How to Advocate

 Be an Advocate for Homeschooling

Just as educational philosophies and approaches can vary significantly among homeschooling families, so, too can our degree of comfort with and interest in taking the role of a “homeschool advocate.”  While some homeschooling parents feel driven to right wrongs in the world or to push for change for the better, others prefer to avoid conflict if at all possible, and many of us fall somewhere in between, willing to take on important issues that hit close to home, if only we knew how to go about it effectively.  Nearly all of us, however, want to be able to effectively respond if we feel our homeschooling freedoms are being abridged or threatened in some way.

VaHomeschoolers has prepared some resources to help you advocate for yourself and the homeschooling community.  Even if you never find yourself in an advocacy situation, this information can help to empower you to be a more confident homeschooler.

Working with Your School Division

Most homeschoolers never have a problem working with their school division to file their Notice of Intent and Evidence of Progress each year.   Nearly all school division administrators do what is required by the Home Instruction Statute and have no interest in making things difficult for homeschooling families.  In the under-staffed, under-funded, over-worked world of public education, school divisions are focused on efficiency and on their primary job, educating students in the public schools.  Hassling homeschoolers is not on their agenda.  Nevertheless, there are sometimes situations when you may wish to address an area related to homeschooling with your local school division.

For example, you might wish to be able to effectively:

  • Respond when your local school division superintendent or staff member says that your curriculum description is not adequate;
  • Inform your school division that information included in its Notice of Intent form, standard homeschooling correspondence, or website is inaccurate or out-of-date with respect to the Home Instruction Statute;
  • Encourage your school board to allow part-time enrollment or extracurricular activity participation for home-instructed students.

Working with Elected Officials

VaHomeschoolers’ Government Affairs Committee works with elected officials on many issues related to homeschooling, and we are always happy to answer your questions and respond to your viewpoint.  Our positions are, without exception, based on the direction of our members, as expressed in our annual membership survey. There may be circumstances in which you want to contact your elected representatives directly to discuss an area of particular concern to you, or to express your opinion and explain why an issue deserves their attention.

For example, you might want to be able to influence the decision-making of:

  • Your representatives in the Virginia General Assembly;
  • Your U.S. Senator or Representative;
  • Local elected officials such as your county board of supervisors or school board representative.

Effective Advocacy

Whether you need to advocate for homeschoolers in general or yourself individually, with your own local school division or with elected officials, the steps for effective advocacy are the same:

Know the Facts:  Understand Virginia’s Home Instruction Statute, or research the particular issue of concern to you.  Your efforts will be most effective if the statements you make are accurate and complete.  In your communication, cite specific sources for your facts, if appropriate (for example, a quote from the Home Instruction Statute or a link to it online, or a quote from VaHomeschoolers’ website).

Contact the Right People:  Get correct contact information for your local school division employees and your elected representatives, and address your communication to those who have the authority to resolve the problem or concern.  Depending on the issue, you may choose to send copies of the same communication to more than one recipient.  Written communication is often the best way to get your point across, because it gives the person you are addressing an opportunity to review the facts and formulate a careful response.  Some correspondence is best made by postal mail, and some concerns can be addressed effectively via email.

Communicate Confidently and Politely:  Carefully consider the tone of your communication.  An angry or accusatory tone can cause the recipient of your letter or email to feel that he or she needs to defend his position, rather than consider your point of view, or may come across as unprofessional and undermine your credibility.  At the same time, clearly and confidently state the reason you are writing, and explain what you would like the recipient of your communication to do.

Be an Ambassador:  Whether you wish to be or not, when you work to advocate on homeschooling issues with your school division or elected officials, you are, in many cases, a representative of the homeschooling community.  The person you are contacting may not have much, or, in some cases, any experience interacting with homeschooling families.  A polite and professional interaction (whether you achieve your immediate goal or not) will open the door for positive change for yourself and others in the homeschooling community.

Resource Links

Your School Division

Your Elected Representatives

Articles from our Archives

Homeschool Advocacy Through Community Service, by Mary Alissa Wilson
Our family has always emphasized volunteering because, for us, it is the right thing to do. I see community service as an incredible opportunity to serve as advocates for homeschooling as well.

Vulnerability of Virginia Homeschooling Laws and What You Can Do, by Peg Watson
“Each winter the Virginia General Assembly convenes to consider changes to the Code of Virginia, thus creating a window of vulnerability for our state homeschooling laws.  Because the Virginia legislative process progresses very quickly, imminent detection of bills impacting homeschooling is necessary.  Each year bills are discovered which are potentially dangerous to the homeschooling freedoms we currently hold.”

How and Why Homeschoolers Should Be Involved in Local and State Politics, by Celeste Land
Celeste Lands summary of Delegate Rob Bells presentation at the VHEA Conference & Curriculum Fair 2002.

Strategies for Building Effective Relationships With Politicians 
Celeste Land’s summary of Delegate Rob Bell’s presentation at the 2002 VHEA Conference & Curriculum Fair.

In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion
Shay Seaborne’s account of her first meeting with a candidate for State Senate. she realized that, as an experienced homeschooler involved in the community, she was qualified to speak with a candidate, a Senator, or whomever if she could just swallow her fear.

Homeschoolers Serve in the General Assembly
Homeschooler Georganna Mehfoud, then 16-years-old, wrote about her experience serving as an intern in a Delegate’s office.

Paging for the 2000 House of Delegates
Tammy Ivins shares her experience as a teen page in the Virginia General Assembly

 

For a more detailed look at effective homeschool advocacy techniques, read Homeschooling Advocacy, Step by Step, a five-part series of articles published in VaHomeschoolers’ Voice magazine.


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