Looking For a Secular Florida Umbrella School?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Private School

So I'm a bit of a procrastinator. It was back in early '05 I started tossing around the idea of establishing my own private school, essentially an umbrella school as allowed by the Florida State statutes, out of sheer annoyance at jumping through homeschool hoops. Sure, Florida is minimally intrusive, a letter signifying your intent to homeschool and a yearly portfolio review or submission of standardized testing results plus a letter terminating your home education program, but we moved around a lot and registering, unregistering, re-registering, hoping the newest batch of county officials wouldn't overstep their bounds, and keeping track of heaps of papers, most of which invariably ended up in storage at the bottom of an enormous stack of boxes in the garage, got to be tiresome. With the additional complications and costs involved in securing non-profit status and incorporation, and difficulties experienced by another friend attempting to set up her own umbrella school, I got discouraged. After a while, when I was confident I sorta kinda knew what I was doing as far as homeschooling went, and had standardized test scores to back me up (for all the doubters out there), as well as having the added advantage of Permanent Australian Resident status to confuse and confound the authorities, I let the idea lapse and we simply dropped off the homeschool radar entirely (at least until we got to Australia, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

Now though, with Sarabelle preparing for college, our conversations with college admissions officers over the acceptance of courses taken in a home education program have been varied and frustrating. The officer at one of her preferred schools was skeptical about the idea and indicated they would readily accept a homeschool diploma certified by the state or county board of education (no such thing in Florida) or a GED. However, in Charlotte County, any student under the age of 18 interested in taking the GED first has to obtain a special waiver, attend a career counseling meeting, and take a pre-test. Based on the results of the pre-test, tutoring may be required before the student is permitted to sit the actual GED exam. Even if the student in question plans not to drop-out but to go directly to an institution of higher learning. Idiotic. Would the prospective college have any problem accepting a student from a small, unaccredited private school? Not at all. Thus the renewed interest in the umbrella school.

I initially looked into joining my local friend's pagan unschooling group which had a low fee but has since closed, and more recently planned to sign Sarabelle and Elle up (since they've been picked up on the county radar) at Florida Unschoolers, Nance Confer's most generous free umbrella (with the best acronym around), but with both groups I felt like an imposter. As much as I love the idea of unschooling, I am too uptight to let go completely. I have been known to cast all books aside as any more interesting learning opportunity presents itself, but still prefer to rely on classical materials. My preferred methodology comes a la Ben Franklin, where students get basic instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic but are still free to follow their interests and play and experiment, picking up those more difficult but necessary books later, at their own pace.

I was all concerned about the name once upon a time. Now, though it's terribly redundant for anyone who knows what "schola" means, it looks like it'll probably be Schola Classical Academy, the name I hastily filled in on the department of education's online form. Maybe it'll impress some admissions officer somewhere, without deterring anyone not following a hardcore classical program. And I can't wait to specify "Not Applicable" under the Denomination heading. Our motto, since every good school should have one: Cave Ab Homine Unius Libri, Beware the Man of One Book.

My special thanks to Nance, who has been helping me navigate the governmental stumbling blocks that discouraged me the last time around. I hope to have this thing off the ground shortly.


Meg_L said...

I'm not sure what/where colleges you are talking to, but we only ran into one that baulked at a home school transcript and all.

And I'd be very leery of going the GED route. For some places that will keep you from any chance of getting in.

I'm happy to answer college application questions.

Mrs. G. said...

I'm envisioning something very similar--a homeschooling co-op, trying to avoid the "school" paperwork. Good luck!

rae said...

Lynn, I'm impressed. I've been offline for awhile, due to a couple of lightning strikes. Long, annoying story. I stopped in to catch up with you and found your latest project. We're thinking about moving back to FL, so I'll keep your umbrella in mind for the future. I'd love to chat more with you about your approach, as it sounds quite similar to ours.

Oh. And there is an award for you at my blog.

L said...

Hi Meg. Yeah, the whole GED stigma. That's the last, least of the choices. And thanks for the offer, this college thing is a little daunting.

Go, Mrs. G.! Good luck to you too. You seem to have a great way for making things happen.

See you over at your blog, Rae...