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.
Brenda Dickinson, a lobbyist with the Home Education Foundation, said the home option is becoming more mainstream and accessible to parents.
“There are more programs where parents can just plug in and get the curriculum and support they need so they don’t feel like they are on their own,” she said.
One other contributor to the increase, Dickinson said, is the Gardiner Scholarship, which helps to pay for therapies and other educational services for students with severe special needs who stay at home for their education. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the program.
“I think the Gardiner Scholarship has drawn more parents of children with disabilities because home education gives them the ability to customize the education for their students,” Dickinson said.
The counties with the largest number of homeschoolers include Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach and Broward. Duval also had the highest percentage in the state, at 7.6 percent.
The counties with the fewest number of homeschoolers were Hamilton, Franklin, Calhoun, Glades, Liberty, Lafayette and Gadsden. Home education declined for the second year in a row in Brevard County, at 3,708, a drop of 337 from the previous year.
Nationally, the U.S. Department of Education reported in 2017 that the number of students homeschooled in the nation remains flat at 1.7 million, representing 3.4 percent of the school population.