Congratulations on making the decision to homeschool in the great state of Florida! No doubt you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why homeschooling is the best option for your child. You’re probably imagining fascinating field trips, engaged little learners, and powerful educational moments for the whole family. Florida has many exciting resources to offer a homeschooling family, and you’re probably eager to jump in. Before those rosy homeschooling dreams can come true, there’s one more step to consider in your homeschool planning, and it may not be the first thing to come to mind in your preparations: state regulations. For homeschooling, where you live matters.
Every state has different laws regarding homeschooling, so a friend in New England or a cousin in the Midwest will have an entirely different set of rules to navigate. If you’re new to homeschooling, don’t be intimidated by the requirements. Instead, view them as a way to make sure that your child is getting the most out of their education. After you plan for the legal aspects of homeschooling, you’ll be ready to start planning your learner’s homeschooling experience.
Florida Homeschooling Laws
The Florida Department of Education has a full list of the requirements for homeschooling families. Here, we’ll break down the basic steps and requirements. This is what the new homeschooler really needs to know.
- Notify the District
Florida Statute 1002.41 says that parents must notify the county school district superintendent’s office of their decision to homeschool within 30 days of starting a homeschool program. There is no specific form necessary; however, your written notice needs to include the child’s (or children’s) full name, date of birth, and current address. The good news is that you don’t have to do this every year. Once filed, a homeschooling notice is considered current until you notify the district that you are terminating your homeschool program. An important thing to note is that you can withdraw your student from traditional classes and begin homeschooling at any point in the school year.
- Keep a Portfolio
Homeschooling parents in Florida are required to create a portfolio documenting student progress. Samples of student work in a variety of subjects should be included. Don’t worry about making every included assignment perfect because the portfolio should show the student’s growth. Embrace how your child’s shaky first-grade spelling improved over the year and how those tricky math facts were finally memorized. The portfolio can also include a log of educational content, photos of your educational activities, and descriptions of your curriculum choices. These portfolios should be retained for two years after the end of the school year they were made for. Education officials can request to see them any time, with a minimum of 15 days’ notice. However, even if the superintendent of the district requests to see a portfolio, it would only be to verify that it is being kept, not to evaluate it.
- Annual Evaluation
Every year, your child’s progress will be evaluated to ensure appropriate learning and growth have occurred. There are a few ways to go about this, so each family can pick the evaluation type that works best for them and for their learner. You can select from:
- Certified Teacher Evaluation
A Florida-certified teacher can meet with your learner and evaluate their progress. You can also let them view your portfolio.
- Standardized Testing
A certified teacher can give your learner either a national or state-recognized test, such as NWEA-MAP testing, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of basic skills, or Florida’s FCAT exam.
- Psychological Evaluation
Having a psychologist evaluate your learner is a great option for families that already have a psychologist, though some psychologists may require additional testing before signing off on homeschooling.
- Individual Arrangement with Superintendent
If you have other ideas on how to demonstrate your child’s growth through the school year, you can always reach out to the superintendent’s office with an alternative evaluation plan. The worst they can do is deny your plan. If pursuing this option, you should get approval at the beginning of the school year to avoid any problems later on.
Embrace Unique Florida Experiences
Florida is a large, diverse state with different regions offering a wealth of enriching options for teaching science, history, writing, and more. Florida has many amazing field trip options, with museums, zoos and aquariums, and cultural opportunities in every part of the state. A visit to a tidal marsh to watch the scurrying hermit crabs might be in order, or perhaps a visit to the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum.
When selecting a curriculum, keep Florida’s unique requirements and assets in mind when choosing educational activities. Religious, secular, all-in-one, open-and-go, and ala carte- curriculum options fit every family and comply with Florida law. Study.com, for example, offers a wide range of homeschooling resources that can check all the boxes for Florida homeschooling students.
Florida Homeschooler Tips and Tricks
- For parents of kindergarten-age students, record-keeping may not be necessary. Education is not compulsory for children under the age of 6, and kindergarten is not mandatory. If you have a 5-year-old, you can safely skip the paperwork and documentation until next year!
- Think of the portfolio as a cool opportunity to scrapbook your child’s progress. Think about worksheets and student work, of course, but also photos, drawings, reflections, colorful paper, and stickers. Portfolios may be a required element, but they can also be a cherished memento of your child’s education. Have fun with it!
- Finding a teacher to perform evaluations or administer tests might seem like a daunting task, but it’s not hard to find one with a list of homeschool teacher-evaluators to assist. You can also consider asking a teacher friend or a teacher your child has had in the past. There are even certified teachers who are currently homeschooling themselves. If their certification is current, they can be evaluators.
- Extracurriculars are an option for homeschooled students. Many people believe that homeschooling means separating from your local school district entirely, but homeschooled students are eligible to participate in extracurricular sports and activities within the district they would have attended.
Florida Homeschool Support Groups
It can also be helpful for a new homeschooling family to find their tribe. While there are many groups on social media, members may come from other states which have completely different requirements. You might find families to meet up with in person, or other parents to communicate with online. Either way, connecting with other families reminds you that you’re not on this path alone and that homeschooling families are thriving all across Florida.
Reflecting and Looking Ahead
At the end of a successful year, after your district superintendent has signed off on your evaluation, you’ll deserve a well-earned break. Before you pack everything away, take some time to reflect on your year. Think about what worked best, what you might change for next year, and if you had any difficulty meeting Florida homeschool mandates. Writing a year-end journal entry can help you reflect on your experiences and may be helpful when you start planning for another great year of homeschooling. If your homeschooling journey has reached an end, either because your learner has graduated or you’ve decided on a different schooling option, simply send a Termination of Homeschool notice to your district superintendent’s office.
Knowing the Florida homeschooling laws and the options to meet them empowers you to face the challenges of homeschooling. With a plan, both you and your learner will be prepared for the possibilities and responsibilities that await your family as Florida homeschoolers.