A “fly by” bomber recently hit my VaEclecticHS homeschool discussion list. That is, someone joined the list only to promote one thing; they don’t participate in conversations, are not part of the community, and don’t even read the messages. The person made just one post, endorsing a video that promotes membership in a national organization that uses fear to manipulate homeschoolers into ponying up $115 in annual dues. The cleverly produced video mixes fairy tales and nursery rhymes to illustrate the supposed need for this “protection.”
In the video ad story, the poor little Woman in the Shoe is startled by the Big Bad Wolf knocking at her door, telling her she’s in TROUBLE for HOMESCHOOLING! Dear, oh, dear! What should she do? Lucky for her she paid that protection money, because with just a phone call, she had no need to worry her pretty little head! The national organization “put Humpty Dumpty back together” and “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” took care of that Big Bad Wolf, and thanks to them, the Woman in the Shoe could homeschool in peace.
The video production and costuming are well done, but the message undermines the empowerment of homeschoolers by promoting the idea that we need a legalistic national organization to protect us from the Big Bad School/Government People. A more accurate skit–conveying the message that homeschoolers should be afraid and put up protection money just in case–would be demonstrated by Chicken Little, known to cry absurdly, “The sky is falling!”
We have nothing to fear from “the school people” when we homeschool according to the law. If they ask for more than the legal requirement, we just ask them–politely, in writing–to show us where, in the law, it says this is so. They have no leg upon which to stand, so, the vast majority of the time they let it go. Even when the authorities do not give up, persistence and civility will eventually gain that result, all for the cost of a stamp or two.
On my discussion list, the “fly by “bomber had left the room, but a dialog ensued. One list member said she thinks that homeschoolers are only safe if we can yell loud enough or fly below the political radar. I gently offered a different view, one from my long experience, being a homeschool parent since 1995 and having been very involved in the community at the local, regional, state and national level for at least a decade–including at the policy- and legislative levels. I noted that, rather than hiding or yelling, homeschoolers can keep ourselves safe as long as we can speak with legislators, school division representatives and school board members in a reasonable tone. This has been the key factor in gaining improvements in the Home Instruction statute in the Old Dominion, as well as seeing Prince William County change from a punitive stance to a district with a homeschool regulation and policy that have become models in the commonwealth.
One person said that people look like “wild-eyed kooks” when they make too big a deal out of matters. I agreed, noting that much of my involvement at the policy and legislative levels has been to stridently banish the concept of homeschoolers as “wild-eyed kooks”–an idea that is promoted by the very national organization that supposedly offers us so-called “protection.”
That organization mixes other issues with homeschooling, and puts out “alerts” that prompt readers to deluge legislators and officials with phone calls from people whipped into fear and fury. These callers often have a very weak grasp of the reality of the situation, which makes us look stupid, too. This Chicken Little marketing is the main reason we were seen as “wild-eyed kooks” for decades.
Some families pay the national group’s annual membership fee because they fear that a disapproving family member will “turn them in” for homeschooling. Unfortunately, they are wasting their money, because the organization doesn’t intervene in family matters. It is better, as one experienced homeschool parent noted, to “be empowered to take care of small issues” ourselves,” and share “the very occasional larger problem” with The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers if we feel that we need help. She referred the reader to my article, “Handling It Ourselves,” which details how we can empower ourselves and each other as a community.
I have been homeschooling for 15 years and never had anyone threaten me for it–though the school division did once erroneously ask me for more than the law requires. I simply wrote a letter in reply, asking them to show me where the law says this, and they never brought it up again. Creating fear to market a “homeschool” product is never beneficial to the homeschool community. Using fear to sell memberships is unconscionable. I could not support such an organization with my hard won dollars.
There is huge contrast between my confidence and another mom’s admission that she is “waiting for child protective services to show up…any day!” How utterly sad to be homeschooling in needless and constant fear! I empowered myself to homeschool without fear in a variety of ways, including by reading law and asking questions. I wrote an article that can help parents feel more informed and confident about homeschooling without need to fear CPS. Called, Answering Child Protective Services (CPS) Questions, it is published on the VaHomeschoolers website, where, according to a director of that organization, it has received compliments from CPS authorities in other states, who have also requested permission to link to it on their websites.
The post-”fly-by” discussion reminded me why I refrained from joining the national organization when I first heard about it in 1998. Someone had given me a stack of literature with nice pictures of wholesome families, the American flag, and all that. But the main message was fear-inciting, and I found that disturbing. I had committed to never making a decision based on fear, so, instead of buying into the fearful scenarios, I took the rational approach, thinking, “If I follow the law, then there is no reason for anyone to ‘come after’ me or my kids.” This commitment, to empowering myself and others has saved many a family from quaking in fear, giving them and me the incentive to read and understand the law, to politely say “I don’t think so” to overzealous school administrators, and prompted a group of us to work with our school division to improve relations and regulations, to the point that there is little opportunity for the fear mongers to scare money out of homeschoolers’ hands and into their pockets. We know there is no Big Bad Wolf, and we do not listen to the cries of Chicken Little.