Florida is a moderately regulated state for homeschooling. There are three options families can choose from to create a home-based learning environment for their children.
Parents can homeschool under the Florida homeschool statute, using a private school or umbrella program, or through the help of a private tutor. A notice of intent to homeschool must be on file for option 1, a private school needs to be registered with the Department of Education for option 2, and a tutor must be certified to teach in Florida.
For some families, public schooling can be more of a burden than a blessing. Busy schedules, class projects, extracurricular activities, and balancing home and work life for working parents can be quite the daily chore.
What Are My Homeschooling Options?
In Florida, children must attend public school, or comply with homeschool regulations, between the ages of 6 and 16. A child is expected to begin schooling in the school year they will be turning six on or before February 1st. Students must continue attending school until they are 16 or graduated from high school. When transitioning from public school to a homeschool program, a student must be withdrawn from public school before the next school year starts, or at the time during the school year when homeschooling is to replace a public served education. Withdrawals are vital to ensuring the student is not reported truant to the local school board.
Homeschooling under the Florida homeschool statute requires a few steps to be completed first. A written notice of intent to homeschool must be turned in to the school district superintendent within 30 days of beginning a home-based learning program. Here is a list of school districts to know where to send the information. A notice of intent must include the student’s names, birthdays, residence address, and a parent signature. A parent does not have to be teacher certified to instruct their child, there are no set hours or days required to complete an academic year, and subjects and curriculum are the parent’s responsibility.
The next step is to maintain a student portfolio containing a log of educational activities, what curriculum is used, and student work samples. The portfolio needs to remain available to the superintendent for inspection when requested. Portfolio inspection is up to the superintendent’s discretion rather than state-mandated, but an annual educational evaluation is required.
The evaluations are done through one of the following options: standardized testing, student assessment test, certified teacher portfolio review, licensed psychologist review, or any other measure the superintendent and parent have agreed on. Here is a list of evaluators. Portfolios are to contain at least two years of student work and activities. If a student enrolls in public school, a private school, or will be moving out of the district, a termination of homeschooling letter must be submitted to the superintendent.
Private schools registered with the Florida Department of Education are considered umbrella schools. The Department of Education oversees these homeschool programs. A list of Florida Private Schools can be found here. Private schools have 180 instructional days per academic year. They maintain student enrollment information and attendance and immunization records for annual reporting requirements to the Florida Department of Education.
Private tutors must hold a valid Florida teaching certificate for the grade-level being taught. The tutor’s responsibility is to keep student records and make reports the state and school district require. Just like public and private schools, tutors must teach 180 days with student attendance recorded. Subjects and curriculum being used can be agreed upon by the tutor and parent if one is not already in place. The Florida Department of Education is a great resource for more information or to have other questions answered.
Homeschool Graduation Requirements
Public school students must complete 24 credits before graduating: eight elective credits, one physical education, one fine arts, speech, or debate, four language arts, four math, three social studies, and three science. Homeschooled students have a bit of an advantage in the number of credits required. Since there are no required state subjects, students can obtain general knowledge and focus on their likes or classes that aim for a future career. Parents determine when a student is ready to graduate and has completed the educational goals that were set. Private schools and online schools may issue a diploma if they are set up to do so. Homeschooling parents will also need to create and provide high school transcripts. Applecore is an easy-to-use program for tracking attendance, grades, and transcripts.
Homeschool Curriculum Options
Discovering the child’s learning style and understanding your teaching style can help choose the right program or study method. There is a wide variety of options available for homeschool lessons and curriculum packages. Here is a brief description of just a few programs available to families wanting to homeschool.
There are numerous free curriculum and lesson add-ons available if looking to save money and be budget-friendly. Local libraries are a great place to start when looking for books and DVDs that can be borrowed. Khan Academy has free online classes for homeschool families. K12 is a virtual classroom for families wanting to stick with public schooling but at home. K12 is a tuition-free program using schedules and public school class lists to keep students on track with their educational goals and peers. Duolingo is free for everyone wanting to learn, improve, or freshen up on foreign language skills.
ABC Mouse, Adventure Academy, AOP, and School House Teachers offer a wide variety of learning material with a monthly or yearly membership fee. ABC Mouse and Adventure Academy belong to the same parent company. They use an engaging, interactive learning platform that introduces early learners 2 to 8 to beginner reading, science, colors, and math skills. Adventure Academy works well with children 8 to 13 and dives deeper into science, social studies, reading, and math. Both offer a free 30-day trial before signing up on a monthly plan.
AOP, Alpha Omega Publications, is a Christian based company that provides curriculum accessible through an online platform, digitally, student-paced worktext books, or teacher-led workbooks. Memberships with AOP are available on a monthly plan or paid yearly. School House Teachers is another paid membership program that offers parents and educators the freedom to create an individualized lesson plan unique to each student. Subjects can be browsed by age, grade level, and topic. With a single sign-on, the information can be printed for physical use or viewed online for teacher-led discussion and video viewing.
It is easy to become overwhelmed when researching homeschool curriculums. Take notes, compare the pros and cons, ask for the student’s input, and have fun with it. Learning is exciting with the right mindset and approach.
Public School Access for Homeschoolers
Homeschooled students can participate in public school interscholastic activities with approval. Students must maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher, maintain satisfactory conduct, follow school and activity policies, demonstrate educational progress, reside within the school district, meet standards of acceptance and behavior, and register with the school for the activity. All fees and premiums related to the school activity shall be paid by the student or their family, the same as public school students.
Special Education Services for Homeschool Families
Families with special needs students must meet the same state requirements and regulations as other families; there are no additional steps. Students with special needs are eligible for testing and evaluation services at diagnostic and resource centers; however, state law does not require the local school district to provide homeschooled students’ services.
If a special needs student requires services, there are a couple of ways to qualify for state-funded services while maintaining a homeschooling approach to education. If the student is enrolled full time, the school district can provide a FAPE, free appropriate public education. The school district may inquire about a part-time enrollment to be eligible to receive services within the school.
There is also a private school provision that states homeschools operating under a private school are eligible to receive special services. It is important to note that private school students may get fewer services than those at public school since funding is primarily used for public school students and services. This FAQ will provide more information about students and special services.
Homeschool Groups, Co-Ops, and Field Trips
Homeschool groups and co-ops are an excellent way to meet other homeschooling families. Groups and co-ops will share tips, tricks, curriculum, and other useful information with each other to help everyone have a successful homeschool experience. Group field trips, P.E. days, co-op teaching opportunities, student clubs, sporting events, and social get-togethers are just a few of the benefits of joining a local homeschool group. These groups are traditionally smaller than state-wide groups and can be found by county, school district, town, or even neighborhood.