If you’re a homeschooler in the United States, you’ve probably heard of state and regional homeschool organizations (like MPE!).
They tend to hold annual conferences (or conventions) and reminisce about “the old days” when parents could be thrown into jail just for homeschooling (no joke!).
But are they relevant for today?
Many families today don’t know the critical role of state homeschool organizations in supporting homeschool freedoms.
They work on the local, state, regional and national level … not to mention the example and support they provide for international homeschooling, too.
A Brief History of Homeschooling
Some people envision homeschooling as a relatively new blip on the educational radar, starting around the 1970s. Actually, it was common practice throughout most of history.
Check out Brian Ray’s excellent summary on U.S. homeschool history, where he quotes historian Lawrence Cremin exploring the primarily home-based education of the early colonies:
“The colonists were heir to Renaissance traditions stressing the centrality of the household as the primary agency of human association and education …”
Fast forward to the 1800s, however, when people such as Horace Mann began to call for what they called “common schools” or schools under government control.
(Read John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down for more analysis of compulsory education, written by a longtime teacher in New York City’s public schools.)
After a long and sometimes fierce battle, the central education model became dominant, and homeschooling was almost extinct by 1970.
But wait! There’s more…
Some people think the resurgence of homeschooling happened just because of concerns among conservative Christians about public school.
In fact, the movement sprang from a number of ideologically diverse sources. Check out sociologist Mitchell Stevens’ explanation:
While some critics have argued that the movement was largely a religious one in its early years (Apple, 2000), in fact it was ideologically diverse from the very beginning. Progressive educators and conservative Protestant Christians made for strange movement bedfellows during the early years, and the philosophical cleavage between these two wings was expressed in an organisational divide in the US homeschool community that endures into the present (Stevens, 2001).
As homeschooling took root across different states, all proponents faced a massive legal challenge: compulsory education laws that require children to spend a certain amount of time in a public or state-accredited private school.
Even today, the Supreme Court has not officially recognized a constitutional right to homeschool.
But thanks in part to local and state homeschool organizations, as well as the work of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), homeschooling is now legal in every state – often after many hard-won legal battles.
How Regional & State Homeschool Organizations Work
So now that homeschooling’s legal, then regional and state homeschool organizations can just go away … right?
Well, that’s the problem that many homeschool organizations are facing. Some of them have gone away. They’ve disappeared from a combination of factors, including lack of financing, lack of interest, increase in other homeschool supports, etc.
However, we’re beginning to see the results in places that no longer have regional or state homeschool organizations:
- Less support to watch for (and counter) legislative bills that are unfriendly to homeschooling.
Look at HSLDA’s Legislation Action Center to get a feel for campaigns across the country – and sometimes, even outside the U.S. – to defend the freedoms and rights of parents to homeschool.
Historically, state homeschool organizations worked with HSLDA to alert their members to petition on behalf of homeschoolers whenever a bill or amendment threatened to impose unnecessary restrictions on homeschooling.
In places where state homeschool organizations no longer exist, it’s becoming harder to move local homeschoolers to act quickly to defend their rights.
- Fewer resources for new and/or financially struggling homeschoolers.
Homeschool conferences and conventions (like our homeschool conference and curriculum fair) provide a major revenue source (sometimes the only revenue source!) for state homeschool organizations.
They also offer a low-cost, easy way for people to explore homeschooling before they commit to a type of curriculum, co-op or other commercial institution with a vested interest in getting people to sign up for a particular product or service.
As fewer people attend conferences and conventions by nonprofit organizations, we are seeing more people committing to a “type” or product of homeschooling online (or on social media) before they’ve had adequate time to research.
As a result, if the product or service fails them, they quickly conclude that homeschooling as a whole will not fit their family.
- No public, positive representative of homeschooling.
Whenever media outlets report on homeschooling, whom do you want them to interview?
Hopefully, someone who is a credible and trustworthy source on how good homeschooling can be!
Over the years, local and state homeschool organizations have provided that role to area media outlets.
For example, MPE has responded to requests by NPR, the Kansas City Star, and other journalists to provide important perspectives and information on homeschooling.
We also respond to requests for homeschooling information from area groups, companies and institutions that work with children and families.
Without homeschool organizations, fewer people understand their broader homeschool community to see how diverse the movement is.
- Less accountability and encouragement.
If you’ve homeschooled for a number of years, you’ve probably figured out all your resources, curriculum and more. But do you remember how overwhelmed or scared you felt when you were beginning?
Countless families have called our office phone number, asking for help getting started. We’ve provided answers, encouragement and support since 1986 – long before the Internet became mainstream!
However, over the years we’ve seen an increasing amount of misleading or inaccurate information about homeschooling online and on social media.
That’s why we hope to continue providing credible, trustworthy information on homeschooling in the Kansas City area and surrounding Midwest regions.
Without local and state homeschool organizations, area homeschoolers are increasingly fragmented and cut off from one another.
How You Can Help
First of all, know you are invaluable to our community! Every single member contributes in a significant way to MPE’s overall mission and success.
Here are some ways you can help MPE and other state homeschool organizations stay strong:
All donations are tax-deductible and help us support the needs of children and families within the Kansas City community.
We always need volunteers! From organizing the conference and events to mentoring other moms to posting on social media, you can help.
It also doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Volunteers can start with as little as 1 hour of service a month.
All funds go to support our scholarships for low-income homeschool families.
- Support us through the Box Tops program.
Select “Midwest Parent Educators” as your school, and any Box Tops you collect on your usual groceries and shopping items will go directly to help fellow homeschoolers!