Patricia Anthony immigrated to the United States from Colombia 12 years ago.
Settling in Lake Worth, Florida, Anthony decided to homeschool her daughter after their school didn’t meet up with her expectations.
“You can tailor the education for your child according to what they need,” she said of home education.
Because English is not her first language, Anthony wanted to ensure her two high school daughters, Vanessa and Emily, received English instruction from a teacher specializing in the subject. Now, as it turns out, Vanessa, 17, wants to major in English.
Anthony enrolled her children in Home Education Enrichment Day, (HEED), a Christian university model program in South Florida that assists homeschool parents by providing classes once a week from instructors in varied fields. The instructors include high school teachers, engineers, scientists, lawyers and pastors.
Anthony’s story is just one example of how homeschooling is growing and becoming more accessible to families in Florida because of a growing network of support and tools. No homeschool family is an island. In addition to programs that offer curriculum and instructors, there are support groups for parents and other services such as a guidance counselor and a coach offering an accredited physical education program.
The number of home education students in Florida grew by 2.7 percent last year, continuing a steady upward trend over the past decade, according to the latest annual report released by the state Department of Education. In the 2017-18 school year, 89,817 students participated in home education programs, an increase of 2,355 from the previous year. Over the past decade, enrollment has increased nearly by half, from 60,913, with increases in nine of the 10 years.
Amy Frank teaches English for high school sophomores at HEED, which offers classes to 175 students per week.
Previously a public high school English teacher, she loves the teacher-parent partnership that has formed at the organization.
“These families are so wonderful and really invested in their child’s education,” she said.
She said the program gives parents teaching high school students extra resources.
“Teaching high school intimidates a lot of parents,” she said. “They think, I haven’t had chemistry. How can I possibly teach it? Am I supposed to dissect my frog on the kitchen table?”
At HEED, Frank said students can receive instruction from experts and work together to dissect a frog, for example, among friends.
HEED offers all the core courses, such as English, science and math. But Frank, who has credentials from Palm Beach Atlantic University, also offers dual college enrollment courses. Most of the homeschool students graduate from high school with at least a year’s worth of college credit, she said.
HEED is hardly the only such home education provider. Sarah Ball co-founded The Healthy Utilization of Brains, (The HUB), a hybrid school in South Florida four years ago to provide classes and curriculum for homeschool students.
The school serves approximately 75 to 80 families. There are 11 students at the HUB utilizing the Gardiner Scholarship, a state program that allows families with children with severe special needs to pay for therapy, school tuition and other education-related services of their choice. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, administers the program.
“(HUB) is another resource in the community,” Ball said. “A lot of parents start to reach out when it comes to math classes. It gives the students a chance to socialize with their friends. It exposes them to different styles and expectations.”
Shari Black remembers when her daughter, Lauren, who is dyslexic, used to throw books under the table, expressing no interest in reading or writing. After spending years at the HUB, Black said she saw a transformation in her daughter.
“They were instrumental in helping her to become an unbelievable writer,” said Black. “She developed a passion to write.”
Now, Lauren is minoring in writing at Florida Atlantic University, Black said.
The HUB also offers support groups for homeschool parents in different parts of the community. “We are a one-stop shop,” Ball said. “We can hook them up for all kinds of things.”
Indeed, Ball is also certified as a guidance counselor and can help students. Ball trained in the public-school system and began her own business as a home school counselor.
“Knowing there is a full-time guidance counselor that can help guide them through the nuts and bolts of (college admissions) is important,” Ball said.
Another program that is reaching 10,000 homeschool students across the state is Classical Conversations. It is a one-day-a-week support system for parents who want to homeschool in a classical Christian community setting. Classical Conversations is a worldwide homeschool curriculum focused on the classical method of teaching.
There are 100 Classical Conversations communities across Florida, said Lynn Doto, sales manager for Classical Conversations.
“It is a six-hour conversation of weaving things like Latin, math and science and philosophy,” said Doto. “It will prepare your child whether they want to go to college, the mission field or start a business.”
Susan Puchferran, co-founder of HEED, said there are so many opportunities for parents to homeschool their children in Florida.
“The state of Florida has the best homeschooling law in the United States,” she said. “We can play sports. We can dual enroll. We have the opportunity for a bright future. It is an amazing opportunity for families.”