You’re thinking about homeschooling but then you read that Pennsylvania is one of the most regulated homeschooling states in the country. Ugh. You think about deleting all those pins of IKEA-inspired homeschooling rooms and swapping out that cute floral planner at Target (for homeschool use, of course!) for just another box of Crayolas on the public school’s supply list.
Don’t give up your homeschooling dreams!
Don’t throw away the paint swatches for the homeschool room of your dreams quite yet. Because we’ve got you covered! Homeschooling in Pennsylvania isn’t scary, and once you follow these easy steps, you’ll be ready to enjoy a year full of flexibility, adaptability and wonder.
How to Start Homeschooling in Pennsylvania
Step 1: Formally withdraw your child from public school.
If your child attended public school last year, be sure to formally withdraw them from your school district to begin homeschooling in Pennsylvania. Each district has its own policies and procedures, so contact your district office to find out what you’ll need to do to complete this important step.
Keep in mind that, legally, you must turn in an affidavit and objectives BEFORE your child is truant, which means they have missed school for three consecutive days. So, if you’re a new homeschooler, you have until the third day of school to submit your paperwork. Returning homeschoolers must submit paperwork by August 1.
Step 2: Submit your Home Educator Affidavit and Education Objectives to your school district.
This may sound scary, but it isn’t! To legally homeschool your child in Pennsylvania, you must turn in a home educator affidavit and education objectives as soon as your child turns 6.
The Department of Education provides an affidavit for you to fill out, but I think it’s a little bit cumbersome. I really like this affidavit and objectives template provided by PA Homeschool Law and use it for my kids.
(Pro Tip: Add PA Homeschool Law to your bookmarks. You’ll thank me later! This website is run by a former homeschooling mama with a law degree. It’s easy to navigate and full of useful, up-to-date information.)
Please note that if your child previously attended a public school and has an active IEP, your objectives will likely need to be approved by your district.
Next, visit a Notary: After you’ve printed and completed the affidavit and objectives for each homeschooling child, a visit to a notary is in order. A quick google search can help you locate a notary who will charge a small fee for their services. If you’re looking for a low-cost option, some banks will offer this service free of charge to account holders.
Send Documents via Certified Mail or Hand Deliver to the District Office: Once everything is notarized, you can either:
a) Turn in the paperwork to your district in person (one caution: don’t leave the office without some kind or receipt or acknowledgment that your child’s paperwork has been received); or
b) Visit your local post office to send the documents via Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested. You will need to keep copies of everything that was submitted to the district along with the Certified Mail receipt and green return receipt. New homeschoolers can submit the affidavit and objectives at any time during the school year (especially if you have to pull your kid out of school mid-year). Returning homeschoolers have until August 1 to get their paperwork turned into the district.
Step 3: Start logging homeschooling hours.
Once your affidavit and objectives are officially submitted, you can start logging activities, trips, academics and reading time to count toward your child’s required homeschooling hours. (The state requires 900 total hours for elementary students and 990 hours for older students.)
Tip: If you turn in your paperwork by June 30, you can start recording your homeschooling activities as early as July 1. Many seasoned homeschoolers send their affidavit and objectives in with their year-end portfolio evaluator review, which is due to school districts by June 30 — more on that later!)
Feel free to download this handy dandy tracking sheet I created to keep everything neat and organized.
Step 4: Keep track of everything.
Write down every book your child reads, print out your library book check-out log or pick up cheap math or handwriting workbooks at discount stores. All of it counts toward the 900 or 990 hours (roughly 180 school days).
Take a trip to the Children’s Museum? Jot down what you did and how long you were there. Go on a family vacation to the beach? Log the hours and activities you did as a family. Take some pictures of sea shell hunts or shark tooth discoveries for your child’s year-end portfolio. Here is a grid sheet I use to count our days. You don’t have to use it: it’s just one that I like. But, hey, you might need an excuse to buy that pretty little planner at Target. Things like that are a cute and useful way to keep track of your child’s progress!
Step 5: Organize your child’s portfolio.
Another Pennsylvania requirement for all homeschoolers is to produce a year-end portfolio and meet with a state-certified evaluator. If you live in western PA and are in need of an evaluator, please contact us. We have several evaluators on staff at A One-Room Schoolhouse and can send you a list of other evaluators in your area.
An evaluator will give you a document stating that you have met the state’s requirements and will likely charge a small fee for their services. You will need to submit this to your district by June 30 either in person or via Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested.
Even though this seems super technical, think of the homeschooling portfolio as a huge scrapbook of your child’s year. Save their favorite art projects and stick them in. Include any quizzes or assessments from the curriculum you use. (Need curriculum recommendations? As a veteran teacher, here’s why I recommend the Good and the Beautiful for younger kids and these great resources for older students.) Have your child write about a field trip you took and draw a picture of their favorite part. Save pamphlets from museums or other educational events.
To avoid getting overwhelmed when everyone has spring fever, I recommend doing this before the school year starts. Trust me, in June, you’ll be glad you did.
- Get a binder. Label it with your child’s name and school year on the front and spine.
- Put in eight tabs.
- Label the tabs: English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Safety, PE/Health, Art, Music and Fire Safety. (Combine or delete a section depending on your homeschooling needs.) Please note that Pennsylvania also requires a fire safety sheet be included in portfolios every year. For this requirement, you could take a trip to a local fire station and have your child draw/write about it. Or your child could draw a map of your home and draw escape routes in case of a fire.
- Put all important papers in the binder for safekeeping. (This includes a copy of the affidavit and objectives with receipt, school days tracking sheet and reading log.)
PS: I could write a whole post on what “counts” toward homeschooling hours. Don’t even get me started! In short, did it feel schoolish to you? Great, count it. Did they learn something new? Great, count it. Three Rs? Great, count it. Museum, scout camp, VBS, science camp, spontaneously wrote a book about dinosaurs. Great, count it.
Or don’t count it.
YOU are the boss and you, the parent, are now your child’s Supervisor of Education! You choose what counts!
Drop any questions you have in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them so we can all start this school year off right!