Many are currently considering homeschooling (or have been forced to homeschool) due to the current coronavirus scare. They aren’t the first who’ve suddenly started homeschooling due to a crisis.
So how do you homeschool when you’ve had no time to plan how to do it, no time to gather materials and no idea how to go about it? First take care of the official business.
The School’s Way: If the homeschooling is temporary and the student will return to a school as soon as this is over, the school should give directions on what they expect. They may host online lessons or have the student sign up with FLVS (Florida Virtual School, an online public school) through their Flex program at www.flvs.net. Let them know it’s due to coronavirus and they’ll ease the transition.
Your Own Way: Parents can choose to homeschool on their own. Perhaps they want to homeschool longer than the schools will be closed, don’t want to use the school’s format, don’t have easy access to their materials or want to try out independent homeschooling.
In Florida, the law requires officially withdrawing from the school first. Send the school something in writing — an e-mail works — with the child’s name, date of birth, address, a parent’s name and signature stating that you are withdrawing the child from school. Don’t worry, the child can be re-enrolled later if the parent wishes. In high school, it’s best to wait for a new semester to re-enroll; at other grade levels, re-enrollment can be done anytime.
Two options for legally homeschooling a child are as a home education student in a program run by the parent or as a private school student through a private school that offers an at-home option.
To start a home education program, send a letter to the school district’s home education office. Include the child’s name, date of birth and address, a parent’s name and signature stating that you intend to home educate the child according to Florida law. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org is a great way to send this letter, or the district has an online form on its web site.
Contact information for other Florida school districts’ home education offices can be found on a list from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Choice.
Parents can choose any learning materials they deem appropriate. There are workbooks and textbooks available online or at discount stores, educational web sites or even materials that may not have been designed for a classroom but are educational. Feel free to get them started with any materials you have available. The public library has lots of options, as does the internet. Discount stores and bookstores have inexpensive workbooks available, too. Parents have 30 days legally to get started. So, it’s OK to take some time to gather materials. Keep up work on reading and writing, and get a math workbook or an online math program to cover the bare basics. Feel free to let your child pick topics to read up on or explore some new hobbies and write about them. Consider joining some online homeschool support groups or read some homeschool web sites or blogs to find out about different methods and resources used by homeschoolers.
Education at home tends to be easier than education in a school — just like cooking at home isn’t as complicated as operating a restaurant.
Keep records of the child’s learning: (1) titles of any reading materials used (books, web sites, articles, etc.), (2) a log of educational activities (keep something brief about what the child learns — could be as simple as a list of subjects worked on each day or week), and keep a few (3) samples of work (screenshots of web sites used, papers written by the child, a copy or two of pages read by the child, photos of projects done, etc.).
An evaluation is required once a year to verify that the child is learning. The first evaluation, which would be due no later than an entire year from when the student begins to homeschool, could be the public school’s FSA or another achievement test. Some homeschool support groups usually offer group testing sessions, though that may be different this year, but it could mean simply having a Florida-certified teacher look over the records kept to verify that the child has been learning.
Another option is to register the student with a private school that offers a learn-at-home option. Such schools are known as umbrella schools. After the registration process, which should include submitting medical records including immunization records (or exemption forms), the parent must regularly submit attendance reports, but otherwise the rules are up to the particular school. Some provide learning materials (curriculum) or help in figuring out what materials to use. Some have a teacher on staff who will help when needed. Some keep records of the child’s learning, while others expect the parent to keep their own records.
Many who start homeschooling because of a crisis find their kids learn more and enjoy it more. Many stick with homeschooling long-term.
Cheryl Trzasko, Wellington
Editor’s note: Cheryl Trzasko is the chair/president of Palm Beach County Homeschoolers. Learn more at www.pbchomeschoolers.com.