Education innovation

A new learning program based in Minnesota is helping families break free of government schools.

If you haven’t noticed yet, we are at the beginning of a massive transformation in how American K-12 education is delivered. Many families are realizing the top-down system isn’t the right fit for their children and are moving on to bottom-up alternative models that better align with their personal values and worldviews.

It’s educational innovation working its magic, and I’m here for it.

From microschools to homeschool centers, families are accessing a variety of educational models all with diverse philosophies and are being empowered to be the driving force of where and how their children learn.

Joining this new education ecosystem is Portals, a nonprofit, literature-to-project based learning program aimed at supporting anyone who wants to foster a Christian education in a homeschool, cohort, or private school setting.

“Parents wanting a change in their child’s learning environment can become completely overwhelmed by the thought of taking on homeschooling on their own,” says Dr. Seann Dikkers, vice president of development at Portals. “But that’s where we come in — as a resource for any adult to provide a full school year of structured experiences (lessons and projects) with digital supplements alongside them. If mom can’t facilitate learning one day, grandma can easily jump in and keep the learning going. We also have entire Christian schools signed up to provide teachers with boilerplate lesson plans to save them prep time — it’s support without strings.”

As an educator for 29 years, including as a former public school teacher, principal, and professor, Dikkers sees Portals as a key resource in the explosion of education innovation. Want to homeschool but don’t think you have the background, exposure or training to do so effectively? Portals offers professional development and on-call support. Are you part of a microschool and interested in family-style learning or already homeschooling and just want to save time with planning? Portals’ lesson plans can be used across age levels. How about supplementing your lesson plans at a private school? Portals adds exploratory engagement to each day of learning. Dikkers explains, “We target any of the barriers for parents to provide their own education and seek to remove them systemically.”

Following a successful pilot year that included 17 teachers/parents at 13 locations with 34 K-7th grade students including one microschool, Portals has started this school year as K-12, with over five times the number of students (184) primarily by word of mouth. At $240 per school year, Portals participants receive complete lesson plans and project ideas built around existing homeschool curriculum, on-call support, and on-call mentorship for any adult in a child’s life to provide learning experiences.

“There are a number of reasons families want an alternative to a government school, but not every family has the tools or resources to make it happen,” says Dikkers. “Portals offers comprehensive day-to-day support for that — at a price that is a viable competitor to public options.”

Based out of Alexandria, Minn., Portals recently became a support partner for the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE). The model program is also generating interest in other states. Coign Conservative Credit Card selected Portals out of hundreds of charities and nonprofits to be their 2023 3rd Quarter Charity Partner for support dollars to fuel the education revolution. Dikkers adds, “Every dollar we take in goes straight to curriculum development and building a digital dashboard for parents to organize their children’s education.”

“Homeschooling and other innovative learning models have surged across the country in the last few years, and we don’t see that changing any time soon,” says Dikkers. Support for homeschooling and other non-government schools goes beyond the anecdotal — national homeschooling numbers are still well above their pre-2020 rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s May 2023 Household Pulse Survey.

As more families discover an educational world outside of their neighborhood school, support, advice, and camaraderie with parents who have made similar educational choices for their children are important, continues Dikkers. “We at Portals want to give parents what they are looking for and then get out of the way. You may not be a certified teacher, but you know your child best. You can do this.”

While not the only option outside of the mass schooling system, Portals adds to the value of a competitive education marketplace. “Providing what we consider the highest quality support for the most affordable price possible helps create a more dynamic marketplace, a greater variety of options, and improved accessibility of those options,” says Dikkers.

For more information on Portals, visit

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