Homeschooling in Pennsylvania: Guidance for Getting Started

Thinking about homeschooling and Pennsylvania is your home state? This is the guide you need! You’ll learn how to get started homeschooling in Pennsylvania, the requirements to follow throughout the school year to stay in line with Pennsylvania homeschool laws, and get tips for choosing your Pennsylvania homeschool curriculum.  

Homeschooling in Pennsylvania: Guidance for Getting StartedHomeschooling in Pennsylvania: Guidance for Getting Started

DISCLAIMER: This article is not written as legal advice. Every state is different. Please check with your local school board and official Pennsylvania laws before making decisions about educating your children.

Is it easy to homeschool in Pennsylvania?

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, homeschooling is closely regulated in Pennsylvania. Do those layers of requirements make it hard to homeschool in the Keystone State? Here’s what Sonlight moms have to say when asked if it’s easy to homeschool in Pennsylvania:

At first glance, one would think that it’s challenging to homeschool in PA. I have to disagree! While we do have a few requirements, like submitting paperwork and having our children evaluated yearly, it really is very simple!” —Sarah C., a Sonlighter in Pottstown, PA
PA isn't exactly easy. It's is ranked #3 in terms of laws and requirements. But it's easier than it looks.” —Joanna P. of Leechburg, PA

Jen P., currently of Williamsburg VA but who formerly homeschooled in PA for seven years, sees the upside of the extra regulations:

Having to do an evaluation every year keeps you organized and on top of goals.”
It's easy to homeschool in PA because although there are some annoying hoops to jump through, none are difficult, and there is a lot of community support. The requirements are a bother, but they aren't prohibitive.” —Michelle S., a Sonlighter in Indiana, PA

Don’t let Pennsylvania’s stricter regulations turn you away from offering your child a customized, robust education at home if you are feeling pulled toward homeschooling. You can do it just like these moms have!

Is homeschooling popular in Pennsylvania?

You can find official, up-to-date stats about Pennsylvania homeschooling here. The spreadsheet provided by the PA Dept. of Education provides exact numbers of homeschooled and privately tutored children in each county. The data is also divided by ages 5-11 and 12+, presumably to match the elementary and secondary divisions.

For example, as per the 2020-2021 school year, here are the six counties with the largest number of home education students:

County in PA Total number of homeschooled students 2020-2021
Lancaster County 4,460
York County 2,856
Allegheny County 2,336
Berks County 2,139
Chester County 2,027
Montgomery County 1,972
The R. Family, Sonlighters from Normalville, PAThe R. Family, Sonlighters from Normalville, PA
The R. Family, Sonlighters from Normalville, PA

Requirements for Homeschooling in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania homeschooling statutes outline exactly how many instructional days you need, what academic subjects to cover, what paperwork to file, and what qualifications you need. 

Take courage from the advice of Michelle H., a Sonlighter living in Lancaster County,

While the PA homeschool laws look intimidating at first, once you understand what you need to do, it’s actually easy. I think living in a homeschool-friendly school district is important since you need to hand in paperwork at the beginning and the end of each school year to the school district you live in.” 

How many days are required for homeschool in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania homeschooling hour requirements are as follows: 

Elementary grades K-6

180 days of instruction or a minimum of 900 hours

Secondary grades 7-12

180 days of instruction or a minimum of 990 hours

When you file your homeschool affidavit, you’ll be attesting that you will offer this minimum number of instructional days/hours. Although there’s no requirement to keep a calendar or time log, it’s wise to check with the evaluator you plan to use to see if they have any requests in terms of recordkeeping for your instructional days.

Do parents need qualifications to homeschool in Pennsylvania?
Do you have to be certified to homeschool in Pennsylvania?
Who is eligible for homeschooling in Pennsylvania?
​​Is unschooling legal in Pennsylvania?
Can I homeschool someone else's child in Pennsylvania?
Do you need to report homeschooling in Pennsylvania?
The Y. Family, Sonlighters from Abington, PAThe Y. Family, Sonlighters from Abington, PA
The Y. Family, Sonlighters from Abington, PA

What are the homeschool requirements in Pennsylvania?

The five main requirements listed below apply to homeschoolers and not to parents with teacher certification who are educating at home under the private tutor banner.

Pennsylvania homeschool requirements include

  1. a notarized letter of intent (also called an affidavit) and immunization records, submitted annually to your school district
  2. mandatory courses (see the list below)
  3. minimum days and hours of instruction
  4. an annual portfolio review
  5. graduation requirements (for high schoolers)

Homeschool course requirements in Pennsylvania

State homeschool regulations outline the specific list of academic areas that must be covered at both the elementary and secondary levels.

Homeschool law expert Beth Phillips says you’re not required to cover every subject every single school year. Of course, you want to emphasize your core subjects of English, math, science, and history every year. But topics like fire safety, music, or Pennsylvania history only need to be covered at least once during the elementary years and at least once during the secondary years. 

Elementary (K-6) required courses

Secondary (7-12) required courses

  • English, including language, literature, speech and composition
  • science
  • geography
  • social studies, including civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania
  • math, including general mathematics, algebra and geometry
  • art
  • music
  • physical education
  • health
  • safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires

What proof is required for homeschooling in Pennsylvania?

Your primary piece of proof is your homeschool portfolio. Keeping this collection of student work is required by Pennsylvania homeschool law

In order to demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring, the supervisor of the home education program shall provide and maintain on file the following documentation for each student enrolled in the home education program: (1) A portfolio of records and materials. The portfolio shall consist of a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student and 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.

You, the homeschool parent, are the “supervisor of the home education program” indicated in the statute. It’s your job to keep records throughout the school year of the work your child does. Your aim in keeping this collection of work is to show that your child is receiving an appropriate education. Make sure you have documentation of the core subjects, work that shows progress from the beginning of the year to the end, and a list of resources used. You can also include things like field trips, co-op classes, volunteering experiences, family travel, photos of projects/crafts, artwork, etc.

Although you aren’t required to submit this portfolio to your school district, an evaluator will use the portfolio to certify that you are providing an acceptable at-home education. It’s also a valuable artifact of proof in case any official were to question your practices. With your portfolio, you could even throw an end of the year homeschool showcase like Deana does here.

Watch the videos below and read this great article for more about keeping a homeschool portfolio in Pennsylvania.

Based on the portfolio, an evaluator of your choice will write a letter to confirm that an acceptable amount of learning has taken place for your child that school year. Locate an evaluator with this directory provided by the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP). The evaluator must be a certified teacher with at least two years of teaching experience (or a clinical psychologist or a nonpublic school teacher/administrator). Read more about hiring and working with a homeschool evaluator here.

Do you have to have a curriculum for homeschooling in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law never requires a curriculum, per se. However, your homeschooling affidavit will ask for your education objectives, listed by the mandated subject areas. And your portfolio will reflect the topics you’ve covered throughout the year.

So the safest and most seamless way to adhere to PA homeschool regulations is to use a curriculum.

Joanna P. is a homeschooler in Leechburg, PA. She loves the convenience of drawing from a curriculum to create her annual portfolio, “...

Sonlight helps with [homeschool requirements]. Each year, I have to put together a portfolio and list of books read for each of my kids. The evaluator who looks through it and writes up a report for me to submit to my school district is always so impressed with the quality and quantity of books we read. The book list is so easy to compile, because Sonlight has a book list in the front of each Instructor's Guide.

In some cases, your Pennsylvania school district may offer to loan you textbooks or materials to use at home. Unfortunately, the curriculum they proffer may not translate well to an at-home environment with an only child or a sibling group that spans several grades

In short, yes, you need a curriculum—specifically a homeschool curriculum—when you homeschool. A well-planned program erases the thousands of tiny decisions you’d have to make on your own otherwise. It’s already laid out for you. You just open and go. 

For example, a Sonlight All-Subjects Package covers what Pennsylvania requires and makes it easy to create your end-of-year portfolio so your evaluator has zero questions about the quality of the education you’re providing your child. 

As you compare the myriad choices in homeschool curriculum, you may wonder if online homeschooling is the best route. At Sonlight, we feel there is no better way to learn than through real books. So we suggest you reserve online learning apps and programs for supplements to a mostly text-based program. Great literature inspires a deep connection between parent and child, fosters insightful discussions, and nurtures empathy. 

Homeschool Curriculum Comparison ChecklistHomeschool Curriculum Comparison Checklist

What do I need to homeschool my child in Pennsylvania?

Before you’ve even filed your letter of intent, it’s a good idea to begin at least planning what materials you’ll use to teach the mandatory courses for the required days/hours. 

Watch this video for a helpful introduction to homeschooling with Sonlight. 

Friendly Advisors can help you choose the best program for your child or mix of children. This literature-based curriculum is one of the most enjoyable and stress-free curriculum options out there for Pennsylvania homeschoolers. Use this Sonlight shopping list to help you plan.

Next, devise a plan for your required portfolio. It can be as simple as tossing sample work into a plastic bin or saving digital photos to a cloud storage system. But be deliberate about saving things throughout the year so when your end-of-year evaluation happens, you aren’t scrambling for documentation.

Another big consideration is your homeschool space. You’ll probably need at least a bookshelf or cabinet for storing books and supplies. If your home has a bonus room you can convert into a homeschool room, great! But plenty of homeschool families repurpose their dining room tables as desks and their living room couches as read-aloud zones—no fancy homeschool room needed. Your entire home will become a learning laboratory! And while this may sound messy, it’s worth a touch of extra tidying at the end of the day to give your kids such an excellent, tailor-made education.

Do homeschoolers have to take standardized tests in Pennsylvania?

Yes, in Pennsylvania, homeschoolers must take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) or other nationally normed standardized test for reading/language arts and math at three grade levels: third, fifth, and eighth. These results should be included in the homeschool portfolio for students in these grades. 

Getting Starting as a Pennsylvania homeschooler

In the private Sonlight Connections Facebook group, we asked Pennsylvania homeschoolers what perks they have. Sharolyn C. of Perkasie, PA said,

I don’t know of any perks we have that aren’t universal to all homeschoolers other than a ton of amazing places to visit.” She continued to say that the benefits of homeschooling in Pennsylvania are the “same as homeschooling anywhere else—being able to be in the front row of watching your kids grow up and helping them develop fully into the individual God designed them to be.”

If you’re eager to get these same perks for your own family, here’s how to get started with homeschooling in Pennsylvania.

 

How do I start homeschooling in Pennsylvania?

With any big project, the hardest part is often getting started! Feeling like a newbie is uncomfortable and can make us want to give up before we get the momentum we need to keep going. Go into your new homeschool venture with a growth mindset: I can do hard things! Read our extensive guide to getting started here. And download this free printable getting started checklist

To enroll in homeschooling for Pennsylvania, you’ll need to start with the affidavit. You can get this form directly from the PA Dept. of Education here. Note that there are two options: elementary grades K-6 and secondary grades 7-12.

At either level, the form asks for general information about your child and household, outlines key provisions, and asks you to verify (or opt out of via religious exemption) immunizations and a health assessment. You can choose to legally notarize the form or opt for the unsworn declaration that doesn’t require a notary public’s signature. 

File the affidavit with your school district.

Then choose your curriculum, organize it, and appoint areas in your home for table work and read-alouds. 

As you homeschool, keep samples of student work by tossing worksheets, quizzes, tests, compositions, and photos of projects into a basket or bin. Every few weeks, organize the material with an eye towards an end-of-year snapshot of your child’s progress. This portfolio will be used by the evaluator you choose to certify that you’re providing an acceptable homeschool education. 

The H Family, Sonlighters from Cochranville, PAThe H Family, Sonlighters from Cochranville, PA
The H Family, Sonlighters from Cochranville, PA

At what age is school mandatory in Pennsylvania?

School is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 18 in Pennsylvania. 

Can you skip kindergarten when homeschooling in Pennsylvania?

Yes! Because compulsory school begins at age 6, kindergarten (typically done at age 5) is optional. If you want to homeschool your five-year-old, you don’t need to notify anyone because school is not mandatory at that age. When your child reaches age 6, though, you will need to officially file as a homeschooler (or send your child to public school). 

To unofficially homeschool before age six, choose from these 3 early years Sonlight programs.

You may notice that these programs have age ranges which can be confusing for some parents. Reach out to an Advisor for help choosing the best fit for your young child.

  1. product-img
    Pre-Kindergarten Package
    $406.84
    $478.64
  2. product-img
    All-Subjects Package K
    $780.65
    $975.81