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Moving Into, Out of, and Within Pennsylvania

Moving within Pennsylvania:

Assuming you are homeschooling under the PA Home Education Law, the law describes procedures for moving from one PA school district to another. (See the paragraph in green below for the text of the law.) Basically, you must write to your superintendent for a letter of transfer 30 days before you move. The superintendent then sends a letter to the new district. These procedures apply whether you move during the school year or during the summer. If you have questions about this procedure, please contact the homeschool liaison at the PA Department of Education.

If you are homeschooling under an alternative to the home education law (such as private tutoring or a PA public cyber-charter school), the procedure will be different - contact the PDE for details.

(2) In the event the home education program site is relocating to another school district within this Commonwealth during the course of the public school term or prior to the opening of the public school term in the fall, the supervisor of the home education program must apply, by registered mail, thirty (30) days prior to the relocation, to the superintendent of the district in which he or she currently resides, requesting a letter of transfer for the home education program to the district to which the home education program is relocating. The current superintendent of residence must issue the letter of transfer thirty (30) days after receipt of the registered mail request of the home education program supervisor.

(i) If the home education program is not in compliance with the provisions of this section, the superintendent of the current district of residence must inform the home education supervisor and the superintendent of the district to which the home education program is relocating the status of the home education program and the reason for the denial of the letter of transfer.

(ii) If the home education program is in hearing procedures, as contained in this section, the superintendent of the current district of residence must inform the home education supervisor, the assigned hearing examiner and the superintendent of the district to which the home education program is relocating the status of the home education program and the reason for the denial of the letter of transfer.

(3) The letter of transfer, required by clause (2), must be filed by the supervisor of the home education program with the superintendent of the new district of residence. In the case of pending proceedings, the new district of residence superintendent shall continue the home education program until the appeal process is finalized.

Moving out of Pennsylvania:

The home education law does not include any procedures for moving outside of PA.

According to the PA Department of Education, any time you submit a home education affidavit, you must complete the associated end-of-year paperwork to close out your home education program.  Otherwise, you can be deemed out of compliance, and therefore truant, for the days you have home educated.  Thus if you move during the school year, the PDE believes you are still supposed to create a portfolio representing the part of the year during which you've been home educating, have an evaluation, and submit the evaluator's certification to the superintendent of your school district.

Will your district insist on it? This is one of those situations where the 501 PA school districts handle things differently. Practically speaking, some families do not bother with the paperwork and have no problems. It seems rare for a school district to track down a family who has moved out of state. However, it has been an issue in at least one case where a family moved out of PA, then later returned. 

Because the law change in October 2014 removed the need to submit your portfolio to the district, the end of year paperwork is much easier than it has been in the past. If you don't want to burn any bridges, it might be wise to make at least a bare bones portfolio and get an evaluator's certification to submit to the district (as the PDE believes is required). Other possibilities include calling the district to ask how they would like you to handle it, in the hopes that they will be satisfied with a brief letter or even phone notification of your move. Your approach may vary depending on whether you move early or late in the school year. The school district may be more likely to feel it is unnecessary to do a portfolio and evaluation if you have been schooling for only a few weeks.

See 24 PS 13-1327 Compulsory school attendance.

In Pennsylvania temporarily:

Sometimes a family will find themselves in Pennsylvania temporarily - to care for a sick relative, on an extended business trip, or for other reasons. According to the PDE, if you are in PA temporarily, you don’t have to register your children if you are already registered/reporting/enrolled in your home state.  However, if you are not covered elsewhere, and your children fall under PA's compulsory school age, you must register within 3-5 days. If your home state does not require registration or notification, contact the PDE for clarification as to how this applies to you.

Moving to Pennsylvania:

Don't Panic!

First of all, don't panic! PA's homeschooling laws are complex, but once you've gone through the process the first time it is fairly routine after that. While minor issues pop up here and there, most are due to district personnel who are not familiar with the details of the law and who are asking for more than the law requires. These issues are usually quickly solved by contacting the Homeschooling Liaison at the PA Department of Education. Serious problems are rare, even for those who take a more relaxed approach to homeschooling. In addition, a change to the law in October of 2014 has eliminated the prior requirement to submit an annual portfolio to the local school district, which should eliminate many of the minor hassles that came up regularly in the past. PA is home to a wonderful, diverse community of homeschoolers -- Welcome!

Check the Compulsory School Age.

If your child is under age 8 or over 17, you may not have to file at all. However, in some some circumstances you may have to file even if your child is outside of the 8-17 age range. See my Compulsory School Age page for the details.

Choose your legal category.

The next step is to decide which PA homeschooling option is best for your family. The PA Home Education Law is the most widely-used option in PA, though there are a few Alternatives to the Home Education Law, primarily the Private Tutor option and the PA Public Cyber-Charter Schools. If you choose the Home Education Law, the first step is to file a home education affidavit.

Figure out when you should file.

According to the PDE, if you move to PA in the middle of the school year, and your children are of compulsory school age, you must register with your local school district within 3-4 days of your move.  If you move at the very end of the school year, and you have already completed the school year in your previous location, you may wait until the next school year to register. (Contact the PDE if you have questions about your specific situation.) You can file a home education affidavit for the next year (and thus begin counting your 180 days or 900/990 hours) as early as July 1.

Take the next step. 

This web site should guide you through the basics of getting started in PA. If you choose the Home Education option, you'll need to learn about the affidavit, creating a portfolio, keeping a log, doing standardized testing (only in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades), and getting an end-of-year evaluation. (Remember! Don't panic! It's easier than it sounds!) Be sure to seek out local support groups too. For now, read up on the affidavit, keep a box of things you can use for the portfolio (such as brochures from field trips, drawings, and samples of work), and keep a list of reading materials (for the log). You can figure out the details as you go along. Enjoy!

Reporting for a Partial Year

If you begin home educating part-way through the school year, either because you have moved into PA, or because you are transferring from a public or private school, you will have to do the end-of-year paperwork. It is generally accepted that you can count the school days/hours you have already completed, either in your previous school district or your previous school, towards your required 180 days or 900/990 hours. For example, if you attended 100 days of school then withdrew to home educate, you would only need to do 80 more days to meet your 180 days.

If this is the case, it is sensible to make sure your end-of-year paperwork reflects your situation, so the reader understands the circumstances and does not judge your, say, 8-week portfolio as if it reflected 36 weeks of instruction. You may do this in several ways. For example, you can explain the details in a cover letter in the front of your portfolio. Here is a ready-to-edit cover letter to get you started. You would want to add a sentence like "Our family moved to XYZ school district in March of this year. Joey completed 100 days of school at his previous school; this portfolio reflects the 80 days he spent in a home education program in the ABC school district, beginning March 15." Or you could say "Jane attended ABC elementary school for the first half of the school year, completing 94 days. As of Jan 1, Jane enrolled in a home education program, where she completed 86 days for a total of 180 days. This portfolio includes samples of work from those days. Jane's home education program is going well, and she will continue to be home educated next year."

As to the portfolio, it is only required to show work from the time the student was in a home education program. However, if you moved to PA and were homeschooling in your previous location, and/or if you only homeschooled few weeks of the school year, you may want to include things from before you began the home education program in order to put your PA home ed work within the context of the whole year's learning.

As an example, if you didn't do any history during the second part of the year in part because you did a history unit study in the first part, you might want to include that unit study to show that the student is getting some history work done. "Before moving to PA, Sally read a number of books about US History. After moving to PA, she was delighted to visit several of the historical sites mentioned in the books, including Independence Hall and Valley Forge." As another example, if you brought your child home from public school because they were struggling, you might have focused mainly on basic subjects. You might want to mention something like "because Johnny was struggling in his chemistry class, we backed up and covered some more basic science material, visiting several nature centers and learning more about the plants and wildlife found there. However, since his Algebra class had been going well, we continued his studies and finished the textbook." Or "because we began home educating late in the school year, we spent most of our school hours on reading. Mary took weekly trips to the public library, and selected a variety of books that interested her. These books became the core of her home education program."

(Note - you are NOT required to write about your studies as I have done here. The law states that the portfolio should "demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring" and consist of "a log, ... 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...". Nonetheless, sometimes parents find that writing a bit about what they've done can be one way to document "appropriate education", especially when samples of work may be sparse.) See my pages on Portfolios, Portfolio Summaries and Making a Portfolio Step-By-Step for more about portfolios.