Last week I traveled to Austin to attend the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) annual conference. I was invited to attend a specific presentation by a committee from Leadership TASB, a leadership training program for local public school board members. This committee had been meeting for a year, tasked with developing a presentation on home schooling in Texas.
I was contacted by a member of this committee back in June. She shared with me that they were working on this presentation, had used the THSC website extensively for research, and sought Texas home schoolers who were willing to be interviewed about their experiences and views regarding home education. I invited the entire committee to our conference in The Woodlands at the end of July, as our guests, to get a feel for Texas home schooling. Four or five members of the committee joined us, and I spent 90 minutes talking with them about home schooling in Texas. They told me that this opportunity had changed their preconceived ideas about home schooling–and home schoolers–in a positive way.
The committee’s final presentation, given to the TASB last week, showed a home school mom and her children being interviewed about home schooling. Committee members asked questions of the audience regarding what they thought were the top reasons parents decide to homeschool. It became clear that most did not have any notion of why parents choose to teach their children at home or even how it is done.
Interestingly, two school board members present were home schoolers themselves, and one shared her story of being denied by her district the opportunity for her children to participate in Future Farmers of America. When asked by board members how school districts could “reach out” to these families, committee members told them they should not reach out to them if their sole intent was to try to get the children back into public school. I suggested that they develop a relationship with the home school community in their area and work to accommodate home schoolers on such issues as use of facilities, taking classes, and understanding policies related to transferring home school students into the public schools.
As the presentation came to an end, one board member asked how to deal with the problem of parents who withdraw their children by saying they are going to teach them at home but have no intention of doing so. I responded that that problem cuts both ways–we get calls from people reporting that school officials are telling parents of problem children that they “need to homeschool.” I also pointed out that this issue is the reason the TEA has changed its policy and now requires local schools to have a written statement from parents who are withdrawing their children to homeschool rather than continuing to allow school administrators to merely state that they were told by a parent that the family was withdrawing to homeschool.
The committee closed by saying home schooling is here to stay and that it should be embraced by local public schools for the sake of the children. I couldn’t agree more, but I’m not holding my breath, waiting for that to happen.