When starting something new, it's common to talk to other people, ask questions in online groups, and search for internet resources. Fortunately for Florida home educators, there are hundreds of channels, websites, blogs, podcasts and other resources where new homeschoolers can find help.
At Florida Homeschool Association, we love when experienced parents step up to help newcomers. It's this spirit of generosity and collaboration that we try to encourage in our membership, as well.
A problem, however, particularly for newcomers, is that access to a never-ending buffet of homeschooling information isn't always a good thing. Overwhelm can quickly set in when receiving too much new information all at once. Plus, without experience, it can be hard for new home educators to discern what's really accurate or legally necessary, and what is not.
In this article, we share some of the most common misconceptions we read and hear about Florida homeschooling all the time. By debunking these myths, we hope to provide newcomers with a better understanding of what Florida homeschooling is really like, and be a resource they can turn to whenever regulations seem blurry.
10 of the Most Common Florida Home Education Myths
(None of these are true!)
1. Florida home educators need to take attendance
This myth is FALSE because: Home education students are exempt from the requirements of the public school day. While Florida home educators may take attendance if they want to, counting days is not a legal requirement for students using the Notice of Intent. Although students in public or private school settings may be concerned with the number of days (180 is a common number), home education students are not required to count days or turn in attendance at all.
2. Florida home education students need to pass state tests (or other tests)
This myth is FALSE because: Testing has always been optional for Florida home education students. While tests may be administered if parents wish to administer them or students wish to take them, testing for Florida home educators is an optional practice. When tests are administered, they can be used to provide valuable information for families and even to satisfy the annual evaluation requirements. However, there are other ways to evaluate students that do not involve testing, and the choice as to testing for Florida home education students is up to families to decide.
3. Portfolios need to contain daily (or weekly) lesson plans
This myth is FALSE because: Florida home education laws tell us that homeschool portfolios must contain only two types of materials: (a) samples of student work from throughout the year; and (b) a log of educational activities and titles of books used. The law isn't specific as to the type, quantity or format of the portfolio itself, meaning that portfolios for Florida home education students will vary from student to student. Whether Florida home educators decide to include specific lesson plans in a portfolio is completely up to them, and there are plenty of other ways to demonstrate educational activities (lists, journals, photos, brochures, maps, drawings, digital files, and more) that don't require using lesson plans at all.
4. Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is the primary way to homeschool in Florida
This myth is FALSE because: There are many ways to homeschool in Florida, and most are not affiliated with districts and statewide curriculum providers. While virtual instruction is available to Florida home educators and can be an excellent choice for some students, it is not a good fit for others. Florida families may select from thousands of educational options available to create their own personalized home education programs for each student. Florida home educators do not need to seek curriculum approval, therefore the choice to use FLVS or products from any other curriculum provider (or none at all) is completely up to them.
5. Home education students don't receive diplomas, or even really graduate
This myth is FALSE because: Florida home education students who complete a high school education may receive diplomas and graduate like other high school students in Florida. Completion of a Florida home education program is a legally recognized way to satisfy the compulsory attendance laws, therefore homeschool graduation is just as valid as any other method of graduation for Seniors. Florida home educators can complete an officially notarized Homeschool Affidavit to document a student's completion from a homeschool education program, and may also choose to create (or order online) their own diplomas. Thousands of Florida home education students graduate and receive diplomas every year, going on to colleges and universities, technical schools, start businesses, begin careers, enter the military and more.
6. Kindergarten is optional
This myth is FALSE because: Submitting a notice to begin Florida home education occurs when a child reaches a certain age, not when they're ready for a particular grade level. When Florida students are about to turn 6 during an academic year (by February 1) parents should notify their district superintendent they are establishing a home education program, by filing a Notice of Intent. Grade level is not reported on the notice of intent; therefore, whether the student begins in Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, or something else, parents may begin instruction at whatever level they feel is appropriate for the student.
7. Parents choose Florida home education primarily to provide religious instruction
This myth is FALSE because: Today's homeschoolers, in Florida and nationwide, come from all demographics, viewpoints, philosophies and backgrounds. Years of homeschool research is now able to accurately suggest there are many reasons why parents choose homeschooling over other methods of education. Some of the reasons cited by modern homeschoolers include safety from school violence, avoidance of bullying, providing individualized instruction and meeting student needs, avoiding negative peer pressure, dissatisfaction with schools, and more. While providing a faith-based curriculum or preparing students in a specific world view may be important to some families, it is but one of many explanations cited by modern home educators for choosing homeschooling today.
8. Homeschooled kids are isolated from people, society and the real world
This is FALSE because: There is a misconception that homeschoolers spend all of their time at home. While certainly some families choose to spend most of their time at home, there are others who partake more frequently in social and community activities. Homeschoolers commonly take advantage of external resources like co-operative learning groups, college dual enrollment, district or recreational athletic programs, and community organizations and clubs, for supplemental learning and connection. Homeschoolers are not different in this regard than any other families with school-age children.
9. Homeschooled kids are weird and socially awkward
This myth is FALSE because: Research in this area and years of anecdotal evidence suggests this too is a myth. In fact, some recent studies have suggested that homeschooled students are even more socially adept than their same-age school peers. This poise and confidence among people comes from interacting with the diversity of the population and people of different ages, rather than being confined within the walls of a classroom with a homogenous group of same-age peers. The takeaway from any discussion about homeschoolers and socialization is that children are unique no matter what form of education they receive. Personalities show up in students everywhere, not just in homeschool settings.
10. Homeschooling isn't appropriate for special needs, gifted, or any out-of-the-box learners
This myth is FALSE because: More and more parents are discovering that homeschooling can well meet the needs of unique students and those with learning differences. Though the topic for another article, plentiful resources exist which demonstrate the success of home education for students with unique abilities. Whether schools are unable to meet these this need or parents are simply demanding better, more parents are moving towards the individualized curriculum that only homeschooling can provide.
It is outside the goal of this article to provide a comprehensive list references for debunking these myths; however, we point interested readers to our Beginner's Guide to Florida Homeschooling guide, in which we list some of the major research organizations that perform these studies.