Frequently Asked Questions
Some frequently asked questions about homeschooling in Florida are listed here. These focus mostly on home education as the option that's directed by parents without requiring enrollment in a school. Some schools allow students to learn at home, but these are not considered home education and follow laws for public or private schools, as fits the type of school.
How do I start homeschooling my child?
Home education is the most common method of homeschooling in Florida; it's the method that legally is directed by the parent rather than a school.
To begin home education, a Notice of Intent (aka a Letter of Intent) should be sent to the local Florida school district's home education contact to announce that a parent intends to direct the education of a student.
See our "Forms for Homeschool Parents" page for additional information.
What should I teach my child?
Florida law does not dictate what a home education parent should teach. A parent can use any methods, materials, or such to help a child learn as long as the parent documents that learning with records called a portfolio and turns in an evaluation once a year (and when finishing homeschooling for any reason) verifying that the student has made educational progress commensurate with ability.
See our "Forms for Homeschool Parents" page for information on record-keeping.
Some parents find the standards listed on CPalms.org or those on Worldbook.com's Typical Course of Study lists (or similar scope and sequence lists) helpful to figure out what to teach. Some purchase textbooks or workbooks--many of these offer placement tests to help determine the best level to use for a specific child. Some use online programs. Some use informal learning options such as deschooling or unschooling.
AFE recommends connecting with a local homeschool support group or a homeschooling mentor or researching options with homeschooling books or websites to figure out the best option for your particular child.
See our "Homeschooling Resources" page for more information.
When is my child's evaluation due?
What if my evaluation is overdue?
AFE does not recommend missing evaluation deadlines. Evaluations verify that the home education program is legally compliant and the student is not truant. Therefore, missed deadlines could lead to legal problems.
AFE recommends notifying the home education contact that the parent is aware of the missed deadline and is contacting an evaluator and will submit the evaluation paperwork as soon as possible.
In our experience, turning in the evaluation will then fix the problem.
Do I need to do an evaluation to start homeschooling?
No, the first evaluation is due a year from submitting your Letter of Intent (aka Notice of Intent). (If you stop homeschooling before that time, the evaluation will be due with the Letter of Termination within 30 days of stopping homeschooling in Florida.)
If doing a portfolio review evaluation, the evaluator will review the records of your child's education and compare records, especially beginning-of-the-year records and end-of-the-year records, to verify that educational progress has been made, but that does not require a beginning-of-the-year evaluation.
What if my child is not working at grade level?
Florida law does not require a parent to declare a grade level for their child and prohibits districts from assigning a grade level unless a student participates in a district program. Thus grade levels do not apply.
Florida law requires documentation verifying whether or not the student has made educational progress commensurate with ability. As long as the student has been learning and has advanced academically from where the student began the year, the student should pass the evaluation.
Note: Many parents find that portfolio review evaluations are a better fit than testing for students who are not working at a level typical of their age.
Some nontraditional Florida private schools are informally known as Florida Umbrella Schools or 600 schools which allow students to learn at home while the schools keep records for their students.
Q: What services do Florida umbrella schools provide?
A: Umbrella school is an informal name for a Florida private school that allows students to learn at home. Just as with other private schools, umbrella schools will vary greatly. While umbrella schools could provide curriculum, a teacher or guidance counselor to answer questions, field trips or other group activities, some in-person or online group classes, assistance with records for college, etc., some provide no services other than keeping attendance records.
Q: Must I use an umbrella school to homeschool my child?
A: No. Umbrella schools began in Florida decades ago when there was no official legal option for homeschooling. Florida's home education laws were put into place in the mid-1980s to fix problems with the informal umbrella school option and provide guarantees these schools didn't offer such as protection against truancy laws even if out in the community during school days/hours. Most Florida homeschooled students do not use umbrella schools but are instead homeschooled under Florida's home education laws.
Q: Can umbrella school students participate in public school activities?
A: In most cases, no. Because they are private school students, they typically cannot take public school classes, nor participate in public school extracurricular activities including sports, etc. Many umbrella schools urge high school students in particular to switch to home education in order to be able to participate in public school extracurriculars and to have easier access to dual enrollment college courses and the Bright Futures scholarship. However, if the umbrella school is very small (under 125 students) and does not offer a particular sport, the student may be able to join a public school team; see the Craig Dickinson Act F.S. 1006.15(8).
Q: Is there an official list of Florida Umbrella Schools?
A: No. The term "umbrella school" is not found in Florida law and this designation is not reported to the Florida Dept of Education by those private schools that allow students to learn at home. So there is no official list.
On the other hand, all umbrella schools will be on the Florida Dept of Education's official Florida private school directory (though the directory also includes traditional private schools that do not allow students to learn at home).
Unofficial lists can be found online. Often these lists include schools that are not umbrella schools. Parents can use the Florida private school directory to verify that the schools listed are actually Florida private schools. All umbrella schools will have a FL DOE# assigned to them.
Unofficial List 1 Unofficial List 2
Q: What are the legal requirements for umbrella schools?
A: Since Florida umbrella schools are a type of Florida private school, they follow the same legal requirements as all Florida private schools. The private school must
Be in Florida
Be registered as a private school
Check birth certificates, recent (less than 12 months old) physical and immunizations records (or official waiver forms) for all students
Keep attendance records and reports for all students showing at least 170 actual school days and a number of instructional hours that vary by grade level*
Complete an annual survey for the FL Dept of Education
and more--see the FL DOE detailed list for more.
Beyond the requirements in Florida law, each private school may decide their own requirements in regard to curriculum, testing, graduation, and more.
*Note that at least one umbrella school has advertised that it does not keep any academic records for its students. This can be dangerous; for example, a lack of academic records has been used against some homeschooling parents (often by an ex-spouse or other relative) in attempts to prove educational neglect. Similarly, at least one has advertised that it allows auto-generated attendance records rather than accurate daily attendance records as required by Florida law. Attendance records are legal records that are sometimes used in court to verify that students were on campus (aka at home) rather than being at a crime scene or a hospital or such; parents using umbrella schools should keep accurate attendance records.
AFE strongly urges all parents to keep ongoing academic records of their children's learning if a school is not doing so.
Q: Will my umbrella school require an evaluation?
A: Maybe, but probably not. While homeschool evaluations are required for home education students (those who sent a Letter of Intent to the district in order to homeschool), Florida law does not require evaluations for private school students. Many umbrella school do not require evaluations for their students, but some do.
Check with your specific school to verify its policies.