No one likes getting a letter from the county, notifying that you are expected at the School District in 15 days with your child’s portfolio in hand for a county portfolio review. Those letters can sound pretty intimidating, especially when the letter states that if you fail to appear your homeschool will be considered non-compliant.
Do not panic! Every homeschooling parent dreads receiving a letter from the county, but in reality few do. Those that do either have had their files flagged for some reason, or they were simply chosen at random. Whichever the case, take a deep breath, and consider the following information to help you stop feeling nervous, and sail through the county review.
According to the FL State Dept. of Education, Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice, (1/9/2015) in a portfolio review meeting, the county superintendent, and/or the representative thereof, can only determine that your portfolio is in compliance with the law: that it contains samples of work, a reading list and an activity log, or not.
The student does not have to be at the meeting, and no progress is to be determined. Of course the county personnel should be qualified enough to see academic progress, or the lack thereof, BUT that is not to be the purpose of the meeting, and cannot be any part of the results of the meeting. It is to be, “Good, your student’s portfolio contains all the components required,” or not. PERIOD.
The county personnel cannot tell you that you don’t have enough samples, that you don’t have enough activities, that your child isn’t reading enough books, etc. Whatever their opinion might be about what you bring, it cannot have any bearing on the outcome of the meeting.
Make sure you do not leave your child’s portfolio with the county. It is your obligation to keep it, they can only look at it but may not keep it.
However, we like to think of this experience in terms of opportunity. Much like having company come by to visit inspires you to clean and straighten the piles in your house, having a county review can inspire and motivate you to get your child’s portfolio organized, if you haven’t done so already. It can be an opportunity to prepare for your upcoming annual portfolio evaluation, if that is your method of choice.
Jump Through the Hoops
The Florida statute regarding homeschooling states that, in addition to the portfolio of work, the parent must keep a list of reading materials used and a log of educational activities. Make sure you bring this with you because although they don’t demonstrate progress per se, they are in the statute and the county will almost certainly ask for them. You want to make sure your activity log is full of everything you have done. The same goes for the list of materials (reading log)- include everything!!
It may help to bring the most recent portfolio evaluation or standardized test results that you have for your child, even though these are not required.
Keep the FL Statute in Your Back Pocket
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. For that reason, we highly recommend knowing the basics of the law. However, don’t pull it out unless you really need it. You never know if the person reviewing your child’s portfolio is for or against homeschooling, and they may resent being told that you know more about the statute than they do. These people can make problems for you, so be wise as serpents, gentle as doves.
The best policy is always to say little, answer questions clearly, don’t be nervous. If you have had bad experiences with public schools treating your children badly, try not to let any negative attitudes come through.
We like to break it down like this:
- When you send the county your letter of intent, you officially (according to state law) become the Director, Principal, Guidance Counselor, and Lead Teacher of your very own school in your home.
- What you say goes, and all decisions on subject matter, time spent schooling, material to cover, curriculum to use, and method of evaluation are solely YOURS.
The county official reviewing the portfolio cannot tell you that you need to teach any subject matter. Although they may make a good suggestion, they can only suggest. The final choice and decision is yours. They are not reviewing your homeschool program or curricula, they are reviewing the portfolio for compliance with the statute.
The county official reviewing the portfolio is not reviewing your performance as a teacher or homeschooling parent. Again, compliance is the only criteria.
Finally, there is no need to bring your child to the meeting. If you can, please find someone to watch your children while you attend the review. It will go more quickly, and it will help you stay focused at the meeting. Bring your spouse if you think it will help. There is always strength in numbers.
What if Everything Goes Wrong?
If you have complied with bringing your child’s portfolio, the reading list, and activity log, however the county official insists on determining the progress your child has made, then it is time to pull out the statute and be firm about your rights. Just as the county officials expect homeschooling parents to abide by the law, by the same token, we also expect them to abide by the law.
If you feel that you are being harassed, and if they county official does not find you in compliance, and goes as far a terminating your homeschool, we highly suggest contacting the Florida Department of Education Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice at 1-850-245-0502.
Another place to turn to is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They are a group of attorneys dedicated to helping homeschooling parents exercise their rights to homeschool in the United States and abroad. (540) 338-5600
And of course, you can always call Curtis Tucker, FL certified teacher and evaluator, at 786-525-3545 if you have any questions or concerns. You can also reach him via his website: www.Homeschool-Evaluations.com and his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HomeschoolEvaluations