Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
- Mahatma Ghandi

Welcome to LIFE of Florida!

Our secular and inclusive Florida-wide Informal Education support group acts as a resource center and clearinghouse for homeschoolers, informal learners and alternative educators interested in enriching their learning environments and maximizing their learning opportunities, as well as an advocacy center for Curiosity Driven Learning.

There is no cost to be part of LIFE of Florida -- just join in at our email discussion and announcement list, Florida LIFE, where you can download your membership card -- good for educational discounts throughout FL -- and stay informed and updated on events, issues and resources, and connect with other informal learners throughout the state.

If you're just getting started in homeschooling, be sure to check out our LIFE of Florida Quick Links, our list of Useful Docs, and our enormous collection of resources in the side columns, and visit our Inclusive Homeschool Support Groups page to find a group near you.

If you'd like your regional inclusive support group to be networked with LIFE of Florida, drop us a line with a group description, contact and other relevant information and we'll add you, free of charge, to our directory. All your group members will be automatically considered members of LIFE of Florida, and are entitled to membership cards and all the benefits we offer. Virtual school families are also welcome to enjoy our resources, support and camaraderie.

We're all inclusive and free of charge, and we're here for you!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Special Education Services for FL Home Educated Students

This update is forwarded from the Home Education Foundation (HEF) is a homeschool and private school lobbying group headed up lobbyist Brenda Dickinson.
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Special Education Services for Home Educated Students

HEF received inquiries from several home educators in Duval county who
were concerned that gifted and special education services would no
longer be provided to home education students and students in
for-profit private schools. After numerous conversations, and a
meeting with the Duval ESE Director in Senator Wise's office in
Jacksonville, HEF discovered the source of the problem.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was
reauthorized by the federal government in 2004. The federal law
states that home education students can only receive services if their
state law defines them as private school students. Florida law does
not define home education students as private school students;
therefore they are not eligible for services.

Why has it taken so long for districts to deny services to home
education students? Most districts, until now, have just been
providing those services at their own expense and absorbing the cost.
School districts cannot include them in their federal count to
receive money for those students, because that would be in violation
of the federal law. The districts could actually count these students
as a portion of the amount the district receives from the state for
full time students, but determining the hours and what portion thereof
would be too much of an accounting nightmare, so districts have just
been absorbing the cost.

However, with the huge budget cuts and the ones predicted to come in
the near future, districts are looking at every way possible to cut
costs. So, those that have not realized yet that they are not
receiving dollars for home educated students, may follow the lead of
Duval county.

Let me say that it was not a mean spirited move on the part of Duval
Co
. or a distain for home education, it was merely a new ESE Director
trying to make sure he was following the law and began asking
questions which lead to the information that home education students
could not be provided services under the federal law.

Gifted student services are not part of IDEA and districts are not
required to provide services. Gifted services are paid for by the
State of Florida. These services are no longer being provided because
of the budget cuts. If a home educated student attends gifted classes
each day at the public school and the district has a part-time
enrollment policy, then it would easier for the district to count the
student for funding purposes.

The only option a home educating parent has for their child that needs
special education services at this time is to enroll the child in a
non-profit private school. There are numerous non-profit private
schools in Florida that serve home educators. However, the school has
to be willing to take on this responsibility. They are not
automatically given services for their students. The school districts
are required to have a meeting with non-profit private schools each
year and determine the services needed, what the district is willing
to provide and determine how many students can be served with the
proportional amount of dollars they receive for private school
students based on their Child Find count. It is very complicated, but
if a school wants their students included, a representative must
attend the meeting.

Duval Co. is holding their annual meeting in early August, therefore
the school must contact Mr. Kenneth Sutton immediately at 904-390-2923
(or email suttonk@dreamsbeginhere.org )to be included. If a nonprofit
private school in another county is interested in receiving services for children
with disabilities in their school, they may want to call the district ESE director in the
district where the school is located to find out when the district
will be holding their annual meeting. The district is only required
to provide services to students at a nonprofit (501(c)3) private
school located in the district, so for students that do not live in
the same district in which the private school is located there may be
a problem. That question needs to be asked.

This is a very complicated area of law. The IDEA is a federal law and
there are generally federal regulations passed to implement the law.
Then each state passes its own rules based on the federal
requirements. The state rules in Florida were adopted in 2006. In
order to change the way home educated students are treated under IDEA,
it will require a change in federal law when IDEA is reauthorized in
2010. HEF has never gotten involved at the federal level. We have
left this work to HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association).

[LIFE Note: HSLDAs work in the federal legislation arena has been cause
for concern in the past and LIFE urges caution when considering tampering
with federal law in way with respect to home education. While special services
are important, LIFE believes any changes in how they're administered should be
applied across the board and not centered on homeschoolers specifically. ]


If you are a member of HSLDA you may want to contact them and begin working
on this issue. Federal legislation moves very slowly compared to Florida. You may also want to contact your US Congressman to engage his/her help. HSLDA has the network to
work with home schoolers in other states who can contact their
congressmen and congresswomen. HEF will be glad to work with HSLDA on
this issue, but it is vital to home education families to get some
help for special needs students since their tax dollars are used to
pay for the services.

HEF has worked on a state level to try to get home education students
included in the McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities.
HEF worked last year with the House Select Committee on Autism and
Development Disabilities
. The work product from that committee was
excellent, but it was introduced too late in the process and the
Senate refused to pass it. Therefore, HEF will again be working to
encourage Senators to pass this much needed legislation. Hopefully,
Rep. Andy Gardiner will be elected to fill Sen. Daniel Webster's seat.
Rep. Gardiner was the chair of the Select Committee and he will
probably introduce the legislation, if elected to the Senate.

Now is the time for home educators to get involved in elections. It
can make a huge difference in getting your voice heard. Please
consider involving your family in an election this year.

Brenda Dickinson

Saturday, July 26, 2008

LIFE Fest 2008 Mid-Summer Update

The summer's steaming along, and so are plans for LIFE Fest 2008! Vendor slots are filling up fast. Some recent additions to our program include Camp Fire USA, the City of St. Petersburg, and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

Admission is just $10 per *family*, and only -->$8*<-- prepaid via Network for Good. Carpool discounts will also be available the day of the event. Lodging is available right on the Eckerd campus, next door to the conference center, for just $65/night, or you can camp down the road at beautiful Ft. Desoto for just $35/night will full amenities, or rough it for free at our reserved group campsite.

If you've got stuff to sell -- anything at all! -- for $20 you can set up shop at our LIFE Fest Bazaar for the day (No vendors at the Bazaar, please -- vendors have a great deal at just $100 for a booth in our vendor area).

Here's the latest PR -- forward along freely, and come join the fun on September 20!
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Our annual LIFE Fest home and alternative learners’ conference will be held Saturday, September 20th at the Eckerd Conference Center and Lodge at 4200 54th Avenue South in St. Petersburg, FL from 10 a.m. – 4p.m. . With world-class Ft. Desoto camping and beaches just down the road,and St. Pete museums and other attractions nearby, this annual home and alternative learners convention promises something for everyone.

Lodging is available on the premises for $65/night. Call the Eckerd College Conference Center and Lodge at (800) 456-9009 to reserve a room before August 1. Campsites at Ft. Desoto are just $35/night, and free "primitive" group camping is also available (RSVP to LIFE before August 20).

There will be a variety of vendors, an abundance of free materials, workshops, door prizes and raffles, and an educational children’s area with art and animals, all adding up to a full and exciting day that will offer ample opportunities to meet other home educators from around the state and to learn how to make the most of the homeschooling adventure.

Admission to LIFE Fest 2008 is a $10 donation per family at the door, or $8 prepaid through Network for Good via the LIFE website. Carpool discounts will be available the day of the event.

Vendor slots are filling up and the current conference line-up includes:

• City of St. Petersburg, with their Green initiative program;
• MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) programs for youth;
• Florida Virtual School;
• Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
• Hands On Planet Earth;
• Sarah Dees Art for Children activities;
• Tek 4 Tykes computer learning activities for kids;
• Language Playhouse language immersion workshop and activities;
• Camp Fire, USA
• Demonstrations and information about FIRST robotics;
• Round table discussions on running support groups, organizing cooperatives, getting ready for college and boosting homeschool self-esteem;
• Door prizes from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Ringling Museum of Art, Barnes & Noble, and vendors

And much more.

Vendor and LIFE Fest Bazaar booths must be reserved by August 20. (Local homeschool support group booths are free.) Visit www.learningis4everyone.org for more information.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tapestry of Homeschool Survey - By Homeschoolers, For Homeschoolers - online through August

Learning is for Everyone developed the Tapestry of Homeschool survey in cooperation with over one hundred homeschoolers from across eight states. Since it was released in April, nearly 900 people have completed the survey, from all across the country, and a frome a few far flung global points.


The survey will remain available through August at http://learningisforev.HomeschoolTapestry.sgizmo.com


LIFE believes that getting a better picture of who homeschoolers are can help improve support and networking with the homeschool community itself, as well as better protect homeschoolers' collective rights to teach their own children.


Results of this survey will be publicly available, but no personal information will be collected, nor will any information be sold or used for commercial purposes by Learning is for Everyone, Inc.

There are 80 questions on the Tapestry of Homeschool survey, although many are optional fill-ins designed to give homeschoolers an opportunity to fully express themselves. The survey will take about 15 minutes to complete.


Hard (paper) copies of the survey are available on request for distribution at a local level by local and state homeschool groups. You may return the surveys to Learning is for Everyone for inclusion in final results, or use them to get a better understanding of homeschooling in your area.

______________________________

Learning is For Everyone, Inc. is a nonprofit 501 C(3) organization whose goal is to provide information resources on and off the web, and assistance through its activities in all aspects of education at all stages of life.


Contact info@learningis4everyone.org for more information or visit http://learningisforev.HomeschoolTapestry.sgizmo.com to complete the survey. Please forward freely.


LIFE FYI: Governor Crist Signs Senate Bill 1908 -Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

The only real reference to “homeschooling” in this bill concerns the Electronic Personal Education Plan:

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Electronic Personal Education Plan
The bill requires an annual review of each high school student’s electronic Personal Education Plan (ePEP). This will take effect in the 2009-10 school year, when entering 9th graders are required to have completed an ePEP in order to be promoted from 8th grade. Those who enter high school that year or after without an ePEP, including students who completed 8th grade out of state, in a private school, or who were home schooled, must be given assistance in creating a plan. ...

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There is additional reference to “home school” but that’s with respect to a student’s “home” district school. You might want to familiarize yourself with the bill, just to be informed and in the event you're putting a child in school, or considering taking one out, or utilizing district services. Click here for complete SB 1908 info.

LIFE of Florida

See also :

Florida Standards web site
Next Generation Sunshine State Standards update

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GOVERNOR CRIST SIGNS SENATE BILL 1908
The Department of Education has issued the following memorandum regarding Governor Crist Signs Senate Bill 1908. The memorandum may be viewed at:

http://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-5052/k12-2008-90.pdf (Memo)

http://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-5053/k12-2008-90a.pdf (Attachment A)

By signing Senate Bill 1908, the Governor has kept Florida on a path to increased student achievement. Within this bill are several components in line with the Next Generation initiatives I have been discussing around the state, namely the adoption of Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, revision of the factors used to grade high schools, and the assessment of college readiness. These changes will impact education programs and services at all levels in Florida.

In addition, there are many other important topics addressed in Senate Bill 1908 that I wanted to bring to your attention as soon as possible (listed below). A summary of each is contained in the attached document and further technical assistance will be provided as identified under each topic. In the meantime, please feel free to use the contact information provided to seek answers to your questions.


COMPONENTS OF SENATE BILL 1908
Next Generation Sunshine State Standards
The State Board of Education shall review the Sunshine State Standards and replace them with Next Generation Sunshine State Standards prior to December 31, 2011.

• The reading content standards (adopted in January 2007), mathematics content standards (adopted in September 2007), and science content standards (adopted in February 2008) meet the specified requirements for Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and will not be revised again before December 2011.

• The social studies, health education, and physical education standards, which will be submitted to the State Board of Education for adoption at their October 2008 meeting, will also meet the requirements to be Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

• The content standards for Language Arts (adopted in January 2007) must be revised and replaced to comply with new requirements, specifically, identifying significant literary genres and authors that encompass a comprehensive range of historical periods.

• The State Board of Education approved a timeline for the revision of content standards at their June 2008 meeting which is available at this Web site: http://www.fldoe.org/board/meetings/2008_06_17/Next%20Gen%20Stan.pdf.

A rule will be developed to establish a schedule for the periodic review and revision of the standards by the end of the year.

Contact: Todd Clark, Chief Bureau of Instruction and Innovation
Todd.Clark@fldoe.org
(850) 245-0764

Monday, July 14, 2008

Welcome Southwest Florida Homeschooling Familes - serving Collier and Lee Counties

Welcome the group, Southwest Florida Homeschooling Families, serving Collier and Lee counties, to our growing family of inclusive homeschool support groups in Florida.

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We welcome all homeschooling families, regardless of religious beliefs, educational philosophy, or curriculum method. We have founded this group in the hopes that homeschooling families in SW Florida will feel welcome and encouraged by our support. We are not a leadership-based group run by rigid bylaws. We are all volunteers. We believe this system will enable members to concentrate more fully on their families and give attention to the important matters of homeschooling rather than the politics of a group. We will meet for field trips and association to help support and encourage one another and our children. Visit http://swflhsf.bravehost.com/ and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SWFL-HSF/

We are currently preparing for our 2008 Homeschool Orientation and Information Fair on Saturday, September 13th, 2008 We will have information about local homeschooling opportunities, classes, and events. We'll also have a used curriculum sale and book swap during this time.

We are also preparing a Virtual Fair �" The Website should be available later this week
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Welcome SW Florida Homeschooling Families! We're glad you're here!

LIFE of Florida