If you live in Pennsylvania and plan to homeschool your child, it's important to know the PA homeschool requirements, as Pennsylvania is a highly-regulated state. While this article provides information, it is not intended to be, nor should it be considered, a replacement for professional legal advice or help. If you or someone you care about needs legal assistance, please seek help directly from a lawyer.
An Overview of PA Homeschool Requirements
Pennsylvania is a highly-regulated state. Not only do you need to submit numerous documents to your school district superintendent, but you also need to find an approved educator to oversee your program. You should note that compulsory age is 8 through 17. Briefly, here are a list of things you'll need to have to legally homeschool in PA:
- A notarized affidavit
- Each subject you are teaching your child needs to have an outline of objectives
- Child's immunization records or a religious exemption
- An evaluator that will agree to review your homeschool program and submit an evaluation of your children at the end of the year
- A portfolio that shows samples of work and instructional materials used
- An attendance log that shows either 180 days of school or 900 hours of school that was done during the school year
- Standardized test scores in grades 3rd, 5th and 8th
Your Notarized Affidavit
A notarized affidavit is basically a legal document saying that you intend to provide education for your child at home. You need to file this by August 1 every year you homeschool, or prior to beginning your homeschool program. Your affidavit must include several key pieces of information:
- Name, grade and age of the child as well as the parents' names, the address and the telephone number
- A statement assuring the district that all the subjects are being taught in English
- Evidence (or a statement) that the children who are being homeschooled have received immunizations as required by law
- A statement that any adult living in the household has not been convicted of a crime involving minors
- An outline of the educational objectives by subject
There is no standard form for the affidavit, so you can use any sample that you can find, as long as it contains all of the required information. This affidavit should technically be filed with your school district's superintendent. However, each school district does things slightly differently. To be sure that you send your affidavit off to the right place, check with your local district and ask them where they want you to send your paperwork. You should always send paperwork in, 'return-receipt-requested' so that you can be assured that it gets there.
The Outline of Objectives by Subject
The thought of having to outline all of your objectives per subject for each child might seem daunting but it doesn't have to be. Many parents prefer to outline very specific objectives per subject, and that of course is fine. However, you can use very general objectives such as:
- The student will increase his knowledge in the area of World History, (or any other subject)
- The general objectives for the school year are as follows, but not limited to (putting in that phrase 'not limited to' makes it clear that you're being general)
- The student will read books from several genres of literature
- The student will continue to master math concepts
Believe it or not, it is okay to be this general. In fact, in some cases it can be helpful as it allows you the flexibility to change course according to your students' interests. Then your evaluator only has to certify that you did indeed have your student, 'read several genres of literature.' Many parents use sample objectives from their homeschooling group's sample objectives.
Finding an Evaluator
Finding an evaluator is not as tricky as it might seem. The evaluator does have to be a certified homeschool evaluator, which generally means that he or she is a homeschooling teacher. The best place to start to look for an evaluator in your area is within your local homeschooling group or co-op. Find out who other families are using. Also, you'll want to make sure that the evaluator you do choose agrees with your homeschooling philosophy. It is not uncommon for parents and evaluator to sit down and talk about homeschooling philosophies before the evaluator starts working with the family. If you are still not finding anyone that is suitable, Christian Homeschoolers Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP), has an incredibly helpful guide that lists evaluators by area code.
Keeping an Attendance Log
Another important part of your year-end records is the log of instructional time. You are required to document 180 days in which you homeschooled or 900 hours of instructional time. There are as many ways to log this as there are homeschooling philosophies. Fortunately, the state of Pennsylvania doesn't really care how you document that time as long as you do it. One method is to slate your school days out ahead of time on a calendar and then check them off as you complete them. More relaxed homeschoolers might choose to journal the instructional time for each day. This attendance log should be included along with your portfolio and year-end evaluation that you turn in at the end of the year.
Creating a Homeschool Portfolio
Your homeschool portfolio is your proof of how well your children are progressing in their homeschool education. Generally, the portfolio is kept in a three ring binder. At minimum your portfolio needs to include:
- The evaluator's report
- Standardized test scores if applicable
- The attendance log
- The log of reading materials (this should include textbooks)
- Samples of the child's work
One simple way to create a portfolio is to divide a large three-ring binder into several sections. There should be a section for each subject your child is studying, along with a section for your reading log, and a section for the evaluator's report and test scores. In each subject area keep three samples:
- A sample from the first month of school that represent's the child's starting point.
- The child's best work for the entire year. Every time your child turns something in that is especially great, decide if it is his best so far and if so, put it in the portfolio.
- A sample from the last month of school that represents the child's ending point. The idea is to show how far the child has come in the subject.
When you think about your child's portfolio, think about showing what your child has done using the least samples possible. This does not have to be a huge conglomeration of all of the child's work. Rather it should show what he's done throughout the school year. It is okay to include photos, projects, reports and workbooks in the portfolio.
The PA homeschool requirements are lengthy. The best place to go get information is from trusted homeschooling groups that you know personally. These groups should be able to steer you in the right direction when it comes to following idividual district requests, navigating compliance and other legal issues. However, one of the nice things about living in a state that is highly regulated is that there are no shortage of groups. No matter where in the Keystone State you live, you can find a group that is actively meeting.
Strict Requirements and Exceptions
The homeschooling requirements in Pennsylvania are strict, but attention to detail and careful documentation will make your task much easier. Make sure to take the time to read the PA homeschool requirements yourself to know whether or not you fall into any situations that might be exceptions to traditional homeschooling. Parents with special needs kids, high schoolers, or those who have religious exemptions will want to take note of the laws that govern those cirumstances.