ELK RIVER, Minn. — After distance learning in the spring, Brad and Nancy Bjorkman thought their Elk River home schooling store might be busier than usual. But not like this.
"We thought it was going to be a big bump, but we didn't know how big," said Brad, who owns Heppner's Legacy Homeschool Resources with Nancy, his wife.
The couple says since June 23, 360 new families considering home schooling have walked through their doors, which are only open five hours a day.
"That doesn't count all the emails, and phone calls, and all of that kind of stuff," said Nancy, who says the store normally doesn't see a back-to-school rush until late July or early August.
Due to the virus, they're only letting ten people in the store at a time. They say a line frequently forms outside the store.
"The outside of our door, it looked like [Sweet Martha's] cookies at the fair," said Brad.
Their store, which they say is one of few of its kind in the Midwest, offers supplies and resources for parents who home-school. They also offer a class for beginners.
"We're here to help families educate kids. We're not here to talk families into home schooling," Brad said.
Lisa McWilliams is one of the Bjorkman's customers. She home-schooled her oldest son through second grade. Both her sons then went back to in-person class in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District. Then the pandemic sent them home again.
"Once they started distance learning, that quickly fell apart in our family," McWilliams said. "Then we just switched gears and kind of put our home-school hats back on."
The home-school hats will stay on throughout the 2020-2021 school year, too. McWilliams said no matter what the Governor announces Thursday, her family will be sticking with home schooling.
"Regardless of how this school year starts, I think there is a lot of uncertainty whether that is how it will finish," she said. "As someone who is working, it's hard for me to move back-and-forth ... It just made a lot more sense for us to have something that we knew was going to be stable."
Brian and Kate Pfeffer have other reasons for keeping their 8-year-old son home from his Mankato school this year. Both parents have compromised immune systems. Brian says he has many ailments from his service in the Army, but the main concern is his autoimmune diseases, which is why the couple says their son will not physically be in a school building this year.
"It's too much of a risk," Brian said.
The Pfeffer's son, who will be in second grade this fall, attends an application-only public school in Mankato. They hope the school offers distance learning, so he can keep his spot, but if not, Kate says, they'll opt for home schooling.
"It's been hours and hours of discussion and consideration, and having to realize at the end of the day our son deserves his parents more than a slot in a school," Kate said. "We want the best for him and it's tough. There's no right decision, but that's what parenting is I guess, right? So we just try our best."