- For a child who has never been in a school situation, nothing must be done until the child turns eight, unless you live in a school district of the first class (only Philadelphia), where you must file a notice of intent to conduct a home education program when your child turns six.
- PA law leaves it up to each school district to decide whether reporting must begin immediately when the child turns 8, or at the start of the following school year. Please contact your school district’s office for their expectations.
- If your child has attended public school at any age, and you are considering homeschooling, you must file your affidavit prior to starting homeschooling.
- To continue homeschooling, you must file your new affidavit each year by August 1.
With Whom Do I File?
- The superintendent of your local school district or their designated representative.
What Documents Must I File?
- A completed and notarized affidavit, including educational objectives.
- An outline of proposed education objectives for each of the required subject areas for the level of instruction for each student. (If you have a child who has been identified by the school district as needing special education services, then the Individualized Education Plan must be substantiated by a qualified person.)
- Evidence of the child’s immunization OR a notice of Medical Exemption due to religious beliefs. (See printable forms here on the CHAP website.)
If you have a learning disabled student, you also need a statement from a properly qualified person that the educational plan is appropriate to the disability of the child.
What Grade Level Should I Say My Child is in?
The law does not require that you declare a grade level, even though most sample affidavits have a place for it. You do not need to have the age of your child and the conventional school grade match up. If your child is a late bloomer, you might want to treat him as a first grader when you register him at age eight. This would allow you to do his required standardized third grade testing when the child is ten years old.
Do I Need to Complete All of the Educational Objectives?
No. The law is explicit on this point. The school superintendent cannot use your objectives as criterion for whether educational progress is being made. It is helpful to look at these objectives as supplying evidence to the school district that you do have a sincere intent to teach your children.
What Do I Turn in at the End of the Year?
At the close of the year, you must provide a statement to the local school district from a qualified evaluator (usually someone with a teaching certificate, but there are others who qualify. Please see the Testing and Evaluations sections of this site) who states that your student is making sustained educational progress. You must also submit a portfolio of work representative of your student’s work to your evaluator. If your child has finished the third, fifth, or eighth grade, you need to submit the results of standardized achievement testing such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford Achievement Test to the evaluator. For a complete list of Department of Education approved tests, see Appendix D-8.
It is simply a sampling of your child’s work. It must include a log of your child’s work done contemporaneously with the work. The log can be as simple as a list of days or hours taught and the list of reading materials used. In the third, fifth and eighth grades it must include the results of the standardized testing. Starting in 2015 the portfolio goes to your evaluator, rather than the school district.
How Much Do I Have to Teach?
The law states that you must teach either 180 days or 900 hours in the primary grades, and either 180 days or 990 hours in the secondary grades. One homeschooling family likes to meet the hours commitment every year by Christmas. They like to get it over with. Other families don’t even keep track of hours because they feel the extra record keeping isn’t worth the trouble Documentation can be done on a calendar.
What Control Does the District Superintendent Have?
Almost none. You must appropriately register each year, meet the 180 days or 900/990 hours requirement, test your child in grades 3, 5, and 8, and your evaluator must state annually that you are making sustained educational progress. This must be documented with a concurrent log. If you meet these requirements, the school district has no other control over you. The full text of the PA Homeschool law is available here.
What Are Some Helpful Tricks?
Some families have found it helpful to turn in their evaluations and the coming year’s affidavit at the same time. The advantages of this include:
- The ability to start counting days or hours for the next year immediately upon finishing the last year. This is helpful because there are no lost days and it lets you count summer trips as field trips. HSLDA says you may start in July.
- If you are on a year-round schedule, it prevents an artificial disruption of the school year.
- The school system is well aware of your intent for the coming year.
- You have time to work out with the school district any concerns they might have well before the August deadline.
What About the Option to Use a Private Tutor?
The law provides that you can use a private tutor to educate your child. Because of the expense, this method is not realistic for most homeschoolers. There is one group that probably can take advantage of this clause: those parents with a teaching certificate. The law states that private tutoring must be done by a certified teacher. It does not exclude the child’s parents. The following documents would need to be filed with your school district:
- A copy of your teaching certificate
- A criminal background check, required of all PA teachers
To comply with being a professional tutor, the parent who teaches must be the child’s primary teacher (i.e. must provide at least fifty-one percent of the child’s instruction) and must receive significant compensation.
What Must I Do During the School Year?
- Keep a contemporaneous log which designates by title the reading materials used.
- Keep track of EITHER the number of hours spent in schooling time OR the number of days spent in schooling time.
- Compile a portfolio of sample work accomplished by the student.
What Should I Know About Standardized Tests?
See our standardized testing page.
What Must I Cover in Elementary School?
The law lists subjects that must be covered:
- English, to include spelling, reading, and writing
- History of the United States and Pennsylvania
- Safety Education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires
- Health and Physiology
- Physical Education
What Kinds of Curriculum Are There, and What Are Some Examples of Each?
See our curriculum page.
What Are the Potential Difficulties in Elementary Grades?
Most parents are comfortable teaching in the elementary years. The subject material is familiar and has been mastered already. Disorganization and inexperience are the chief problems with this phase of the family homeschool.
There are many record keeping methods available. Some are specific to Pennsylvania and some generic for nation-wide usage. You will want to devise or buy some kind of log to record what your child does each day. It will probably be helpful to you if you break it down in a way that will show that you have covered the areas required in the Pennsylvania law. The log should give you room to keep track of either teaching days, teaching hours, or both, depending on how you decide to measure your instruction.
How Do I Learn to Teach?
Learning to teach is both easy and impossible. At some level, you learn to teach by doing it. Your children will rapidly teach you what works and what doesn’t. They have both subtle and not so subtle ways of giving feedback, such as asking, “Do we have to do that again?”
Many of the materials you buy will come with teachers’ manuals and/or tips on using the materials. These can be very helpful. Other homeschooling parents will also be helpful in teaching you how to teach. One dad we know makes it a point whenever he meets a professional teacher to ask that teacher for a teaching tip.
Materials on teaching abound. There are always workshops on how to teach various subjects at the CHAP convention. Support groups will often have sessions on how to teach. You can ask veteran homeschoolers about how they teach. This is especially useful for learning how to occupy the younger students. Greg Harris’ book The Christian Homeschool is helpful. Sam Blumenfeld’s book How to Tutor is helpful as well.
As with all endeavors, the most important thing you can do is to pray. God, who made you and your children, knows best how each of you functions. You do not need to be in fear about this decision.
What Must I Do at the End of the School Year?
- Have a qualified evaluator of your choice give written substantiation which states that an appropriate education is occurring. (Act 169 says: Appropriate education shall mean a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program.)
- Under Act 196 of 2014, you are required to submit only the evaluator’s report to the superintendent of your school district by June 30. This is a change from the previous law, which required you to also submit your portfolio and your testing scores from 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade.
How Do I Work With an Evaluator?
Picking your evaluator is probably the second most important decision you will make in homeschooling in Pennsylvania. The evaluator is really the person who certifies that your child is getting an appropriate education and is the person who could make or break your program. In reality, the evaluator has much more control over your ability to homeschool than does the school superintendent.
The most important trait in an evaluator is that you and he get along well. The second is that he understands what you are trying to do. It is helpful if you have similar philosophies. Ask the prospective evaluator for references from other families he evaluates.
You might want a written agreement about what you can expect of your evaluator and what the evaluator can expect from you. The fees should be agreed on in advance. Because the evaluator is so important to your ability to homeschool, it is appropriate to ask him not to include negative items in the written evaluation, but to communicate them in a non-written form. The time when you would like to have the evaluation finished should be negotiated in advance as well. The evaluator should provide the written evaluation to you, the parent, and not directly to the school district. Submitting it to the school district is the parent’s responsibility.
Your evaluator will need to meet with your children and see the portfolio of their work. Some evaluators will find it helpful if you organize an overview of the academic materials and information about the year for them.
What Are the Legal Requirements to be an Evaluator?
An evaluator can be a licensed clinical psychologist, or school psychologist, or a teacher certified by the Commonwealth. The certified teacher shall have experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students. The certified teacher must have two years of experience grading the major subject areas (refer to section e.1.i of the homeschool law).
An evaluator may also be a non-public school teacher or administrator. A non-public school teacher or administrator shall have at least two years of teaching experience in a Pennsylvania public or non-public school within the last ten years. Such a non-public 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.
At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district superintendent. The evaluator cannot be the supervisor of the home education program or the spouse of the supervisor.