The increase in Florida home education has been accompanied by an increase in the number of instructional programs offered throughout the state. With names like hybrids, micro-schools and PODs, these programs aim to serve parents wanting to supplement instruction already provided from home, or those looking for ways to outsource the student's education somewhere else.
While "co-ops" (parent-led cooperatives) have long been a staple in Florida, some of the new programs offer structure and resources not seen before. In addition to group learning and socialization, these programs may provide student supervision which allows parents to leave the premises, certified instructors boasting more experience in certain areas, coaching and individual tutoring for those needing extra guidance, testing for various purposes, and other features.
While none of these programs are required for Florida home educators, they can play an important role for the families that need them. Some even simulate the school-like environment some parents crave, yet without the challenges of placing children in public classrooms.
These new instructional frameworks are here to stay. It is up to Florida home educators to know how to use them under existing homeschooling laws.
Since new instructional frameworks are here to stay, Florida home educators are navigating these choices within the framework of existing homeschool laws. The Florida Homeschool Association supports a parent's right to choose what is best for their own families.
We remind that terms like hybrid, micro-school, POD and co-op really have no legal definition in Florida. We're here to guide families make sense of new instructional programs, when their use seems a bit unclear.
What Florida homeschool laws say
Florida home educators with a notice of intent may choose any instructional program they like, as long as it's parent-directed. Applying this rule to new programs like hybrids, micro-schools, and PODs, as long as the program welcomes home education students and can be parent-directed, home educators may enroll in these programs, too.
For new programs that operate as Florida private schools, however, different rules apply. When Florida home educators enroll in Florida private schools, they first "terminate" the home education program, then enroll their students in the private school instead.
A lesser used but valid alternative still, are private tutors. If a provider is acting as a Florida private tutor to perform the home education of a student, termination of home education must also occur before any private tutoring can begin.
In a nutshell, parents should confirm whether the program they're considering is valid under home education, a Florida private school, or a Florida private tutor, before deciding any next steps.
How to tell the difference
If this seems a bit confusing, it's because instructional programs can sometimes look alike, even when they're legally different. How are parents to know which is which?
Asking questions before enrolling is the best way to be sure. Discovering if a program or entity can be used with Florida home education (with notice of intent) or if it requires a change in legal status, is important to know, before enrolling a student.
Any reputable provider should be able to explain its intended audience and how it operates in the State of Florida. Asking the group or entity how it is structured is the only way to know, and should guide the decision-making. Checking the list of Florida private schools published by the Florida Department of Education is another way to confirm which private schools are DOE-registered.
What if the instructional program offers multiple ways to enroll?
Some instructional programs are able to offer options to home education families and private school families, too. In cases like this, it is incumbent upon parents to register for the option that matches their own status (notice of intent or private school) and to follow the specific requirements of their chosen option.
A parent-led learning POD can easily be incorporated into a home education program under the notice of intent, whereas a registered Florida private school requires a notice of termination and enrollment in the private school instead. Being sure to select the option that corresponds with the desired homeschool method will achieve legal compliance.
Educational and enrichment programs are available to families throughout the State, but require following the laws which oversee the different types of options. For Florida home educators, this means finding out how an instructional program is operating in Florida (parent-led? DOE private school? private tutor?) and going from there.
For help with options or for anything having to do with Florida home education, the Florida Homeschool Association (FLHSA) offers personalized help to its member audiences. Visit www.floridahsa.org or CONTACT FLHSA to learn more.