By J. Michael Smith, HSLDA President and 33rd Annual Convention Speaker
As homeschoolers, we need each other. We need to be connected to the lives of others, especially those who have things in common with us. God made us not only to depend upon Him but also to rely on each other.
This is especially true when we are involved in something as challenging and complex as homeschooling. The support we receive from others is invaluable. Even a simple “You can do it!” can have a lasting impact on a discouraged homeschooling parent. Most of us would not be able to homeschool without the help and encouragement of our friends and neighbors.
Homeschoolers are sometimes criticized as isolating ourselves from the outside world. This claim is simply not true: not only are homeschoolers well-connected with each other, but we are also very active in our local communities. Today, homeschooling families are united and networked perhaps better than any other group in America. It is that unity, coupled with a passion for making a difference, which has allowed us to bring about the positive developments in freedom that we have seen over the past three decades. When homeschoolers become involved in an issue, politicians find they have to listen.
A recent article in Slate quoted a number of state lawmakers blaming HSLDA for the avalanche of polite but forceful calls and e-mails they receive whenever they propose restrictions on homeschooling. Although we appreciate the backhanded vote of confidence, these legislators give HSLDA too much credit for the effectiveness of the “homeschool lobby.” They fail to acknowledge the work of homeschool advocacy organizations in each state, which have mobilized their members in grassroots opposition to harmful legislation. Without these state organizations and their members, HSLDA would never have been able to accomplish so much.
Most of these state homeschool organizations have been in existence for over 25 years. They were founded when the freedom to homeschool was still largely unrecognized. We walked with them through those difficult times—and we’re proud to say that the relationships we forged with state, regional, and local homeschool organizations are still strong today.
The future growth and success of homeschooling depends upon the continued strength of state organizations and local groups. In addition to helping defend the freedom to homeschool, these groups offer countless services to homeschoolers.
- They provide valuable information and resources for new and returning homeschoolers alike.
- They help homeschooling students connect and make friends through positive activities, ranging from academic courses and field trips to social events and sports teams.
- They organize used curriculum exchanges, sales, and giveaways.
- Educational co-ops let homeschooling parents share their talents by teaching each other’s children in a variety of subject areas.
- Support groups link new homeschooling parents with experienced homeschoolers for advice and encouragement.
- Local groups represent homeschooling to the public in an authentic and positive way.
- Groups develop new leaders so that they can continue to serve the next generation of homeschooling families.
- Finally, they host state-wide conventions, regional symposiums, and local support group seminars.
I want to take a moment to highlight the importance of the annual state conventions. These conventions raise revenue for the state organizations, which helps pay for the other activities that we listed above. While some state organizations also receive revenue from memberships and donations, many offer their services to the homeschooling community for free—so the annual convention usually serves as the state organization’s biggest revenue source. These conventions provide exhibit halls, used book exchanges, free informational sessions for new homeschoolers, practical workshops, graduation ceremonies, and inspiring speakers on many different topics.
Recently, because of competition from for-profit conferences and internet resources, attendance has been declining at many state conventions. This makes it harder for state organizations to find the resources necessary to support homeschooling families. A great way to support your state organization—and the many benefits it provides—is to participate in its annual conference.
More parents are homeschooling today than ever before. But for homeschooling to succeed in the long run, groups are essential. If you aren’t already part of a homeschool organization or support group, I encourage you to consider joining one. Every family is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But we believe that there’s a group out there for you.
If you’re already part of a group—or are interested in starting one—contact us. HSLDA offers a range of free services to help your group succeed, including:
- Legal advice on group organization and structure
- Practical advice on maximizing your group’s effectiveness
- Dedicated group consultants
- Access to attorneys for group legal issues
- Discounts on liability insurance for the group and its members
- Advice on how to establish policies on child protection and other important issues
- A free newsletter and online resources
- Listing on the HSLDA’s website
- A $20 HSLDA member discount for each group member
- And much more—visit org/groupservices or call 540-338-8619 and ask to speak to our group consultant.
By supporting your state organizations, participating in local groups, and being a member of HSLDA, you are making a strategic investment in the current and future success of home education in America and around the world. www.hslda.org.
J. Michael Smith will be speaking on legislative updates at the CHEA Convention July 7-9 at the Pasadena Convention Center. His workshops include Why We Need to Teach Government and The Law for New Homeschoolers. He will also offer a Legislative Update with Nathan Pierce at the Leadership Conference July 7.