Under the law, you are only obligated to submit a notice of intent for ages 6-16. All counties should retain records for home-educated students for grades 11 and 12. Be sure you retain copies of these documents as well. Even though the law does not compel attendance after age 16, it is advisable to keep submitting annual evaluations to preserve the student’s right to participate in dual enrollment, extracurricular activities and scholarships, get good student discounts on auto insurance, etc.
A common trap for homeschoolers of high-schoolers is to try to model their high-school curriculum after traditional methods. Granted, if the scope-and-sequence method seems to be what your student thrives on, then stick with what works. However, because many families choose home education because traditional learning systems haven’t worked, they are open to other methods. It’s vitally important for parents of high-schoolers to research the available methods, allowing for trial and error in determining what works best.
Whatever the method, keeping transcripts for your high-school student is an important responsibility. This might seem overwhelming, but online advice, books and other resources are available to assist you. Also keep in mind that college admissions counselors, scholarship agencies and even prospective employers will not only be interested in an academic transcript but also in records of extracurricular activities. Community service projects, employment, mission trips, sports, hobbies and basic life skills are just as important to document as any academic work.
Credits Required for Graduation
Although the Florida Statutes do not list specific graduation requirements for homeschooled students, it is wise to follow a path that will enable you to achieve your post high-school goals. Bear in mind that requirements for Bright Futures awards and for admission to Florida universities parallel graduation requirements for Florida public school students. Homeschooled students compete with public-school students in these areas, so it is best to meet or even exceed these goals.
Beginning with students entering ninth grade in the 2007-08 school year, the public-school graduation requirements were changed. To summarize, students are now required to take four math credits and declare a major course of study. Although not required, homeschooled students have had the luxury of in effect “declaring a major” all along, as they tend to chart a course aligning with their interests. Completing a major will mean taking four courses in one area of interest. You can find information on all of these tracks by visiting www.facts.org and following the shortcut to High School Students and then Graduation Requirements.
Ways to Obtain Credits
“For the purpose of requirements for high school graduation,” according to Florida Statute 1003.436, “one full credit means a minimum of 135 hours of bona fide instruction in a designated course of study that contains student performance standards.”
A detailed description of every high school course offered in Florida’s public schools is found at www.floridastandards.org/Courses/CourseDescriptionSearch.aspx. If you choose to use these course codes on your high-school transcript, be sure you meet all the requirements listed in the descriptions.
As discussed before, you are responsible for maintaining a portfolio of your student’s work, compiling your own transcript and issuing a diploma. In high school, it is advised that you keep a portfolio section for each credit being earned. Include a list of curricula used as well as plenty of work samples. If you are following the course-code descriptions listed on the Web site, place a copy in your portfolio and use it as a checklist. This is an especially good way to validate a credit if you are not following the traditional textbook route. You can even choose to write your own course description and place it in your portfolio, along with samples of work validating the course.
Homeschoolers often find that they can receive high-school credit for activities or projects they are involved in. Be sure to keep track of hours spent, remembering that a minimum of 135 hours are required to earn a credit. Some courses require a specified number of hours that may differ from the 135-hours requirement.
Building a Transcript
A transcript is simply a list of all the high-school courses a student has completed. It is usually only one to two pages long. The transcript should contain the student’s full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and pertinent contact information. You should then list each course, the grade received and the credit earned. At the bottom calculate the student’s weighted and unweighted grade point averages. You may also choose to include volunteer hours and college entrance-exam scores.
Options for Completing High-School Courses
Many options are available to you for completing high-school courses:
• Obtaining the appropriate textbook and working through it.
• Locating tutors for difficult subjects and having them work with your student.
• Any available CD-ROMs and DVDs that teach certain material.
• Co-ops with other homeschooling families (one parent teaching science while another teaches math, for example).
• Florida Virtual School (www.flvs.net), free to Florida residents, teaches almost all high school subjects, including Honors and AP courses. Teacher/student interaction provides additional help for the student in each online subject chosen. However, due to the increase in Florida Virtual’s popularity, there can be a waiting time between requesting a course and actual enrollment. It’s also advisable to visit the Web site to read through sample teaching modules and what the student will learn in each class. This often assists parents and students in deciding if a particular course is exactly what they are looking for. Be aware that many public school districts use Florida Virtual School to offer online classes. If you register under these programs, you are still considered a public school student and must adhere to all public school requirements. You can avoid this by following the Homeschooler Info link on the FLVS home page.
Please be aware that the student’s yearly evaluation will still be due, since he/she is enrolled as a homeschooled student. Submitting the Florida Virtual transcript is not an option for evaluation under the home school law.
Dual Enrollment for College Credit
This allows high-school students, generally in grades 11 and 12, to take courses at local community colleges (and most universities) and receive both high school and college credit while still in high school.
If your student is enrolled in a nontraditional private school, your school should have an articulation agreement with the college. If you are registered with your local school district, courses are available to you as well. Simply contact the dual-enrollment counselor at your local college and ask for information. Be sure to do this early, so that you have time to meet all the paperwork requirements.
Each community college will have its own enrollment prerequisites, including minimums on age, college entrance-test scores (ACT, SAT or Florida College Entry Placement Test) and grade point average.
Both home-educated and nontraditional private-school students may attend classes for free, though they must purchase their own books. A good source for renting college textbooks is www.chegg.com.
College Credits in Escrow
In addition to dual enrollment, many colleges and universities offer the credit-in-escrow program for students not yet eligible for enrollment in other programs. Those choosing credit-in-escrow programs must realize that they are responsible for fees for courses and books. As with dual enrollment, parents should assess their student’s maturity in regard to the commitment required for college level academics. Contact the admissions office or student-services department at the institution of your choice to inquire about the availability of this program.
Testing for College Credit
A significant concern for parents homeschooling their high-schooler is testing for college credit. Trying to decide which tests are most suitable for your student can be overwhelming. Here are brief descriptions of some of the most common tests, along with contact information:
AP (Advanced Placement) measures mastery of more than 30 college-level courses taken by high school students. These exams can be taken without attending courses given at local high schools, but due to the length of the exams, it’s advisable for students to be thoroughly prepared. Colleges and universities give credit or advanced placing to students who obtain certain minimum scores established by each institution. The fee for each exam is $86. For more information or to register, visit www.collegeboard.com. Florida Virtual School (www.flvs.net) offers complete Advanced Placement courses as well as Advanced Placement Test Reviews.
CLEP (College Level Examination Program) is a set of examinations in five general areas: composition and literature, foreign language, history and social sciences, science and mathematics, and business. College credit for material that students have learned on their own can be obtained rather inexpensively through CLEP. For information on CLEP and participating colleges as well as CLEP Study Guides, visit www.collegeboard.com.
Deciding which tests are best suited for your student will depend on what core curriculum subjects have been covered. At www.collegeboard.com, parents may find additional information concerning the differences between the tests and when students should take them.
General Education Development (GED) Test Although not required for graduation, the GED may be necessary to achieve some of your continuing education goals. To find a GED testing location near you, visit www.data.fldoe.org/gedsites or call 800-62-MYGED (800-626-9433). If you are interested, your official testing site can direct you to local instructional programs.
Extracurricular Activities: Sports, Band, Clubs, Cheerleading, etc.
Students registered with their districts under the homeschooling statutes are eligible to participate in interscholastic extracurricular public-school activities at the high school where they would be assigned to attend. The law also allows, but does not require, private schools belonging to the Florida High School Activities Association to include home-educated students in these activities. Homeschooled students must meet the same requirements of residency, acceptance standards, behavior and performance as other students in the school where they are participating.
Nontraditional private-school students are ineligible to participate at public schools. However, private schools or local groups may become FHSAA members so their students can participate as teams. For more information, visit www.fhsaa.org or refer to the Craig Dickinson Act (Florida Statute 1006.15).
If a student is interested in playing college sports, obtain the current eligibility requirements for a home-educated student from the National Collegiate Athletic Association early in your student’s high-school years so that you are sure to meet all academic and documentation requirements. These requirements apply regardless of whether the student receives an athletic scholarship. For more information, visit www.ncaa.org or call 317-917-6222.
Some colleges belong to athletic governing bodies other than the NCAA. Students may also qualify to play college sports through the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which may be contacted at 816-595-8000 or www.naia.org, or the National Christian College Athletic Association, which may be reached at 864-250-1199 or www.thenccaa.org. Some Christian colleges carry dual membership in the NCCAA and either the NCAA or NAIA, so find out which organization (s) the college of your choice belong(s) to.
College and Other Postgraduate Opportunities
Home-educated students are well trained and well accepted in the world that awaits them. Colleges, vocational schools and the military, for example, are familiar with homeschoolers. Though these institutions may have some specific entrance requirements for homeschoolers, the students will not find themselves disadvantaged simply for being home-educated. In fact, because home-educated students are generally more well-rounded, having participated in many activities, homeschooling is often an advantage when it comes to school and career choices.
For entrance into colleges and vocational schools, students generally need a high-school transcript as well as minimum test scores on a college entrance exam. Contact prospective schools early for their admission requirements.
Graduation and Celebrations
Just as for traditional schoolers, finishing a home school high school program is an achievement worthy of being punctuated by wearing a cap and gown. Home school graduation opportunities abound, whether they be through support groups, nontraditional private schools, the FPEA Statewide Graduation Ceremony, or some other source. Here are some resources for commemorating this educational milestone:
Cap and Gown
Diplomas and Diploma Covers
Grad Night at Walt Disney World is held on several nights in April and May from about 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., with unlimited park access, concerts and a free photo. All groups require a chaperone, and there is a dress code. Additional activities are available outside the park. For more information, call 877-WD-YOUTH (939-6884) or visit www.disneyyouthgroups.disney.go.com. Make plans early; reservations are required.
Grad Bash at Universal Islands of Adventure is held on several nights in April from about 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., with unlimited park access and concerts. There is a dress code. Additional activities are available outside the park. For more information, call 800-YOUTH-15 (968-8415), email@example.com or www.universalorlando.com.
More information on these two events is available at www.gradnights.com or 800-544-7646.
Information on the FPEA Statewide Graduation Ceremony is available in the FPEA Almanac and at www.fpea.com.