Let Homeschool Freedom Ring!

When we first started homeschooling, I was full of anxiety and self-doubt. As time passed, however, I relaxed and started to enjoy the freedoms it had to offer. I truly treasured them and am thankful that we were able to spend more time with our kids during their fleeting childhood years. At a time when we celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, I also celebrate the freedoms that we as homeschoolers enjoy and need to protect.

Schedule

Homeschooling allows the freedom of scheduling. Do you want to homeschool four or five days per week? How many hours a day? Morning or afternoon? Should you homeschool year ’round, or take a summer break?

Some of these questions may be answered according to the ages and needs of your children, but the schedule can also be tailored to maximize time together as a family. If dad travels a lot, schoolwork can be done while he’s away, and then time taken off while he’s at home to spend with him. If mom and dad both work, parents can take turns teaching. Vacations can be taken when public schools are in session and special attractions are less busy.

Approach

Homeschoolers aren’t tied to a particular approach. Parents are free to research the options and make the choice that best fits their family’s current needs, and make changes as those needs change.

Children have different learning styles. Even within one family, one child might learn best through listening (auditory), while another learns best through moving (kinesthetic). Some students have challenges that need to be accommodated such as dyslexia. Homeschooling can address all of these needs, and more.

Adaptability

Even after you find a schedule that works for you, life can have unexpected seasons such as an adoption, illness, disability, or many other reasons. No matter what it is, homeschooling can adapt.

Curriculum

Where public schools all use the same textbooks purchased by the state, homeschool parents can choose from hundreds of sources, write their own, or use none at all.

They can choose a curriculum with a particular worldview. They can teach their children from a structured curriculum, or allow them to pursue their own passions. They can use the same course with all students, or a different one for each.

Curriculum can further be tailored to each student by either slowing down to master a concept, or adding additional work to challenge a precocious learner.

Location

You can homeschool near, you can homeschool far.
You can homeschool in a boat, you can homeschool in a car.
You can homeschool in, you can homeschool out
Homeschooling’s the best, without a doubt!

In the den or the dining room? Inside or out? At home or away? With homeschooling, you are no longer confined to a desk. The world is your classroom.

On a beautiful day, you can take your studies outside to enjoy the weather. You could even take them to a park or beach. Even as you do schoolwork inside, it doesn’t have to be confined to a particular place. You can read while cuddled up on the couch, or let the kids move around while you read aloud.

For a family that relocates often, homeschooling offers continuity of teacher and learning environment. Instead of continually adjusting to a different school and expectations, homeschooling can provide some consistency that children need.

Whether parents are called to be missionaries in a foreign land, or just love traveling to experience different cultures, they can homeschool on the go. The travel accentuates schoolwork by providing immersion into history, geography, cultures and languages.

Protecting

Our homeschool freedoms haven’t come easily. The homeschool community is blessed to have an organization that protects and defends us, and that is Home School Legal Defense Association. I encourage homeschool families to be members of HSLDA. They monitor proposed legislation for anything that might constrain homeschooling, or even allow a foot in the door for restrictions in the future. If a member family has problems with the school district or child protection services, they can call HSLDA for advice or legal services. HSLDA also provides a lot of information on their website.

We should all do our part to protect homeschooling, not only for our own family, but for our nation as a whole.

Let Freedom Ring

Puerto Rico recently gave homeschooling the highest protection possible by designating it a fundamental right. It now has the same constitutional protection as the freedom of speech. I would love to see the United States follow suit and ensure that parents always have the right to educate their children.

As you celebrate the freedoms you enjoy as an American, don’t forget to give thanks for the ones we enjoy as homeschoolers. I hope that they will be protected, if not expanded, so that our children have the freedom to choose for their children, too. Let homeschool freedom ring!

Related Reading

Homeschool Heroes ~ An Interview with J. Michael Smith of HSLDA

Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling

Helpful Links

9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling

Nomadic Homeschoolers

Traveling Homeschoolers

 

 

Homeschool Heroes ~ An Interview with J. Michael Smith of HSLDA

I’m partnered with Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) to help promote their June, 2017, homeschool convention. Therefore, I had the honor of interviewing one of this year’s keynote speakers, J. Michael Smith of Home School Legal Defense Association. He, along with his friend, Michael Farris, founded HSLDA in 1983, when, as an attorney and homeschooling father, he felt called to assist prosecuted families. For over thirty years, they have defended homeschoolers and have helped pave the way for the movement to flourish.

J. Michael Smith, HSLDA
J. Michael Smith, photo courtesy of HSLDA
Benefits of Homeschooling

J. Michael Smith believes that conventions such as HEAV’s are beneficial for homeschooling parents because they get to see others’ successes, as well as others’ struggles – they can see that they’re not alone. He encourages parents by talking about three major benefits of homeschooling:

  1. Socialization – “Who you spend time with is how you’re formed. Public schools are doomed to failure because of who is attending and the lack of parents doing their job. If we are conscientious [in homeschooling], their experience will be so much better. Schools are scary.”
  2. Academic – A school teacher with twenty students cannot give the individualized attention that a homeschool parent can. Mr. Smith described a recent case in Missouri where a struggling elementary student’s mother spoke with school officials, asking for some individualized attention for her son. When they said they couldn’t provide that, the mother withdrew her son to homeschool him. The school district then took her to court and HSLDA defended her. Mr. Smith added that in Europe, 60-70% of public school graduates live with their parents because they aren’t able to leave home and function on their own. He sees America following that trend.
  3. Spiritual – Mr. Smith described one situation where homeschooling saved a young man’s life. In one of his early cases, before homeschooling was as well-known, a young man had attempted suicide because of things that had been going on at school. His parents began homeschooling him and that young man went on to become a missionary. “It’s a blessing how we save heartbreak,” said Mr. Smith.
“America’s Greatest Heroes”

At a recent convention, Mr. Smith asked the attending homeschool mothers why more Christian mothers don’t homeschool, what reason they gave. The overwhelming response was, “Because they can’t.” Mr. Smith attributes that response to either a lack of faith or an excuse, adding that it’s sad that only 3 1/2% of Christian children are homeschooled. He continued, “Homeschooling adds a lot of pressure, and 100% is on mom’s shoulders. That’s why I truly believe that homeschool moms are America’s greatest heroes.”

He encourages prospective homeschool parents to “Get into the fray and take it one day at a time.” “Whatever you do, don’t quit at the lowest level,” he cautioned, explaining that his office gets a lot of calls from parents who had put their kids in public school after hitting a low point and regretted it.

Alleviating Pressure

I asked Mr. Smith if he had practical suggestions for relieving the pressure on the homeschooling family, especially mom. This is the advice that he had to offer:

  • Dad must play a major role. He needs to give mom time alone, time with dad without the kids, and time with a support group. He needs to help shoulder the responsibility.
  • Dad should have the primary responsibility for disciplining the children. They should know that the highest crime is disrespect of their mother, what the consequences are, and that punishment will be applied.
  • Ideally, the father should help with homeschooling in some way.
  • Dad should be responsible for the spiritual growth of the family. At the same time, mom needs time to develop her own relationship with Jesus, and her husband should facilitate that.
  • Dad should be a good husband and provide a good marriage.
  • Parents should pray together daily.
We the People

Mr. Smith quoted the Declaration of Independence, saying, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Then he explained, “Our liberties come from God and that is recognized in our country’s documents. In a ‘civil law’ country, they come from government and have to be written down, but in America, if we aren’t specifically prohibited from something, then we have freedom. That brings the responsibility to protect those freedoms. We, the people, are the government. We lose freedom when we don’t act.” Mr. Smith believes that it’s our obligation to defend those rights through political processes. “Liberty is the foundation of what makes our government different. It also applies to the homeschool movement. God holds us responsible to protect our liberties. The government will always encroach.” He specified two ways of satisfying our civic homeschool duty.

  1. Join a support group.
  2. Join HSLDA – Think of future generations. Not only does HSLDA provide protection for your family, but it protects the freedom to homeschool for generations to come.
Hazards

I asked Mr. Smith what current issues should be of most concern to homeschooling parents. He pointed out two hazards for homeschooling:

Apathy – Mr. Smith started homeschooling at a time when the stakes were much higher. He said he probably wouldn’t have started if he had known what it would be like, that there were parents who faced fines and jail time. “Homeschooling parents today have no clue what it took to attain current homeschooling freedoms,” he said.

Dependence on Government – He warned of the so-called “ESA” movement (Education Savings Account), vouchers, etc. I asked him about tax credits and he said that he was okay with them because they enable homeschoolers to keep their own money. In contrast, ESA and vouchers use taxpayers’ money. He quoted the adage, “The person who pays the piper gets to name the tune,” in cautioning giving government that foothold. We aren’t ever safe because the legislature changes every two years. As an example, he referenced Nevada where the legislature had been a Republican majority, but it just switched and a Democrat introduced a law to lower compulsory school attendance from age seven to five. That would mean that homeschoolers would also be required by law to start earlier.

Advancements

Mr. Smith and I talked about advancements he’s seen for homeschooling. He noted these encouraging developments:

  • Diplomas are getting more credibility. For example, in the past the military would put a homeschool graduate in “Tier 2” which was the equivalent of a GED or a dropout, and meant that they didn’t get benefits or education. That has now changed and homeschool diplomas are treated equally.
  • Disability and veterans benefits – Children of deceased or disabled fathers receive benefits until they leave school. Homeschooled children were being denied benefits because their homeschool was not recognized as accredited. This, too, has been rectified.
  • Colleges are more readily accepting homeschool graduates.
  • Some states are rolling back some requirements. In North Dakota, for example, homeschoolers can now opt out of standardized tests.
Recent Victory

I asked Mr. Smith if he would share one of HSLDA’s recent victories. He told me about a case in California where a homeschooling mother’s children had been removed because authorities believed that one of the children, a diabetic, was in danger. Even after a doctor examined the child and wrote that he was fine, the state still refused to release the children to their mother. HSLDA represented the mother and won the case. “The state had to pay a substantial reward to the mother,” Mr. Smith said, emphasizing the word, “substantial.”

Dealing with Child Protective Services must be among homeschooling families’ greatest fears. It’s reassuring to know that HSLDA is always ready to aid its members.

New Administration

At the close of our interview, I asked Mr. Smith how he felt about the new administration. He noted that President Carter established the Department of Education and that test scores had gone down steadily ever since. “We will always have government interference, but we’re better off being regulated at the local level.” He likes the trend of taking education away from federal government and thinks that is what President Trump and Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, are trying to do.

Homeschool Heroes

I don’t know if I would have had the courage to homeschool if I hadn’t known that HSLDA “had my back.” Although I never needed them, I knew what to do if there was a knock on the door, and that they were only a phone call away. Being called to homeschool one’s children can be a frightening proposition. I’m grateful that along with calling parents to homeschool, God also called dedicated men and women to defend us. I thank J. Michael Smith for letting me interview him, and also for answering God’s call to defend families like mine. They are our homeschool heroes.

You can see J. Michael Smith in person at the HEAV Homeschool Convention, June 8-10, 2017, in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, please visit HEAV’s website: http://heav.org/convention/

I will be having a giveaway for a family registration to the 2017 HEAV convention, the second-largest in the nation, valued at $79. Please subscribe to be notified of the giveaway.

This post has been shared in some of my favorite blog hops.

Related Reading

Build a Strong Foundation at the HEAV Homeschool Convention

Helpful Links

HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)

HEAV (Home Educators Association of Virginia)

HEAV Convention

Homeschool Heroes