For many years now, Oregon sisters Teagan and Rylie have been more than just homeschool teens living on their family’s farm. Ever since Rylie—the oldest—started a dairy cow business in the 4th grade, the two of them have been business partners, raising and marketing dairy cows as part of their job.
Throughout their school years, it made sense for the girls to get involved in activities related to their business—participating in 4-H programs, networking, and socializing with likeminded students.
Both girls participated in 4-H. Before graduating in 2023, Rylie took part in Future Farmers of America (FFA), available only through the local public high school. Riley was able to enroll because homeschool students are allowed to participate in public school extracurricular activities per Oregon state law.
So when 14-year-old Teagan went with her mother, Michelle, to sign up for FFA this summer, they expected the process to be routine. Instead, public school officials told Michelle that Teagan did not qualify for participation in the agriculture and leadership program.
The high school’s reason for excluding Teagan left Michelle baffled. Officials said that because the family uses a computer-based education program from an accredited, out-of-state provider, Teagan was not really being homeschooled.
“They were saying that Teagan was actually attending a private Christian school,” Michelle recalled.
According to Oregon law, homeschool students are allowed to participate in public school extracurricular activities. Private school students are not.
But the assertion that Teagan was not being homeschooled contradicted an important fact. Teagan was being reported as a homeschool student to her Education Service District (ESD)—an agency that provides services to multiple public school districts.
Also, the claim that Teagan was really a private school student enrolled in an out-of-state program bordered on accusing her of being out of compliance with Oregon law. This is because, according to statute, students going to a private or parochial school must attend “for a period equivalent to that required of children attending public schools.” Private schools based outside the state do not meet this requirement, which means that Oregon students in these programs risk being considered truant.
In addition, Rylie had used the very same homeschool program the previous year, while participating in the local high school’s FFA program. Rylie had even served as the FFA chapter and district president.
Michelle said she was unable to account for why school officials had changed their stance.
“I didn’t know what was correct and what wasn’t,” she said.
Closer Look at the Law
Michelle contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association for help.
Tj Schmidt, HSLDA senior counsel, called school officials to try to resolve the misunderstanding.
First, he showed that Teagan was indeed being homeschooled. Yes, she was using accredited coursework provided by a Florida-based publisher, but that entity is not registered anywhere as a school. He also said Michelle and her husband remain heavily involved in guiding Teagan’s education.
“We still administer and grade her tests, help her decide what to read and what she’s going to do reports on,” Michelle explained.
Schmidt also pointed out that Teagan's parents complied with a very important legal requirement that confirmed her educational status––they established their intent to homeschool by submitting paperwork to their ESD years ago.
“My position was simple,” Schmidt said. “If you’re homeschooling a child, you’re required to report to the local ESD. The family had done so. Therefore, the student was eligible to participate in extracurricular activities, including FFA, under Oregon law.”
While the district’s attorney wanted to hold on to the out-of-state private school theory, Schmidt’s advocacy eventually proved effective. By September, Teagan was able to join the high school’s FFA program.
The teen said she’s excited to take part, and is hoping FFA will help her hone important skills such as public speaking, general marketing, and interviewing for jobs.
Meanwhile, Teagan and her sister will continue to focus on growing their business. They currently have 20 dairy cows, about half of which they milk. Teagan spends around 25 hours a week caring for the cattle—time she might not have if she were attending traditional school.With homeschooling, she explained, “I have a lot more flexible hours. If something comes up with my animals, I can get that done.”