If you are a homeschooler in Pennsylvania, you live in one of the only states in the country where you can graduate as a homeschooler and receive a recognized diploma. The Pennsylvania Department of Education trusts homeschool organizations to maintain the quality of the diplomas that they award. And PHAA has been fulfilling that trust since 1991.
But PHAA goes back much further than that. It grew out of the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers newsletter that was published from 1982 to 2007 by Howard and Susan Richman, authors of The Three Rs at Home. And Howard co-led the grass-roots movement that ended the many prosecutions of homeschoolers in Pennsylvania in 1988. These days, the Richmans' family business, PA Homeschoolers AP Online, provides online courses to homeschoolers worldwide.
PHAA's Accredited homeschool diploma
PHAA is one of the diploma-granting organizations, recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to provide diplomas to graduates of Pennsylvania home education programs. When PHAA was first recognized, the PDE recognized PHAA as an accreditation agency that can accredit homeschool programs under 22 Pa Code 121.21 which states:
(c) For purposes of the State Higher Education Grant Program, an approved secondary school shall also include any home education program that is accredited by any home schooling accreditation agency approved by the Department of Education....
PHAA requires that its students do lots of reading, writing and public speaking, insuring that they be literate and well prepared for college. As a result, PHAA has an excellent reputation with colleges and employers. No wonder PHAA graduates are sometimes given preferential treatment. If you have a high school student being homeschooled under the PA Home Education Law click here to join PHAA as a member family.
PHAA requires that its evaluators write narrative evaluation letters, and PHAA attaches those evaluation letters to all of the transcripts that it sends out to colleges and employers. As a result, PHAA's transcript functions as a summary of what the student did in high school and the evaluation letters function as recommendation letters that explain the transcript. PHAA transcripts, with evaluation letters attached, give PHAA students a competitive edge. Click here for the application to join PHAA as a member evaluator.
For more information about PHAA, download the free Guide to PA Homeschoolers Diploma (pdf) which explains PHAA's standards and procedures. PHAA is a democratic non-profit corporation. Its directors are elected by its membership (evaluators and parents) and any changes in PHAA's bylaws can only be passed through votes of the membership.
How to Homeschool in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Home Education Law makes sure that children are getting an education, but gives parents control over that education:
- Beginning of the year: Affidavit. The law requires that parents file a notarized affidavit with their local school superintendent when they begin homeschooling for that year. The affidavit must include their objectives for each child for each of the required subjects. There are no requirements about how parents should teach those subjects. Thus parents, not the state, set the goals for their own students education.
- During the school year: Portfolio. Families keep a portfolio of work which shows that their children are learning the required subects for the required amount of time (180 days or 900 hours elementary; 180 days or 990 hours secondary). This portfolio shows off the work that the students are doing. It often includes photos taken on field trips, student compositions, and a list of books read. It can provide a beautiful record of accomplishment and a wonderful memory of the school year.
- Third, fifth, and eighth grades: Testing. If a student is in third, fifth or eighth grades, then at some point during the school year the student must be tested either with the test given in the public schools or with a test chosen by the parents from a long list of acceptable achievement tests. Anybody, except the parents themselves, can give the tests, many of which are widely available to homeschoolers.
- Toward the end of the school year: Evaluation. In the spring, the families meet with an evaluator of their own choosing who reviews the portfolio, interviews the child, and certifies in an evaluation letter that the student is getting an appropriate education. Parents choose the evaluator who can be a certified teacher, a licensed psychologist, a non-public school teacher with recent experience, or anybody else with the advanced approval of the superintendent. Many evaluators are themselves homeschooling parents. Click here for a full listing of PHAA evaluators, with blurbs by many telling about themselves.
- End of school year: Turn in evaluation letter. By June 30, the parents must turn in to their school superintendents the evaluation letter which states that the student is getting an appropriate education. Thus the evaluator chosen by the parents, not the state, determines if they can continue homeschooling.
For complete and detailed information with examples about how to comply with the Pennsylvania law, click here for the free Guide to PA Homeschool Law (pdf) which explains everything and includes an affidavit and objectives that you choose from. Click here for a list of support groups from all across Pennsylvania—maybe there's a group near you!
Learn about the unique challenges and opportunities of high school at home
Every year, PHAA brings homeschoolers, including parents, students and evaluators together to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of doing high school at home. For 24 years, we held our High School at Home Conferences at physical locations. But starting with March 30, 2020, due to the coronavirus, we began holding it online. Click here to find out about our upcoming Zoom webinars. In order to encourage discussion, we no longer record the sessions. But some of the past sessions were later uploaded to YouTube and can be accessed from PHAA's FaceBook page and from PHAA's YouTube channel.
Connect with high school homeschooled students: Join the Excelsior Staff
PHAA publishes an online student-run newsletter called The Excelsior which is edited by a different senior each year and is available to all PHAA members. All students in the PHAA diploma program are invited to join the staff by emailing the current student editor, whose name can be found in The Excelsior. (Click on the link at the bottom of this page to read the latest issue.)
Transcripts for PHAA students, PHAA graduates and BCEI graduates
One of the main jobs of the PHAA Board of Directors is to insure that PHAA will always be there for PHAA and BCEI graduates to send out transcripts at their request or at the request of their parents. (BCEI was a sister organization to PHAA; when it closed, we took over its records.) We also confirm graduation when called by one of the many services which investigate resumes whenever PHAA or BCEI graduates apply for jobs or promotions.
Click here to request a snail-mailed or emailed transcript online (fee is $15) or click here for a mail-in PHAA transcript request form (fee is $10) or click here for a mail-in BCEI transcript request form (fee is $10). Please note that PHAA evaluators can email or post PHAA transcripts for current students, and there is often no fee involved at all.