How to homeschool in PA: it sounds scary, and it totally doesn’t have to be scary at all.
Not sure how to homeschool in PA?
When researching homeschool laws across the United States, Pennsylvania tends to fall into the “harder to homeschool in” states. I started researching homeschooling when our oldest son was about 3 or 4 anticipating that I would have to make a Kindergarten decision pretty soon. To my surprise, at the time, the compulsory age was 8.
This was great news, as it meant I had a few years to get into a rhythm.
How to homeschool in PA: what is the compulsory age?
Compulsory age is basically the age your state decides you must register your child for school in some capacity. The compulsory age for PA is now 6. Basically, you need to register your child for school by the time they are 6. There is a little confusion when it comes to birthdays close to the cutoff – as in does the child need to be 6 by September, etc. If you have a “confusing” birthday child, read the law to be sure you interpret as best you can. Our oldest’s birthday is in late fall, so it was a clear answer for us. Our next two have summer birthdays, so again – very clear answer on when to register everyone.
How to homeschool in PA: what paper work is required?
When you read words like “affidavit,” your brain says – ok maybe I can’t do this – or what the heck is an affidavit? The affidavit is basically a form attesting that the “supervisor of the homeschool” (aka the parent/guardian) has a high school diploma or equivalent, are the parent/guardian and will uphold the law.
This is the one that I use: http://www.askpauline.com/hs/docs/basicaffidavit.pdf.
Not everything on the askpauline site is still accurate, as it’s not updated regularly anymore, but that form is perfect for what you need to file with the school. There are lots of other examples online, too, if you don’t love that one.
Once you have your affidavit done, you need to prepare a list of objectives. Hang with me, here. This. does. not. have. to. be. complicated. You can literally submit the same objectives from Kindergarten all the way through 12th grade.
In general, you just need to specify that you will help your child improve in all subjects required by law. You do not need to list specifics, like “Western Civilizations” or “Algebra” – history and math are sufficient, as you will see on the form above.
Know that you CAN make your objectives specific, but this may make you feel limited. You may feel like you have to stick with a very specific topic when maybe your child isn’t interested or you simply decide to go a different direction.
The last form that you may choose to submit is the Medical Exemption. This form is somewhat disputed. Technically, you do not have to submit it, as your affidavit discusses the medical requirements. However, while I do not agree with over compliance, I do submit this form. It’s simple and quick and really does not disclose any extra info.
I use this form. Again, I encourage you to read the law and interpret it as you see fit.
You must submit the forms by August 1st to your school district. Our Executive Secretary handles this process, and she is very kind. I have certainly heard some horror stories about districts demanding more than necessary, and I encourage you to join Facebook groups for your area regarding homeschooling. A lot of times, there are other parents out there who have faced the same challenges as you and can offer advice or encouragement. You will need to determine who handles homeschool forms for your district, contact that person and drop the forms. Once you do this, you can start the fun part!
How to homeschool in PA: how do I choose curriculum? What is unschooling?
I knew early on in our oldest son’s life that he was not going to be a traditional learner. He went to preschool for a couple years while I was working full time, and then we decided to homeschool. Keep in mind, he was only 4 at this point, so we had 4 years yet until we had to do anything officially. (It would be 2 years now, as the compulsory age is 6 in PA.)
When we started Kindergarten at age 4/5, we went with a curriculum called My Father’s World. It wasn’t bad, but I knew we wouldn’t continue with it after K. It was a relatively cheap option at under $200, but it was too confining. I quickly knew that we needed more freedom. We had too much bursting creativity to commit to a boxed curriculum.
At that point, I decided to do a combination of books we enjoyed and some online programs, like education.com and abcya.com. This was the beginning of our unschooling journey; I just didn’t know it yet. Growing up in public school – and enjoying being a straight A student – this took some getting used to. I had to reset my mind, and it truly took me a couple years to really give up control and let unschooling lead our days.
So just what is unschooling? Unschooling is essentially child-led learning. You follow your child’s interests. You embrace what they enjoy. You embrace your preferred lifestyle. It’s so liberating! Not feeling like you MUST finish a certain textbook, or you MUST finish a box of curriculum because you spent money on it – is so freeing.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about homeschooling and this post is full of pictures of mealworms, apple peeling, painting and foraging. It’s because THIS IS SCHOOL! We live on a homestead of about 3 acres with chickens, gardens, a pool and so much learning at our fingertips. Our oldest son loves driving his tractor, riding his book, metal detecting in the woods, planting new plants, sewing, running his business, learning welding and so much more.
Do we use any books? We do, BUT – we don’t set requirements on books. We don’t force him to read a certain book or finish a book just because he started it.
Please don’t think that we don’t value books. I personally love reading for information. I have stacks of books on growing vegetables, raising chickens, composting and so much more. Our oldest has tons of books, too. Most of his books are about electrical engineering, biographies, space, computers, chess, history – and others topics that he loves. He does not love writing, reading and math. I know this sounds like he will never succeed, and I would encourage you to change your mindset.
He IS reading about the topics he loves. He IS making spreadsheets for business. He IS learning math by filing income tax every year for his business. He IS learning math by investing in the stock market. He IS learning to type by searching for YouTube videos. He IS learning to read by subscribing to his favorite magazines.
Unschooling is all about letting go. Letting go of your preconceived notions about what school is “supposed” to be.
If your child is interested in being a doctor, then you probably should put more focus on reading, writing and math. You should absolutely guide your child in the direction that pleases them. Our son will likely become a farmer, stay a business owner, contract work of some sort – who knows. But I do know that he’s passionate about almost everything he does. He doesn’t dread school because school is just a natural process in his daily life.
Sit down, and do an inventory with your child. What do they enjoy? What subjects excite them? What activities bring them joy? What careers excite them? Make a list, talk about it, research it. This may take a year in itself, especially if you’re transitioning out of public school. This process is called deschooling, and it’s painful and necessary. Deschooling is when you, as a family, relearn how to learn. It’s a beautiful process that may take just a few weeks to several months. Embrace that time. Enjoy learning right along side your child. This is a wonderful time of exploration.
How to homeschool in PA: how do we end the school year and start the next?
You will need to complete 180 days of education. On our homestead, we do 365/366 days of learning. Every year. Always. Our kids are always learning. Whether they are cooking, practicing personal hygiene, learning from a nature show or simply playing outside – they are learning. <— Soak on that. Your child is always learning if you create an environment conducive to learning.
That being said, you will need to show your 180 days. We do this with a simple paper full of blocks checked of with 180 check marks. It’s as simple as that. I used to do a page for each day, which served as our 180 day chart, but we’ve since simplified that method. Make this step your own! Make it fun – color in the squares, make patterns, use stickers!
You will also need to keep a portfolio of sorts. Again, this has evolved for us over the years. We used to have two huge binders full of worksheets. Now, we keep an album on my phone of pictures from the year, and we keep a 3 ring binder of anything we gather along the way – maybe a brochure, drawings, etc. This will look very different for every family.
Once you gather a portfolio together and you have your 180 days sheet ready, you will need to find an evaluator. Our evaluator asks for a book list. This may sound contrary to my entire post, but hear me out – your book list may have regular books, it may have magazines, it may have catalogs, it may have websites your child has read from, it could be a manual – be open minded! A “book list” does not have to look like a research paper with cited sources.
Check in with your evaluator, as that person may have different things they would like to see at the evaluation. Your evaluation will likely happen in the Spring. We usually do ours in May, but it can happen in June, too.
How to homeschool in PA: is the evaluation as scary as it sounds?
Our evaluation this year will be on Zoom, but again – I will upload photos of what we’ve done, our book list and our 180 day sheet, and we will chat on Zoom.
There are a few places to find evaluators, but you can start here. Another great place to find evaluators is on Facebook. Many families are willing to share their evaluator’s info with you in homeschool groups.
When your evaluation is done, your evaluator will hand you a paper with boxes checked off. That’s it. The form will need dropped to your school office (or wherever you determine is the right drop off spot in your district). Keep in mind, your school district does not need your portfolio or any other paperwork from you to “prove” that you finished the year.
How to homeschool in PA: why do we have to do Standardized Tests?
The state requires that you do a standardized test in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades.
Again, this likely sounds scarier than the evaluations. It’s not. It literally means nothing. It’s simply to meet the requirement of the law. We do an untimed version that we order online here. You can do the test online or on paper. We do paper, my mom administers it, we send it in, they grade it, send it back and we move on. That’s it.
Again, our son is not into reading, writing and math, and he’s done fine on the tests. Do I look at the scores? Sure. It’s always interesting to see what it says. Do I measure our son’s value against these scores? Absolutely not. His intelligence level and passions have nothing to do with this test.
The years you must do tests, you have to simply show your evaluator that you did it. That’s all. Nothing more.
So when you ask how to homeschool in PA: our best advice..enjoy this time!
I hope you learned a lot from this blog post, and I hope that when you sit and wonder how to homeschool in PA, you feel confident that you are doing the right thing for your family.
You only get so much time to pour into your kids before they are out on their own making their own new life. For us, homeschooling has allowed us so much more time with our kids. Again, I went to public school, I enjoyed what I learned and if that option suits your family, that’s great.
However, if you are looking for more time together and a more free flowing day, consider homeschooling or even taking the step to unschooling. If you have questions about how to homeschool in PA, we love to chat about this topic. Email us!
Here are some fun things you can do with your family that are great for learning! These are all from our family’s homestead!
How to Make Cheese from 1 Gallon of Milk: https://www.chapelhillforge.com/how-to-make-cheese/
How to Make Easy Bread Step by Step: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOZkmwoI2_c
How to Raise Chicks Step by Step: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCtipzLOEyU
How to Paint a Sunset on Canvas with Acrylics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuYKjB2ALXg
How to Make Laundry Soap: https://www.chapelhillforge.com/how-to-make-laundry-soap/
Easy Bubbles Recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwCbMHXlG1E
How to homeschool in PA: this is not legal advice. I highly encourage you to read the homeschool law for yourself. There is also the option to do a private tutor approach, which you can read about at that link.
Also, we are members of HSLDA and we always encourage families to join, too. It’s $100/year, and you will have the peace of knowing that you will have lawyers to back you up in case any issues come up.