What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is a fast-growing movement giving parents control of their child’s education in a “permissionless” way. Children have always been homeschooled; however, the “modern” homeschooling movement began growing in the 1970s when John Holt, along with Dorothy and Raymond Moore, started writing about educational reform, suggesting homeschooling as an alternative educational option. Today, according to the United States Census Bureau (USCB) Household Pulse Survey, the number of parents choosing to homeschool grew to at least 5,000,000 during the 2022 – 2023 school year. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and in many foreign countries. Additionally, Florida has the second largest homeschooling population with approximately 150,000 homeschooled in 2022.
Homeschooling in Florida
Home education, as defined by Florida law, is a “sequentially progressive instruction of a student directed by his or her parent (or guardian) in order to satisfy the attendance requirements.” The law is broad, giving parents quite a bit of freedom to direct their child’s education.
In the state of Florida, there are six basic responsibilities that parents have while homeschooling. Florida is what I consider a “low maintenance” state.
- Send a notice of intent (NOI) to your district’s school superintendent. You can find a sample NOI on the FPEA (Florida Parent Educators Association) website.
- Maintain a portfolio of records. Keep a collection of work samples, list of books read, list of field trips, list of educational opportunities that your child participated in.
- Make your portfolio of records available for inspection. By law in Florida, the local district superintendent can request an inspection of your portfolio, following 15 days’ written notice.
- Preserve your child’s portfolio for two years.
- Submit an annual evaluation for each child to the superintendent. There are MANY homeschool evaluators you can approach to do this. Most charge approximately $30 – $50 per student, and it usually can be conducted either virtually or in person. Mor Zrihen M.Ed., our own Head of Curriculum and Lead Teacher, provides this kind of service for Florida homeschoolers.
- Submit a letter of termination upon:
- completion of your homeschooling program
- enrollment in public or private school
- moving to a different state or country
Curriculum & Philosophies
Homeschoolers can organize their days in whatever way or style works best for them. Some homeschoolers school year-round while others take non-traditional times off and enjoy life. As far as curriculum and philosophies, there are as many styles of this as there are flavors of ice cream. Sampling the “flavors” is the best way to see if it is a good match for your family. Homeschoolers have the freedom to blend ideas that best meet their children’s needs. Most importantly, please remember, you are NOT “married” to any one philosophy or curriculum. You CAN change if something isn’t working for you.
Based on philosophy and curriculum, homeschoolers organize their days. There is really no right or wrong. As long as your child is progressing and moving forward – you are doing amazing! With that said, it is important to realize that homeschooling takes MUCH less time than brick and mortar school. Follow cues from your own children. When they need a break – take a break. When they need to run around – let them run around. Children learn more from living than you realize!
Personally, my family fell under the “eclectic philosophy” umbrella. We did math – every – single – day! Every day that we woke up at home – year-round math was done. It was our thing. But then, we fell under more of a unit study and interest-based learning approach embracing lap books and experiential learning with “game-schooling” and tons of field trips tossed in. If I was asked how long “we schooled” daily – I would say perhaps 2, maybe 3, hours at home, and then, we were out living our best homeschooling life participating in co-ops, taking enrichment classes, going on field trips, geocaching, traveling etc. Homeschooling becomes your life. Every experience turns into an “educational moment” naturally and organically! And remember – every day is different.
Attending a homeschooling conference, such as the one hosted by FPEA (which takes places every year over Memorial Day weekend in Orlando) is a fabulous way to see curriculum, manipulatives, hear speakers, learn about different philosophies, meet other homeschooling families, etc.
Advice for New Homeschooling Families
If I could offer any advice to a new homeschooling family, it would include my top eight thoughts to get them going:
- The most important ingredient is relationship. You may feel unqualified or unskilled as a teacher, but your relationship with your child is the key to their education.
- Homeschooling isn’t going to solve every problem. Recognizing limits is a healthy way to prevent unrealistic expectations.
- Find your tribe; don’t sweat socialization. You WILL find your people! In fact, soon enough you will find yourself turning invitations down and wanting to be at home. There are so many opportunities!
- Use the library. Use the library. Did I say … use the library! It is free and has tremendous resources.
- You do NOT need to spend a lot on curriculum homeschool, especially for the little ones. Thinking back, I spent most of my budget on enrichment classes, educational games (Professor Noggins was a favorite) and field trips. I did buy a math curriculum beginning in third grade, but that was truly it until my daughter was deep into middle school.
- What works for other families might not work for your family. Just because it is in a “glossy box” that EVERYONE recommends it, remember, it might not work for you. See if you can download sample lessons to test those out with your child, and if it doesn’t work be prepared to change!
- Be prepared to sit beside your student. Some children, especially those under the age of 10, may need your physical presence to help them focus and learn. Others may do better without.
- Kindle a fire, don’t fill a bucket. Teach your child to love to learn.
I have been working with homeschoolers for over 27 years. If you have questions, need advice, or simply want to chat, please email me at email@example.com.
Eva Goldstein-Meola, M.Ed., is an unapologetic former public-school teacher, who homeschooled her daughter, Shayna from day one. Today, Shayna, at age 26, is an aerospace engineer with advanced degrees working for Impulse Space. Eva is both Founder and Director of South Florida Homeschool Resource Center, a non-profit 501(c)3, which offers a la carte, hands-on classes every Monday as well as academic events and field trips every Friday to enhance your homeschooling family’s experiences! You can learn more about SFLHRC either at www.sflhrc.com or by joining their Facebook Group!