Florida Virtual School is a viable option for homeschooling in Florida. It is a free, flexible, online education resource, with a wide selection of courses available, as well as student clubs that your child can participate in. The teachers conduct some live classes virtually using Blackboard software, as well as individually over the phone.
FLVS offers popular electives such as Photography, Drivers Ed, and Personal Finance. They offer AP courses and Honors courses. Your child can take computer programming and get Microsoft certification, learn Chinese, and participate in clubs such as Model United Nations, History Club, and the FLVS’ literary magazine.
There are a few drawbacks to FLVS. First of all, the FLVS curriculum uses the Common-Core-based Florida Standards. Secondly, not all children thrive in a computer-based, virtual learning environment. Also, you have to monitor your child’s progress, as well as monitor their internet usage so that they can learn to manage their time well.
Two of our five children have been using FLVS for a few years, and overall our experiences have been positive ones. Using FLVS has allowed us to outsource a few subjects that we felt would be too time consuming for us to teach or facilitate, given our lifestyle and business. Our children were able to take courses that they are interested in, and have had some really excellent teachers. The grades issued by FLVS are easily transferred to our children’s high school transcripts that we are building for their college applications.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?
If you feel that FLVS would be a good fit for your child, then there are a few things you need to know going in. First of all, everything is online. There are no textbooks. Secondly, your child is required to stay on pace in order to keep their seat in the class. That means that they generally have to complete a set amount of assignments per week. FLVS can be very rigorous. There is a lot of time spent on the computer, even for one class. That is important to keep in mind because you don’t want to overload your child with too much.
TWO WAYS TO DO FLVS
There are two ways to do FLVS, which is essentially public school curriculum at home. FLVS is actually its own school district in FL. They get state funding contingent on how many students are enrolled in their Full Time program, and how many students complete their courses. They are basically an online public school that offers courses to homeschoolers. This fact is key. The people that answer the phones when you call are essentially sales people, trained to get you to sign up your child in Full Time. They are not trained to know homeschool law. If you call them, they will try to convince you that you need to sign your child up for the Full Time program. That is a full course load, including the requirement to take the End of Course (EOC) exams, and the FSA/FCAT. If you don’t want your child to take these exams, they can avoid doing that by choosing the FLEX program.
The sales/customer service reps will tell you that you need to sign up your child for FLVS Full Time in order for them to “get a diploma.” What they do not tell you is that you do not need FLVS to issue your child a diploma. FL State law is clear that the parent of a homeschooled child is the issuer of the child’s diploma and transcripts, and according to our state statutes, all Florida colleges and universities MUST accept them. Many parents worry that their child won’t get a diploma, or will have to get a GED if they homeschool. That is not the case at all. But, some FLVS representatives (in my opinion) prey on the fears of parents and tell them that the only option is Full Time (if you want a diploma).
FLEX (Formerly Part-Time)
The other FLVS option is the FLEX homeschool option. Here your child enrolls for one or a few courses that you want them to take. As homeschoolers our children can take up to 6 courses with FLVS FLEX, but I personally don’t recommend that. It is a huge chunk of time on the computer, which can lead to burnout. Also, the teachers on the FOCUS and FLEX programs are different. They have different hours and schedules. The teachers on the FLEX program have more flexible hours and are generally very easy to get in touch with. I have heard from parents who enrolled via FT, as well as from FLVS guidance counselors, that with the Full Time program teachers are not as easy to get in touch with and have shorter daily hours.
READY TO SIGN UP FOR CLASSES?
First, you will need to make sure that you sent a letter of intent to your county, because the county will need to verify your child’s homeschool status before they can be assigned to an online classroom.
FLVS OR COUNTY?
Secondly, there is a point in the application process where you have to choose whether you want your child to take classes through FLVS or your county virtual school. While the curriculum is the same, the county virtual school teachers have different hours and are not as easy to get a hold of on the phone. We have always used FLVS, not the county virtual school option, but we have heard from many parents that it can be very frustrating sometimes trying to get a hold of teachers in the county virtual schools. Essentially, the county virtual school teachers are managed by a different company than the FLVS teachers, which accounts for these discrepancies.
GUIDANCE COUNSELORS ROCK
If you have to speak with someone on the phone regarding FLVS enrollment, make sure you ask to speak with a guidance counselor. As we mentioned above, the sales/customer service representatives are not trained to be able to answer questions that have to do with FL laws on homeschooling, so they may not be able to inform you completely of your rights as a homeschooler. However, the guidance counselors do understand the laws better, and are much better suited to answer specific questions. Remember, what is most important is your child’s educational needs, not what is best for the school or county school district. So, make sure they know that you want your child in the FLEX program so they don’t try to switch you to Full Time public virtual school.
CHOOSE YOUR TEACHERS
Lastly, you can request teachers in the FLEX program! So, find out from other homeschooling parents which FLVS teachers did a good job teaching their children. Facebook groups are a wealth of information, and asking this type of question on Facebook is a great way to find out which teachers are good, and which are better to avoid. Also, if the teacher your child gets ends up not being a good fit, you can request to be switched out of a teacher’s classroom. We have done that twice without any repercussions at all.
The grades that your high school-aged children earn through FLVS can be plugged directly into their transcripts. You can also use their FLVS unofficial transcripts to verify their GPA for dual-enrollment in your local state college, to participate in sports at the local high school, and to apply for the Florida Bright Futures scholarships. You can download a PDF version of your child’s unofficial transcript right from the FLVS Dashboard.
Our goal is inform parents as much as possible so that they are equipped with all the information they need to make the best decision for their child’s education. We are very blessed to have free homeschooling curriculum options in Florida through Florida Virtual School and the county virtual schools. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section of this article! If this article was helpful to you, please share it with your friends.