MILTON — August doesn’t mean returning to a campus for everyone — approximately 3.4 percent of school aged children in the United States are home-schooled, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department of Education first conducted a report on home-schooled children in 1999 and found that approximately 850,000 students participated in home schooling. That number rose to 1.1 million in 2003, 1.5 million in 2007, and now there are 1.77 million students partaking in this form of education.
And there are benefits to that.
Students coming from a background of home schooling graduate college at a higher rate than their peers — 66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent — and earn higher grade point averages, according to a study from the University of St. Thomas.
According to the Santa Rosa County School District, there are certain guidelines for home schooling your child.
To enter a child in a home-education program, a parent or guardian must complete the Notification of Intent to Establish a Home Education Program form for each student to be home-educated, along with proof of residency. Parents then turn in these files within 30 days of establishing a home-education program to Laura Austin, the administrator of Santa Rosa Blended Academy at 5330 Berryhill Road in Milton.
If applicable, parents must withdraw their students from the last school they attended after registering with the home-school office. A copy of the intent form, signed and initialed, will be provided to the parent to take to the school the child is withdrawing from to show the student has re-enrolled elsewhere, according to the guidelines. To maintain a home schooling program, parents must maintain a portfolio of student records and materials and provide an annual educational evaluation of each student.
According to the guidelines, a home-schooler seeking a high school diploma must re-enter their zoned high school no later than the beginning of the second semester of their senior grade year after completing the requirements for graduation, in order to receive a diploma. A student may enroll in Santa Rosa Online, and after meeting the requirements of the program, receive a diploma.
According to Florida Statutes, home-schooled students are eligible to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities at the public school they are zoned for, providing the social interaction children need.
Santa Rosa County residents weighed in on the advantages and disadvantages of home education.
Sheena Locklin of Milton said that being with your children all the time can be an obstacle and a benefit.
“The biggest challenge for me was forgetting everything I thought ‘school’ was supposed to be: bells, schedules, homework, etc. Home-schooling definitely takes a paradigm shift,” Locklin said. “You learn to do what works best for you and your kids. At first, it feels weird because it goes against your concept of ‘schooling,’ but over time, you gain confidence and see the evidence of your children growing and thriving.”
Kelli Reeves of Pace said she home-schools her fifth-grader and loves it.
“There are countless benefits,” Reeves said. “Here are a few: you can vacation and take breaks whenever you want; you choose what your child learns and the pace you want to go at; you can eat lunch and snacks when you are actually hungry; no huge expense for back to school supplies; you can go to bed and wake up whenever you want..."