By the end of the month, two of Israel and Aglika Arroyo’s sons should be receiving a pair of diplomas apiece. As homeschool students in Florida’s dual-enrollment program, they are scheduled to be awarded their associate’s degrees a day before graduating from high school.
But plans for the teens to don caps and gowns and receive the well-deserved congratulations of family and friends almost had to be cancelled because of a misapplication of the law.
As Aglika explained, the obstacle she and her sons unexpectedly encountered rose to a level of confusion that required the help of a Home School Legal Defense Association attorney to resolve.
On Campus Together
The episode was especially frustrating, the mom said, because the dual-enrollment program had been working so well for her sons.
The oldest of the two, who is 18, enrolled at Miami Dade College in 2020. The opportunity to take college-level courses while having them also count as high school credit meant he could make up for missing some school when he was dealing with health issues.
“My oldest son has had three spinal surgeries during the four years he was in high school,” explained Aglika. “That was a very difficult season in our lives.” He still suffers from chronic pain.
Forging ahead academically provided him the opportunity to serve as a mentor when Aglika’s younger son, who was then 13, surprised his parents by announcing in 2021 that he, too, felt ready for college.
He’d passed the entrance exam, which showed he was able to do the advanced coursework. Based on this assessment—and the fact that while on campus he’d be guided by his older brother, who planned to take many of the same classes—Aglika consented to her son’s wishes. “I said, ‘let’s try it.’”
At the college, the brothers focused on core courses that also fulfilled their high school requirements.
“It was literally homeschooling through college,” said Aglika. She conferred with her sons regularly to review and discuss assignments to ensure they were progressing toward their dual goals while also meeting the standards she had set for them in their homeschool.
She added: “It was really beneficial for us in that sense, as we engaged in discussions that further strengthened their critical thinking and fortified their worldview, learning not to compromise with their convictions, while completing the class requirements.”
An Issue of Timing
As they were filling out the formal application for graduation during their last semester, a guidance counselor at Miami Dade College told Aglika that—in order for her sons to be able to walk in the commencement ceremony—she first had to sign an affidavit affirming the teens had graduated from high school.
This made no sense to Aglika, because as dual-enrollment students, her sons needed to complete classes at Miami Dade College in order to satisfy the requirements for their homeschool high school diplomas. The final grades at Miami Dade College don’t post until April 28, after finals are in. But the college required the affidavit to be turned in by March 20. Even if the students had completed all their other homeschool coursework by then, their college classes would not have been completed until five weeks later.
Additionally, according to the letter of the law, as soon as the brothers complete high school, they no longer qualify for dual enrollment. Aglika worried that she might derail her sons’ educational plans by signing the affidavit prematurely.
As a longtime member of HSLDA, Aglika decided to ask for help.
Providing an Answer
HSLDA Senior Counsel Tj Schmidt started by contacting the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Articulation. The official he spoke to confirmed what Schmidt suspected—that the affidavit in question does not apply to dual-enrollment students. Instead, it is meant to help confirm the eligibility of applicants who are ready to attend college full-time.
Schmidt asked the state official to contact Miami Dade College, and then sent an email of his own clarifying that the Arroyo brothers were indeed following the law—that they could finish their high school program and earn an associate’s degree simultaneously.
As Schmidt reported, “College officials notified both the family and me that an affidavit confirming completion of high school was not needed in order to earn their degrees.” Our contact with the Department of Education prompted the college to acknowledge that a homeschool student could graduate simultaneously from their homeschool program and from college.
Now, the brothers are set to finish homeschooling and two years of college, come the final weekend of April. They’ve already been accepted for further studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Upon completing his bachelor's degree, Aglika’s younger son hopes to pursue a master's degree in architecture, while his brother plans to double major in Christian ministry and business.
Aglika said she appreciated Schmidt’s help in resolving the conflict with college officials.
“I probably wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did if I hadn’t called HSLDA,” she said. “I’m glad I had an advocate.”