I've never heard of this private school option before. Is that the same thing as an umbrella school or a 600 school?
Although there are no exact numbers, it is usually guesstimated that about half the home educators in Florida use the private school option. These schools are called cover schools, umbrella schools, 600 schools (if they are incorporated), church schools, etc.
It is not difficult or expensive to establish one of these schools but not all home educators know about the option and the information available to parents is not always clear and complete. Often, new home educators only hear about the HEP (Home Education Program; letter of intent to the county, portfolio and log, annual evaluation) option.
So, it’s not you if you’ve never heard of the private school option before. It’s just one of the quirks of home education in Florida. :)
You want what?? My child's birth certificate and medical records?
Yes, I know. It seems odd and intrusive and completely unrelated to your learning situation, but this is the law that applies to ALL private schools in Florida. Like every other private school, Florida Unschoolers is required to keep these records.
Nothing exciting happens to the records.
Each family has a file folder in a filing cabinet (if you send paper records) or in a Google Drive folder (if you send records by email). It contains your Information Sheet and any correspondence we may have, along with the birth certificate and medical records.
Keep a copy of everything you send -- to me or any other school!
Who do I have to tell? Do I have to notify the county? The local public school?
You do not have to notify anyone about your decision to enroll your child in a private school . . .
UNLESS . . .
. . . your child is already enrolled somewhere else.
If your child is currently enrolled in a public school and you want to change to a private school, you MUST formally withdraw him from the public school. The front office of the public school will probably have a form for you to fill out. It is extremely important that you do this. If you simply stop showing up at the public school, you start the ball rolling on truancy issues.
When the public school wants to know where you are enrolling your child, the answer is, "He is being enrolled in a private school." The name of the private school is Florida Unschoolers. (Don't say you are homeschooling. That just confuses things.)
If your child is enrolled in another private school, you should also formally notify them of the change.
If the previous school wants an enrollment confirmation to complete their withdrawal process, I am happy to send them a letter. Just include the previous school's email address on the Information Sheet with the rest of your enrollment paperwork.
If you have sent a Letter of Intent to the county, establishing your Home Education Program, and want to change to the private school option, you MUST send a Letter of Termination to the county. It should be something along the lines of: “This is to notify you that the Home Education Program for Student X has been terminated. He is now enrolled in a private school, Florida Unschoolers.” This goes to the Superintendent or the homeschooling liaison at the school board where you sent your Letter of Intent. Most county school boards have a form letter on their website that you can use. Keep a copy!
Do I have to keep a log and portfolio? Is testing or an evaluation required?
No and no.
The log and portfolio are required only if you are using the county registration/HEP option. If you’re used to doing this or like the idea, go ahead. But it’s not a requirement of Florida Unschoolers or the law concerning private schools.
An annual evaluation (which can be a test) is also required if you are using the county registration/HEP option. But it's not a requirement of Florida Unschoolers or the law concerning private schools.
Other private schools have different requirements. Shop around!
Do you charge fees or tuition?
There are no fees or tuition for Florida Unschoolers. Really.
I do not charge anything. This is my personal choice and my way of supporting the home education community.
There are some expenses involved and those have grown with an increase in the number of students (now over 11,000). Information about making a small donation to support Florida Unschoolers can be found here.
What about transferring from a private school to public school?
If you decide to transfer your child from any private school or from your Home Education Program into public school, the public school must admit your child.
It has been my experience that the student is normally placed according to age and then testing may be done to determine if there are any special needs that need to be addressed.
The public school may want a report card showing what your child did during the recent school year. There is a template here that you can complete and provide to the new school: https://www.floridaunschoolers.net/report-card
Each county has a plan that outlines this procedure, along with many of the details about how that county’s schools operate. Sometimes this is called the Pupil Progression Plan. The School Board in your county should be able to provide you with a copy and your local public school principal and/or guidance counselors should address any placement concerns you have.
What information does Florida Unschoolers report to the State DOE about my child?
Like every other private school in Florida, Florida Unschoolers is required to submit an annual report called the Annual Database Survey. This is done online with a follow-up notarized copy mailed to the State Department of Education.
In the Database Survey every private school is asked to confirm basic information about the school (address, owner’s name, whether the school is a boarding school or not, etc.) and information about the students. The information about the students is a headcount -- a count of students broken out by grade range -- that’s all. No personal information about you or your child is provided to the State DOE -- no names, no Social Security Number, no attendance counts -- nothing but the number of students enrolled, broken out by grade range.
What if I move out of state or want to change schools or homeschooling options?
You should submit a withdrawal form if you want to withdraw your child for any reason.
Notes for parents of high-school-aged students enrolled with Florida Unschoolers
See these notes here -- For parents of high-school-aged students