With Marion County schools adopting a new four day school week for the 2012-2013 school year, some parents are looking at their options outside of public school. Private school is, of course, one option. But for many single parents, it’s not a very viable one – tuition is often out of their budget, even if they were to split the cost with their ex. Some private schools offer scholarships, but it’s not something you can count on.
Homeschooling is another option. Many single parents think that homeschooling isn’t a viable option, mainly because they picture the traditional school day when they think of homeschooling. The truth is, though, homeschooling isn’t as difficult as you might think.
The first thing to understand is that homeschooling in the state of Florida does not have the same requirements as the public school system in terms of number of days or hours spent “schooling.” Public schools require students to be in school for 180 days per school year, and most Marion County schools spend roughly six hours per day in the classroom. In homeschooling, you only must ensure that your child is making progress that matches up with his/her ability – whether that requires you to spend eight hours a day , seven days a week or four hours a day, four days a week.
Many parents who homeschool find that it only takes anywhere from two to four hours per day to cover the same amount of work that a public school takes six hours, or two or more days, to cover. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense: public school teachers must make sure all 15-25 students in their class grasp the skill before they can move on. Therefore, the slowest learner sets the pace, and since that slowest learner doesn’t get much (if any) more personal attention than the rest of the students, he/she isn’t going to learn it quickly. With homeschooling, your child sets the pace. Once your child grasps the skill, you are free to move on. If your child is struggling with a skill, you are able to provide them with some intense, one on one tutoring to get him/her up to speed.
The state of Florida does have a few requirements you must meet, such as:
You must file a Notice of Intent. You need to file, within 30 days after establishing your homeschool, a Notice of Intent to Homeschool. If you inform your child’s school, or contact the Marion County School District’s Student Services Alternative Programs, they can provide you with a form that you can fill out. Keep in mind, however, that their form requests more information than you are legally obligated to provide. Your notice of intent must simply state that you intend to establish a homeschool and provide the name, address and date of birth of each child you intend to homeschool, and needs to be dated. If you use the form provided by the district, you can simply fill in the name, address and date of birth and the form will be accepted.
You must keep a portfolio, with a log of activities and reading materials. In this portfolio, you must have examples of your child’s work to show they are making progress and, of course, actually being taught. You must keep a log of educational activities you do, such as TV shows you watch, projects you work on, experiments you perform, field trips you go on, etc. You also must keep a list of reading materials used, identified by their title. This portfolio must be made available for inspection by the Superintendent, upon request, within 15 days. However, the Superintendent can only review the items in the portfolio; he cannot determine your child’s progress based on it.
You must have your child evaluated annually to show progress. There are five options for the annual evaluation, but the most commonly used and highly recommended method is evaluation by a teacher. Typically this is done by forwarding the portfolio to a state certified teacher, who reviews the portfolio and talks to your child. They will then fill out a form stating that they’ve evaluated your child and that they feel your child is or is not making progress. This evaluation is due on the anniversary of the date your establish your homeschool. Most teachers that perform this evaluation charge between $25-80 per evaluation, but often offer discounts for each additional child.
There are other requirements, and it is important that parents carefully read the laws and familiarize themselves with the laws before making a decision and commitment to homeschooling. You can find the laws here.
Another concern many single parents have is the cost. They imagine they must fork over hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for curricula, supplies and other expensive things in order to homeschool. The truth of the matter is, there are literally thousands of free resources available to homeschool. You can use the Marion County Public Library to access hundreds of different reading materials. You can search the Internet for free homeschooling resources, and find tons of free worksheets, games, multimedia presentations, dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and other tools available. Ultimately, you can do the majority of your homeschooling and only spend money on a few basics such as paper, printer ink, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and the occasional supplies for a larger art project or science experiement. If you purchase a dry erase board and markers to go with it, you can eliminate the need for scratch paper for math problems, and provide them with a reusable source to write spelling words, work on sentences and other tasks you’d like them to perform, but don’t intend to put in the portfolio – or to work out the kinks before they put it on paper to go in the portfolio. That can be a large savings over time in itself. If you do feel the need to purchase learning materials, check out The Learning Wheel in Ocala – they have an extensive collection of learning materials, many of which are quite inexpensi
In Part 2, we’ll look at other reasons why homeschooling can be easier than you think, including things that count toward schooling that aren’t really schooling, and when you can homeschool when you work a full time job.