Monday, May 15, 2017

Florida Homeschooling Requirements

We're only a few weeks away from our girls ending common schooling.   It has been an interesting journey thus far, and we (daughters, mom, and dad) are very ready to begin the homeschool in earnest.

As they leave the "system", I have the responsibility to ensure we are playing within the homeschool rules framework of our state.  Our state is a good homeschool state, being supportive of this freedom option, and even provides free resources to us including free online classes!

Our state covers homeschooling requirements primarily within its statutes (The 2016 Florida Homeschooling Statutes).  I've been studying them aggressively to ensure that we are doing this right.

The statues covering homeschool are very straight forward, and they don't seem overly onerous.  Here are some of the key things that I have to pay attention to:

1. "notice shall be filed in the district school superintendent’s office within 30 days of the establishment of the home education program."

2. "The parent shall maintain a portfolio of records and materials" that consists of a log of what was done and samples of what was done by the student.  The log is to be created as we go.

3. "The parent shall provide for an annual educational evaluation in which is documented the student’s demonstration of educational progress at a level commensurate with her or his ability."

The first one isn't a big deal.  It is a one time paper work filing that has the kids names, ages, etc.  Back in October of 2016, I had reached out to our county's public school system section leader to ensure that I our counties latest preferred form version.  This person (Toney S) was very responsive and got back to me with a cheerful note appending the form.

The second one, maintaining records as we go, is more a discipline issue than anything else.  I believe I will find and use some sort of online journaling software. Hell, a blog could do it.  That is, each day ensure that what we've done is chronicled in some manner that can be accessed.

The third one, the annual education evaluation, seems fair but brings back in the squishy area of subjectivity that I don't like.  However, our state is great in that the evaluations can be done in a number of ways.  According to the Florida statutes, we can do the annual evaluations by:

  1. Having a teacher certified in the state of Florida review their work
  2. Taking a Nationally Normed Student Assessment Test (aka Standardized Tests)
  3. Taking our School District's Assessment Test
  4. Having them evaluated by an Education Psychologist licensed in the state of Florida
  5. Any other method agreed to between me and the School District Superintendent

Of these options, the one we shall be choosing is a Florida certified teacher yearly evaluation.  I've already found a fantastic link to a directory of Florida teachers willing to do the necessary evaluations.  Prices range from $25 to $50 or so per child per year.  Some of the teachers are earning extra money during the summer months, while others are homeschool parents themselves that happen to be licensed to teach in Florida.  You can find the directory at 

If I combine the online journaling software with a digital capture of my daughters work, then that would mean all the information for the evaluation by a teacher could be done on-line!  And if the evaluator wants to talk with them, a simple Skype session could be established. That may be a great way to manage and handle all this.  By keeping it online, I could also easily handle the two years of records keeping required by the statutes.

Well alright all right! Here we go!

Monday, May 1, 2017

War's Gift To Kids- Learning How To Apply Strategy Through Games

Our 8 year old playing a phenominal cooperative
family game called Forbidden Island where choices
are openly discussed and applied, fitting into
an overall shared strategy.
All parents, homeschooling or otherwise, expect their children to make good choices, but I've never met another parent that teaches the mechanics of how to do this.  Primarily they expect their kids to kind of figure it out through trial and error.  I've over heard some parents say things like "Think about the consequences" but that's the extent of their advice.  There is a whole academic discipline devoted to making good choices and it is called "Strategy."

Many people simply brush off studying Strategy as a war thing.  While it does have its roots in the unknown and chaotic environment of warfare, over the years its application to all areas of life have been studied and applied to great effect, be it business, or home buying, or simply picking out where to hold a party (we did this as part of a course at Stanford on Strategy).  Unknowns and chaos are a part of life and having the ability to formalize decisions in such spaces is a very powerful tool.  Even when to be spontaneous can be analyzed as part of a strategic decision.

Learning about, and applying, Strategic Thought in life is an important part of our Homeschool education.  Strategic Thought enables our girls to make better choices in uncertain and unknown environments, which covers a large swath of actual life .... and an even larger amount if you push yourself into unknown areas. We feel so strongly about this that we've not only formally codified it into our homeschool charter (VI. Strategy of Exerevno Academy.2, VII.Tactics of Exerevno Academy.4, and VIII.Operations of Exerevno Academy.3), but we actively pursue it as a field of study on its own.  We leverage board-games as a laboratory for this topic, and life's choices for the actual application.

The kinds of Board-Games we incorporate in our homeschool life for strategy lessons are turn based, where the pace of the game is regulated by our choice speed.  Our board games are chosen such that neither physical agility nor physical prowess grants an advantage.  What matters is the ability to make good choices.  No, these aren't all war games.  In fact, as I look at our game collection, of the 30 some games in it, only two are explicitly/overtly about war (Stratego and Risk) and two are implicit (Go and Chess).

Some games we play are cooperative, while others are adversarial.  Some are team based, and some are each man for themselves.  Some are perfect information games, while others are not.  Some are 1 player, some 2, some 4, some 6 and up.  The games have various age recommendations, from 5 and up to 13 and up (although we consciously ignore the suggested age range). Some take 5 minutes (Uno, for example), some have taken 5 hours (we once played Carcassonne Big Box and it took 5 hours for a single game), and some take days (Monopoly seems to have this happen more than most games). Some have elements of chance and some require diplomacy, but all require strategy.

These kinds of games also provide for another important part of our homeschool approach, the acquisition of the skill of active feedback (again, see our charter).  You can see and measure how outcomes are unfolding, and because we use turns as a speed regulation mechanism, each person can operate their feedback loops comfortably and adjust if need be.

If you're homeschooling, you probably include games to some degree but do you activity choose, study, and play games that develop specific deep skill sets you want your kids to have in life?  We do, and our girls LOVE them.  We will be sharing examples throughout the life of this blog, and they will be labeled with Games.

Do you have a great strategy board game recommendation? If so, please do share.