If you’re living in the Sunshine State and are looking for an alternative to public or private school education, you’re in luck. Florida not only allows you to homeschool, but it offers you a few different options. Many families are taking advantage of those options as well–as of August 2021, more than 100,000 Florida families were homeschooling–a 33.1% increase from the previous year! The increase of 37,000 students–to a total of 143,431–was larger than the previous 10 years of growth combined!
Of course, homeschooling exploded everywhere over the past couple of years as a result of COVID-related school closures and distance learning, but the numbers in Florida clearly illustrate the growing popularity of homeschooling in the state–particularly in rural areas. Homeschooling in Glades, Jackson, Liberty, Suwannee, and Sumter counties each grew by at least 70%.
If you’re looking to join the fast-growing ranks of homeschoolers in Florida, read on for some important rules and information you need to get started!
Homeschooling Options in Florida
- Homeschooling under the homeschool statute.
- Homeschooling under a private school “umbrella” program.
- Private tutor.
Florida State Homeschool Law Summary
Homeschooling under the homeschool statute. To homeschool your child under the Florida homeschool statute, parents must take a few steps.
- File a notice of intent to homeschool with your county’s superintendent within 30 days of beginning the homeschool program (you are not required to file this every year). This notice must include the full name, address, and birthdate of your child. By law, the school district can’t require any further information unless your child participates in a public school program or service.
- Maintain a portfolio throughout the year. This should include a log of educational activities, a list of reading materials, samples of writings, worksheets, workbooks, or other materials used by your student. This portfolio should be kept for two years upon completion; a superintendent may request to view the portfolio, but only after 15 days’ written notice.
- Evaluate your student annually through one of these options:
- Have educational progress evaluated by a teacher holding a valid regular Florida teaching certificate—the evaluation must include review of a portfolio and discussion with the student.
- With any nationally normed student achievement test administered by a certified teacher.
- With 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.
- Evaluation by a Florida licensed psychologist or school psychologist.
- Evaluation “with any other valid measurement tool as mutually agreed upon.”
- File a notice of termination within 30 days of your student completing their homeschool program or your family moving out of the county. A copy of your child’s final annual assessment must be submitted, along with the notice of termination when your child graduates from high school. If you begin homeschooling in a different county in Florida, a new notice of intent should be submitted.
Homeschooling under a private school “umbrella” program. This interesting option allows you to enroll your child in a registered private school that will oversee your homeschool program. This can be an appealing option because there’s no involvement with your local public school system, but it’s important to make sure the private school you choose meets all private school requirements.
Private tutor. You may choose to have your child tutored privately, in which case your child’s instructor is required to hold a valid Florida certificate to teach the subjects or grades in which instruction is given. The tutor must instruct your student the equivalent of 180 days and is required by the state and school district boards to keep records and make reports.
Can You Still Access Public School Facilities and Activities?
The short answer is yes. The long answer…well, read below for specifics and laws pertaining to homeschoolers participating in public school activities, courtesy of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Florida Statutes § 1006.15
This section may be cited as the “Craig Dickinson Act.”
- Interscholastic extracurricular student activities are an important complement to the academic curriculum. Participation in a comprehensive extracurricular and academic program contributes to student development of the social and intellectual skills necessary to become a well-rounded adult. As used in this section, the term “extracurricular” means any school-authorized or education-related activity occurring during or outside the regular instructional school day.
- As used in this section and s. 1006.20, the term “eligible to participate” includes, but is not limited to, a student participating in tryouts, off-season conditioning, summer workouts, preseason conditioning, in-season practice, or contests. The term does not mean that a student must be placed on any specific team for interscholastic or intrascholastic extracurricular activities.
- To be eligible to participate in interscholastic extracurricular student activities, a student must:
- Maintain a grade point average of 2.0 or above on a 4.0 scale, or its equivalent, in the previous semester or a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or above on a 4.0 scale, or its equivalent, in the courses required by § 1003.43(1).
- Execute and fulfill the requirements of an academic performance contract between the student, the district school board, the appropriate governing association, and the student’s parents—if the student’s cumulative grade point average falls below 2.0, or its equivalent, on a 4.0 scale in the courses required by § 1003.43(1) or, for students who entered the 9th grade [prior to the current school year], if the student’s cumulative grade point average falls below 2.0 on a 4.0 scale, or its equivalent, in the courses required by § 1003.43(1) that are taken after July 1 [of this year]. At a minimum, the contract must require that the student attend summer school, or its graded equivalent, between grades 9 and 10 or grades 10 and 11, as necessary.
- Have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or above on a 4.0 scale, or its equivalent, in the courses required by § 1003.43(1) during his or her junior or senior year.
- Maintain satisfactory conduct and, if a student is convicted of, or is found to have committed, a felony or a delinquent act which would have been a felony if committed by an adult, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld, the student’s participation in interscholastic extracurricular activities is contingent upon established and published district school board policy. Any student who is exempt from attending a full school day based on rules adopted by the district school board for double session schools or programs, experimental schools, or schools operating under emergency conditions must maintain the grade point average required by this section and pass each class for which he or she is enrolled.
- An individual home education student is eligible to participate at the public school to which the student would be assigned according to district school board attendance area policies or which the student could choose to attend pursuant to district or interdistrict controlled open enrollment provisions, or may develop an agreement to participate at a private school, in the interscholastic extracurricular activities of that school, provided the following conditions are met:
- The home education student must meet the requirements of the home education program pursuant to § 1002.41.
- During the period of participation at a school, the home education student must demonstrate educational progress as required in paragraph (b) in all subjects taken in the home education program by a method of evaluation agreed upon by the parent and the school principal which may include: review of the student’s work by a certified teacher chosen by the parent; grades earned through correspondence; grades earned in courses taken at a community college, university, or trade school; standardized test scores above the 35th percentile; or any other method designated in § 1002.41.
- The home education student must meet the same residency requirements as other students in the school at which he or she participates.
- The home education student must meet the same standards of acceptance, behavior, and performance as required of other students in extracurricular activities.
- The student must register with the school his or her intent to participate in interscholastic extracurricular activities as a representative of the school before the beginning date of the season for the activity in which he or she wishes to participate. A home education student must be able to participate in curricular activities if that is a requirement for an extracurricular activity.
- A student who transfers from a home education program to a public school before or during the first grading period of the school year is academically eligible to participate in interscholastic extracurricular activities during the first grading period provided the student has a successful evaluation from the previous school year, pursuant to subparagraph 2.
- Any public school or private school student who has been unable to maintain academic eligibility for participation in interscholastic extracurricular activities is ineligible to participate in such activities as a home education student until the student has successfully completed one grading period in home education pursuant to subparagraph
3. The student standards for participation in interscholastic extracurricular activities must be applied beginning with the student’s first semester of the 9th grade. Each student must meet such other requirements for participation as may be established by the district school board; however, a district school board may not establish requirements for participation in interscholastic extracurricular activities which make participation in such activities less accessible to home education students than to other students. Except as set forth in paragraph (3)(c), evaluation processes or requirements that are placed on home education student participants may not go beyond those that apply under § 1002.41 to home education students generally.
4. Any organization or entity that regulates or governs interscholastic extracurricular activities of public schools:
(a) Shall permit home education associations to join as member schools.
(b) Shall not discriminate against any eligible student based on an educational choice of public, nonpublic, or home education.
5. Public schools are prohibited from membership in any organization or entity which regulates or governs interscholastic extracurricular activities and discriminates against eligible students in public, nonpublic, or home education.
6. Any insurance provided by school districts for participants in extracurricular activities shall cover the participating home education student. If there is an additional premium for such coverage, the participating home education student shall pay said premium.
Is It Necessary to Keep Records?
If you are homeschooling under the state homeschool statute, yes, you are required to maintain a portfolio (see above for specific information). If you opt for either the private school umbrella program or a private tutor, record-keeping is not required…but it’s definitely a good idea to do so and to save them for a couple of years. Why? Because these records serve as proof of their education when it’s time to apply for college, pass a background check for a new job, or enter the military. What types of records should you keep?
- Textbook and workbook titles and information
- Attendance records
- Any correspondence with schools
- Portfolios and test results
- Schoolwork samples
- Any other documentation illustrating that your child is receiving a legitimate education (especially during the high school years)
And that’s all there is to it! Homeschooling in Florida is legal, growing, and welcomed, and if you’re planning on homeschooling in the Sunshine State, now is as good a time as any to start! As you continue to research homeschooling, call the experts at Bridgeway Academy at (800) 863-1474 to discuss your options, learn about our award-winning programs and curriculum, and enroll!