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!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Home Education and ESE Services FAQ

 This notice was just issued by the FLDOE today. The information will be archived at Learning is for Everyone's Homeschooling in Florida pages for future reference:

Dear Home Educators

The Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice has issued a new “Frequently Asked Questions” document relating to Home Education and ESE Services in Florida.  I have attached the document for your convenience.  This helpful FAQ will also be posted on the School Choice Web site at and 

If you have any questions, let me know!  Thank you all for your hard work out there!

Christopher Fenton
Educational Policy Analyst
Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice
Florida Department of Education
School Choice Hotline: (800)447-1636
Fax: (850)245-9134


Home Education and Exceptional Student Education Services

Frequently Asked Questions
1. What should parents do if they suspect their child has a disability?

The parent should contact the exceptional student education office in the district in which they reside and request that the child be evaluated.

2. What is required of the parent as related to the evaluation process?

The requirements related to evaluation are described in State Board of Education (SBE) Rule 6A-6.0331, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C). Before an evaluation can be conducted, the school district must obtain informed consent in writing from the parent. The parent may be asked to provide information from the child’s portfolio or student records and may also be asked to complete checklists and/or informal observations. Parental consent must be obtained before any information regarding a home education student is shared with the school district.

Once the parent has provided written consent, the formal evaluation will begin. Specific evaluation procedures and eligibility criterion for each disability category are described in the respective SBE rules for that disability. For some disability categories (e.g., emotional/behavioral disabilities; specific learning disabilities), a key component of the evaluation and eligibility determination is analysis of the student’s response to well-delivered, scientific, research-based instruction and interventions. This requires that the parent work with the school district to ensure that this information is available.

3. How long does the school district have to complete the initial evaluation?

The school district must complete the initial evaluation within 60 school days that the student is in attendance after the school district’s receipt of parental consent. For PreK children, initial evaluations must be completed within sixty school days after the school district’s receipt of parental consent for evaluation. (6A-6.0331(3)(d), F.A.C.).

4. After the evaluation is conducted, what happens next?

The parents will be invited to attend a meeting in which the school district staff will review the outcome of their child’s evaluation. Following that review, a determination will be made regarding whether or not the child is considered an eligible child with a disability as defined by Florida State Board of Education Rules.

5. What is the school district’s obligation if the child is eligible for services?

The school district is not obligated to provide services to children in home education programs. If the parent of a child currently enrolled in a home education program chooses to enroll the child full time in a public school, the school district must ensure that a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to the child.

6. Can a district enroll and report a student part-time only for the ESE services that they provide?

Yes. The district may choose to enroll the child on a part-time basis for services provided through the public school and report the student for state funding through the Florida Education Funding Program (FEFP).

7. Whom should a parent contact if they have questions or need additional assistance?

For home education questions, contact your local district home education office which can be found at the following link:

Information pertaining to exceptional education and student services in your local district may be found at the following link:

Information related to parentally placed students in private schools can be found at the following link:

If further information is required, contact the Department of Education:

Laura Harrison – Director of Scholarship Programs, Private Schools and Home Education
Phone: (850) 245-0502

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Effectiveness of Nonviolent Civic Action Essay Contest

High school students in grades nine through 12 are encouraged to submit an entry for the Effectiveness of Nonviolent Civic Action essay contest sponsored by the National Institute of Peace. Essays must be no longer than 1,500 words and consist of three sections which lay out and develop a position in response to the essay contest question. Each student must have a contest coordinator who can review their essay and act as the key contact between the participant and the Institute. One national award totaling $10,000 will be conferred as well as two other national awards worth $2,500 and $5,000 respectively, in addition to 53 state awards each worth $1,000. The deadline for submitting an essay is Feb. 2, 2010. 

For more information, including the essay question, comprehensive guidelines and submission requirements visit A study guide can also be found at (PDF).

Arts for Life! Scholarship

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is accepting applications for the Arts for Life! scholarship from graduating high school seniors for their outstanding achievement in the arts. To be considered for the scholarship, public, private or home education program students must submit a completed application, a brief essay explaining “How the arts have positively influenced my life,” and a sample of their work in creative writing, dance, drama, music or visual arts. Each of the 25 winners will receive a $1,000 cash scholarship toward their pursuit of the arts in higher education, and have an opportunity to showcase their arts discipline through performance and exhibition at a luncheon in their honor. The deadline to submit an application is Feb. 1, 2010. 

Contact the Foundation for Excellence in Education at (850) 391-4090 or visit for more information.

WeatherFest 2010, Tallahassee, Jan 30

WeatherFest is an outreach event developed by the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee and organized in partnership with the Florida State University Meteorology Department and state and university emergency management officials. This annual event is intended for weather enthusiasts of all ages and brings together meteorology professionals from the federal and state government, acedemia, the media, and various partner organizations, to increase awareness about how forecasts and warnings are produced and disseminated, how meteorologists are trained, and the science of meteorology in general.

WeatherFest 2010 will be part of Florida's Severe Weather Awareness Week, and will feature many of the events from the inaugural WeatherFest last January, with some new and exciting exhibits in store as well. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from an AMS bakesale and also Campus Vending If you didn't visit us last year, or missed the severe weather simulation, or weather balloon launches, stop by and visit us this year! If you are curious about our 2009 event, check out the photo gallary provided by our photographer, Bob Duggan. We hope that you will plan to make WeatherFest 2010 part of your winter plans.

When: Saturday, Jan. 30th, 2010
Time : 10 AM to 5 PM EST
Where: Florida State University Main Campus at the Love Building Tallahassee, FL 32306
Who: Anyone who has an interest in science and meteorology

Visit for more information.

Donation of gift copies of children's geography ebooks

To educators everywhere:

... I have been able to donate several thousand printed copies of my and my husband’s recently launched children’s geography books (“Friends and Mates in Fifty States” (Galde Press, 2008), “All Across Canada” (Chipmunkapublishing, 2008), and “All Across China” (Chipmunkapublishing, 2009) to public libraries and schools across the U.S. and Canada. At the present time, I can afford to donate ebook versions of “All Across Canada” and “All Across China” to public elementary school teachers and homeschoolers. Below is a description of these books and their availability.

Dear Members,

As part of a nonprofit venture, my husband and I are donating ebook versions of two of three of our children's geography books (“Friends and Mates in Fifty States,” (Galde Press, 2008) “All Across Canada” (Chipmunkapublishing, 2008), and “All Across China” (Chipmunkapublishing, 2009). These books offer a novel approach to learning geography, and can be obtained as free pdf downloads through our authors' website,

"All Across Canada" was submitted to Kirkus Discoveries as a representative of our geography series, and it received a favorable review (details about our children's geography books are below my signature). We have donated a number of printed copies of these books to libraries and schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. At the present time (and with the kind support of our publisher), we are able to offer complimentary ebooks to homeschoolers.

"All Across China" and "All Across Canada" can each be downloaded on their respective website display pages for review using the following link to our authors' website:

(Please note: any image outlines seen in the ebooks are intrinsic to the pdf files and do not appear in the printed books themselves. Also, to change orientation of the pdf from sideways to right side up, just go under “view” and “rotate clockwise.”)

Our third book in this series, "Friends and Mates in Fifty States,” features original cartoons and poems about the United States, with each state capital represented by a cartoon character named for the city (such as Denver, a boy who lives in Colorado). The book is designed to help familiarize children from ages 6-11 with U.S. geography in a fun and self-motivating way. It can also serve as a picture book for younger children, and has been known to hold the interest of children as young as three.

"Friends and Mates in Fifty States" has received positive feedback from the U.S. Scholastic Book Clubs. The book has also thus far received considerable interest from libraries, NH-based schools, and Montessori schools. Kenneth J. Relihan (Social Studies & World Languages, New Hampshire Department of Education) has favorably reviewed Friends and Mates in Fifty States, describing it as “unique and original.” We are hoping to eventually have a link for a complimentary pdf version of this book, as well.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these books at

Take care,

All Across Canada (Kirkus Discoveries review)-
This husband-and- wife collaboration provides a tour of the Canadian provinces and territories.
Wandering Wally, Hiking Holly and Ambling Andy trek across the various regions of Canada, meeting with friends and getting to know their country a little better. Readers will make some discoveries of their own, including that the highest population of elderly Canadians is in Saskatchewan, the world’s largest rodeo is held in Alberta and that New Brunswick is the home of the world’s longest covered bridge. For very brief introductions to the major natural formations and economic industries of Canada’s provinces and territories, this is a good choice for younger readers. The mnemonic device of naming characters after the provincial capitals will help kids memorize them effortlessly. Combine this with the rhyming verses summarizing the important information, and Weisberg and Yoffe (Friends and Mates in Fifty States, 2008) have created quite the learning tool: “On Vancouver Island there’s a lovely coastal breeze. / Victoria dances round and round
the old Red Cedar trees.” The artwork mirrors the text, with maps showing the geography of each province and territory in Canada and their highlighted regions. Unfortunately, the illustrations are rather simplistic—rudimentary cartoons and clip art—with a limited color palette that adds to their lack of spark. The straightforward design and large illustrations, though, will be helpful for visual learners.
Helpful mnemonic devices and a simple presentation make learning about Canada a breeze.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _
Copyright 2005 Kirkus Reviews
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Friends and Mates in Fifty States (Amazon review)-
Fun and Informative, September 1, 2008
By Keiko Wu (New Hampshire) -
This is a great book that gives kids a fun way to learn more about the states. The rhymes are inventive and cute. This book fills a real niche. There are so few books on geography for kids, especially ones that actually appeal to kids.
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All Across China (Amazon review)-
“All Across China' fills a large void in publishing: namely, geography books for children. The author has wisely chosen a region of growing interest to many. The book gives a thumbnail sketch of all of China's provinces. It strikes a good balance: a map of the location of each province is shown in relation to the rest of the country, but the book is not saturated with highly detailed maps. This is in keeping with the targeted audience. It provides exposure of maps to children without giving in to the temptation to throw too much information at the audience at once. Equally helpful is the accompanying narrative of each province. Animals, topographic features and famous sights are mentioned, in hopes of connecting with various interests of children. The book is almost entirely in English (appropriate for its intended audience). However, I found the inclusion of the province names written in Chinese (in a relatively smaller font size, beneath the much
larger English name) to be a nice addition to the text. Hopefully it will spur the curiosity of some to pursue study of Chinese language as well.”
-Tom Finocchiaro