State Law: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania compulsory school attendance age

Children must attend school or comply with the homeschool laws between the ages of 8 and 17 years.

Philadelphia’s compulsory school age is 6. This early age requirement does not apply if you plan to conduct a home education program for your child and file a notice of this with the superintendent of your local school district.

HSLDA believes that a parent-issued diploma and transcript should be sufficient to demonstrate that a child has completed a secondary education. However, even if your child is beyond compulsory school attendance age, there may be situations where you would want to continue to follow the requirements of a home education option recognized under Pennsylvania law until your child graduates from high school (filing a home education notice, keeping attendance and other records, etc.). These records may be requested in some situations, such as obtaining a driver’s license if your child is a minor, enlisting in the military, applying to colleges, or demonstrating eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like additional details, please contact us.

Withdrawing your child from his or her current school

If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.

We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members can also use the sample letter of withdrawal for Pennsylvania available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.

We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent by “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.

Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.

Complying with Pennsylvania’s homeschool law

In Pennsylvania, you have several legal options under which you may choose to operate your homeschool program. Follow the steps listed below the option you wish to use:

Option 1: Homeschooling under the homeschool statute.

1. Ensure that you have the required qualifications to teach. 

You must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent to teach in a homeschool.

2. File a notarized affidavit. 

A notarized affidavit must be filed with the local superintendent before you start your homeschool program and by August 1 of each year after that. Affidavit forms are available on HSLDA’s website. The affidavit must include the following information:

  1. The name of the parent/supervisor, name and age of child, address, and telephone number;
  2. Assurance that subjects are taught in English;
  3. Outline of proposed education objectives by subject area;
  4. Evidence of immunization;
  5. Evidence of health and medical services required by law;
  6. Certification that the home education program will comply with 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1; and
  7. A certification that the supervisor, all adults living within the home, and persons having legal custody of the children have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses within the past five years.

Here is what to do if you have a student who has been identified under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as needing special education services (not including those identified as gifted and/or talented): You must have your home education program approved by a state-certified special education teacher or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist. The written approval must be submitted with your notarized affidavit.

3. Provide the required days/hours of instruction and teach the required subjects. 

You must teach 180 days or 900 hours at the elementary school level and 180 days or 990 hours at the secondary level. The following courses must be taught:

Elementary-Level (K–6th grade) Required Courses

  • English, which must include the three subjects below:
  • Arithmetic
  • Civics
  • History of the U.S. and Pennsylvania
  • Health and physiology
  • Physical education
  • Music
  • Art
  • Geography
  • Science
  • Safety education, which must include instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires

Secondary-Level (7th–12th grade) Required Courses

  • English, which must include the four subjects below:
  • Mathematics, which must include the three subjects below:
    —General mathematics
  • Social studies, which must include the three subjects below:
    —History of the U.S. and Pennsylvania
    —World history
  • Health
  • Physical education
  • Music
  • Art
  • Geography
  • Science
  • Safety education, which must include regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires

High School Graduation Requirements

  • 4 credits of English
  • 3 credits of math
  • 3 credits of science
  • 3 credits of social studies
  • 2 credits of art and humanities

4. Maintain a portfolio, including required testing. 

Included in the portfolio must be the following documentation:

  1. Log: The log must be “made contemporaneously with the instruction [and designate] by title the reading materials used . . .” Read HSLDA’s article about the portfolio log requirements for more information.
  2. Student work samples: These samples can be any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student.
  3. Standardized testing: In grades 3, 5, and 8, you must have your child tested with a nationally normed standardized test approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education or the Statewide tests administered to public school students. The test results in math and reading/language arts or the results of the Statewide tests must be included in the annual portfolio. A parent or guardian may not be the test administrator.

Approved tests:

  • California Achievement Test
  • Comprehensive Testing Program (CTPIV)
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills
  • Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)
  • Metropolitan Achievement Test
  • Peabody Achievement Individual Test—Revised Version
  • Stanford Achievement Test
  • Terra Nova
  • Woodcock-Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement III
  • Woodcock-Johnson IV
  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test III (WIAT-III)

5. Have your child evaluated by a qualified evaluator and submit the evaluator’s certification to the superintendent by June 30. 

Your child’s portfolio must be submitted for an annual written evaluation by (1) a licensed psychologist, (2) or a teacher certified by the state (with two years of teaching experience), (3) or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator (who must have at least two years’ teaching experience in the last 10 years in public or nonpublic schools). At the request of the homeschooling parent/supervisor, a person with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the local superintendent.

The evaluation must be based on an interview of your child and a review of the portfolio, and it “shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring.” State law defines an “appropriate education” as “instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program.”

One place you can find an evaluator is on the website of the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP).

By June 30 each year, you must submit to the local superintendent a copy of the evaluator’s certification that your child is receiving an appropriate education.

Additionally, if the superintendent has a reasonable belief at any time during the school year that an appropriate education may not be occurring, he or she may send you a letter requiring that an evaluation be conducted and that an evaluator’s certification be submitted within 30 days.

6. Here’s what to do if you move from one school district to another in Pennsylvania: 

Contact the superintendent of your current district of residence by registered mail (30 days prior to relocation) and request a letter of transfer. The current superintendent must issue the letter of transfer within thirty days after receipt of the request. After receiving the letter of transfer, file it with the superintendent of the new district of residence.

Option 2: Homeschooling with a private tutor.

1. Utilize a private tutor with the required qualifications. 

In order to homeschool your children, the tutor must be certified by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to teach in the public schools of Pennsylvania, teach one or more children who are members of a single family, provide the majority of the instruction, and receive a fee or other consideration for teaching.

2. The tutor must file a copy of his or her certification. 

The tutor must file a copy of his or her Pennsylvania certification and the required criminal history record with the superintendent of the school district where your students live. HSLDA recommends that the tutor include the names and addresses of the children being tutored and notify the superintendent of any additional children he or she subsequently begins to tutor.

Option 3: Enrolling your child in a satellite of a religious day school.
You may teach your children at home if your home is an extension or satellite of a religious day school. To qualify as a day school, the school must do the following:

1. Provide the required days, hours, and subjects listed above. 

See “Option 1: Homeschooling under the homeschool statute,” item #3, above.

2. File an affidavit of compliance with the law. 

The principal of the school must file a notarized affidavit with the Department of Education stating that the required subjects are offered at the school in the English language, that the school is in compliance with the law, and whether the school is a nonprofit organization.

3. Report the names and residences of all enrolled children. 

In addition, the day school must furnish the local district with a list of the names and residences of all children between 6 and 18 years of age enrolled in the school. This information must be provided at the time of the children’s admission to the school. Day schools are also required to report the name and date of withdrawal of any student who is still of compulsory attendance age. Additionally, day schools are supposed to report any child who has been absent from school for three days without lawful excuse.

Option 4: Enrolling your child in a satellite of an accredited day or boarding school.
You may teach your children at home if they are enrolled in an extension or satellite of a day or boarding school that is accredited by an accrediting association approved by the State Board of Education.

The importance of recordkeeping

You can find Pennsylvania’s specific recordkeeping requirements, if any, above. Regardless of what state you live in, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.