Defining homeschooling used to be less complicated, but the shift we’ve seen over the last decade has brought unique challenges to being able to nail down what is or is not homeschooling. While it is true that most homeschooling families have known the plight of clearing off math manipulatives and yesterday’s bug jar to make room for supper at the table, it doesn’t always look this way for all families educating at home. Support for virtual options, like Tillie Elvrum’s Parent Support for Online Learning, is fostering the movement for parents to truly individualize educational opportunities without being limited by what Mom, Dad, or the local co-op offers. This isn’t to disparage that; there is beauty and value there that can’t be dismissed; however, that approach doesn’t always accomplish every family’s goals, so how do we embrace these shifts while preserving the heart of homeschooling that all of us know and love? I like to think we do that by defining and embracing what we are for rather than what we are against. My family is for being together. Some families are for providing a learning environment for their children that fosters their individualized interests. Some are for a slow pace that provides room for self-governance to develop. Some are for adapting curriculum to ensure their child is academically challenged in a way that prepares them for a chosen career path. No matter what your family is for, how you achieve those goals doesn’t need to look identical to how I achieve mine. After all, the truest mark of a homeschooler is that they sincerely believe parents are the ones who know what is best for their child. This is the approach that REACH’s leadership has taken over the last several years, and it has had us actively working towards the expansion of opportunities for homeschoolers looking for inclusion rather than exclusion. When REACH Steering appointed me as Legislative Liaison in 2019, homeschoolers were limited to participating in the SSAC at their zoned school and had to take 4 virtual classes to do it. REACH families showed up at the Capitol and fought for that, partnering with friends from West Logan Church of God Homeschool Ministry and others across the state to actively educate lawmakers on what we wanted. Now homeschoolers who satisfy the necessary criteria can earn eligibility to play at the school of their choice and only have to take 1 course. We’ve also seen improvement on policies governing access for Career and Technical Education, part-time public school enrollment, and public schools accepting homeschool credits for transcripts and placement. The Hope Scholarship fight is far from over, but should this option successfully launch, many WV families who weren’t in a position to educate at home before will benefit from the financial support it offers. This progress is encouraging, but there is still so much work to be done, including finding a solution to the exclusion of homeschooled children from speech therapy access provided by the county. In an effort to build on what began with REACH, I have partnered with other advocates from across the state to launch West Virginia Families United for Education, the WV FUE. Our mission is simple, to serve all WV families, no matter what their chosen method is, ensuring they can navigate the educational options available. We believe this type of guidance and support is necessary to transform K-12 education in the Mountain State. This transition will have me retired from my role as legislative liaison to lead efforts through this new statewide organization.
You can sign up for updates at www.wvfue.org, join our FB group, and continue to use me as a resource for your homeschool questions by emailing me at email@example.com. My family isn’t going anywhere! We are headed into our 16th year of homeschooling and will continue to be REACH members. Although I just graduated my 2nd, I still have 2 at home, and can’t imagine going at this without the support we’ve always had with our REACH families.
I want to thank Steering, current members, and those who have moved on for being champions for families in Raleigh and surrounding counties. It has been such an honor to partner with you to do this work.