Done Homeschooling?

Terminating a Florida Home Education Program

Florida parents who are done home educating their child–whether because the child is transferring to a public or private school, is moving out of the county, or is graduating high school–must submit a letter of termination to the school district within 30 days of finishing homeschooling.

Continue reading Done Homeschooling?

Preparing Homeschooled Students for College

“I’m scared by the prospect of putting together a transcript for my son who’s entering 9th grade,” a mom wrote. She was scared that she’d mess it up and he wouldn’t be able to get into college.

Below is what I’ve told to numerous parents, including ones who have hired me as a consultant to help prepare their child for college admissions. They’ve all gotten into college, too.

I’m guessing that what really scares you is not typing up a transcript–there are lots of examples, templates, and services online for putting one together–but rather making sure that you have the right information to put on it and making sure he is accepted into college.

Continue reading Preparing Homeschooled Students for College

How do You Choose Curriculum?

Florida parents who homeschool choose to take control of their children’s education. The state of Florida does not have a list of approved curriculum–no list of textbooks or workbooks that must be used–and accreditation isn’t required1. Parents may chose any materials that work for their own families–even ones that were never intended to be used as curriculum.
1 Some colleges are particular about accepting high school foreign language credits from only accredited sources–though taking a test such as the CLEP or SAT subject area test or a college placement test is one way around this.
So how do you choose?

  1. Public school options
    Some people try to emulate the schools. They choose free public school options like FLVS (Florida Virtual School), which is an online system of schools. The FLVS Fulltime and various FLVS county versions are not technically homeschooling. They are public-school-done-at-home and come with the schedules, testing, and other requirements and inflexibility of schools.
    FLVS Flex is an option that can be used for one or more classes–up to a full schedule of classes–by homeschoolers. The students don’t have to take state-mandated public school tests such as the FSA or the EOC (end of course) exams and can move more at the student’s pace–though there is a pacing chart to keep up with. Parents can choose the class levels for their child and have students work in the evenings or weekends or whenever fits their family schedule.
    Another less formal options is CPalms, an online toolbox of educational resources that the FL Dept of Education maintains. Many homeschool families have used the materials on this free website for their homeschool curriculum.
  2. Other online options
    There are lots of online curriculum options outside of the public school system. Some are even free. Khan Academy is a well-known free option funded by Bill Gates. Easy Peasy All-in-One-Homeschool is a faith-based option that’s free if used online, though they offer workbook options for sale, too. There are many subscription options including Time4Learning, Open Tent Academy, IXL (which seems to be sets of practice pages that the parent explains or finds explanations for elsewhere), faith-based ABeka Academy, The Well-Trained Mind Academy for grades 5-12, Power Homeschool, Calvert Academy and The American School— both of which have offered homeschool materials for over 100 years, and so many others–with new ones popping up all the time.
    There are more informal ala carte options, too, including programs like Outschool which offers live classes–rather than pre-recorded ones, Gamed Academy which offers classes that use the game Minecraft for learning, free high school video classes on Crash Course, and so many more.
  3. Books and other materials
    There’s no requirement to go high tech–in fact, a lot of people think that kids–especially younger children–thrive without high tech options. There are so many options available from the inexpensive stream-lined workbooks such as Brain Quest, Spectrum, and Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills workbooks or the older faith-based Paces program to programs that use literature as the focus of their curriculum such as the faith-based Sonlight (or its less religious BookShark version), Catholic Seton, or the Jewish curriculum Ani VeAmi. Other popular options include faith-based options such as MasterBooks, ABeka, My Father’s World, Horizons, LifePac, and so many more, or non-religious options such as Oak Meadow, or even materials used in some schools such as McGraw-Hill or
  4. Family Style
    Unique to homeschooling are family-style curricula that offer materials that can be used with several children of different ages/levels at the same time. Many newer curricula of this style are popping up. Some faith-based options include The Genesis Curriculum (from Easy Peasy All-in-one-Homeschool as an offline option which focuses on a book of the Bible for learning all other subjects), Gather ‘Round (with family-style unit studies), The Good and the Beautiful, or there’s a non-religious version written by homeschooling moms and sisters called Layers of Learning. Trail Guides to Learning is a multi-level curriculum with options focused on history or geography that comes with lots of literature and can be bought with non-religious materials only or can in a bundle with added religious titles.
  5. Do-It-Yourself
    Another option is to plan your own materials. Some families go to the library or the internet and choose a variety of books and materials on a topic their child is interested in and turn it into a curriculum. If your child wants to know about sharks or castles or gardening, why not start there and take advantage of that curiosity? It can mean a more peaceful learning program and a child who will quickly acquire knowledge. A parent with some creativity (or access to others with creativity such as found on Pinterest) can stretch the interest to include reading, writing, history, science, or other topics.

    As an example, when my son wanted to learn about Star Wars (and yes, my first reaction was that Star Wars movies and books are not an educational subject, but then I thought better of it), I helped him find a lot of books at the library–fiction and nonfiction–on Star Wars. He wanted to know about it; so, he stretched his reading ability and pushed himself to figure out how to read higher-level books that seemed more interesting. I searched and found arts and crafts related to Star Wars. I found information about the genre of science fiction and about times and places in history that seemed to have been adapted as settings for various scenes. We found trivia quizzes to use just for fun, but mostly we used it to study science. We learned about the science shown in the movies and researched to find what is true in real life, which ideas in the movie won’t actually work, and which could work if technology advances further. And when I asked him to write about Star Wars, he put a lot of effort into writing stories and poems and more.
    Any topics can be likewise developed into lessons.

    Don’t feel confident enough to develop your own? But have something you want to base a curriculum around? Search online. Someone else may have invented it and be willing to share or sell it. A lot of popular homeschool curricula started this way and more are being developed every day.
    **************************

There are so many curriculum options available. From Muslim curriculum for young elementary students with a Charlotte Mason flair (a homeschool method that involves a lot of great literature for learning), to old-fashioned curriculum by Mennonites, or one designed for gifted learners, the options are endless.

So, how do you choose curriculum when there are so many options? There are a few popular methods:

  1. ask friends or random people on the internet and go with something one suggests
  2. pick the first one seen
  3. buy several programs because there’s always another out there that looks good and then let most of them sit unused
  4. attend a conference and check out what vendors have to offer and let the salesmen make their pitches (conferences this year are mostly online)
  5. search review sites such as Cathy Duffy, Homeschool Curriculum Reviews, The Homeschooling Mom, and more looking for reviews that sound good
  6. observe how each child learns best (worksheets, hands-on activities, videos, internet, lots of repetition, songs, etc.) and then search for curriculum that fits
  7. research methods and styles of homeschooling to find a good fit and then search for curriculum that fits that method

    Surveys I’ve seen of homeschool veterans say that one of their top regrets is rushing to buy curriculum that wasn’t a good fit and wasted money. Homeschool parents don’t need to rush out and buy expensive curriculum. A library card or access to the internet or educational videos can offer a lot of learning opportunities to get started while a parent figures out what will work for their family. Some realize that the library card, internet, and videos can provide a fabulous education at a low-cost and stick with those, while others take time to observe their children, learn about methods, look at reviews, ask for recommendations, etc. and then pick knowing that their choice might not be a perfect fit but can be adapted as needed along the way.

    Cheryl Trzasko–homeschool mom and evaluator for 17 years

“Florida Homeschool Evaluations 101”
88 pages.
Intended for those who are, or wish to become, Florida home education evaluators–though parents who want all the details may order as well.

Available as a .pdf file
$5 each.
Payment accepted via Paypal or check or money order mailed.

To order send your email address and proof of payment to chavivah@yahoo.com
For further information, contact Cheryl Trzasko at chavivah@yahoo.com
——

Table of Contents

Introduction 8
The Author 8
The Purpose 12
Florida Law and Policies 13
Homeschooling* Options 14
1. Private schools with a homeschooling option. 14
2. Private tutoring programs. 16
3. Home education programs. 17
Evaluation Options 20
Testing—3 options 20
1. State testing. 20
2. Achievement testing 20
3. Testing by a Psychologist 22
Other Evaluation Options 23
4. Portfolio Review 23
5. Suggest Another Option 27
Evaluation Results 28
Failing an Evaluation 29
Failing a Test 31
Failing a Portfolio Review (Or Other Subjective Evaluation) 31
What happens to a student who fails an evaluation? 35
Evaluation Deadlines 36
Grace Period 38
Missed or Late Evaluation 38
Evaluator Eligibility Requirements 40
Documentation 42
Portfolio Review Checklists or Reports 43
Audits 43
Portfolio Requirements 45
Log of Educational Activities 45
Titles of Reading Materials 47
Curriculum Requirements 47
Samples of Work 48
Evaluation Forms 49
Letter of Intent 50
Letter of Termination 52
Evaluators Who Homeschool 54
Warnings 54
Business 56
Bibliography 57

Appendix 1: Florida Home Education Law (Florida Statute 1002.41) 59
Appendix 2: From Florida’s Craig Dickinson Act (Florida Statute 1006.15(4)) 62
Appendix 3: Truancy and Home Education (Florida Statute 1003.26(10)) 63
Appendix 4: Additional Resources 64
Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) 64
Florida Parent Educator Association (FPEA) 64
Home Education Foundation (HEF) 64
Home Education Liaison Contact Information 64
Office of Choice 65
Appendix 5: Florida Department of Education’s Office of Choice’s Home Education FAQ 66
Appendix 6: New School District Requirements as a Result of House Bill 731 (Memo DPS: 2018-65) 79
Appendix 7: Methods/Styles and Other Terminology 81
Appendix 8: Sample Letter of Intent 84
Appendix 9: Sample Letter of Termination 85
Appendix 10: Sample Evaluation Form 86
Appendix 11: Florida Homeschool Evaluations 101 Post-Test 87
About the Author 88

Homeschool Transcripts

Online Clearinghouse

When my kids have needed transcripts in the past, I’ve made them myself. I’ve looked at online examples for inspiration and put them together with what I know should go in a transcript (such as the words “Official Transcript”) and what shouldn’t (such as titles of curricula or incorrect spellings or inconsistent formatting) and typed them on a word processor.
I’ve had them notarized and sealed in an envelope with my signature over the flap and then sealed in a second envelope in order to mail or deliver it the way colleges expect them to be. And it’s worked.

That is, it worked until last week when my daughter said that due to the current shut-down, a college wanted her transcript but would only accept is through an email delivered via an online clearinghouse. She was worried. “Mom, homeschoolers don’t have an online clearinghouse for transcripts. Do we?”

It turns out that we do. I found a service set up by homeschoolers for homeschoolers at fasttranscripts.com that will allow you to do just that. I had to re-type the transcript, but their form makes it easy. Thought I’d share in case anyone else is having that same issue.

Cheryl Trzasko
chavivah@yahoo.com

Homeschooling During a Pandemic

Homeschoolers have this all under control. Right? After all, we’ve been teaching our kids at home already. Some, like my family, have been teaching our kids at home for well over a decade. But even for us, this is new territory. My family has always done more of our homeschooling outside our home than in it. We’ve been heavily involved in at least one homeschool support group, 4-H, library activities, our local congregation, and more. Just because we’ve been called homeschoolers, doesn’t mean that we actually stayed home a lot.

On the other hand, my family has homeschooled through crises before. Based on my own experiences, our first actions–once it was clear that we needed to stay home for a while, maybe quite a while–were to drop lessons for a bit and instead set about making our home work better for us. Setting the stage to make this work.

Continue reading Homeschooling During a Pandemic

Fun Math Practice Worksheets

Want some fun math worksheets to supplement what your child is learning in other math lessons? Search for books in the Math with Pizzazz series. There are five levels for middle school math and high school subjects such as algebra. These worksheets are designed to practice skills learned elsewhere as they include no instruction. Each one is a puzzle with a riddle’s or joke’s punchline revealed as the math problems are answered. Better yet? I’ve looked to purchase these as books and have only found free online pdf versions available. My kids have groaned over a lot of their corny jokes but readily admit these are much more fun than the standard math book lesson.

Cheryl Trzasko
chavivah@yahoo.com

How Are High School Credits Determined?

Figuring out how to grant high school credits seems daunting to some homeschool parents, but it’s not as difficult as many imagine. There are several different options for figuring out credits. Parents can mix-and-match them, using one method for one class and another method for another class. Or pick a favorite and stick with it.

A photo of one of my forms to track hours
Continue reading How Are High School Credits Determined?

High School Documents

For students graduating as Florida home education students, there are only two documents required by law, but you’ll likely want to have several others to be prepared for the future.

Required by Florida law:
1-2. Letter of Termination and a final evaluation should be sent to the school district. These two documents legally end the home education program. Prior to July 1, 2018, only a Letter of Termination was required if the evaluation deadline hadn’t been reached. The addition of a final evaluation was made so the home education office could answer if someone (such as a college or employer) asked if the student finished homeschooling successfully. The home education office will be able to verify that the education ended in compliance with Florida law and a positive evaluation should anyone ask.

Continue reading High School Documents

Writing Course Descriptions

What are they? Why keep them?

A few years ago, when I was tutoring a public school student, I saw pieces by Shakespeare, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dickens, and a variety of modern writers in the high school literature book. I also saw something shocking. Not only was this shocking material in the textbook, but a local high school teacher had assigned it to students. I’m sure most parents had no idea that this is what their child was studying and would be upset if they realized it. After all, how could reading stories by Dr. Seuss–the same stories read when their child was four years old–help prepare their child for college? Had high school standards really dropped that low?

Most high school English classes never finish their literature books. Their teachers pick and choose what they’ll cover. That’s true in public schools and homeschools alike. While most never think to question what’s taught in a typical public school, college admissions officers and employers alike might question the quality of education received at home. Course descriptions are one way to help show what your child’s been taught.

Continue reading Writing Course Descriptions