PA Homeschool FAQ
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My child is having problems in school. Should I homeschool?
Achievement testing
No credit for previous work?
Age limit in PA

Question Index
I have a child that has had problems with class room settings. His one-on-one ability is exceptional. He is not adapting to the school environment. He's acting out in class with disruptive behavior. My son is very bright the feedback from the teachers is he's blurting out answers to questions. He's in the first grade I asked the teacher to give him more work since it sounds like when he's done with his own he's disrupting the class. I also asked if they could test him for the gifted program the results were he's gifted and there going to recommend him for the gifted program. He does so well in a smaller class room and I am so tired of the school calling me for his behavior. I know the problem is he's bored!!! I keep asking them to give him more work I have a meeting at the school next week but in the meantime I am looking into home school. Is there a fee? Where can I find one in my neighborhood (Northside) [this is Pittsburgh area--DRF] or somewhere that is closer? Do you think kids benefit as well as to being in school? Are there any sites that you recommend me getting more information.


It breaks my heart to hear these sorts of stories. And both my parents were teachers so if anything I should be biased towards public schools. But frankly, I am not impressed with them. I know this is a long response, but I list some homeschool and private school alternatives for you. . .

I think that giving your son more boring work isn't going to solve the fundamental problem that he is way ahead of the rest of the class at least in certain areas. If anything more work may turn him off to the joy of learning. Homeschooling is one well-proven alternative for enriched learning.

Just to make it clear, when we use the term homeschooling we mean that literally. . . keeping your child at home, and having them learn there. We have done that with our daughter from age zero to 12 (and still going). The process in Pennsylvania for doing that is rather straightforward and my website gives you the basic essentials you need to do that.

  1. From a procedural standpoint, you need to do two things before pulling any children out: Prepare an Affidavit and prepare a Statement of Objectives. Once you submit the two documents to the school, you can start teaching at home. At the end of the school year, you'll need to find an evaluator to evaluate your child/children and write about their progress for the school district. That writeup will be included in a portfolio that you submit to the school district. The portfolio includes a few samples of their work, not everything they do. Save yourself and keep it thin, but have more substantial evidence of their work kept at home in case there's any doubt. Children must have achievement tests in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. There are lists of evaluators and testers in a newsletter put out by the Pennsylvania Home Education Network. There are also medical requirements (see the PA law) prior to entering various grades, but since your son is already in school for this year that is a non-issue at this time.

  2. From a self-help standpoint, I recommend books by John Holt such as Teach Your Own, How Children Learn, and How Children Fail. You'll be able to order them from Growing Without Schooling. Also, Diana Baseman's book is a good resource. She's a PA Home Education Network founder--good group. I strongly recommend you find a support group in your area to supplement learning at home (field trips, get-togethers, socializing, fun). Check Barb Page's web page for a group near you or the Pennsylvania Home Education Network.

  3. Philosophically, how you approach this depends on both you and your children. Some children are naturally motivated to work on their own. Others aren't. Ours would read and play piano all day if we let her, but would never do any math. Forcing a child to sit and do things they're not interested in is where you're likely to have the most conflict, unless you're willing to let the children pretty much explore whatever they want (more of an unschooler approach than a school at home approach). We mix the two. The challenge is to make the stuff they don't want to do as fun as possible.

    The most successful thing we do is to make the best resources available to our daughter, so we act as a filter of information. We buy very high quality literature of the subject and style that we know would be of interest, have a huge stack waiting, and whenever our daughter wants a new book she'll find something good in the stack. Historical fiction covers history. Well written fantasy stories are for vocabulary and for fun. Reading Rainbow, Bill Nye, Nature, and Kratt's Creatures on TV handle science better than we could have expected (she scores 99th percentile in science). Nova specials on TV also handle history and science. Kids Discover magazine is really good. We steer her away from cartoons.


Perhaps you are working and not able to do that, so there are of course private school alternatives. If you can afford it, try the Waldorf school--they will be more tolerant of the behavior you're talking about and better able to challenge your son.

Or I think Shadyside Academy in Fox Chapel is supposed to be good. Here is a list of private schools in the area.

I should mention that John Holt's books provide some creative solutions to do homeschooling even for parents who work and for single moms, so don't immediately discount the idea even if both parents work. You may be able to work out some arrangements with employers, friends, neighbors, relatives, private tutors, or a homeschool cooperative.


This additional response from homeschooling parent Roberta (added May 2003): I've been in the same position as the woman you answered, and I've found a few options that you might want to add to your list of suggestions. There are now three charter schools in Pennsylvania that are designed for gifted children. One of them is a cyber school (Einstein Academy), which can help parents who want to have their child learn at home at their own pace but are afraid they can't adminster a curriculum or can't afford to buy all the supplies they need. The other two options are in-person charter schools that provide smaller class sizes and a fast-paced curriculum designed to meet the needs of gifted children: Infinity Charter School in the Harrisburg area (Central Dauphin School District) and Voyager Charter School near Philadelphia (Garnet Valley School District). As charter schools, all of these are tuition-free, nondiscriminatory, and nondenominational. I think they're worth mentioning when someone isn't finding a good fit at the local public school but isn't in a position to homeschool. --------------------------------------

I hope some of this helps. Finally:

A letter from another mom, and a response

>Hello Mr. Forrest,
> I have decided to homeschool our 5th grager this year. I am currently
>schooling our soon-to-be 11th grader. I have schooled my 5th grader in 2nd
>grade and have learned alot since then. I am confused on one thing;
>Do I have to teach all of these subjectd each year throughout elementary
>years or can I skip some years?
>English, Math, Science, Geography, Pa History, US History, Civics, Safty Ed.,
>Health and Phisiology, Music, Art Phys. Ed.
>If I can skip some of these, which ones can I skip?
>Thanks for your expertise!
>PS Thank you for the letter from Marion Grey about the diploma!

As I read the law, you need to teach them all. But there is no stipulation about how much of each and the content. We figured if our daughter went out and played routinely that was phys ed (biking, skating, walking. . .). Health? Just talk about eating healthy foods at meals; food pyramid. Civics? Take them with you when you vote. Music? Listen to some. Safety/fire safety? Change the battery in the smoke detector. Geography? Bring a map the next time you go out driving or on a trip and let them follow along. Science? Watch some Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV. Or a Nova or Nature on PBS. English? Read. Math? I don't know of an easy way around math. You have to work through problems on a regular basis. We use Saxon and Key to Fractions, Key to Decimals, Key to Geometry. . .


Question Index
I would appreciate some advice about third grade testing. Is there a particularly good test out there and can someone (I know it can't be a parent) without a college degree administer it? Are there any tests that are definitely to be avoided? Also if you can recommend a test ,where could I get it?

The California is supposed to be one of the easier ones. I don't know of any to stay away from. As a parent, you cannot administer an achievement test if it is for the official record (3rd, 5th, 8th grade in PA). You can, of course, give your child a test off the record at any time for your own information/practice. Any person other than the parent, college degree or not, can administer the following for the state-required exam:

Iowa (considered the hardest)
California (easiest)

They can be obtained from:

FLO Testing Service
P.O. Box 7247
Spokane, WA 99207-0247
1-800-405-8378 (credit card orders, best before 11am Pacific Time)
509-924-3760 (questions)

These people cater specifically to homeschooling families, and do not accept bulk orders as they do not want to compete with schools.

The Richmans (PA Homeschoolers) in Southwest PA will do testing for a fee; their testing is normally performed in the fall. We used them once and had no complaints. Susan Richman was particularly sensitive toward the younger children, some of whom cried at times because they didn't understand the questions or couldn't do the problems. They can sell you practice tests so that children can work through sample problems ahead of time and practice how to circle in the answers.

I'm told has some information on this topic, but have not visited this site myself so this is a blind, unfiltered recommendation.

Question Index
Just took my daughter out of school to home school her after signing all the paperwork and getting everything together. They tell me she gets no credits for 9, 10, 11, 12th grade to go to college. Is this true? Please return an answer as soon as possible.

This sounds like typical misinformation from a hostile school district but without more details on exactly what they said and what grade your daughter is in, it's not clear. First of all, they can't take away credits from anything your daughter has already completed and would be required to supply a transcript (I'm guessing). Second, so what? Plenty of homeschoolers get into college without any high school credits whatsoever. Let's face it, if they have good SAT scores, they're in. Period. (But you'll also want to back that up with a good portfolio for the college interview, and a summary of accomplishments would be included on the college application.)

It's possible to get a perfectly valid high school diploma from alternative programs such as Conlara and PA Homeschoolers if you want to go that route and still homeschool.

Question Index

I'm writing from VA...
I was wondering if you would tell me what the ages are in PA for compulsery [sic] education...from age 8 to age ?

thank you

[Original answer] It's 17, unfortunately.

Rethinking this, I would add that it's possible to get into college earlier if the student is inclined to go that route and is ambitious enough. Even taking a few community college credits should count. At that point, we perhaps cross the line between voluntary and compulsory education.

Last Updated 21 Nov. 2000
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