- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2008

One of the key components of the success and growth of home-schooling in the United States has been state home-school organizations.

The founders of these organizations were home-schooling moms and dads who recognized the need for leadership and organization within the home-school community. Today, almost every state has at least one vibrant, strong statewide organization that continues to provide vision and direction for home-schoolers within the state.

Many of these organizations were formed by Christian parents, and many even had the word “Christian” in their name. Typically, however, the organization’s services were available to all, although they sometimes required their members to subscribe to a statement of faith.

At the same time, separate groups arose to meet the comfort level of those home-schoolers who did not consider religious instruction an important part of their home-school program.

Although these religious- and non-religious-based state organizations and regional groups had, and continue to have, their ideological differences regarding how home-schooling should be conducted and organizations structured, the one thing these groups do agree on is the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. To that end, both groups generally oppose any retreat from the current freedoms home-schoolers have in each state and oppose any efforts by state legislatures and courts to reduce that freedom.

There are two fine state home-school organizations right here in Virginia. The Home Education Association of Virginia (HEAV) has been serving home-school families through information, legislation and resources for 25 years. It is the oldest and largest member-supported statewide, nonprofit home-school association in Virginia. HEAV describes its organization as coming from a biblical worldview, but serving all home-schoolers, regardless of religious, political or philosophical beliefs. Membership is open to all.

HEAV’s statement of purpose is consistent with many other state organizations, which is to encourage parents to fulfill their fundamental, God-given right and responsibility to educate their children at home. To facilitate this purpose, HEAV provides information and advice to home-schooling parents regarding home education. The organization supports the right of parents to teach their children at home by advancing legislation ensuring that freedom.

One of the most beneficial things HEAV does annually is to provide a statewide convention for home-schoolers. The 2009 conference will be held June 11-13 in Richmond.

I believe every home-school family should attend a statewide conference every year. HEAV’s conference provides more than 100 workshops that cover the nuts and bolts of home-schooling. Additionally, it provides fabulous speakers who offer vision and encouragement for families. It has more than 290 exhibitors at a huge exhibit hall, as well as provides used curriculum with more than 40,000 items available.

For more information, visit www.heav.org or call 804/278–9200.

Founded in 1993, another state group — the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) — serves home-schoolers from a non-religious basis. VaHomeschoolers offers conferences, seminars, resources and support to home-schoolers, with membership open to all, and a strong emphasis on home-school freedom. Learn more about VaHomeschoolers by going to www.vahomeschoolers.org.

The various state organizations across the country are absolutely vital to the continued success and growth of home-schooling. These organizations are generally all volunteer-led and are dependent upon the support of the home-school community. I encourage all home-schoolers to become involved in a state organization that fits their ideological beliefs.

For those interested in learning more about home-schooling, your state home-school organization is a great source of information. To find a state or regional organization in your area, go to www.hslda.org/orgs and click on your state, or go to https://homeschooling.about.com and click on Finding Support.

• Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to media@hslda.org.

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