Disruptions to the status quo wrought by COVID-19 have prompted parents to expect more flexibility and more involvement in their children’s education—changes that policy makers and other officials are understandably still trying to process.
So, when confusion over the status of a Minnesota family’s homeschool program led a district to deny access to public school sports, HSLDA helped clear things up.
Lisa and her husband started homeschooling their four children in 2020. She said they had considered making the switch for some time because of growing concerns about the values that were being taught in their children’s schools.
Ultimately, their decision to homeschool was triggered by pandemic-related restrictions imposed in their son’s kindergarten. Not only were the rules hard for a young boy as active as their son, said Lisa, but “he just wasn’t getting consistent schooling.”
Finding the Right Plan
The family signed up with Wisconsin-based FreedomProject Academy, which offers both teacher-led live classes as well as on-demand classes that parents can supervise. Parents in the academy’s homeschool track are responsible for grading all of their children’s work.
This arrangement especially suited Lisa and her husband, who stay very busy operating the family greenhouse and florist gift shop. They set up a school room above their office, which permits them to be close at hand to direct their children’s learning.
Lisa said she’s seen homeschooling deliver many benefits. Her twin daughters have jumped ahead two grade levels in math, and they’ve all grown closer as a family.
“Our kids are more independent than they were before we started homeschooling,” she explained. “They figure out their own schedules.” And when they have time, Lisa added, they’ve been able to get work experience and hands-on economics training by helping with the business.
Left out of the Race
Over the summer, Lisa’s twin girls expressed an interest in sports. Minnesota law permits homeschool students to participate in public school extracurricular activities, so Lisa applied for access to their district’s cross-country team.
After learning that Lisa used FreedomProject Academy, however, local officials mistakenly believed that the family’s children were enrolled full-time in a Wisconsin private school and refused to let them participate.
Unsure of how to correct the error, Lisa contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.
Staff Attorney Amy Buchmeyer quickly got involved. First, she helped the family ensure they had proof of their compliance with homeschool law, which includes submitting certain paperwork and teaching required subjects, including supplemental courses such as fine arts, health, and physical education. Buchmeyer also referred the parents to HSLDA educational consultants for more information on how to meet yearly student evaluation requirements.
Our attorney then contacted local school officials, explaining that Lisa was in compliance with all of Minnesota’s homeschool laws and was indeed the primary director of her children’s education.
The public school swiftly relented.
Following the Law
Buchmeyer said she doesn’t believe school officials intended to be malicious. They just didn’t understand what they were dealing with.
“The problem is,” she added, “that post-pandemic homeschooling can look different with so many new types of online resources available to parents, so you get situations that can present novel applications of the law.”
With the misunderstanding resolved, Lisa’s twins were able to join the high school varsity cross-country team for the fall season. Lisa said her daughters have enjoyed competing and are diligent about training every school day.
She thanked Buchmeyer and her assistant for ensuring her family obtained access to their rightful benefits.
“You made all of the difference,” Lisa stated. “I couldn’t thank you enough for all you have done to help us. Becoming a member of HSLDA was the best decision we could have made.”