Basic Graduation Requirements Under Pennsylvania Homeschool Law




If you're wondering what the basic graduation requirements are under Pennsylvania homeschool law, they can be found directly in the text of the statute and are pretty straightforward.

"The following minimum courses in grades 9 through 12 are established as a minimum requirement for graduation in a home education program:

(1) Four years of English.

(2) Three years of mathematics.

(3) Three years of science.

(4) Three years of social studies.

(5) Two years of arts and humanities.

24 P.S. § 1327.1(d)

A "year" refers to a is defined in "time requirement" section of the law as a minimum of 180 days or 990 hours of instruction (count days or hours, not both) within the time period between July 1 and June 30 of the following year. So, "year" refers to school year or total time for instruction-not for a single course. For a great explanation on how to award "credit" for a high school course, you might find this article to be helpful.

Supervisor Has Flexibility When Designing The Program

A supervisor of a home education program has wide discretion to decide how to meet the basic requirements listed above and I would encourage you to accommodate your child's preferences, strengths and passions within the framework set forth in the law.

To help you plan HOW to meet the minimum requirements, the law also identifies certain subjects which must be taught during the secondary years (7-12). Please note that while all of the subjects must be covered at some time during grades 7 through 12, the law doesn't require that every course is taught every year.

"(2) At the secondary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires. Such courses of study may include, at the discretion of the supervisor of the home education program, economics; biology; chemistry; foreign languages; trigonometry;

or other age-appropriate courses as contained in Chapter 5 (Curriculum Requirements) of the State Board of Education.  24 P.S. § 1327.1(c)(2)

You may use any curriculum to meet the subject and graduation requirements or design your own. This decision will largely be influenced by the student's plans after completion of the home education program. For example, if your child plans to attend college, some prefer two years of a foreign language, even though it is not required for graduation in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, if the student plans to pursue a trade, the course work may be designed to prepare him for that as long as the minimum graduation requirements are met.

Although certain subjects must be covered during the secondary level (Algebra, Geometry, etc.) the law does not define the length of time or the depth of study. You decide, again, based on the student's future plans. If your child changes plans and a more focused proficiency is required in a particular subject than you planned, he should be able to take the course at the local community college.

Compulsory Attendance Shouldn't Be Confused with Graduation Requirements

It's important to note that Pennsylvania law doesn't require graduation. It only compels attendance in a legally recognized form of education between certain ages. 

Compulsory attendance is required for children between the ages of 8 and 17 with a few exceptions that are outlined in the law. Once a child reaches the age of 17, however, he isn't obligated to complete a home education program or graduate.  However, I would encourage everyone to complete the home education program since the requirements are so minimal (15 where most public schools require between 21 and 27 to graduate).

The Pennsylvania homeschool law was amended in 2014 to give a diploma issued by the supervisor of a home education program the same rights and privileges as one issued by the Commonwealth. Although many colleges and universities don't require an actual diploma for admission, Pennsylvania state universities do.

The student's plans after high school will determine whether a diploma is required. Some employers may require a diploma, for example. Regardless of whether your child will require proof of graduation in the form of a diploma, completion of a home education program by meeting the basic graduation requirements will affect your child's ability to receive benefits like grants and loans.

Also, if the law doesn't change, a student who doesn't complete a home education program by earning a diploma-even if he goes on to college or a successful career would be prevented from homeschooling his own children in Pennsylvania if he doesn't obtain a GED. (The other parent could if she earned a high school diploma or its equivalent). Just something to think about.

I hope this article clears up any confusion about the basic requirements to graduate from a home education program in Pennsylvania.

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  1. Thank you so much. Since I spoke with you via email a little while ago, I have seriously been reconsidering PHAA but have been a little unsure as to how to assign high school credits. This came just when I needed it!

    • Shelly, You’re welcome. I’m glad it’s useful.

  2. I’ve been looking for information/discussion on parent issued diplomas vs. the diploma programs in Pennsylvania. Do you have something like that on this site? I’m not seeing a topic search link?

    • Hi Carol, I’m sorry, I haven’t written any articles on that topic mostly because I personally don’t have experience. There was recently a good discussion on a yahoo group about that and most parents with experience graduating high schoolers agree that a diploma program isn’t necessary. It’s a waste of time, money and resources. Children have successfully matriculated to colleges, the military and trade school without the piece of paper. Most schools are interested in a transcript. Federal and State financial aid is also available WITHOUT a diploma. A superintendent should sign the forms if your child successfully completes a home education program. The people associated with diploma programs likely won’t be forthcoming with that information and try to convince you that your child needs a diploma. Not true according to other experienced parents.

  3. After many years of cyberschool, we are making the switch to homeschool. My daughter is 16, soon to be 17. I have prepared all the information to submit to our local school district and wonder if I will be required to submit a portfolio at the end of the school year since she will be 17 by then. I would like to be able to focus on the actual school work instead of stressing about the portfolio if I can.

    Thank you so much for all the information you provide in this site. It has been very helpful in our decision to homeschool.

    • Hi Christie, Although compulsory attendance only applies to children ages 8-17, I recommend filing the portfolio at the end of the year since that will complete the home education program, which is the equivalent of graduating with a diploma (although you don’t need that piece of paper for most post-secondary endeavors). Does that make sense? I just think it gives the student more options and benefits than if she doesn’t complete the program.

    • Christi,
      I wanted to add one thing. One of my main incentives in putting together this site and the ebook is to encourage parents NOT to be intimidated by the notoriously demanding requirements of the PA homeschool law. I truly believe that they can be met with minimal preparation. I see no reason why they should interfere with your daughter’s incredible opportunity to learn in 3-D. If you resist the urge to duplicate school at home this year, she might learn and enjoy more this year than in all of her previous public school years combined….you, too. Keep me posted.

  4. Thanks so much for the information, Beth. I will keep you posted. I really do appreciate the information you share on both this site and the ebook.

    • You’re welcome, Christi. It has been a rewarding learning process. If you enjoyed the book and think it might be helpful to others, could I ask you to take the time to review it on Amazon?

  5. I’m trying to find information on how to include 7th and 8th grade courses into a high school transcript, if the courses meet high school requirements. I have a little while yet to figure this out, but was hoping for some help. Thanks!

    • Missy,
      It’s best to think of this dilemma in 2 ways. The first is meeting the legal requirements under PA homeschool law. I’m assuming your second concern is including courses on a transcript for purposes of post-secondary education or opportunities. These are 2 different things.

      First, let’s look at the legal requirements which include “subject requirements” in the secondary years. Second are the “minimum course requirements” for graduation.

      The subject requirements for secondary students do not have to be covered each year. Basically, all of those subjects listed in 24 P.S. §1327.1(c)(2), including Algebra, Geometry, etc. must be covered at some point between grades 7-12.

      So, for example, if your child takes Algebra in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th, it satisfies the provision mentioned above, but they do not count toward the minimum math requirements in grades 9-12. The student would still need 3 years of math. The good news is, the supervisor (and the student) has wide discretion and creativity in how to complete that requirement. You could even double up if the student wanted to graduate early. That applies to any subject.

      For purposes of a “transcript” go ahead and include coursework that was taken in 7th and 8th grades if you think it will be relevant to college admissions. This is just a suggestion that would meet the LEGAL REQUIREMENTS. Whether the courses to which you are referring will satisfy an admissions committee at whatever college, I have no idea. I don’t see why not, but I have no idea.

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