“How do I homeschool in Florida?”
This is one of the most common questions veteran home school moms are asked by those who are new to homeschooling in Florida. Families want to know what will be required of them to legally school at home.
Fortunately, Florida is one of the few states that offers three practical options for homeschooling. This means more flexibility for families, which is always a good thing.
When you’re just beginning, it can be very overwhelming trying to figure out how to start homeschooling your child. We have all felt that stress, trust me.
This is one of the reasons why community is so important to homeschoolers. Having someone you can talk to, who has already walked the path, is invaluable and can ease some of your stress and fears.
Let’s tackle some of the common questions about legally homeschooling in Florida.
When must my child begin school?
Compulsory attendance is required by Florida Statutes for all children between the ages of six and sixteen. If your child turns six years old by February 1 of any school year (or is older than six, but younger than sixteen) she/he is required to attend school regularly during the entire school term.
Do I have to have a teaching certificate to homeschool in Florida?
Holding a valid Florida teaching certificate is only required if you are establishing a private tutoring program. The other two options do not require parents to possess a teaching license.
What are my options for schooling at home?
1. Establish a home education program:
This is defined by Florida Statute 1002.01 as “sequentially progressive instruction of a student directed by his or her parent.” Within 30 days of beginning your home educating program,mail a Notice of Intent to your county superintendent. This must include the name, address and birth date of the student. Send it certified mail to ensure delivery and keep a copy for your files.
Maintain a portfolio for each child, including any records and materials from the school year. Retain this portfolio for two years and if the superintendent requests it, make it available for inspection per Florida Statute 1002.41.
The student must also be evaluated annually to show educational progress. Choose one of the following options.
- An evaluation by a teacher holding a valid Florida teaching certificate. It must include a review of the student’s portfolio and a discussion with the student to determine that they have made educational progress.
- Take a nationally-normed student achievement test administered by a certified teacher.
- Take a state assessment test used by the school district and administered by a certified teacher, at a location and under testing conditions approved by the school district.
- An evaluation by a school psychologist or psychologist licensed by the State of Florida.
- An “evaluation with any other valid measurement tool as mutually agreed upon by the district school superintendent of the district in which the student resides.”
Regardless of the evaluation method, the district superintendent must get the results. If you mail the evaluation, send it certified mail to ensure delivery and keep a copy for your files. The superintendent will review and accept the evaluation.
If the student does not show educational progress according to his/her ability, the superintendent will notify you in writing. You then have one year to provide remedial instruction. At the end of the year the student will be evaluated again to show educational progress.
2. Enroll in a private school designed for the home educated student:
This is the option that some Floridians refer to as “umbrella” schools. Each school has its own rules and requirements, so be sure to understand and follow what is set by the program you choose. You will not have to complete an evaluation as shown above because you are considered a private school student.
When looking for an “umbrella” school, choose one that is licensed in Florida. The school doesn’t have to “be” in Florida (many of them are licensed in many states), they just have to be licensed to enroll students here. Many private schools cater to homeschoolers and a simple search will provide you with many options.
3. Establish a private tutoring program:
This is defined by Florida Statute 1002.43. The person conducting the tutoring must fulfill the following requirements:
- hold a valid teaching certificate from the State of Florida for the subjects or grades taught
- prepare and keep all records, and make all reports required by the state and district
- ensure students are in attendance for 180 days or the hourly equivalent
As long as you are complying with Florida Law, there is no right or wrong way to homeschool. Choose the path that works best for your family.