Thinking about homeschooling in Pennsylvania but don’t know where to begin? Here’s what you need to know to get started from education policy expert and homeschool mom Colleen Hroncich.
Understanding the legal aspects of homeschooling can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be so. There are a number of great digital resources that can help you understand the legal requirements—the two that I use most frequently are:
- The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which is a nationwide Christian organization that defends the civil rights of homeschoolers.
- Ask Pauline, which gives detailed information on how to comply with the homeschooling laws.
Here’s a simplified list of the legal requirements to start homeschooling in Pennsylvania:
- File a notarized affidavit with your local school district. This must be done before you begin homeschooling. Once you begin to homeschool, the affidavit must be filed annually by August 1.
- Along with your notarized affidavit, you must include a list of educational objectives by subject area for each child for the year.
- This does not need to be particularly detailed. The law makes it clear that districts cannot use the list of objectives to judge the home education program.
- Ask Pauline has many samples you can use as a template.
- Ongoing record keeping is very important. You need to track your homeschool efforts by days (180) or hours (900 for elementary or 990 for secondary).
- I’ve never known anyone who chose hours over days—probably because you can accomplish the academic requirements much quicker at home than in a typical classroom.
- You also need to keep a log of the materials used for each subject, which will be included in your portfolio.
- Prepare a portfolio of records and materials. The portfolio must include a reading log, samples of work throughout the year, and standardized tests results for students in grades 3, 5, or 8.
- PA Homeschool Law, a site run by lawyer and former homeschooling mom Beth Phillips, explains that you don’t need to include photos or details on everything you did throughout the year.
- Most families I know use a small binder or other folder to house their portfolios. When my daughters were little, they had fun designing covers for their portfolios. My son, on the other hand, sometimes just stuck his packet in a manilla envelope and called it a day. Feel free to keep it simple.
- If your kids are in grades 3, 5, or 8, they must take one of the standardized tests approved by the Department of Education. You can find a local group that is administering in-person tests or choose one that is online. Each test has specific rules about administering the test, so be sure you understand the requirements before registering for one.
- Meet with an evaluator. As you wrap up your school year, you’ll need to meet with an evaluator for an interview and portfolio review.
- The law stipulates requirements that the evaluator must meet. The best source for more details is Ask Pauline; she also has a list of evaluators across the state, which is tremendously helpful for new homeschoolers.
- Assuming you fulfill all necessary requirements, your evaluator will provide a written statement indicating an appropriate education has occurred. You’ll need to submit this form to your school district each year by June 30.
- If you plan to continue with homeschooling, you can submit your notarized affidavit and objectives for the upcoming school year at the same time to save yourself a trip. It’s a good idea to ask for a receipt so you have a record that you complied with the legal requirements.
While you might feel that starting to homeschool is complicated, it’s really not difficult—especially after the first year.
Please keep in mind that this is not legal advice. If you decide to give homeschooling a try, be sure you understand the legal requirements and are ready to meet them. There are more resources available than you can possibly imagine, so you needn’t ever feel alone. Ask Pauline, HSLDA, and PA Homeschoolers are full of helpful tips and links. We’ll be building a list of resources here, so be sure to check back.
In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions so I can point you to resources I’ve found especially helpful in my family’s homeschool journey!