- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

One of the most helpful and refreshing experiences for home educators — both novices and longtime practitioners — is attending a home-schooling conference.

Of special interest is the Maryland Home Education Association’s Conference, Resource and Services Fair, scheduled for Sept. 29 at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md. This conference offers talks, panel discussions and a resource fair of educational materials to help enrich the home-education experience.

MHEA has been a pioneering force in home-schooling in Maryland since 1980, when founder Manfred Smith, then a public school teacher in Montgomery County, began corresponding with John Holt, author of “Growing Without Schooling.” His book changed the way many felt about their educational choices, and Mr. Holt is widely credited as the father of the modern home-schooling movement.

Incorporated in 1982, MHEA helped coalesce families involved in independent learning to, first, defend against heavy-handed intrusions by various agencies and then to help pen the Maryland state legislation regarding home-schooling. It was passed by the General Assembly in 1985 and put into effect in 1986.

Preserving the freedom of families to have maximum choice in learning, while also requiring some form of review to ensure that families are actively pursuing education, has been the focus of the Maryland home-schooling community. Maryland families are not required to set up a “private school,” as in some states, and parents are recognized as the ones responsible for educating their children. Maryland has not set specific academic requirements for parents, unlike some states, which demand that parents be licensed or have special educational degrees. Supervision of learning can be provided in one of several ways, from the local public school system to a satellite school program.

Diversity and enhancement of learning options are important goals for the conference’s MHEA sponsors. This year”s conference, co-sponsored by Anne Arundel Community College, offers a wide range of informational opportunities for current or potential home-schooling families.

The keynote speaker is Pat Farenga of Holt Associates in Boston, speaking on “Living Better With Home-Based Learning.” Carrying on the pioneering tradition of his predecessor, Mr. Holt, Mr. Farenga will share an overview of the current status and anticipated developments in home-schooling.

Seminars and workshops include Starting to Homeschool, Educational Co-ops, Learning Centers, Custom-Designed Educational Plans, Critical Thinking Tools and Unschooling.

Parents with questions about the portfolio review process will hear from both sides of the fence: from Cyn Hadnott, who as Prince George’s County Public Schools’ home-schooling coordinator, has conducted or supervised thousands of portfolio reviews, and Ellie Weisfeld, who has participated in numerous reviews as a home-schooling parent in Howard County, Md.

Admission is $35 for adults, $10 for teens. For more information, go to www.MHEA.com or e-mail [email protected] MHEA members can attend for free.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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