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State Homeschooling Organizations: Making Our Voices Heard

Every day, hundreds of thousands of committed mothers and fathers selflessly devote themselves to the task of teaching their children at home. Free from the strictures of government bureaucracy and standardization, these parents create positive learning environments that engage their children's learning styles and respect their individuality.

For Christian parents, the most appealing benefit of homeschooling is the ability to incorporate their faith and convictions into the educational process. At the end of the day, their children's faith in God has been affirmed, their worldview strengthened, and their family life enriched. Like a diamond, the beauty of homeschooling is truly multi-faceted.

Homeschooling parents are, by definition and necessity, an independent lot. They are pioneers in the frontiers of parent-directed education. And, yet, during the course of the last 20 years, these same parents have astutely perceived the need to band together to form extremely successful state homeschooling organizations. State organizations have played essential roles in the amazing political, legal, and PR successes of the modern homeschooling movement.

Christopher Klicka, senior counsel for HSLDA observes:

After working in the homeschooling movement for 18 years, I've found that the state homeschool associations are crucial for maintaining the freedom to homeschool in each state. It is important for individual families to be involved with their state organizations so that homeschoolers have solidarity throughout the state. As Benjamin Franklin said, "If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately!"

Susan Beatty, co-founder, board member, and Communications Director for Christian Home Education Association of California, says,

"State organizations promote camaraderie. When we are part of a bigger group, we realize that we are not alone. When we band together, we can make our voices heard."

According to tradition, when the eighteenth century composer Franz Joseph Haydn attended the Westminster Abbey performance of the Hallelujah Chorus, he "stood with the crowd, wept and exclaimed, 'He is the Master of us all.'" (Oxford Companion, 5th Ed.) One or two voices could not have evoked this type of response from Haydn. Sometimes, it takes a choir.

State organizations have, in many respects, become choirs for the homeschooling movement. When we join our voices together, we create a quality musical performance that cannot be duplicated by one or two voices singing alone. By joining the choir, homeschooling parents don't surrender their individuality or personal convictions and responsibilities. On the contrary, we reaffirm them as we commit to work together in the public square. As in all good choirs, participants sing different parts. We all have unique talents and gifts to contribute. When we, as Christian home educators, join our voices together, we should desire for our communities to be so moved by the power and emotion of the music that they exclaim with Haydn, "He is the Master of us all."

In spite of the important role state homeschooling organizations play in the continued growth and well-being of the homeschooling movement, "Serving Homeschoolers at the State Level: Current Perceptions," a recent survey conducted by Thomas W. Washburne, Esq., Director of HSLDA's National Center for Home Education, concludes the following:

Overall, slightly less than one-half (48%) of homeschoolers consider themselves to be involved in some way with a state homeschooling organization ...Those homeschoolers not involved with a state organization, 52% of the total, indicated that they were not involved for a number of reasons. When asked directly, about half (52%) said they were not involved with a state organization because they "just never thought about getting involved with it or didn't know about it." Homeschooling organizations are involved in a wide array of essential activities. As you read through the following information, pray for the state leaders, board members, and volunteers involved in these organizations. Today would be a good day for you to become involved in your state's organization if you are not already! Make a note of those areas that are appealing to you and in which you are gifted, and call your state organization today.

Lobbying and legislative activities

"State homeschool organizations are vitally important to maintaining a favorable legal climate for home instruction. The stronger the state organization, the safer it is for home educators. Legislators and other government officials know that state organizations represent the voices of thousands of homeschooling families when they speak," says Dewitt Black, Senior Counsel for HSLDA.

In "Serving Homeschoolers at the State Level," HSLDA asked members the following question: "What activity of state organizations is the most important?" Eighty-five percent of the respondents answered, "Working with the state legislatures."

In fact, many state homeschooling organizations were organized in the 1980s and early 1990s to fight bad homeschooling laws and to help draft and implement favorable legislation. These years were marked with intense legal and legislative battles. Today, state organizations continue to serve as watchdogs in their respective state legislatures.

HSLDA provides assistance in this continuous vigil on several different levels. They employ a legislative monitoring service that alerts state leaders to legislation that should be examined and observed-complimenting the state organization's own monitoring procedures. Secondly, HSLDA attorneys are available to state leaders to aid in the process of defeating harmful legislation, while helping with the implementation of positive legislative change.

During the 2002 legislative session, homeschoolers in South Carolina were blindsided by a bill that threatened to nullify the diplomas earned by homeschooled graduates. This bill had the potential to prohibit homeschool graduates from attending state colleges, holding state jobs, or running for state office. Dewitt Black worked alongside state leaders to help defeat this threatening legislation by activating HSLDA e-lerts and by traveling to South Carolina to testify before the Senate Education Committee.

To strengthen their overall legislative presence, many state organizations host legislative days at their state capitols for both homeschooling parents and children. Claiborne and Lana Thornton, board members for the Tennessee Home Education Association, have been organizing the annual Capitol Hill Rally and Legislative Reception Day for years. The day features a luncheon, outstanding student presentations, instructions for effective lobbying, and opportunities for homeschooling families to meet with their legislators.

Regarding the legislative work of state organizations, Chris Klicka issues this clarion call: "State organizations cannot effectively lobby on behalf of and serve homeschoolers unless individuals support them."

If you have not done so already, it is time to join the choir! For more information on the organization in your state, see the Directory of State Homeschooling Organizations.

Helping new homeschoolers

Kevin Swanson, Executive Director of Christian Educators of Colorado (CHEC), believes that "helping new homeschoolers get started is the heart and soul of CHEC's ministry." CHEC sends out over 2,000 introductory packets to interested parents annually. Additionally, the CHEC office receives five to ten calls per day from people who want help in getting started.

CHEC's major emphasis, however, is on encouraging prospective homeschoolers to attend one of their introductory seminars. Kevin says,

These seminars meet people at a very important time in their homeschooling journey, and that's at the beginning. The probability of somebody sticking with homeschooling will rely, to a great extent, upon the equipping they received at the beginning. In our Intro Seminars, we start with the homeschooling vision. We go straight to the heart of homeschooling, which includes individualized, parent-directed programs, freedom from government control, and Christ-centeredness.

CHEC began hosting the Intro Seminars about six years ago, at the rate of one or two a year. Today CHEC conducts these six-hour seminars 16 times per year, in all corners of the state.

Zan Tyler is the Homeschool Resource and Media Consultant for Broadman & Holman Publishers and the Homeschool Editor for She is the founder and past president of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools. She and her husband Joe have three children and have homeschooled since 1984.

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