Homeschooling Advocacy – Step 5: Know How to Write Effective Talking Points
Advocacy is for everyone. Any concerned parent can become an advocate for homeschooling freedoms. And so can you. This article is the fifth in a series of steps you can take to become an effective advocate for homeschooling in your community.
Step 5: Know How to Write Effective Talking Points
“If you build it, they will come.”
But what if they come, and you can’t think of anything to say?
It’s not enough to plan a meeting to talk about homeschooling with lawmakers, policymakers, bureaucrats, or the media. You have to have something to say when you get to the meeting. Successful homeschooling advocates get around this problem with a secret weapon: talking points.
Talking points are a short list of arguments in support of a particular position, a set of remarks which are carefully planned and written down before a meeting. Effective talking points organize and focus your thoughts so you’ll deliver your arguments effectively and concisely.
Meeting with strangers can be scary. With good talking points in your hand or briefcase, you’ll feel more confident and be better prepared to handle your meeting.
Writing effective talking points is easy if you remember the following helpful guidelines:
Define your main message. Why are you meeting in the first place? To break the ice and get acquainted? To demonstrate the diversity of the homeschooling community? To learn more about these people and how they can help you solve certain problems? To discuss a specific problem in your community? Once you know why you are meeting, the rest of the talking points may easily fall into place.
Keep your talking points short and sweet. Think bulleted lists, rather than novels. Instead of writing hundreds of points which may confuse or bore your listener, come up with no more than three or four main points which support your case. Then, develop those points with supporting arguments or evidence. Ideally, the whole thing should take no more than a page or less.
For instance, if you want to talk to the school board about why they should adopt a part-time enrollment policy for homeschoolers, your main talking points might look something like this:
I support School Board member Noname’s proposal to allow part-time enrollment for homeschoolers in Nosuch County because:
- Part-time enrollment would benefit the Nosuch County homeschooling community in general.
- Part-time enrollment would benefit my teenaged homeschooled child.
- Part-time enrollment would benefit the Nosuch County Public Schools.
Then you would list examples and arguments to back up each point. In this case, you would give specific examples of why the part-time enrollment policy would benefit each party involved.
Put your best foot forward. Write down all your talking points, and organize them so the strongest ones are presented first and most persuasively.
Stick to the point. Only use arguments which directly support your case. Get rid of any arguments or supporting evidence which don’t fit. Avoid bringing up other issues which are not related to homeschooling or are not related to this particular situation.
Provide specific examples that support your argument. Give concrete examples of how this problem is affecting the community or how the community would benefit from your solution. Anecdotes about people in your community who are personally affected by this problem are often very effective.
Keep your remarks professional. Talking points are not an appropriate venue for calling names, naming names, or blaming blames. Stick to the facts, and try to keep your comments neutral. For instance, saying “Some parents report difficulty in communicating directly with the superintendent’s office” is more likely to advance your cause than going into a long story about the terrible manners of the superintendent’s secretary – even if it’s all true!
Emphasize win-win solutions. Show how your solutions will benefit the public schools as well as homeschooling parents. Win-win solutions are more likely to be acceptable to your audience, and more likely to be implemented. Homeschooling advocates have won important victories in the past by explaining how their solutions would not only make life easier for homeschoolers, but also would reduce paperwork for overworked bureaucrats, create better relations with voters or taxpayers, or increase income to the public schools.
Your Mission: Write some talking points for a local homeschooling issue that concerns you. Use the above guidelines to get started. Once you’ve written your arguments, organize them so the strongest ones are presented first. Share what you’ve written with a friend and get feedback on how your talking points can be improved. (Actually using these talking points in a real meeting is optional!)
Article by Celeste Land. Originally published in the July-August 2006 VaHomeschoolers Newsletter. For more information on Virginia homeschooling legal and political issues, please contact VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs.