Cheerful Heart Academy

A Non-Traditional Private School

header photo

Connect with

Cheerful Heart Academy!

 facebookicon  pinteresticon Click to email me

Blog Search


I posted the below message in the week before Irma hit our beloved SW Florida area. To update, Irma came ashore on September 10th, 2017 for her second time in Florida at Marco Island.  Please see my Blog Post for the details of how we fared. 

Cheerful Heart Academy is still in business. Please remember that this is a one woman show and that woman still homeschools her own child and has a family - I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can. If I don't get back to you within two weeks after you've contacted me, (unless it's an emergency) please try again. Some of our services are still not working properly here and it's very possible that I may have just not seen or heard your message. 

Again, thank you all for your patience - and please keep praying for all of us in the state of Florida. Many of us have a long road of recovery ahead of us. 

~Lynda Rowley, Owner/Administrator of CHA

Cheerful Heart Academy is in the current 'cone of uncertainty' of Hurricane Irma. The physical location of the school records is located in Naples, Florida, which is on the Southwest coast of the peninsula. All records have been backed up on a computer, an external hard drive, and a USB memory stick and will be taken with the owner if evacuation occurs. 

If you are trying to reach CHA, or have been trying to reach CHA over the past few days, we have been in hurricane preparation mode. Please understand that it may be next week before I'm able to get back to you, but I will get to every email and phone call at some point within the next two weeks. If you have contacted CHA via phone or email and have not heard from Lynda at CHA by September 21st, please contact again.

Thank you all for your patience.

Please pray with me for protection for all of us in the state of Florida. 

~Lynda Rowley, Owner/Administrator of CHA


Hurricane Irma

Irma came ashore on September 10th, 2017 for her second time in Florida at Marco Island. She was a Category 3 by that time, but we were expecting a much stronger hit...we were so blessed to not get that Category 5 that she was just the day before. Cheerful Heart Academy is located in an area of Naples known as Golden Gate Estates, which is 30 miles north and ever so slightly east of Marco Island. 

Many of you have asked how we fared. Since our wood frame home was being built when Hurricane Andrew came through, it is not up to the Miami - Dade codes; we felt it wise to evacuate and were extremely blessed to have friends who welcomed us into their concrete block, newer built home just 5 minutes away. Another family from in town was evacuated at the last minute and joined us. Little did they know how long they would have to put up with us!

We ended up "weathering the storm" for eight hours in the bathroom and hallway of their house - six parents, two adult children, four teenagers, two medium sized dogs, and two guinea pigs - no power, no tv, no running water. The eye wall was over us for much of that time, we never got the relief of the middle of the eye. It was a frightening experience to say the least, but it was a blessing to be surrounded by loved ones and friends and to know that we would do anything for each other - including sit in a hallway and sweat!

When the storm subsided, we came out of hiding to find so much destruction around us, but the house we were in was intact. Our house was intact as well and so was the third family's house that stayed with us. All of us have roof damage and trees down. Some of us have other damages - our family from in town had a mobile home park behind her neighborhood and it was destroyed; pieces and parts in her front and back yard - all over her neighborhood. They had some water issues, and sewage issues. Our host family's house has water damage inside the walls from the roof damage; and unfortunately, it looks like the flooring may have to be replaced too since the water (and now mold) has made its way there. They lost fencing and a shed as well; and their truck engine is going to need to be replaced due to flood waters. Our family has a hole in the roof (patched and waiting on a new roof), lost two sheds, the carport is in need of shoring up, and many trees were down or needed to be cut down. 

We all are finding small things that need to be done or fixed or picked up every day; I suspect that we will for a while yet. We were without power for 9 days, without cable/internet/phone for 13 days, and our cell service is still spotty in areas. Our three families are very blessed - we had food to eat, a place to sleep, people we knew living with us, plenty of board games, a generator to run the fans and the refrigerator/freezer, etc. And, we have a home left to come home to. So many of the people in our area don't...and it's hard to reconcile that fact. A picture ingrained in my memory is one of a mobile home - what was left of it - in a park close to Marco Island. The home is completely demolished except for one wall - and on that wall is a heart wreath. I don't know how that wreath wasn't blown away with everything else, but it was almost like a symbol of hope.

I will never forget walking into Target two days after the storm and the stench from the rotten food just overwhelming me - they had cleaned it all out, but they were running on generators and couldn't run the air, the coolers, or even many of the lights - we shopped by flashlight. We were there to buy underwear, socks, shorts, and tshirts for the men; we couldn't do laundry. The next day we went to Walmart for something and they had lights -but it was so eerie to see all of those produce shelves empty, and all of the refrigerated and freezer cases empty. And we were so glad that our generator was keep our food cold!!

The gas lines were long. We heard a report of one line being 7 miles long (we had no tv, no cell, no internet remember, so we listened to the radio for any news). We sat in one line for an hour and a half before being told that the gas was empty - go home. We got into line at the same place the next day - we just happened to get there right after they opened it up - and got the tank filled up. My friend was talking to the officer who was keeping the peace there and he said that someone had hit someone else in the head with a lead pipe there yesterday; while they were talking, there was a shooting at the Circle K down the street. Some people were at their worst; but we saw so many more that were at their best. 

Neighbors got together to help each other get the trees out of driveways and to the end of the road. People gave water to the linemen working on the power, cell towers, and cable/internet/phone lines. People shared their resources when they could. Irma caused a lot of destruction and frustration, but she also cause a lot of people to see just how good many of the people around them are. 

I'll leave you with a picture of destruction - and hope. Remember to count your blessings - you have far more than you'll probably ever know about!! ~Lynda


Hurricane Survival Tips

Some tips for surviving today and tomorrow and the aftermath:
  • Remember that your children are watching how you handle everything, so model how you would like them to behave in the future (and now).
  • If you have to evacuate, (you probably should have already gone!) print your route or screen shot it on your phone. Cell service will be spotty at best once the storm gets close to our shores.
  • If you need to get out, make sure you have all of your important papers, small valuables, prescription medications. I usually put things like this into ziploc bags to keep them from getting wet, then put them into a rubbermaid type tote. (Medication comes in my 'go bag'). 
  • If you are in a zone where you may have to leave at some point, make a 'go bag' for each person. Include at least two days of clothing (including underwear), night clothes, toiletries (including feminine hygiene -even if it's not that time of the month), any medications, spare chargers for cell phones,etc, extra pair of shoes, slippers, eyeglasses/contacts, and small comfort item. This bag needs to be small - like a backpack or duffel bag, so you need to pack wisely.
  • If you have pets - most indoor pets are pretty upset with storms - be aware of how your pet is handling everything. Make sure you have food and water for them. Check out the nearby shelters that are pet friendly. Make sure the pet has their collar on; many pets are not reunited with their owners after a storm because there is no way to identify them. 
  • Don't leave the news/weather/weather channel on around the clock; it only serves to heighten the anxiety. If you have to, turn the television off completely or put a well loved dvd on. You can check out the weather on your phone or computer periodically instead.
  • Get some flashlights or battery powered lanterns ready today, during the daylight, so that each person in your household has their own source of light.
  • If you are living in a place where it looks like you may lose power for an extended period of time, fill everything you can with water before the storm. We are on well water, so our pump doesn't work during a power outage. Even if you aren't on well water, you may still need the extra water. Fill your washing machine, your bathtub, laundry sink, any large soup pots, pitchers, etc. You can always use that water for flushing the toilet during an outage. 
  • If you have an outdoor grill, make sure you have some propane or charcoal for it - you may need to cook everything in your freezer! If that happens, get to know your neighbors while you are at it:)
  • Have some paper plates, paper towels, plasticware, plastic cups, etc on hand. If you have to dig into your birthday party stash in the pantry during a power outage, then do so. You don't want a weeks worth of dirty dishes smelling up your kitchen, especially if you don't have air conditioning!
  • Mark a plastic cup with each person's name and that is their cup for the day - unless they drink something really sticky out of it, they should be able to reuse it for a day.
  • If the power goes out, break out the board games, play doh, jigsaw puzzles, etc. Don't spend the time on your phones - spend the time together. Read a good book aloud to the family. Have a lego building challenge to see who can build the craziest animal, building, character, etc. Save the power on your phones - you may need it later.
  • If power is out for an extended period of time and you have sweaty clothing, lay it out or hang it up to dry before throwing it in the hamper. Sweaty clothes in the hamper stay wet and get moldy -ewww!
  • Remember that even big kids get scared. They don't know how to show it or say it (they might not even know it), so they talk a little faster or louder or get a little clingy or they might even snap at you a few times. Be sure to take a breath before you react to something your child does (unless they are endangering themselves or others), put your arm around them or give them a hug and tell them that no matter what the weather is doing, your family is going to stick together and work through it. If you can confidently say you'll be fine, then say so. If you can't, then don't - kids know when you are lying too!
  • It's okay to tell your kids that you are scared too. Just remember that you are the adult, so you still have to be the one in charge. It's not okay to completely go off the deep end and leave your kids to fend for themselves! Tell them that you don't know what is going to happen and that you find that a bit worrisome or scary, but that you have each other and you are doing everything you can to make sure you are all safe and you have already been praying. Offer to pray with them to model what that prayer should look like - kids often don't know - and then tell them that you are going to keep going forward even if you are scared because that's the next right thing to do. 
  • CHOCOLATE!! If you haven't already gotten some, get some. If you can't, make some brownies or a cake or some cookies. If chocolate isn't your thing, maybe your special treat is popcorn (really?!), make it. Make or buy your special treat and enjoy it - calories don't count during a hurricane party!! (Really!)

What is a Non-Traditional Private School?

What exactly is a 'non-traditional private school' or an 'umbrella school' anyway? The short answer is that it is a Department of Education recognized private school that handles the paperwork for home educated students. 

In the state of Florida, home educated students have two legal ways in which to school at home. One is by signing up with the school superintendent for the county that you live in and the other is by using a non-traditional private school (also known as an umbrella school). I will go through both ways for you so that you can be clear about the differences.

When you decide to go the route of signing up under the county, you will send a letter of intent to homeschool to the school superintendent. Your letter must (and should only) include: the name of each child (6-16 years old), birthdate of each child named, address, and a parent's signature. There is no official form, but there is a sample on most homeschool support group websites and also one on the FPEA website ( Make a copy of that letter for yourself, then send the original to the superintendent's office by certified mail, return receipt requested. When you get the receipt, staple it to your copy and put it in your child's file.

You will also maintain a portfolio of records. This basically means that you keep up with what you are doing that is educational while you are doing it (a planner or a calendar is what most people use, some use a journal or scrapbook). By law, you must keep a reading list, but all other subjects are up to you. Your portfolio should include a few samples of worksheets/writing/pictures of work from each subject from the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and the end of the year. You do not need to put every piece of paper that your child touches into the portfolio.
You have to submit your portfolio for inspection within 15 days written notice by the superintendent. If you happen to get one of these notices, do not take your child - do take a homeschooling friend - and take your portfolio. The superintendent can only check to see if you are keeping the portfolio correctly, they cannot tell you what curriculum to use or evaluate the child's work. 
You also have to submit an annual evaluation for each child to the superintendent. What this means is that once a year, your child has to be evaluated to see if he or she is 'progressing commensurate with his or her abilities'. Most homeschool support groups have a list of homeschool friendly teachers who do evaluations (they have to be done by a Florida state certified teacher). Most teachers charge around $25 to $30 to do an evaluation. You can also have your child take a nationally normed achievement test or state student assessment test as a form of evaluation. Most people will have the portfolio evaluation or have their child take a nationally normed achievement test. The evaluator or test giver will give a piece of paper with their signature on it to you for the school. Again, you would make a copy of it and send it certified, return receipt requested. 

You have to preserve your portfolio for two years. Most of us keep them forever - legally, it's two years.
When your child graduates,  if you move out of the county, or if you put your child into a public or private school (including an umbrella school), then you would need to send a notice of termination of your homeschooling program. It would include the same information as the notice of intent and again, make a copy for yourself and send the original certified, return receipt requested.
If you decide to go the route of homeschooling under a non-traditional private school, or 'umbrella' school, you would not notify the county at all if you are just starting out. You would just sign up with whatever school you choose to go with. Most of these schools serve all counties in Florida, so you would be able to choose from quite a number of them.
When you sign up with a private school, the state sees your child as a private school student, not a homeschooler - even though you are still homeschooling. Different private schools have different policies. The state dictates very few for us. Here is what is common to all of us:
You will have to sign up with the child's name, birth date, address, and parent's name. Most private schools will also ask for the parent's email address and phone number and the child's grade level. The private school will need a copy of the child's birth certificate, the health form for school (or waiver), and the immunization form (or waiver). At the end of the year, the school will require a record of attendance for the child showing at least 180 days attended.

Some schools will require significantly more than that, some don't. Some charge fees, a few don't, and the fees vary in range. Some schools are accredited and some are not. I've answered every question that I can think of regarding the private school option, including a pros and cons list of one vs the other on my FAQ page.

Cheerful Heart Academy only requires the basics that the state requires (copy of birth certificate, health and immunization forms or waivers, attendance showing 180/365 days) and $25 per year for the first student and $15 for any siblings. Of course, I ask for an enrollment form to be filled out as well that asks for name, address, grade level, etc. As a private school, I have to fill out an annual survey that tells the state how many students I have, how many teachers I have and what grade levels my students are. They do not get names, addresses, or even the attendance records that I am required to keep. I do not review curriculum or portfolios, nor do I provide transcripts or diplomas  - although I'll be happy to talk to you about any of those things and help you through the processes any time. 
I hope that I've helped to clarify just what an umbrella school, or Non-Traditional Private School, is. If you ever have questions about the school, or homeschooling in Florida, please don't hesitate to call or email.
Cheerfully Yours,