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Home School 101-Guest Post

Home schooling is a fast-growing movement giving parents control of their child’s education in a “permissionless” way. Children have always been home-schooled; however, the “modern” home schooling movement began growing in the 1970s when John Holt and 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 home school grew to at least 5,000,000 during the 2022 – 2023 school year. Home schooling 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.

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 home schooling. Florida is what I consider a “low maintenance” state.

1. Send a notice of intent to your district’s school superintendent. You can find samples of this on the FPEA website.

2. Maintain a portfolio of records. Keep a collection of work samples, a list of books read, a list of field trips, list of educational opportunities that your child participated in.

3. Make your portfolio of records available for inspection by the superintendent upon 15 days written notice.

4. Preserve your child’s portfolio for two years.

5. Submit an annual evaluation for each child to the superintendent. There are MANY homeschool evaluators you can ask to do this. Most charge approximately $30 – $50 per student. They can do this via Zoom or in person.

6. Submit a letter of termination upon completion of your homeschooling program upon enrollment in public or private school, upon graduation, or upon moving to a different state or country.

Home schoolers can organize their days in whatever way or style works best for them

Some home schoolers 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, home schoolers 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 FPEA every Memorial Day weekend in Orlando, is a fabulous way to see curriculum, manipulatives, hear speakers, learn about different philosophies, meet other homeschooling families, etc.

If I could offer a new home schooling family advice, here are my top eight thoughts to get you going!

1. 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.

2. Home schooling isn’t going to solve every problem. Recognizing limits is a healthy way to prevent unrealistic expectations.

3. Find your tribe; don’t sweat socialization. You WILL find your people! Soon enough you will find yourself turning invitations down and wanting to be at home. There are so many opportunities!

4. Use the library. Use the library. Did I say … use the library? It is free and has tremendous resources.

5. You do NOT need to spend a lot on curriculum home school, 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.

6. 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!

7. Depending on your child, until about age 10, be prepared to sit beside your student. Some children need this more than others.

8. Kindle a fire, don’t fill a bucket. Teach your child to love to learn.

Eva Goldstein-Meola, M.Ed, is an unapologetic former public school teacher, who home schooled 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 the Founder and Director of South Florida Homeschool Resource Center, a 501c3, 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!

Additionally, Eva owns Open Tent Academy, an online consortium of synchronous classes, which focuses on project-based learning for homeschoolers in grades 2 – 12. She has been working with home schoolers for over 27 years. If you have questions, need advice, or simply want to chat, please email her at eva@sflhrc.com.

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