by J Michael Smith, President of HSLDA
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 emails 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 Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California and Family Protection Ministries (FPM), and the hundreds of support groups in California who have mobilized their members in grassroots opposition to harmful legislation. Without these organizations and their members, HSLDA would never have been able to accomplish so much.
CHEA and FPM have been in existence for more than 30 years. They were founded when the freedom to homeschool was still largely unrecognized. We walked together through those difficult times—and we’re proud to say that the relationships we forged with you are still strong today.
Service to Homeschoolers
The future growth and success of homeschooling depends upon the continued strength of a strong state homeschool organization and local support 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, like the CHEA state and regional conference and symposiums, as well as regional conference and local support group seminars.
I want to take a moment to highlight the importance of CHEA’s Annual Convention. This Convention raises revenue for CHEA, which helps pay for the other activities that were listed above. While CHEA receives revenue from Memberships and donations, most of the services to the homeschooling community are free—so the annual Convention usually serves as CHEA’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.
State Organizations Struggling
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, including CHEA to find the resources necessary to support homeschooling families. A great way to support CHEA—and the many benefits it provides—is to participate in its annual Convention.
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.
By supporting CHEA, Family Protection Ministries, 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.
SEE YOU AT THE CHEA CONFERENCE, AND BRING A FRIEND. If you cannot make the convention, would you consider a tax-deductible gift to CHEA, and/or FPM. Perhaps you could volunteer for the CHEA conference well.
Mike Smith, President, HSLDA
34th Annual Convention information July 13-15, 2017
SCOPE & CHEA Conference June 2-3, 2017
Capitol Day and Leadership Conference February 8-11, 2017