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WHAT IS HOME EDUCATION?

Updated: May 2


Our Classroom is the world graphic that supports homeschooling

You've no doubt heard the arguments online:

"You're not real homeschoolers."

It's a very popular topic. It begs the question, "What is home education?" and, "Is homeschooling different than home education?"


Honestly, all of this is very interesting to me. It really depends on your purpose for asking the question. See, the question itself doesn't give enough information to answer it directly. Are you asking from a legal point of view, or are you asking from a colloquial use point of view?


Legally, in Florida there's no statute that references homeschooling. All of the statutes refer to home education. But what's even more interesting is the definition given for home education:


(1) A “home education program” means the sequentially progressive instruction of a student directed by his or her parent to satisfy the attendance requirements of ss. 1002.41, 1003.01(16), and 1003.21(1).

This definition in statute clarifies two things. First, the instruction of the student by the parent satisfies an attendance requirement given by the state. Second, the nature of the difference in home education and other forms of education recognized by the state is that it is PARENT-DIRECTED. In fact, it's likely to become more useful to refer to all forms of home education and homeschooling, etc. by these words because they're descriptive of function and form.


The reason this is important is not because it differentiates home education from homeschooling, but because there is a growing trend to lump all forms of non-traditional schooling in together as "other choice options" (FLDOE). Step Up for Student's President, Doug Tuthill, recently wrote an interesting article in which he argues for public funding to go to all forms of public education initiatives, and that all forms of education, from public school to private and homeschool, etc., are public education options. He's trying to draw out a nuanced oversight on the part of people arguing against the "privatization" of public education spending, by stating that the constitution seats public school and all public education options together to serve the public good.


Homeschooling is not public school at home.


Blurring the line between homeschooling and public schooling is problematic. One issue the HEF lobbyists ran into this past legislative season is that many of the legislators have only the vaguest mental image of what homeschooling is... yet they're writing laws that regulate it. The more the lines between homeschooling and public schooling are blurred, the harder it becomes to hold the line and fight for home education freedoms.


In Doug Tuthill's argumentation about the validity of the funding, home education is losing its iconic freedom. The emphasis on homeschooling as a form of public education should cause an alarm in your head to go off. While it is true that the constitution reads it exactly that way, legislation and the rules according to the FLDOE reads it as follows:


"Home Education is a parent-directed educational option that satisfies the requirement for regular school attendance enshrined in the Florida Statutes since 1985. Parents have the freedom to determine their child’s educational path and the plan for reaching their goals."

This is a rewording of the Florida statute 1002.01 "Definitions," but aligns with it. The statutes then go on to state:

s. 1002.41(1) A home education program is not a school district program and is registered with the district school superintendent only for the purpose of complying with the state’s attendance requirements under s. 1003.21(1). The parent is not required to hold a valid regular Florida teaching certificate.

OK! So, what's the big deal about defining homeschooling or home education, and why does all of this matter?


It matters because there are several growing trends across the nation. One of those trends was brought on by the COVID response. Everything seemingly across the globe shutdown, and the ruts every family found themselves in were suddenly and forcibly changed. Kids were home. Many started to peek behind the curtain of what's really going on in schools and they didn't like what they saw.


Another trend is that a superspike in homeschooling families has changed the heartbeat and pulse of the home education community. Pre-pandemic numbers for home education in Florida reported by the FLDOE were around 90k students and post pandemic numbers show upwards of 152k. That's over a 60% growth spike. The traditional, freedom-loving, off-the-grid, homeschooling student is almost instantly a minority. And the growth trend seeks to eliminate the distinctions we've worked so hard over the years to make, and the freedoms attached to those distinctions we've aimed at fighting for.


One final trend, and this is the one Doug Tuthill wrote about, and one which many parents are concerned about—the inherent growth and rerouting of public funds to support the choices parents are making for their families. Obviously, this begs the question as to whether it's good or bad, right or wrong, and this article is not for that topic. Whether it's good or bad, it's happening.


We are concerned with the changes all of these trends are making to the landscape of homeschooling. We are concerned that the landmark decision made by the US Supreme Court in 1925 will find itself lost in the momentum and growth adding confusion and a loss of freedoms as programs become lumped together. That Supreme Court decision stated in clear terms,

"The child is not the mere creature of the State."

The child is the creation of the parents. The child born in the United States has a God-given right recognized by our government to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The parents have the "right coupled with the high duty" [268 U.S. 510 (1925)] to educate and prepare that child for life.


That is why it's vital to define Home Education and Homeschooling as

PARENT-DIRECTED EDUCATION.

And to protect this line.


We all need to unite to protect our right to direct the education of our children without interference.


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