New to Homeschooling
We know this can be a fun (and scary) time. Please feel free to use this information to help you get started.
There is a LOT of info on this page so take your time and read through all of it...you'll be glad you did!
The first resource you may need is our local Polk County Schools Homeschool Deparment.
Home Education Office N998
900 Lowry Ave
Lakeland, FL 33801
There are a number of homeschool videos available to help you get started. This link should take you to the list of 49 videos (via YouTube) on various homeschool subjects that veteran Florida Homeschooler Linda Wooldridge has created. The videos are done in bite-sized pieces so that you can pick and choose the topics that pertain to your family without wading through extra material.
Common Core State Standards
Like most of us, you have probably heard this latest buzz word. Common Core is a national educational standard that several states have adopted for use. Florida is one of those states. Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is following this closely. Information on HSLDA's position can be found on their website. Information about the standards can be found on the Common Core website.
Lighthouse does not publish an "opinion" for you to follow on political issues. We do encourage our members to explore the Common Core for themselves.
Once you have decided to homeschool you have three options.
Choice 1: Register with the county.
You need to send them a letter of intent (available on this website) within 30 days of starting your homeschool. Each year on the anniversary of the date when you first registered as a homeschooler you need to send in your evaluation. Accepted evaluations include:
- an evaluation letter by certified teacher stating that the student has shown progress
- standardized test scores (ie. SAT )
- the results of any evaluation that you and the school district agree upon in advance.(see www.fpea.com for details).
Choice 2: You may register with a non-traditional private school.
They will take care of notifying the county that you are registered with them. You will use the method of evaluation that they require, and be subject to their rules. According to the state/county your children will be considered to be private schooled. If you have a child who is interested in sports or other extra-curricular activities, check to see if you will still qualify for those before you register with a non-traditional private school. For example, a child would not be able to be enrolled in a non-traditional private school and play football for a public high school. You would also have to apply for the Bright Futures scholarship as a private schooled student.
Choice 3: Register with a virtual public school.
Some examples include--Connections, FLVA and K12. If you choose this option, your children will be considered public school students. You will need to use the curriculum the school chooses, and may have to keep track of the hours spent. Education occurs at the computer. Your children may be required to take the FCAT. Since your child will be considered a public school student by the county and state, you will not have access to any of the benefits of homeschooling.
When do I need to register with the county?
- You need to register for the school year in which your child turns 6 (the law is more complicated than this, but let's make it easy!) So if your child turns 6 in January, you would file your letter of intent the fall just prior to your child's 6th birthday. Letter of Intent (Some counties ask for information which you are not legally required to give. FPEA Resource Page provides a sample letter of intent that includes only what is required by law.)
- However, if you are homeschooling a kindergarten student who will be attending a "traditional" school for 1st grade, you will want to file a letter of intent for kindergarten (most schools want evidence that a 1st grader has attended kindergarten).
- You will need to notify the county when you are no longer homeschooling your student . Remember that while the law says that compulsory education is 6-16; a 16-18 year old who has not graduated, and is not attending school CANNOT have a driver's license.
Recordkeeping (Transcripts and Service Hours)
In general, you must keep the following:
- A log of what was taught—this needs to be kept up as the work is done (contemporaneously)
- Sample of the child’s work. At least one page for each subject from the beginning, middle and end of each year (that’s at least 3 pages per subject). You can use photographs for events or items that were too big or too fragile to keep.
- List of books used
- Remember that this portfolio is your child’s “permanent record”.
For more info see our high school transcripts checklist page.
Choosing Teaching Materials and a Curriculum
Choosing a curriculum is a very personal process and your decision depends on your child's needs, learning style, your teaching philosophy, and the needs of your family.
When you submit your letter of intent to Polk County, you have essentially created your own school system. That means that you are responsible for providing all of your own materials. To help save money, buy the school supplies you think you’ll need for the year during the back to school sales and use the library for books.
So, the first thing you want to do is to mark the anniversary date on your calendar. Remember that evaluators are all busy at the same time, so be sure to call for your appointment several months before you need it. You can submit your evaluation at any time. Some homeschool families find it easier to have their children evaluated in February (and submit it then) even though their anniversary date is in August.
If you have family issues and are unable to complete your testing by the due date, simply call the homeschool office for Polk County schools (863-665-8068) and notify them of the reason for the delay and when they can expect your evaluation. They will usually work with you in an emergency situation.
Evaluations and Testing
It’s VERY IMPORTANT to remember to submit your evaluation ON OR BEFORE the anniversary of the date that you submitted your letter of intent (when you informed the county that you were homeschooling) each year. If you don’t submit your evaluations the county does have the right to remove your permission to homeschool…essentially they close your homeschool. The county will mail out a list of approved evaluators at the beginning of each calendar year. You can also check out our Evaluators & Testers page.
An evaluation is a review of your child’s work and progress for the year. The evaluator will meet with your child and ask them about the work they did. They will also review your portfolio (it helps to see what your child has been working on). You will need to bring BOTH your portfolio AND your child to an evaluation.
Testers may administer a standardized test to your child, either in a classroom setting or one on one. SAT and ACT scores would meet the testing requirement, if your child has taken those tests. You will receive the actual test scores if you choose this method of testing. The FCAT is not recommended as a testing choice. Although it is free, remember that the public schools have been doing test review all year and you probably have not done the same review.