The Basics of Home Education in the Sunshine State
Homeschooling is a popular educational choice in Florida, growing at 8-10% a year, with more than 55,000 students in over 36,000 families enrolled as home educators in 2016 and no sign of the trend slowing. (Florida Department of Education statistics)
Understanding Your Home-Based Learning Choices
Home Education in Florida is one of several Office of School Choice options and covered under Part IV of Chapter 1002 of the Florida Education Code. Each of the three options included in this part of the code -- Home Education, Private Schools and Private Tutoring programs -- offers ways to more personally direct your child's education.
Each, however, is conducted under a unique set of laws, and families considering the various options should take time to inform themselves about the nuances of each. You can see a Comparison Chart of Home Based Learning Options in Florida at Learning is for Everyone’s Homeschooling in Florida section.
The Benefits of Homeschooling in Florida
In this article, we’ll be looking at Home Education specifically . Homeschoolers in Florida enjoy a wide range of options, including:
- Part time public school enrollment
- Public school sports participation
- Florida Virtual School enrollment
- Dual enrollment at any public college
- Some special needs services
There is also a wide variety of community based learning opportunities ranging from 4H and Scouts to specially designed museum and science center classes just for homeschoolers.
The Basics of Homeschooling in Florida
Essentially, the basic state requirements for home education in Florida consist of:
- written notice to the district superintendent of intent to establish a home education program
- maintenance of a portfolio of records and materials, to be kept for two years, that contains a log of educational activities and reading
- materials used, writing samples, worksheets, workbooks, and any other materials used or created by the child
- an annual educational evaluation of the child's educational progress
The parent or guardian may select the method of evaluation, which can be
- a review of the portfolio and discussion with the student by a Florida certified teacher chosen by the parent or guardian
- a nationally normed student achievement test administered by a certified teacher
- a state student assessment test administered by a certified teacher, at a location and under testing conditions approved by the school district
- an evaluation by a licensed psychologist
- or an evaluation by any other valid measurement tool that is mutually agreed upon by the superintendent and the parent or guardian
Know Your Rights
While some counties may attempt to formalize their oversight of homeschooling, home education remains a state legislated practice, not a county one. Counties cannot arbitrarily set annual evaluation deadlines or request more information than required by state law.
Homeschoolers do not have to explain their reasons for homeschooling, provide attendance records, use any particular curriculum, or keep their portfolios a certain way (for more on portfolios, see HighTech Homeschool). They do not need to take the FCAT, the NCLB mandated test required of public school students, nor do they have to provide test scores if they do not wish to enter them into evaluation records. Homeschooled students simply have to show annual progress commensurate with ability.
Nor are homeschoolers in Florida required to be the sole educators of their children, but may coordinate with other teachers, tutors, cooperatives and learning groups.
In short, how you conduct your homeschool program is completely up to you. And with so many homeschoolers in Florida, there’s no shortage of moral support, camaraderie and resources for making the most of learning at home in the Sunshine State.
For more information, and to stay informed and connect to homeschool support groups and assistance visit the Florida Parent Educators Association, and LIFE of Florida.