Homeschooling is on the rise. Florida has seen a steady increase of registered home education students since 2015. Last school year alone (2020-2021) boasted the greatest increase to the homeschool community, with more than 37,000 children partaking in home education. Today, the total homeschool students in Florida is over 140,000—a 35% increase over the prior year.* 

Why is it increasing in popularity?

Why teach at home?

Parents have personal reasons for choosing to pull their children from conventional education. Some cite bullying, insufficient resources and safety concerns as factors, while others believe there is a lack of flexible curriculum to meet children’s educational needs and learning styles as a deciding factor. Access to more faith-based instruction is another reason parents refrain from enrolling their children in public education. Yet, curating lessons is not for the faint of heart. Though it comes with great flexibility, it also is a huge responsibility. 

Homeschooling can be expensive and time consuming. “The only disadvantage is that it can be a lot of work, time, and sometimes money, to fully provide for all those needs,” says one parent who asked for anonymity.

Parents acknowledge structuring coursework for multiple children and dual roles as both parent and teacher can be tiresome. Additionally, there is no reimbursement for home education or tax incentives. 

“The disadvantage is that I am their everything and sometimes I just want to be mom,” admits the same anonymous mom.   

Enticed by a global classroom

Though homeschooling has some headaches, many parents say the expanded academic capacity and fluid curriculum outweigh any obstacle. Tailored education plans allow for a deeper investigation into topics of interest. Children can spend more time on areas that they enjoy and study more extensively. And, for many families, there’s travel.

“Every day is a lesson in itself. Curriculum is a broad term, even though most people associate curriculum with books. Your day-to-day living is a curriculum,” says Jennifer Thomas, a mom of two has been homeschooling for four years, visiting 18 states. Her focus is on learning through experiences. 

Recalling a specific adventure with her son, Thomas describes mining gold in Colorado in the cold of January, bundled in coats with headlamps to navigate the surrounding terrain. While her son was curiously inquiring about the miners’ lives and work, she observed him taking initiative, exploring fearlessly, and then glowing like gold when he discovered gleaming metal in the beam of his flashlight.

“That is something a book can never give you,” Thomas muses. “Yes, you can learn things from a book, but to actually experience [it], that is a core memory. You are in that moment imagining, feeling emotions, creating your own opinions. That’s something someone can’t take away from you, it’s knowledge.” 

Patricia Linde, now in her seventh year of homeschooling, explains, “Initially [we homeschooled] for the freedom to travel and we were only going to do it for a year,” Linde recounts. “But once we decided to ‘do it’, it morphed into many reasons.” 

That reason is the ability not only to choose what their children learn but also when. There is no specific structure to the school day, so learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

The Morales’ are a military family stationed in England and registered homeschoolers in Florida. Mom, Lynn, explains they use this to their advantage, visiting various historic sites like Stonehenge, the Tower of London and towns like York, which hosts historical remains from both the Romans and Vikings. 

Morales also gives her children the opportunity to delve into their own unique interests. “We recently took an educational trip to Malaga, Spain and let each child plan an excursion from the flat we rented,” Morales shares. “One child chose Flamenco dancing and going out for paella. Another chose the Picasso Museum, and another chose a fort built during Muslim reign of southern Spain and going to see the ruins of an ancient Roman Theater.”

Then, there’s Mandi Saunder, a homeschooling mom of two, who began the process of teaching her daughter at five so they could travel the states in an RV. “We did it for three and a half years, and it was richly educational,” says Saunder, who was also a homeschool student in her youth. “We went to so many places; from the Florida Keys to Toronto and from the tip of Long Island to San Diego.”

When traveling extensively, Saunder notes true friendships can be hard to manifest. But she wouldn’t change any of it. “[My daughter] graduated a year and a half early because of homeschooling,” Saunder observers. “I don’t believe we could have fit in as many experiences in as many places had we gone the traditional route.”

Misconceptions

A glaring myth is that homeschool children lack crucial social interactions with peers. But many homeschool parents opt for instruction pods; a small, cultivated cohort of similar-aged children who follow the same lessons and agreed upon curriculum. This offers the children socialization and group environments while parents can rotate who instructs lessons.

There are also numerous social media groups for ideas, insights and support. Groups often have regular meet ups or excursions to ensure children are engaging with peers and learning interpersonal skills essential for life. Libraries host workshops and story sessions for various age groups. If extracurricular activities are important to your family, homeschooled students are still welcome to participate in local school teams.  

Resources and where to start

Seek educational resources locally. Many organizations, like Catty Shack Ranch and The Alligator Farm offer group discounts. Marineland offers unique themed educational days for students each month, while the St. Augustine Aquarium offers grade-level appropriate field trips. Nearby farms like Wesley Wells Farm and Amazing Grace Family Farms offer field trips and homeschool days to educate about agricultural practices.

If a homeschool environment could be ideal for your child(ren) and family, start with these county links to get the facts on how to begin the process and stay compliant with federal, state and local requirements. 

Florida Home Education Contact By County

Legal Requirements & Homeschool Regulation Resources

*Home school does not account for/include virtual/remote learning students.

“Home Education Annual Report 2020–2021.” Www.Fldoe.Org, www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/5606/urlt/Home-Ed-Annual-Report-2020-21.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec. 2021.

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