The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) was organized in December 1993 under its original name, Virginia Home Education Association (VHEA), by homeschool dads Will Shaw and Jay Phaup. At that time, Will had been a homeschool lobbyist for five years, and he was serving as a Vice President of the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV). Jay was then serving as the Fluvanna County homeschool support group leader.
In forming VHEA, Will said that he and others were uncomfortable with “the extent of the exclusiveness within the ranks of the Christian conservative homeschool organizations … we wanted something broader.”
Even though Will and Jay were both conservative Christians, they decided to create an organization that “would welcome all homeschool sorts, not just Christian sorts.” Before 1993, there was no statewide organization representing the diverse homeschooling community in Virginia. These founders wanted to form a homeschool organization which focused entirely on homeschool issues, without the sometimes unrelated political and social issues which distracted from this central concern. If an issue didn’t involve homeschooling directly, the new organization would take no position on it.
From the start, VHEA put the focus on keeping Virginians informed of relevant legislative issues so that families could show support of what they favored or did not. In its short existence, VaHomeschoolers (formerly VHEA) has initiated several vital changes in Virginia law:
- Amending the Home Instruction Statute to clearly delineate parents’ right to begin homeschooling at any time during the academic year.
- Eliminating the evidence of progress requirement for 5-year-old students.
- Enacting legislation that provides financial incentives for Virginia public school boards that allow part-time academic enrollment of homeschooled students.
- Preventing the institution of day-time curfews, freeing homeschooling from being legally bound to the actual home.
- Eliminating a bill that would require annual records of physical exams and vaccines of all homeschoolers to be submitted to the state board of health.
- Protecting the Religious Exemption from negative amendment.
- Protecting the kindergarten opt-out.
- Affirming the right of parents to tutor their own children under the Approved Tutor Provision.
- Requiring school divisions to make the Advanced Placement (AP) and Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) examinations available to students receiving home instruction.
- Amending the Home Instruction Statute to recognize a high school diploma as a valid documentation of parental qualification to provide home instruction.
- Broadening testing options for people filing under option (iv) so that they can use any nationally normed standardized test, and not just the state Standards of Learning (SOLs).
Equally important, VaHomeschoolers has worked to prevent passage of dozens of other often well-intentioned laws that, if passed, would adversely affect homeschoolers.
Name Change from VHEA
In the autumn of 2004, the name VHEA was changed to The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers), after 60% of responding members voted to support the change. This action was precipitated by the continuing confusion between the two state homeschool organizations, HEAV and VHEA, as well as the Virginia Education Association (VEA), part of the national teacher’s group NEA. The new name illustrates that the single focus is on homeschooling, and that the organization’s mission is to bring people of many backgrounds, beliefs and methods together around the one thing they have in common: homeschooling.
VaHomeschoolers Gets Non-Profit Status
VaHomeschoolers was approved as a 501(c)(3) organization retroactive to March 8, 2002. Having non-profit status brought many money-saving benefits and opened up new opportunities for the organization and its supporters. This status made available more resources to put towards ongoing activities such as monitoring legislation, lobbying, coordinating conferences, maintaining an informative website and producing a top-quality newsletter. Members and other supporters received direct benefit as well since all contributions to VaHomeschoolers were now fully tax-deductible.
Conferences and Seminars
VaHomeschoolers hosted its first conferences in Charlottesville in 2001 and 2002. From 2004-2009, the conference grew large enough to be moved to the Science Museum of Virginia in the state capital of Richmond (2005 was not a full conference). 2009 saw a special session on college preparation and admissions. In 2010, the conference location was moved to The Cultural Arts Center in Glen Allen, just north of Richmond.
Partial Enrollment in Public Schools Legislation
In 1997 the Virginia General Assembly, upon the initiative of VaHomeschoolers, passed a bill encouraging school divisions to open their doors to home and private school students wanting to take classes part time. A handful of school divisions across Virginia opened their doors, welcoming in a small set of home and private school children who, with their parents, chose to give part-time public school access a try. The law created a financial incentive for school divisions to more flexibly serve their community by allowing homeschoolers who enrolled part time in math, science, English, social studies, and foreign language to be included on a prorated basis in the ADM (average daily membership) count for school funding. Vocational education and fine arts were added to the reimbursable course list. However, the law did not require divisions to open their doors to homeschoolers, nor did it address access to extracurricular programs.
Legacy Circle members were and are leaders, moving the organization to new levels through their many years of service and strong belief in the founding principles of the organization. They have served homeschoolers across the state as role models, by supporting and mentoring other homeschool families. They are an important part of VaHomeschoolers history. We honor their years of service and dedication to homeschooling.
This short history was compiled from the work of former VaHomeschoolers President Shay Seaborne.