Janice never found it difficult to comply with homeschool law. As a violin instructor who used to teach a lot, she’s accustomed to writing everything down. Increased screen time and other requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic led Janice and her husband to remove their oldest son from his public elementary school in Connecticut.
She found out she was pregnant a year later. She and her two children relocated to her parents in Ontario for extra support during her pregnancy and a difficult birth of her third child (Janice and her kids have dual citizenship).
Janice’s husband was able to secure a job in New York, only six hours away from his family, but it meant he had to remain in the States. She wanted to keep homeschooling, so she followed Ontario’s homeschool requirements and continued to educate her son legally.
Hoping to join her husband at their rental home in New York, she began researching the state’s homeschool requirements. She reached out to the secretary of the school district where their new home was located. Janice requested more information about the school district, what sorts of services they offered, and how to follow state homeschool requirements.
“Immediately the secretary started asking for my personal information,” Janice said. Over the next few weeks, Janice received several phone calls asking if she planned on enrolling her son in school.
She recalled telling her: “Well, we live in Canada. We're residents of Canada. We're not enrolling. We're not living there.”
“And she’d call me and keep asking the same questions,” Janice added. “She did not believe me,” Then she received a note from the New York Department of Social Services (DSS) in March notifying her that her family was under investigation for educational neglect.
“In New York, everything has to be investigated,” said Tj Schmidt, HSLDA senior counsel.
They initiated their investigation, and the caseworker completed a Family Assessment Response. While the family wasn’t technically under investigation for abuse or neglect, the caseworkers demand many of the same things that would be required if they were.
“They mentioned checking my children for bruises . . . all of my children,” Janice recalled. “That’s the moment I realized this is investigating our family for abuse.”
Within three days of receiving the initial letter, she reached out to HSLDA, which she had learned about through homeschool Facebook groups she joined for ideas and support. She became a member of both HSLDA and HSLDA Canada.
Schmidt took her case and reached across the border to HSLDA Canada, where one of their attorneys, Megen Zelinka, verified that Janice is a Canadian resident who legally homeschools her children. (HSLDA Canada, located in Ontario, serves homeschooling families in Canada, and is a completely separate organization.)
Armed with this information, Schmidt urged the DSS worker to close the investigation as Janice was not in their jurisdiction and had already followed proper homeschool requirements in her province. In less than two weeks, the case was closed and sealed.
“It was incredible,” Janice said. “It never would have happened without HSLDA’s help. I am so grateful,” Janice said. She now encourages all her homeschool friends to join HSLDA because of their experience and swift, effective action in helping her close the case.
Janice enjoys cultivating a creative environment for her son to learn in. Homeschooling gives her the flexibility to give him time for creativity. “You can’t necessarily teach someone to be creative, but you can give them the time to develop it,” she said.
Her son’s favorite part of homeschooling is the free time which allows him to read and explore topics that interest him. Janice gives him a few hours of free time every day, which he uses to read.
At 8 years old, he’s working his way through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (with help), The Secret Garden, and a chemistry book. Janice also shares her musical talent with him and teaches him violin.
Janice is “extremely” grateful to both organizations—HSLDA and HSLDA Canada—for protecting her family from an unnecessary investigation. “We couldn’t have resolved that on our own,” she said.
That’s why it’s crucial for parents to understand homeschool laws in their region, and to know that they are able to turn to HSLDA (or HSLDA Canada) if they find themselves in an unmerited investigation.
"Just because you're doing it right doesn't mean everyone else thinks so, too,” Janice said, speaking to parents.
Janice plans to continue homeschooling as a Canadian resident for the remainder of 2023. She and her children are spending the summer with her husband in upstate New York. She can now homeschool with peace of mind, knowing that help is just a call away.