Paige Baxter and Allison Landry
Capital News Service
GLEN ALLEN – Interested and anxious parents and rambunctious and excited students packed the Cultural Arts Center last weekend to share a common interest: home schooling.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers celebrated its 20th anniversary while providing introductory information for interested attendees and a new perspective for home-schooling parents and students.
There are many reasons parents may choose to educate their child at home. They include:
- The ability to cater to individual interests
- Issues with the public school system
More and more parents in Virginia are opting to home-school their children. The number of home-schoolers statewide (including those with religious exemptions) has risen from about 22,000 in 2002 to more than 32,000 last year. They represent about 2.5 percent of all school-age children in Virginia.
Home schooling can be daunting at first because it requires parents to shoulder a lot of responsibility, said Stephanie Elms, a board member of the organization, which goes by VaHomeschoolers.
She said the conference helps ease parents into home schooling. “It’s very reassuring to know that the people around you don’t think you’re crazy for making this choice.”
Elms held several introductory sessions throughout the conference. On Saturday, she addressed the legal concerns and paperwork requirements involved in beginning a home-schooling program. Despite what many people believe, meeting legal standards to begin homeschooling isn’t a tedious process, Elms said.
To begin home schooling, all parents must do is submit a letter, known as an “intent of notice,” to the superintendent of their school district. Then the parents have the right to remove their children from public school.
“Regardless of your child’s age or how you choose to file your paperwork, you can educate your child at any grade level or levels you choose, and you may use any curriculum you want,” Elms said.
Virginia’s homeschooling laws require parents to meet three requirements. They must:
- File an intent of notice annually with the local school division
- Test or evaluate the child annually
- If requested, provide proof of immunization
Elms said help is available in meeting these requirements. The VaHomeschoolers website provides assistance.
Among the vendors at the fair were not only home educators and VaHomeschoolers members but also authors and home-schooling program representatives.
Kay Anderson, an author and special education teacher in Gates County, N. C., presented her recently published book, “Self-Examination of Biblical Obedience, the ABCs of Understanding Scripture.” Although Anderson was not a home educator herself, she said she sees a “lack of ethics” in the public schools
“Knowing what I know now, having raised my children in public schools and then having taught in public school, I would have home-schooled all the way,” Anderson said. “I know the truth of what happens when kids are corrupted by their peers. We’re too blended now.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.