Pennsylvania has some of the most detailed homeschooling laws in the United States.

History

In the Northeastern United States, Pennsylvania legalized homeschooling in 1949 and updated the laws in 1988. Parents, guardians, or a person with legal custody may homeschool. The state does not define homeschooling as a form of nonpublic schooling.

Regulation

Pennsylvania requires parents who elect to homeschool their children, ages 8 to 17, to submit a notarized affidavit of intent to homeschool to the local superintendent annually. Additionally, the parent must submit an instructional plan outlining the educational objectives in each subject; proof of immunization or exemptions; and evidence that the child has received appropriate medical services.

Parents who direct their children’s education at home must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Parents may hire a “properly qualified private tutor,“ defined as a certified teacher working with a single family. A list of other requirements and provisions accompany private tutoring of homeschooled students. See here and here for more information. Also, 24 P.S. §13-1327 (a).

Pennsylvania has many requirements that address instructional time. For example, homeschooled students must attend school for at least 180 days or 900-990 hours, depending on grade level. Parents must maintain attendance records in the student’s portfolio.

Pennsylvania’s subject requirements for homeschooled students are the most extensive in the nation. For example, in the elementary grades, homeschooled students must receive instruction in “English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.” The state requires more subjects for secondary-level homeschooled students.

However, unlike many other states, homeschool parents in Pennsylvania have the legal right to borrow textbooks and curriculum from their local school district, free of charge. 24 P.S. §13-1327.1 (f). Also, unlike other states, homeschooled students in Pennsylvania who follow the prescribed course requirements may receive a state diploma. 22 Pa Code §4.72. 

Homeschooled students may participate in the statewide assessments or take a different nationally normed standardized achievement assessment. Parents should keep test results for specific grade years in the student’s portfolio.

Homeschooled students may participate in extracurricular activities, but there are no policies that outline additional access to public school offerings like courses and sports for nonpublic students. A new 2022-23 policy requires greater access for homeschooled students to programs and courses like CTE. Section 1327.1(f.2) (1)-(5). According to Pennsylvania policy, homeschooled students with special needs may request special services from their local school district, but it appears that receiving services depends upon the district superintendent’s approval. 24 P.S. §13-1327 (d).  

State Data

There are several years of homeschool participation data available. For example, nearly 25,000 students reported homeschooling in 2016, which increased to almost 43,000 at the height of the pandemic. Pennsylvania disaggregates homeschool participation by grade, county, and district, offering more robust information on participation trends in the state.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in Pennsylvania from 2017 to 2022, with rates remaining steady from 2017 to 2019, spiking in 2020, and then dropping slightly in 2021.

U.S. Census estimates indicate that around 7.3% of Pennsylvania families homeschooled in the spring of 2020 and increased to 10.8% by the fall of 2020. Note that these percentages reflect family participation. Student participation would be higher, given that many families have more than one child. During the 2022 and 2023 school years, the U.S. Census found that an average of 3.8% of K-12 students in Pennsylvania were homeschooling.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, 1.3% of Pennsylvania’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was much lower than the 12% of students attending private schools and the 7% of students attending charter schools. In 2021-22, 2.04% of Pennsylvania’s K-12 students were homeschooled, 11% attended private schools, and 8.4% attended charter schools.

A pie chart showing home, charter, private, and traditional public school percentages in Pennsylvania in 2021-22

School Choice Context

In addition to homeschooling, parents in Pennsylvania have various educational choices available. These options include open enrollment in traditional public schools, some limited charter and magnet schools, private schools, and two tax credit scholarship programs, neither of which serves homeschooled students.

Commentary

The state may hold homeschooled students and parents to a higher standard than their publicly schooled peers and teachers if publicly schooled students are not also provided instruction in the subjects required for home instruction. While the state has a considerable number of requirements, homeschooled students have broad access to services, free curricula, and an option to receive a state diploma. Few states provide these options for their homeschooled families.

Last updated December 2023.