If you are moving to Florida and want to know how to homeschool in Florida, this simple guide will explain everything you need to get started!
We are very blessed to have an excellent home education law in Florida. The beauty of homeschooling in Florida is due to the way the law was written to include all children and abilities, and provide the freedom parents need in order to direct their child’s education in the best interest of the child. As homeschoolers we are allowed to use whatever curriculum we want, whatever schedule we want, and move along at the pace that best suits our children’s educational abilities and needs.
According to the Florida Department of Education, during the 2014/2015 school year there were almost 90,000 registered homeschoolers in the state. To learn how the numbers are divided up by county, click here to read their annual report.
In Florida, the term “homeschool student” applies only to children that are home educated as described in FL State Statute 1002.41. Please click on this link to read the statute and know exactly what parents are required to do, but basically,
To homeschool legally in Florida you must do these 4 things:
- Register once with the county by sending them a letter of intent (see below)
- Keep a portfolio of your students’ work (work samples, a list of books and materials used, and a log of activities).
- Send them a proof of student progress (evaluation) once a year, by the anniversary date of your letter of intent (more on that below).
- When you are done homeschooling, you must send the county a letter of termination.
We ARE NOT REQUIRED to do ANY of these things:
- We are not required to keep attendance, or to complete a certain amount of school days
- We are not required to test, ever
- We are not required to provide immunization records, health forms, or birth certificates
- We are not required to follow any state curriculum standards or Common Core standards or methods.
We have the FREEDOM and RIGHT to do ALL of these things:
- Use any curriculum that we want to for our child, whether in book format, video/DVD format, online, or in person.
- Teach our children whatever subject matter we want them to learn.
- We can use tutors, enroll our children in private classes, online or in person, join co-ops, attend workshops, seminars, do apprenticeships, internships, etc.
- We can choose any schedule we want during the day.
- We can choose what days of the week to work, or play, and we can have field trips whenever we want.
- We can school year-round, or follow the regular school schedule. We can take any vacation times we want.
- Our children can do extracurricular activities at the local public school (music, art club, sports, dance, debate, Model UN, ROTC, etc.) via the Craig Dickinson Act.
- Our high-school level children can dual-enroll FOR FREE in the local state or community colleges and get college credit and complete high school course requirements at the same time.
- We can issue our child a high school diploma, signed by us (the parent) and it is considered a valid diploma according to state statute.
- We can issue our child high school transcripts and these must be accepted by Florida state colleges and universities.
- Our high school aged children can become eligible for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships towards college expenses.
- Our special needs children can be eligible for and awarded Gardiner Scholarships of $10,000 per year to go towards educational materials, equipment, and therapies.
As you can see, there are lots of good things about homeschooling in Florida! It’s not a coincidence that the homeschooling office at the Florida Dept. of Education is called “Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice.” That name reflects the light in which the home education statute was written: with independent education and parental choice in mind.
A Note on Umbrella Schools
In many states the only way to legally homeschool is via an umbrella school. That is not the case in Florida. In Florida you do not need to join an umbrella school in order to homeschool. Umbrella schools are an option, but in Florida an umbrella school is a private school, and children that are enrolled in umbrella schools are considered private school students by the state, not homeschooled students. This is an important distinction, because if you use an umbrella school your children are subject to private school laws and statutes, which could impact them in many ways, and they won’t enjoy the homeschooling freedoms we described above. Please click on this link if you would like to learn about how umbrella schools work in Florida.
How to Homeschool in Florida – Steps in Detail
Step 1: Send a Letter of Intent to Your County Superintendent
When you move to Florida the first thing you will need to do is send a letter of intent (LOI) to the county that you reside in. This must be done within 30 days of establishing your homeschool for all children aged 6 and above. If you have more than one child you can list them all on the same letter. Make sure you include the children’s full names, dates of birth, and your street address.
In most cases you can email the letter of intent to the county homeschool liaison, and follow up with a phone call. You can find the information by county by clicking on this link.
Sample Homeschool Letter of Intent (just copy & paste into a Word document):
School District of [Your] County
Home Education Office
City, FL zipcode
[Your] County Superintendent of Schools:
This letter is to inform you of our intent to establish a home education program for the following child(ren), beginning on [DATE].
[Child’s full name] [DOB]
Step 2: Keep a Portfolio
The purpose of a portfolio, according to Florida Statute 1002.41, is to document “the student’s demonstration of educational progress at a level commensurate with her or his ability.” Therefore, to prepare for a portfolio review the most important thing to remember is to focus on your child’s progress, and clearly document it. Some parent just keep all of the work their child has done, others like to keep only samples that show progress. Some parents scan or photograph their child’s work and upload it to a cloud server in a digital format. Others put it all in a big binder, divided by subject. And some parents take photos of the work and make a photo slide show video. However you choose to do it is up to you. Neither the state or the counties are allowed to tell you how to keep your portfolio. Just make sure it has these three elements:
- Samples of work
- A list of books and materials used
- A log of activities
We recommend that you keep samples that show progress and to put the child’s name and dates on each piece of work. This is especially helpful when it comes time to do a portfolio review, and also to tell your children’s work apart.
The list of books and materials can be kept in any format you choose. We like to keep the receipts from the library, but not all libraries do that.
A log of activities is just that. You don’t have to plan ahead, just a log of what you did. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, unless you want it to be. We use a simple wall calendar and fill in things as we go, or later on if we forget. I rely heavily on Google Calendar to organize our lives since we have 5 children, so that would be my log of activities.
If your have chosen an online curriculum for your child, such as FLVS, Time 4 Learning, Abeka Online, Study Ladder, Khan Academy, etc., the progress will be based on the work they have done online. We recommend keeping hard copies of the grade reports for the entire time that they have been using the curriculum. And if you decide to stop using something (for example, Time 4 Learning) make sure you download and print a copy of their progress reports because after a certain amount of time they will delete all the account information. It is YOUR responsibility to keep these records, so download them or take screen shots of the progress reports as you go. The same for computer-based curriculum, such as Switched on Schoolhouse, or Teaching Textbooks. Computers do crash, so print out the children’s reports on a regular basis. Better safe than sorry!
Step 3: Yearly Evaluation by the Anniversary Date of Your LOI
Part of the parental choice we enjoy in Florida is the choice to choose what type of evaluation to send to the county every year. We have 5 choices, which are described in FL State Statute 1002.41:
(c) The parent shall provide for an annual educational evaluation in which is documented the student’s demonstration of educational progress at a level commensurate with her or his ability. The parent shall select the method of evaluation and shall file a copy of the evaluation annually with the district school superintendent’s office in the county in which the student resides.
The annual educational evaluation shall consist of one of the following:
1. A teacher selected by the parent shall evaluate the student’s educational progress upon review of the portfolio and discussion with the student. Such teacher shall hold a valid regular Florida certificate to teach academic subjects at the elementary or secondary level;
2. The student shall take any nationally normed student achievement test administered by a certified teacher;
3. The student shall take a state student 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;
4. The student shall be evaluated by an individual holding a valid, active license pursuant to the provisions of s. 490.003(7) or (8); or
5. The student shall be evaluated with any other valid measurement tool as mutually agreed upon by the district school superintendent of the district in which the student resides and the student’s parent.
Portfolio Evaluations – the most popular option by far
Portfolio evaluations are simple and easy, which is why parents prefer them. They are also the most economical way to complete the annual requirement, anywhere from $28 – 35 per evaluation.
The goal of the portfolio evaluation is for a certifed teacher to look at your children’s work and determine if they have progressed according to their own ability. An evaluator is not supposed to tell you what subjects your child should study, nor whether or not they belong in a certain grade level or not. They are only supposed to look for progress. An evaluator is not evaluating you, the parent, or what you should or should not include in your child’s portfolio, or even how the portfolio is presented. Evalautors can make recommendations, and if they are homeschool-friendly, they can be a great resource of encouragement and inspiration. Click here for a homeschooling parent & certified teacher who does evaluations and standardized testing.
Standardized tests are the second most popular option for the annual evaluation. The more popular tests that parents choose are: Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), Stanford Achievement Test (SAT), California Achievement Test (CAT), and a few lesser-known nationally normed tests such as the Brigance and Woodcock-Johnson. Testing is a little more complicated and time consuming, and more expensive. Testing can take one or two days, then you have to wait for the tests to be scored and to receive the scores. This takes several weeks, which means that if you want your child to be tested you need to plan ahead so that you receive your test scores on time. They must be sent to the county by the anniversary date of your LOI.
While many parents simply choose to do the portfolio evaluation, there are lots of merits to having your child take a standardized test. It can be helpful to give your child the experience of a standardized test situation. Also, your child’s scores are ranked alongside his or her peers on a national scale. This information can be helpful to see how your child is progressing compared to other children their age. This information can give insight to their strengths and weaknesses, and point out areas that need improvement.
Step 4: Letter of Termination
If any of the following situations occur, then it’s time send a letter of termination to your county:
- You are moving from one county to another county in Florida.
- You are moving out of Florida.
- You are graduating your child from homeschool.
- You are enrolling your child in a public or private school.
If you move from one county in Florida to another, you must send a letter of termination to the county you are moving from. Then, you must send a new Letter of Intent to the school superintendent of your new county.