In Pennsylvania, homeschooling is a right. As long as the required documentation is submitted in the notarized affidavit, the school district’s approval is not required (See 22 Pa. Code § 11.31a).
At first, the state requirements can seem overwhelming. This post breaks down, step by step, the minimum requirements each homeschool family in Pennsylvania must follow.
Note: this post focuses on the minimum state requirements and does not discuss curriculum choices or how to homeschool at home.
There’s a lot to cover, so we also created this handy Infographic to cover the steps at a very high level. When you’re ready for the detailed steps and sample documents, scroll down and dive in!
Step One: Educate Yourself
Pennsylvania uses certain terminology that you may want to learn and has certain roles and responsibilities that you’ll be expected to understand:
- Home Education Supervisor – the parent, guardian or person having legal custody of the child that will be homeschooled.
- Home Education Program – the program you create during your homeschool year.
- Affidavit – a legal document that names the Home Education Supervisor, the child(ren) who will be homeschooled, as well as several attestations of compliance with homeschool law (which we’ll go over in more detail in step 3).
- Portfolio – a record that documents that the compulsory attendance laws have be observed and that the student has made sustained progress in the overall home education program (See 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(a),(c),(e)).
- Evaluator – a licensed clinical or school psychologist or a teacher certified by the Commonwealth or by a nonpublic school teacher or administrator. Such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have the required experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students. The Home Education Supervisor or spouse who is also licensed evaluator may not evaluate his/her own children. (See 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(e),(h.1)).
Step Two: Confirm Your School District
If you’re new to Pennsylvania, or if you’ve never had children in public school here, you may not be sure what school district you live in. Because you’ll need to submit your homeschool paperwork to the superintendent of your school district, it’s important to know which district you’re in. You can determine what district you’re in by following the instructions at this link.
Step Three: The Affidavit
Each year, a home education program begins with the submission of a notarized affidavit to the superintendent’s office in your school district of residence, by the home education supervisor.
The format of the affidavit can vary, but it must cover basic information as required by the state (See 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(b)(1)):
- the name of the supervisor of the home education program,
- the name and age of the student,
- the address and telephone number of the home education program site,
- a statement that the mandatory subjects will be taught in the English language,
- an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area,
- evidence that the child has been immunized in accordance with section 1303(a) or a statement that you have a religious objection to immunizations
- evidence that the child has received the health and medical services required for students of the child’s age or grade level in Article XIV or a statement that you have a religious objection to medical examinations
- assurance that the home education program will comply with the law, and
- a certification that the supervisor, all adults living in the home and persons having legal custody of the student 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.
Sample affidavits are included here:
- Simple Affidavit – one child
- Simple Affidavit – multiple children
- Sample Affidavit from PA Department of Education – Elementary
- Sample Affidavit from PA Department of Education – Secondary
Keep in mind that the affidavit must be notarized, so do not sign it until you are in the presence of a notary.
The affidavit requires the home education supervisor to attach educational objectives, which can be a very simple overview of each subject that a student will learn. Sample educational objectives are included below:
When to submit: an initial affidavit with educational objectives may be submitted any time during the school year, but all subsequent affidavits are due by August 1 for the upcoming school year (See 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1(b)(1)).
Who must submit an affidavit:
- Kindergarten in public school. If a child was enrolled in a public school for kindergarten or above and transferred to a home education program, an affidavit and an evaluation is due every year regardless of the age or grade of the child. (See PA Supreme Court appeal decision, June 16, 2014 in the Commonwealth of PA v. Jennifer Ann Kerstetter)
- Enrolled in any educational option for first grade or above. If a child attended first grade or above in any public or nonpublic school, or the child was enrolled in a private tutoring program for first grade or above, or an affidavit to homeschool was submitted for first grade or above, an affidavit and an evaluation is due every year regardless of the child’s age (See 24 P.S. § 13-1326).
- Eight (8) years old. If a child has never been enrolled in any legal educational option, an affidavit must be submitted by the student’s eighth birthday. However, school districts have the option of allowing the affidavit to be submitted at the beginning of the next school year, if the child’s birthday is after the first two weeks of school (See 24 P.S. 13-1304).
Step Three: The Portfolio
During the school year, the home education supervisor maintains a portfolio of records and materials, demonstrating that an appropriate education is occurring. The portfolio must include:
- 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) one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction or (2) of nine hundred (900) hours of instruction per year at the elementary level (grades kindergarten to 6), or nine hundred ninety (990) hours per year at the secondary level (grades 7-12). If the choice is to document days, the portfolio does not need to specify the number of hours each day.
- Samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student
- In grades three, five and eight, results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics or the results of Statewide tests administered in these grade levels.
Step Four: The Evaluation
At the end of the homeschool year, the portfolio is presented to a qualified evaluator. The evaluator will review each student’s portfolio and interview each student.
It’s important to note that the state does not keep a list of qualified evaluators. The Department of Education actually encourages new homeschoolers to find an evaluator by asking other homeschooling friends or acquaintances, searching the Internet for “PA homeschool evaluators,” or asking the school district for a recommendation. Although the evaluation does not occur until the end of of the homeschool year, it is highly recommended to find an evaluator early in the year to ensure you find someone who is a good match for your family and reserve time on their calendar for your evaluation.
Evaluators do charge for their services, and it is the responsibility of the parent to pay for any charge by an evaluator for this service.
Peak Academy for Community Learning consists of a diverse membership of homeschooling families that use many different types of evaluators that specialize in everything from elementary, secondary, special needs to various homeschool styles. If you are looking for a qualified evaluator, feel free to post in our private Facebook group or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for recommendations.
Once the evaluation is complete, your evaluator will issue you a written evaluation letter of your home education program. The evaluation by a qualified home education evaluator is to be based on an interview of the student and a review of the portfolio; it must state whether an appropriate education has occurred for the student for the closing school year.
This evaluation letter must then be submitted by the home education supervisor to the superintendent of schools in your school district no later than June 30 for the closing school year.
We know that may seem like a lot, but you don’t have to go it alone! Join our private Facebook group to get support throughout this process, ask questions and meet other homeschool families.