Florida has what is called compulsory attendance laws. These laws mandate, among other things, the ages at which children must start or stop school, and the number of days and hours children must attend school. Here are the Florida Constitution and the Statutes relating to compulsory attendance so you may read them directly if you wish. You can find all education-related items in Title XLVIII of the Florida Statutes. The Florida Online Sunshine site allows you access to all of the above and provides a way to search for new bills and obtain other information. There are even pages for children, which is a great way to involve your whole family!
According to Florida State statutes, compulsory attendance laws apply to all children between the ages of 6 and 16. This means that your child must be enrolled in one of the following:
- Public school
- Parochial school
- Private school
- A home education program
- A private tutor program
Your Choices Under Florida’s Laws
Florida statutes provide three options for families who wish to educate their children at home. Each meets the state’s compulsory attendance laws. Families may:
1. Enroll in a non-campus-based private school, sometimes known as an Umbrella or Cover school, and follow the procedures set by the school;
2. Establish a home education program as defined in the statutes by sending a Notice of Intent to the local school Superintendent, maintaining a log of activities and portfolio containing samples of work from the beginning, middle, and end of the school year, and filing an annual evaluation using one of five evaluation choices.
3. Establish a Private Tutoring Program. If you choose to go this route, be sure to select a tutor with experience setting up a legally viable program for you, as the laws around this option are very vague.
While all of the above choices will provide compliance with Florida’s compulsory attendance laws, each has different implications for you and your family. You will need to ask yourself if you want to be accountable to yourself and a private entity that will advocate for you, or do you want to be held accountable to the State?
Should you register with the Superintendent or enroll in an Umbrella School?
Most families choose to either register with the school district or an Umbrella School. Regardless of your chosen option, you can educate your children at home using the materials and methods you select. The critical difference between enrolling in a private school and registering as a home educator is this:
- Home education students are overseen by government employees at the school district. Parents must file annual evaluations with the district and can be required to show their record-keeping and samples of the student’s work upon demand by the Superintendent. With this option, the Superintendent has the right to decide whether or not the student needs to be placed back into public school or another bricks and mortar school.
- Umbrella School students are overseen by administrators you select. Identifying data about the student and samples of the student’s work are never shared with anyone outside of the private school (other than at your request). Umbrella schools do not have the authority to force their students back into public schools.
It’s important to note that legally, children being homeschooled through a private school are considered private school students, not homeschoolers. While this distinction has no bearing on how you teach your child, it does impact the laws that govern your program and the opportunities available to you. Interestingly, of the three options available to Florida families homeschooling their children (establish a home education program, enroll in a private school, or maintain a private tutor program), only those families who choose the first option and register with the district are counted in Florida state statistics about homeschooling. So when you read statistics concerning the number of homeschooled children in Florida, you can safely assume that the actual number is at least double the stated number since children being homeschooled through a private umbrella school are not counted as being homeschooled.
Ultimately the choice is yours, as it should be. As parents, you have your children’s best interests at heart; only you know what is best for them and what will work best for your family. When choosing an umbrella school like Hillcrest Private Academy, you have complete control over your children’s education and future. In this case, private is genuinely private. Hillcrest Private Academy will never disclose any personal information about their students to anyone unless requested to do so by you. Private schools must give the state census information about their student body annually, but this is statistical data only — such as how many students they have at each grade level. NO personal or specific information about any student is given to anyone without your permission. Beyond this, the only people to receive information about your child’s progress is you (and anyone you authorize). It is entirely private.
This chart shows the legal differences between homeschooling through a private school like Hillcrest Private Academy and homeschooling by registering with the school district.
|Feature||Private Umbrella School||Home Education Statutes|
|Register with Superintendent||No||Yes|
|Submit a Letter of Intent||No||Yes|
|File Annual Evaluation with School District||No||Yes|
|Possible “audit” of records by School District||No||Yes|
|Requires health forms, birth certificate||Yes – waiver accepted||No|
|Operated by homeschoolers||Usually||No|
|Parents Select Curriculum||Yes||Yes|
|Attendance Requirements||Yes (easy to meet)||No|
|Eligible for Bright Futures Scholarship||Yes||Yes|
|Take Classes at Florida Virtual School||Yes||Yes|
|Participate in Inter-Scholastic Extracurricular Student Activities||Yes||Yes|
|Participate in dual enrollment programs||Yes||Yes|