How do I homeschool in Florida? Is unschooling allowed? Do my children have to take tests? What happens if my child has special needs and homeschools? These questions and others are found throughout support group websites and Facebook groups. The great news is that Florida is very homeschool and unschool friendly. Read on to find out how to get started homeschooling in Florida.
Florida provides a few different ways to homeschool.
- Umbrella School
- Letter of Intent
Umbrella schools are private schools used by homeschoolers. They are sometimes brick and mortar schools. But often are virtual. Umbrella schools are largely used for recordkeeping and collect data such as attendance (a few times per year) and vaccine records (or exemptions) and the records from a doctor’s physical exam (or exemptions).
Some umbrella schools have support beyond record keeping. Also, some umbrella schools have a fee while others are free. It is possible that an umbrella school will articulate with FLVS flex and/or state college dual enrollment programs, though not all do this. An evaluation form is not required for the county if you choose an umbrella school.
Many families choose either the full-time or part-time (called FLVS flex) options. Some umbrella schools and your county will allow FLVS flex enrollment, but you must ask them to be sure. You may also use FLVS full-time, but your child will be on their roles as a public school student which means a diploma but also standardized testing and test-prep activities.
Keep in mind that your child will be held to the same testing and curriculum pacing schedules as public school students who go to brick and mortar schools if using full-time FLVS. Some counties also have their own version of virtual school. Check with your county’s school choice office for details if you are interested in FLVS full-time.
Letter of Intent
The letter of intent option means you are homeschooling through your county or school district. This sounds difficult, but it is not as much of a “big brother” situation as you might think. If you choose this option, you will need to send a letter of intent within 30 days of withdrawing from a public school, moving into a district, or beginning home education with your child. Keep a copy of this letter for yourself, then send another copy to your school district home education office. Many offices accept USPS mail, emails, and faxes. You may use the form found on the county website, though some counties may require you to write your own letter instead of use a pre-made form.
Then, each year you must submit an evaluation form saying that your child is making progress at their developmental level. To show that progress is being made, you will keep a portfolio throughout the year. You will keep a few samples from each subject your child learns. These do not have to be perfect but should show progression where possible.
Many families choose a sample from the beginning of the year, one from the middle, and one from the end for each subject covered. Parents choose the subjects taught so if you focused on math more than language arts because your child needed more math practice, that is okay. Just make sure your evaluator knows this in advance of your evaluation.
To comply with Florida law, you will need to either use FLVS flex transcripts, hire a psychologist to do testing and complete a form, have your child complete a standardized test that you and your county agree is appropriate, or have a certified teacher complete a form. Most people choose either the FLVS flex transcript or an evaluation, using an evaluation form, with a certified teacher who regularly completes evaluations and understands the homeschool law in Florida.
Some counties send a copy of their evaluation form near your anniversary date, but they are not required to do this. Keep in mind that there is no state required version of the form so you may use your county’s form or another form your evaluator has on hand. Be sure you keep track of your due date which is on the anniversary of your homeschool journey beginning, as noted on your letter of intent when you sent it to the county. You will keep your portfolio for a minimum of 2 years, but I suggest keeping your evaluation form from each year as long as your children are in homeschool, unschool, or college so they have that proof of learning happening.
A letter of intent allows homeschoolers to utilize their zoned school for IEPs, testing for some special needs, and extracurricular activities in some cases. Additionally, a letter of intent generally allows you to use your local state college for dual enrollment, though the PERT test must also be passed to begin at most state colleges.
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I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, moving from middle school to high school to college, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.
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