational program. […] This provision of services is at the discretion of the school district of residence and not mandated. Review your local school district’s policy or contact your local school district home education coordinator for additional information” (Pennsylvania Department of Education). Similarly, “Homeschool students may take selective classes from a private school, but this is at the discretion of the private school” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“Concurrent enrollment is a program administered and developed by a school entity (such as a school district or an area career and technical educational school) and an eligible postsecondary institution that allows students to concurrently enroll in postsecondary courses and to receive both secondary and postsecondary credit for that coursework. The term includes an early college high school program, a gateway to college program or a middle college high school program (24 P.S. § 16-1602-B “Concurrent enrollment program”). Concurrent enrollment programs are open to students who are enrolled in a school district, a charter school, an area career and technical educational school, a nonpublic school, a private school or a home education program (24 P.S. § 16-1602-B “Concurrent student”)” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Pennsylvania Homeschool Requirements
Because Pennsylvania does highly regulate homeschooling, there are Pennsylvania homeschool requirements you must satisfy when you homeschool:
- Begin homeschooling by age 6.
- Submit the Home Education Affidavit for Elementary or Secondary homeschool students.
- Teach the required subjects:
- “Elementary school level (grades K-6), mandatory courses: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.
- Secondary school level (grades 7-12), mandatory courses: 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. Such courses of study may include, at the discretion of the supervisor of the home education program, economics; biology; chemistry; foreign languages; trigonometry; or other age-appropriate courses as contained in Chapter 5 (Curriculum Requirements) of the State Board of Education” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
- Graduation requirements (grades 9-12): “Four years of English 2. Three years of mathematics 3. Three years of science 4. Three years of social studies 5. Two years of arts and humanities” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
- See the Pennsylvania Core Standards and Pennsylvania Core Crosswalks for more information regarding the expectations for public school students.
- Provide instruction for the required time: “180 days of instruction or 900 hours of instruction per year at the elementary level (grades kindergarten to 6) or 990 hours per year at the secondary level (grades 7-12) (24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(c))” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
- Arrange for standardized testing in grades 3, 5, and 8.
- Submit annual evaluations to the school district of residence. “The evaluation of a home education program by a qualified evaluator is the required proof that an appropriate education has taken place, whether from a mid-year request by the superintendent or the evidence due at the end of the school year” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
- Stay current with homeschooling laws and requirements.
Do I need to administer testing to my homeschooler?
Yes! “A written evaluation of the home education program must be submitted by the home education supervisor to the superintendent of schools in the student’s district of residence no later than June 30 for the closing school year and should be submitted at the close of the program for those programs that do not take place for an entire school year” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“The law requires that each home education student be interviewed, and their portfolio reviewed by a qualified home education evaluator each school year. The evaluator’s written certification that an appropriate education is occurring must be submitted by the home education supervisor to the superintendent of the student’s district of residence by June 30 of each school year (24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(e),(h.1))” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Note, “The supervisor or the spouse of the supervisor of the home education program is not allowed to be the evaluator for their home education program, regardless of any qualifications (24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(e)(2)). […] The home education supervisor may select anyone to evaluate their student’s portfolios, as long as that individual fulfills one of the five qualifications” (Pennsylvania Department of Education). See the Home Education and Private Tutoring Guide for more information about qualifications of home education evaluators.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, “The Pennsylvania School Code, 24 P.S. §13-1327.1(e)(1) states that the portfolio for home education students in grades 3, 5 and 8 must include the results of the statewide tests for reading/language arts and mathematics or nationally normed standardized achievement tests. If the supervisor of the home education program requests that the student(s) take the statewide tests administered in these grades, the school district must allow the student to take the test at the school building the home education student normally would attend or other accommodations agreed to by the school district and the parent.
The Department has approved the following nationally normed standardized tests for use by home education programs if they choose not to take the statewide tests:
- California Achievement Test
- Comprehensive Testing Program (CTPIV)
- Iowa Test of Basic Skills
- Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)
- Metropolitan Achievement Test
- Peabody Achievement Individual Test – Revised Version
- Stanford Achievement Test
- Terra Nova
- Woodcock-Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement III
- Woodcock-Johnson IV
- Wechsler Individual Achievement Test III (WIAT-III)”
What records do I need to keep when I homeschool my child?
In Pennsylvania, there are certain records that homeschool families need to keep. For example, parents are required to maintain a portfolio of records and materials for homeschool students, including the following minimum portfolio requirements:
- “Samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student; and
- A log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used. The log must demonstrate that the home education program provided a minimum of either (1) 180 days of instruction or (2) 900 hours of instruction per year at the elementary level (grades kindergarten to 6), or 990 hours per year at the secondary level (grades 7-12). See 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(c). If the choice is to document days, the portfolio does not need to specify the number of hours each day.
- For students in grades three, five, or eight, the results of the statewide tests (PSSAs) or other authorized nationally normed standardized achievement tests. […]
- A written evaluation from a qualified home education evaluator verifying whether the student has had an appropriate education. It is the responsibility of the parent to pay for any charge for this service” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Parents should also keep transcripts and consider saving “yearly evaluations as evidence of course completion for the twelfth-grade evaluator” (Pennsylvania Department of Education). The Department also suggests, “a parent may want to ask each year’s evaluator to sign a detailed list of the courses evaluated for that year. This list can be provided to the twelfth-grade evaluator to confirm completion of the mandatory courses, not personally reviewed by the evaluator, in order to sign the diploma.”
In addition to the required recordkeeping, we also recommend you do some personal recordkeeping to provide verification of education in the event you would need to show some form of educational proof to the state or other legal entities or to prepare for re-entry into public school or postsecondary pathways. This includes the following:
- Attendance, required
- Immunization records, required
- Lists of texts and workbooks used
- Other test and evaluation results
- Correspondence with school officials
You may also be able to find more information on Pennsylvania homeschool requirements through your local school district.
Other Pennsylvania Homeschool Policies
Once you make sure that you are following Pennsylvania homeschool law and meeting Pennsylvania homeschool requirements, here are some other things you need to know:
Can my homeschooled child participate in extracurricular activities offered by the public school?
“Homeschooled students have the right to participate in the school district’s extracurricular activities, subject to meeting the eligibility criteria or its equivalent” […] These are the activities that are subject to the provisions of 24 P.S. § 5-511, including, but not limited to, clubs, musical ensembles, athletics and theatrical productions, interscholastic athletics, varsity sports and intramural sports, with certain qualifications. The law does not require a school district to allow participation in certain activities such as the senior prom, commencement exercises, or music classes/lessons which are considered a graded course; these are decisions made at the local school district level. The law also includes all activities related to competitive sports contests, games, events or exhibitions involving individual students or teams of students whenever such activities occur between schools within the school district or between schools outside of the school district” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
Participating homeschool students “are subject to compliance with all policies, rules and regulations, or their equivalent, of the governing organization of the activity” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
What if I want to re-enroll my child in public school after homeschooling?
“Should the student ever enroll in public school, the school district has the right to place the student in the grade level and courses that the school district deems appropriate. The portfolio could be shown as evidence of the student’s progress which could be helpful in placement decisions” (Pennsylvania Department of Education). “There are no laws or regulations governing the acceptance of home education work; it is at the discretion of the school. However, school districts are to have written policies” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
“School districts have a wide range of solutions for the determination of acceptance of credits from transferring homeschooled students. Below are some examples:
- Some schools accept all home education credits.
- Some schools do not accept any home education credits.
- Some schools accept home education credits for any classes the school also offers.
- Some schools accept home education credits for classes the school offers but also assign general education credits for classes the district does not offer.
- Some schools allow students to test for credit” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
What are my child’s postsecondary options after homeschooling?
“While PDE does not provide or track individual diplomas of students participating in home education programs, students in home education programs have multiple paths to a state-recognized diploma” (Pennsylvania Department of Education). For example, “Act 196 of 2014 provides for state-recognized supervisor-issued diplomas for students completing the graduation requirements of a home education high school diploma. This diploma must be on a form provided by PDE, and must be co-signed by the evaluator whose evaluation was submitted to the superintendent for the student’s twelfth grade (graduation) year (24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(d.1))” (Pennsylvania Department of Education). See the Home Education and Private Tutoring Guide for more information about these paths.
“If the evaluation states that the student has completed the graduation requirements for a home education program, the school district can make a notation in the student’s record so that if the evaluator-signed diploma is lost, a secondary confirmation is available” (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
In preparing for life after homeschool, you may want to inquire with postsecondary colleges and universities, organizations, and/or military branches regarding admissions requirements.
See the Home Education and Private Tutoring and Home Education Program Basic Education Circular pages on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website for even more information on homeschooling in Pennsylvania.
Connect With Local Homeschoolers
Remember, too, that you are not alone. You should connect with local homeschoolers from your state, who can help you with Pennsylvania homeschool law and Pennsylvania homeschool requirements and offer you all kinds of practical advice and suggestions. They can give you guidance on everything from curriculum to daily schedules to recordkeeping, and they may be able to share information about local resources, support groups, and field trips. Click the image below to find Pennsylvania Homeschool Groups by county.