South Florida

In the wake of the Douglas High massacre, some parents ponder home schooling

Portraits of the Douglas school shooting victims

These are the victims of the devastating school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.
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These are the victims of the devastating school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.

The images of young people crying in terror, filing out with their arms held high.

In the wake of Wednesday’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a lot of parents are wondering if home schooling might be a safer option for their children.

On Thursday, Twitter was filled with comments from terrified parents who were scared to send their kids back to school.

But is home schooling a viable option? What does it entail?

As defined by Florida law, home education is the “sequentially progressive instruction” of a student directed by his or her parent or guardian in order to satisfy Florida's compulsory education requirements. Florida Statute (FS) 1002.41 breaks down the responsibilities of those who decide to take on this task.

“Exercising this option may require major changes in your family schedule,” advises the Florida Department of Education website. “Teaching your children at home is an ambitious undertaking, requiring time, planning, creativity, and commitment.”

Liam Kiernan, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, reacts to the mass shooting that happened on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

How much exactly?

We spoke to Tj Schmidt, of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which provides legal advice and information and resources to encourage and support all home-schoolers.

“I would say Florida is one of the better states for parents considering this,” said Schmidt.

And the process actually doesn’t sound so intimidating.

These are the victims of the devastating school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.

Some parents prepare their own materials and design their own programs of study, while others use materials produced by companies that specialize in home-school materials or virtual programs.

Good news: The parent doesn’t have to hold a teaching certificate. The key is to be familiar with Florida law regarding this issue: The statutes are very clear.

Get familiar with such go-to resources as the Florida Parent Educators Association, Florida Department of Education and Florida-Homeschooling.Org, where there’s a support group for folks like you.

There are six main parental responsibilities, as per Schmidt:

1. Send a notice of intent to your district school superintendent: In Dade County, that is Alberto Carvalho. In Broward, it’s Robert W. Runcie.

2. Maintain a portfolio, a form of record keeping that documents your kid’s educational progress. A three-ring binder with subject dividers works. “You’ll want to show you do say, math, Monday through Friday, and history, Tuesdays and Thursdays, something like that,” Schmidt said. “It’s pretty flexible.”

3. Make your portfolio available for inspection by your respective superintendent’s office upon a 15-day written notice. “You’ll need samples of the student’s writing, his or her workbooks and worksheets, basic samples of what the child is doing,” he adds.

Seventeen people were killed when suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students said they heard the fire alarm go off and thought it was a drill.

4. Submit an annual evaluation for each student to the superintendent. The evaluation of progress is usually filled out by a Florida certified teacher, but not necessarily. Another option is having the child take a state student assessment test at a location and under testing conditions approved by the school district.

5. Maintain and preserve the child’s portfolio for two years.

6. Submit a letter of termination upon completion or cessation of your home education program.

Homeschool children may still be able to participate in sports at their local school or be eligible for Bright Futures if the meet the requirements.

In May, interested parties can attend the Florida Homeschool Convention in Orlando.

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