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!

National Home Education Issues

Resources for Understanding National Homeschool Issues
With clockwork regularity, several issues come up nationally that bear closer scrutiny and cross referencing for better understanding. These issues include things like the impact of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Parental Rights legislation.

We provide these "Quick Links" to help you become more informed on these issues, so that you can act according to your own conscience and convictions, and not at the reactionary behest of those with private agendas. We hope you find these helpful and interesting. 

More comprehensive discussion appears below the links on several of these issues.

Homeschool Impact of UN Convention on Rights of the Child
UN Convention on Rights of the Child - text of statement
UN Treaty Might Weaken Families - Washington Post Op-Ed outlining contentions that Convention threatens homeschooling
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child: A threat to homeschoolers? Homeschooling Freethinkers
Overcoming Religious Objections to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Cumberland School of Law (PDF)
Homeschooling in Germany and a Comparison of Viewpoints - Home Education Magazine
Myths and facts concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Australia
Myths and Facts on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Church Women United
Human Rights as Customary International Law

Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act (HoNDA) - HR 2732/ SB 1562
Text of Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act
Supporting HoNDA - HSLDA
Opposing - Learning is for Everyone commentary
Home Education Magazine Issue Sheet
Points to Consider - from A-Z Home's Cool
Oppositional Views from Local HS

Family Education Freedom Act of 2007
Family Education Freedom Act of 2007 - text
Learning is for Everyone commentary on Act
Home Education Commentary on Act

Parental Rights Constitutional Amendment Issue (related to UN Convention on Rights of Child)
Understanding Parental Rights Legislation - ACLU
Argument for Parental Rights legislation
Parental Rights and the Law - Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents Rights

Federal Marriage Protection - As Tied into Homeschooling
HSLDA Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage
LIFE commentary on "Unconventional Wisdom: A Look at Contemporary Families"
HSLDA Does Not Speak for Us - UU Homeschoolers statement
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HoNDA - Homeschool Nondiscrimination Act

Library of Congress bill text:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN01691:@@@L&summ2=m&

S.1691
Title: A bill to amend selected statutes to clarify existing Federal law as to the treatment of students privately educated at home under State law.
Sponsor: Sen Craig, Larry E. [ID] (introduced 9/13/2005) Cosponsors (10)
Related Bills: H.R.3753
Latest Major Action: 9/13/2005 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

SUMMARY AS OF:
9/13/2005--Introduced.

Home School Non-Discrimination Act of 2005 - Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) with respect to: (1) student aid eligibility of home-schooled students who have satisfied certain secondary education standards; and (2) institutional aid eligibility of the higher education institutions that such students attend.

Amends the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide that, if a parent does not consent to an initial evaluation or special education or related services for a child with a disability, the local educational agency shall not be required to convene an individualized education program (IEP) meeting or develop an IEP for such child.

Amends the Internal Revenue Code with respect to qualified elementary and secondary education expenses (the Coverdell Education Savings Account) to include home schools if they are treated as a home school or private school under state law.

Amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 to prohibit release of certain information on and educational records of students in nonpublic education, including any student educated at home or in a private school in accordance with state law, without written parental consent.

Amends HEA to include students at home schools, whether treated as a home school or a private school under state law, among those prospective secondary school graduates eligible to apply for the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program for higher education.

Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to direct the Secretary of Labor to extend the hours and periods of permissible employment of employees between the ages of 14 and 16 years who are privately educated at a home school, whether the home school is treated as a home school or a private school under state law, beyond those hours and periods applicable to employees of such ages who are educated in traditional public schools. (Thus allows home-school students to be employed during the traditional school day.)

Amends specified federal law with respect to policies on recruitment and enlistment of home schooled students in the Armed Forces.

Considerations
The Homeschool Nondiscrimination Act is the first federal legislation ever introduced that identifies specifically the practice of homeschooling. The bill has been hotly debated in the homeschool community since its introduction in 2003, pushed largely by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a religiously conservative legal insurance firm.

There are supporters of the bill, and there are many detractors. Many find the bill problematic for several reasons, including the fact that homeschooling is not currently federally regulated but is overseen at the state level, and because the is considered over-reaching omnibus legislation that affects several existing federal laws.

The Council for Excellence in Government http://tinyurl.com/y83lx7 , features an article title,"The Role of Congress in Restoring Public Trust in Government" and observes about omnibus legislation:

"... Congress is increasingly unable to pass its spending bills on time, and then makes major legislative decisions through huge omnibus measures that are shaped in a great hurry and in secret by a limited group of congressional leaders and staff. 5 of 13 appropriations bills were dumped into one omnibus bill this year, totaling $385 billion and composed of 2,000 pages. These bills - often gauged more by weight than the number of pages -- are -- from the standpoint of good process, if not content -- an abomination."

While omnibus legislation has long been more common in Europe, it is gaining in popularity in the US for several reasons:
• It's far easier to surgically insert (or delete) language into a bunch of different laws in a single place, than to push for those changes individually, which would require more congressional discussion, assessment and public dialogue than simply tying it all up in a neat little bundle aimed at pleasing -
• And approval for changes can be achieved more quickly.

The question, of course, is whether omnibus legislation affecting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , Child Find, Child Labor laws, federal tax issues & scholarship programs focused on the needs of one group - whether homeschool students, or private religious school students, or addressing the special needs of particular ethnic students attending a particular type of school, or yet more narrowly considered groups - is in the majority of citizen's best interests, or only in the service of special interest needs?

Is it ethical to create laws that spell out each type of individual that needs to be served? Or do we work together (as opposed to working in small special interest groups) to create, support and maintain clear and simple legislation that guarantees equal rights and service to everyone across the board?

The concerns that those opposing this legislation have is not that possibly some of the changes aren't helpful -- but that those changes and concerns should be addressed as they relate to the IDEA or child labor laws or the IRS, by taking up discussion specifically relating to those laws, and in relation to how it affects everyone, not just homeschoolers.

And of course there are concerns about the potential problems of writing "homeschooling" into federal law where it didn't exist before, thereby creating the potential for further, undesired legislation and regulation later on.

Resources to learn about all aspects of HoNDA include:
Tracking
GovTrack: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-3753
Supporting
Home School Legal Defense Association: http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/National/2005/S1691/default.asp
Congresswoman Marilyn Musgravehttp://musgrave.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=34298
Opposing
Home Education Magazine's HR 2732/ SB 1562 Issue Sheet
http://www.homeedmag.com/INF/FREE/hr2732.html
Military Homeschooler analysis
http://home.kc.rr.com/milhmschlhq/military_HR3753_S1691.htm
National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD)
http://www.nheld.com/fedleg.htm
Ozaukee (WI ) County Homeschoolers:
http://www.epiranhabiz.com/homeschool/homeschool/hnd.htmlAdditional Commentary
A whole bunch of views at Ann Zeise's site:
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/articles/101005.htm and
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/weblinks/debate.htm
Homeschoolers Split over Education Legislation (The SE Missourian)
http://semissourian.com/story/1119149.html 
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Parental Rights Constitutional Amendment issue

In early December 2006, the Home School Legal Defense Association resurrected an issue peripherally related to HoNDA. Spurred largely in response to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ,the conservative legal group called for renewed efforts to create a Constitutional amendment "to protect the rights of parents to educate their children at home." (http://www.hslda.org/parentalrights/default.asp):

"HSLDA is drafting a constitutional amendment and circulating it to friendly lawyers and organizations for review and comment. Once the text is done, we will find sponsors in the House and Senate. Achieving sponsorship, passage, and ratification will take an unbelievable effort from all of us and all of our allies. But we must not rest until the amendment becomes law."

Homeschoolers nationwide who are aware of the effort, have reacted almost universally against it, particularly concerned about a constitutional amendment being forwarded by special interests with specific agendas in mind. (The website, Homeschooling is Legal, provides a comprehensive list of HSLDA "causes" outside of homeschooling.)
HSLDAs renewed convictions about the need for a parental rights amendment stands in stark contrast to their (logical and well rooted) arguments of the past that federal law already protects parental rights (http://parentalrightslegislation.blogspot.com/2006/04/new-parental-
rights-amendment-proposal.html)

"The Supreme Court of the United States has made it repeatedly clear that the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." (Michael Farris, "Federalism and the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act," HSLDA Resource Library document, no longer available)

And

*"The U. S. Supreme Court has long held parental rights to be primary in American law. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition." ("Historic Parental Rights Bill passes Indiana House," Home School court Report, February/March 1996, page 15)

It appears clear that HSLDA is pushing for this amendment for other, more problematic reasons than those stated, and many are concerned, especially those who believe that amending the Constitution for any reason is a bad idea.

Many believe that if "parental rights" protection is written into the constitution specifically, then we will have to define parents , and then marriage - the latter a pet project of HSLDA, which supports a federal marriage amendment, as well. Ultimately, opponents of the effort say, we're defining families, and the truth is families take many forms that simply can't be constitutionally defined or rigorously legislated.

Many believe that our rights as citizens, and commensurately as parents, and families, and homeschoolers are already protected without itemizing them. List them, they say, and ultimately, we can loose those rights. Amendments 1, 4, 9,10 and 14 can all be said to guarantee our freedoms as individuals, as parents, and as children.

Some express fears that "the state owns our children." The state does not own our children. We don't own our children; we are charged with protecting them, and their rights. Our children are autonomous beings with their own inherent rights and freedoms. Learning is for Everyone believes, like many others, that the best way to protect those freedoms is to use them, by speaking out on our own behalf and that of our children, for ourselves, and for others whenever we can, and we don't want anyone else deciding who "parents" are and what a family should look like.

The Parental Rights Amendment is reintroduced as HJ Resolution 42 in March 2009. You can follow the bill's progress here:

More resources for understanding parental rights issues:

Constitutional Protection of Parental Rightshttp://www.ordination.org/rights.htm

HSLDA: Why Do We Need Parental Rights Legislation?http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000027.aspParental Rights
http://parentalrightslegislation.blogspot.com/

Parental Rights and Due Processhttp://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/hubin1/Research/PRDP.PDF

Parental Rights are special "fundamental rights" under the Constitution
http://www.ancpr.org/parental_rights_and_the_law.htm

Parental Rights Legislation, ACLU
http://www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/youth/16392res19960401.html

Parental Rights Legislation, by Mary McCarthy
http://wnla.tripod.com/id67.html

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HR 1056 - Family Education Freedom Act of 2007

SUMMARY AS OF:
2/14/2007--Introduced.

Family Education Freedom Act of 2007 - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a tax credit of up to $5,000 (adjusted for inflation after 2007) per student per year for the cost of attendance at any educational institution (including any private, parochial, religious, or home school) organized to provide elementary or secondary education, or both.

See GovTrack: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1056

and

Thomas: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h1056:

While, at the outset, this appears a promising bill, it again poses the potentially problematic issue of flirting with federalization of home education by virtue of formally naming the practice within the text of this bill.

Senator Ron Paul 's reasons for introducing the bill is ostensibly to help " empower millions of working and middle-class Americans to choose a non-public education for their children, as well as making it easier for parents to actively participate in improving public schools. The Family Education Freedom Act accomplishes it goals by allowing American parents a tax credit of up to ($5,000) for the expenses incurred in sending their child to private, public, parochial, other religious school, or for home schooling their children."

While HSLDA is supportive of the measure, National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) observes, "the risk of such substantial government intrusion and the unending ability of the IRS to adopt regulations regarding a home school far outweighs any negligible monetary benefit."

Additional commentary Home Education Magazine News and Commentary : http://www.homeedmag.com/blogs/newscomm/?p=1202

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Dual/Concurrent Enrollment

Dual, or concurrent, enrollment is the practice of enrolling in college while still a high school student. The majority of states allow dual enrollment, and most welcome home educated high school students as well. Those utilizing dual enrollment enjoy accelerated learning and the opportunity to begin earning Associate degrees at an early age, setting the stage for either graduating from high school at a higher level of ability and knowledge, or moving on to higher education with a college framework already in place. Dual enrollment requirements vary from state to state and from school to school. Visit the links below to learn about different aspects of dual enrollment.

Resources
State Dual Enrollment Policies: Addressing Access and Quality (with state by state requirements)
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cclo/cbtrans/statedualenrollment04.doc

Homeschool Perspectives
Ann Zeise: Community college Dual Enrollment
http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/articles/022003.htm
Home School Legal Defense Association: Dual Enrollment - A Two For One Deal
http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V22N4/V22N407.asp
How to finish highschool in half the time
http://www.howtolearn.com/freearticles/article_4.php

Additional Information
Dual Enrollment of High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2002-03
http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005008
The Progress of Education Reform 2005: Dual Enrollment
http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/61/41/6141.pdf
High School Students Using Dual Enrollment Programs to Earn College Credits, New Reports Say
http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2005/04/04062005a.html
Dual Enrollment Programs Specifically Geared Toward Students at Risk of Education Failure
http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/peqis/publications/2005008/2c.asp
What Role Can Dual Enrollment Programs Play in Easing the Transition Between High School and Postsecondary Education?
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/hs/bailey.doc 
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Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound Act of 2008
S 3076
LA Senator David Vitter recently introduced a bill to amend the US tax code to provide tax deductions for homeschoolers.

On the one hand, it would certainly seem to open to the door to legislating homeschooling – what expenses would be covered, which ones wouldn’t, and why? Who decides, and then what else can be decided with respect to how we homeschool. Although despite Vitter’s suggestion that private school families are afforded some kind of “relief” for their educational choices, beyond state vouchers, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of IRS provision along the lines of what he’s asking for homeschoolers provided to private schoolers. If we really want to provide tax relief to people who choose a form of education outside of public schools, it seems all forms of alternative education should be equally included.

On the other hand, there a lot of people would really appreciate and benefit from the type of relief offered in this bill.

A thoughtful evaluation of all the pros and cons of this legislation would seem to be in order.

Relevant Information:

Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound Act of 2008 (Introduced in Senate)
S 3076 IS To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax deduction for itemizers and nonitemizers for expenses relating to home schooling.

The bill was introduced by Senator David Vitter to “provide education-related tax relief to families who home school their children. The Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound Act would allow home school families to take advantage of tax deductions to help alleviate education-related expenses. “

From Senator Vitter's website:

“Like those who choose to send their children to private schools, home school families pay an inequitable share of education-related expenses,” said Vitter. “Even as they pay for expenditures related to home school activities, they fund public schools through their tax dollars. We need to provide them with the same relief offered to private school families, and this bill is intended to do just that, by minimizing the financial burden of these families.”

Vitter’s bill provides for a deduction of $500 per child with an annual limit of $2,000 for expenses related to K-12 homeschooling activities. For families that do not itemize their taxes, the bill would allow for a standardized deduction of $500 per child, not to exceed $2,000 in one year. Families with children who attend private schools are already eligible for education-related tax benefits.

“All families should be provided with a full spectrum of choices when it comes to the education of their children,” Vitter said. “We need to take the necessary steps to remove the undue financial burdens that are currently placed on home school families. As individuals empower themselves to take responsibility for the proper education of their children, we should in turn provide them with the appropriate tools to do so. To that end, this legislation is a positive step in that process.”

Read others' thoughts on this effort at:

Informed Parent
Home Education Magazine News blog
National Home Education Legal Defense (Bulletin 62)

Follow the Bill’s progress at GovTrack ( http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-3076 )