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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Default Living in Florida?

    What can you tell me about living in Florida? My mom lives in FL for half the year (mainly during the school year) and I really need her help during that time, so I'm considering moving us down there. Obviously there are a ton of things to consider for our own personal situation, but I'd appreciate insight on what it is like overall. We would be living in or near Sarasota, so if anyone has info specific to that area that would be great.

    A few specific questions:

    Overall, how is the school system in Florida? Is it heavily test-driven (ours is here, which is one reason I want to leave this state)? Is it well-funded? Do your schools use innovative, challenging curriculum or is it all text books and note taking?

    Tell me how bad the summer weather is. I've been there in August and I think it is awful, but my mom and a friend who live there say it isn't so bad. Are they delusional? Any other weather concerns besides hurricanes?

    What else should we know about living in FL? Any other quirky things I should know about? My family has had a house there for 30 years so I do know a few random things, like that elastic falls apart quickly because of the humidity/salt water, things rust because my mom's house is near the beach, watch out for palmetto bugs etc. Any other weird, random things like that to consider?

    I know this forum doesn't see much action, so I might end up posting in Chit Chat, but I thought I'd try here first since this "belongs" here.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,537

    Default

    Don't have time to write much now but will come back later.

    Schools suck. The FCAT (standardized test) rules everything. Now, I don't have kids in school but it's the general concensus.

    August is the worst month but I'd say we have 5 months of summer here. May's not as humid but it's still pretty hot. From mid-June to mid-September we have thunderstorms nearly everyday. They can be really severe. Central Florida is the lightning capital of the US.

    Yes, we have roaches and lots of other bugs. Tons of lizards, but I don't see them as a negative.

    That being said, I'm a native who can't imagine living anywhere else. I bring up the negatives because so many people think of Florida as some sort of Eden and move down here and hate it (and bitch and bitch about it).
    C 3/21/07
    It's a girl! D 8/3/11

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    2,664

    Default

    I appreciate your candor. I need to know the negatives exactly for the reason you stated, so I don't move us all down there and hate it.

    That sucks about the testing. Our test rules our public education system and it sucks. They are eliminating the test in 2 years (which makes it even more pointless to administer the test) but replacing it with some other test or performance grading system. I'm a teacher and I do recall hearing that FL and TX are 2 states whose education systems are designed around the test, but that was 10 years ago and I hoped it had changed. Public education is one reason why I wanted to move. I have one kid in public education here and I hate it. The other one is in private and it is fantastic, but very expensive. I thought maybe it would be better down there.

    I'd love to hear other thoughts.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    Small warm corner of hell
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    Default

    I think it depends on what part of Florida. I live as far inland right now as I ever have (FL native living in central FL) and the 8-9 month summer (we had NO winter this year) is hotter & more humid than I remember. I grew up in a gulf side beach town further south. The summers, to me, can feel like walking around in an outdoor sauna. But I have NO tolerance for the heat anymore and would desperately love to live somewhere else.
    Closer to the water the temps-year round-vary less than inland. Where my dad lives in Jacksonville the summer is just as gross but they usually get something resembling the other 3 seasons.
    And yes, the school systems are utterly test driven. But the quality varies widely from county to county. I would NEVER tell you to enroll your kids in my county.
    If you rinse bathing suits well and buy quality, they won't die as quickly. People have no idea how to drive. I-4 between Tampa & Orlando is lethal and maddening. Disney will lose it's charm. The snowbirds will drive you crazy. The year long residents are worse. If you're at all liberal, DO NOT voice your opinions in public. Again depending on where in FL, expect, or at least don't be shocked to hear racist and/or anti-Semitic jokes and comments at work, in the grocery store and other appalling public places. And I wish I were exaggerating on that, but I'm not, I've dealt with both.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    1,407

    Default

    I'm more south so I don't know much about the area you're thinking of moving to.

    Yes, right now the schools are test driven b/c of the No Child Left behind but I think Florida was one of the states that chose to opt out of that? So I'm hoping in the next few years we can say good riddance to the FCAT!
    We're lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with great schools but the system as a whole leaves a lot to be desired.

    Luckily I've never had to deal with the type of people that MaxandMolly has dealt with. I've never ever heard racist or anti-Semitic jokes or comments anywhere in public.

    Yes summers suck! Of course now that I'm pushing 40 it bothers me a lot more. Of course if I stayed inside all day it wouldn't be a big deal but having 3 kids who don't care how hot and humid it is that isn't an option!

    But honestly if moving here means a better quality of life in regards to having extra help with your children I would do it in a heartbeat!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    somewhere hot and humid
    Posts
    1,750

    Default

    I am a Florida transplant. We moved to Tampa from Southern California for my husband's job in the summer of 09, when my son was a baby. Everything you mentioned (and that others have seconded) about the negatives (weather, school system, humidity, bugs) is true. The summer is REALLY hard for me to deal with...not the intensity but the length. By September when my friends in other places are talking about how awesome it is that the weather has cooled off and they're having fun doing fall things I am insanely jealous, especially knowing that we have at least 6 more weeks of heat and misery.

    However, there is a flip side to that -- it is very nice here in the winter months (December, January, February). This year as others have said we had no cool weather at all, really, but the other years we have been here we have gotten a lovely stretch of cool/temperate weather and Florida really is an enviable place to live in the winter.

    As far as schools, I work for a university partnership in one of the local county school systems and am a former elementary school teacher myself (though never did that in Florida). Florida schools are very much driven by FCAT/end of course exams (in high school). Teachers here are also paid *very* poorly relative to cost of living and we have an education-unfriendly governor at the moment, and all these contributing factors add up to low teacher morale which is never good for schools. However, there are pockets of great schools and happy people -- the area of the county where I live (Hillsborough) has very good schools, pretty happy teachers and families, and a fabulous high school that our neighborhood feeds that I would be *psyched* if my kids got to attend. Even though I work in the county right next door, I wouldn't want to send my kids to school there...politically they're just kind of in a mess and the schools have really suffered. All this is just to demonstrate that the schools in FL really do vary county-to-county and before you move here you should do lots of research about which neighborhoods you want to live in if schools are important to you.

    We moved here from an extremely liberal part of Los Angeles, so anywhere we went would have felt super-conservative. I would say our area of Tampa is split pretty evenly 50-50 republican-democrat, which feels like a huge shift from our old neighborhood but I don't feel persecuted or in a huge minority or anything like that. DS also goes to a large Jewish preschool so we have met plenty of people who share our religious background and DH works for an art museum so we are very well connected to the area art and culture scene (which tends toward the liberal, so that has helped us).

    Overall I think we are actually very happy to live here. It was a totally random move for us and we knew no one, and we're all surprised that we like it so much. I have found the Tampa area to be a *fabulous* place for families in terms of how much there is for young kids...in addition to great city parks and all the natural amenities of the gulf coast like beaches and state parks, we've got a very nice zoo, aquarium, several children's museums, and plenty of places to explore. Lots of people around here do a lot of day and weekend trips to Disney and we have avoided that so far, mostly because it's just not our thing.

    The best thing for us, coming from a very expensive part of the country, has been the low cost of living. We live in an older, highly-desirable Tampa neighborhood with a diversity of housing styles that is 10 minutes to downtown. It's basically suburban living in the city limits which is just what we wanted. We pay less for our 3 BR house with yard than we did for our crappy 2 BR apartment rental in LA. Daycare is cheaper, gas is cheaper, everything is cheaper -- these are things that I consider big perks if you're moving here from somewhere else.

    We do have roaches, snakes and other bugs of all stripes. Summer is gross. If you want to DIY and have a yard (meaning you don't pay a service) maintenance in the summer is *impossible* to keep up with. We do it, but every summer I wish we either lived in a condo or paid someone to come do our yard. I would definitely suggest looking for a stucco or cement house, because wood doesn't wear too well in this climate. If you're thinking of purchasing a house, the other thing to consider is that homeowner's insurance in FL can be tricky and expensive...I thought it might just be our neighborhood (we are in an older house in a flood zone) but we're refinancing our mortgage and the guy from Wells Fargo actually told me that Florida has a reputation for having ridiculous homeowner's insurance rules that make it super-$$$ compared to other states.

    I don't know much about Sarasota specifically, but it's a really nice area (just about an hour south of us) and we spend time there in the winter because my husband's grandparents are in Longboat Key for the winter months.

    Let us know if you have other questions! Good luck!
    Leo 12/5/08 ...and Ivy 7/26/12

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    NC
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    4,781

    Default

    Just.Don't.Do.It. Me and FL, we go way back.

    I lived in Venice, which is the town south of Sarasota (and spend a lot of time in Sarasota) when I was in high school. My parents divorced, and my mom moved there with her boyfriend and since I lived with her I went to. I hated it. The schools were awful, I mean awful. My "step siblings" went to the nearby private school, and I was given the choice between the private school or public school. I'd always been a public school kid, so I chose that. Ha...now I see why they went to the private school. The only plus was getting out of school at like 1:45 everyday, but we started earlier. Seriously though, I was far ahead of my classmates when I got there, and I hadn't exactly come from a super top school to begin with. It was pitiful.

    To me, proximity to the beach wasn't a selling point, because I moved from a beach town to there. I thought the people were awful, as they're all transplants from other places. I know it's a huge stereotype, but a good majority of the residents are from the far north, and for this southern girl being around the rude and abrasive personalities was horrible. The weather. Blah. Summer in Florida is miserable.

    I lasted all of one semester before I moved back to NC to live with my dad/stepmom. Then, during college, despite saying I'd never ever live in Florida again, I did. My FI (then BF) was transferring schools and I decided to go with him. We lived on the east coast of FL for a little over 3 years. I dealt with it, but it was certainly not my favorite place. I was happy to leave. I heard the public schools there weren't much better

    I would not move to FL, especially since your mom is only there half the year.
    Courtney ~~LJ~~
    Don't ask the locals for directions, they already lost one colony!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    5,592

    Default

    My IL's moved from a SW suburb about 6 years ago, and now half of DH's siblings (4/8) have moved down that way. Generally seems like everyone is adjusting fine. The kids are going to school, it really seems heavily dependent on area - in one town my nieces were first enrolled in one of the worst schools in the state, then got into one of the best [magnet]. I know they talk about the FCAT constantly. One perk is that if you get certain grades (IIRC) you get tuition to a state school. I'm sure there's some hooks in there but so far 5 nieces and nephews are going to college for free.

    From talking to them it doesn't seem that the oppressive summer is logistically equivalent to our winter. Heat doesn't close roads and almost everything is air conditioned. It seems an advantage over northern climates because most of the year you can do stuff, that you can't guaranteedly do here.

    Quote Originally Posted by maxandmolly View Post
    IPeople have no idea how to drive.
    Good god, yes to this. I've spent a decent amount of time visiting ILs down there and DH and I NEVER experience road rage like this in Chicago. Seriously horrible drivers. I'm glad a native said it! I know insurance rates are quite high as well.

    From watching them try to get work done, it seems challenging to find reliable subcontractors, consistently I hear about how all kinds of trades don't show up, don't do good work, and are just really lax about everything.
    Last edited by Hello Kitty; 03-25-2012 at 11:29 AM.
    She'd be his wife and make him her husband 5/03Ds1 12/22/09...Ds2 8/31/12

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Western New York
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    Default

    We didn't have children when we lived in Florida but we were constantly hearing about the FCAT. I think Florida school's are a lot like anywhere else...your specific district will play a big role in how good the schooling is. Some districts are great...some suck.

    You get used to the summer heat. We lived in both Tampa and Miami. I preferred the summers on the east coast. They seemed less humid but honestly you quickly adjust and EVERYPLACE has a/c. We missed the snow in the winter (we grew up in NY)....it just didn't seem like Christmas without it.

    Traffic can really suck depending on the area you in. Cost of living was a lot compared to what we were used to. There are roaches but if you get your house sprayed regularly you shouldn't have a problem. Lizards are everywhere but they don't pose a problem and you get used to them. If you have a house pet (cat or dog) chances are they will catch any that get inside.

    We absolutely LOVED being near the water. And loved being able to spend so much time outside in the sun. You get some crazy weather in Florida. The thunder/lightning storms can be intense but we really enjoyed them (unless we were trying to drive at the time). Hurricanes weren't much of a problem for us (we were renting & had renters insurance) and generally we just planned to get out of the area if a bad hurricane was coming.

    As far as racism (we are an interracial family)...we encountered some incredibly rude people in a few areas of Florida (mostly in rural areas) but overall we didn't have much trouble. Miami was wonderful and very diverse....we often say that we would love to live there again at some point. I think you can encounter these types of issues all around the country.

    It seemed liked people were always coming and going in our neighborhood. Florida seemed like more of a stop on people's journey rather than a final destination.

    If my parents were in Florida we wouldn't have left. Everyplace you'll live has positives and negatives. The biggest draw for us was family and that's why we are back in NY.

    The things we miss:
    Sunshine
    Beach
    Wearing sandals year round
    Watching rain storms

    Things I don't miss:
    Bugs
    Humidity
    Expensive housing
    Traffic
    Last edited by KrissyCat7; 03-25-2012 at 11:52 AM.
    Kristen & Jason 5/19/06
    Our Peanut has arrived 5/20/09
    Our Bean has arrived 11/30/11

  10. #10
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    Jul 2005
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    Default

    Ah, I didn't catch the Sarasota part. I grew up in Venice, one town away. It is one the wealthiest counties in the country. So cost of living may or mat not be a huge savings-it's been a long time since I lived down there. On the water like that, summer will still be gross but a little more manageable. The schools are better than most counties, but that is VERY neighborhood specific in Sarasota. Of course as a kid in Venice there was 1 middle & 1 high school and when I moved to SC I sat around twiddling my thumbs while they covered stuff I'd learned a year or two earlier.
    I live in a very rural, ass backwards area, which is where you'll see the BS comments & such that I've had to listen to. Sarasota is much more 'cultured' in a way, much much less old Florida, so those things are much more hidden and whispered in private.
    But Sarasota has great beaches, the circus museum & Ringling art museum and mansion. And it's decent drive time to everything Tampa has to offer, like Busch Gardens and Adventure Island. If I HAD to pick a place in Florida to move to, it's not a bad choice.

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