Getting Political
by Suzanne Wielgos

Have you ever wondered why your state has its particular good—or bad—laws pertaining to homeschooling?

If you live in a state which respects your rights as a homeschooling parent, be grateful. And be thankful for the politically-active homeschoolers who helped shape those laws years ago.

If you live in a state with more restrictive homeschooling laws, why accept them passively? 

Both situations present what I consider to be the responsibility of every single homeschooling family in the United States: to become an active participant in the political process.

I have been involved in homeschooling legislation—helping to prevent bad policy as well as to maintain homeschooling-friendly laws—for years.  I have also worked with elected officials to make our voices heard and I have worked with candidates for office to educate them about our issues.

It’s not hard, nor should it seem intimidating.  Your elected officials work for you.  Your taxes pay their salaries, and as a constituent, you deserve a voice.

I suggest that every homeschool support group put on their agenda for the coming year a meet-and-greet with local and state legislators.  Call and invite them to a meeting.  Be sure you have prepared your children by teaching them about this elected official; help them draft a list of questions to ask him or her.  Get to know this person on a personal basis, even if he or she is not from a party that traditionally works with homeschoolers.  But, please, do not stray from the agenda of homeschooling issues.  If you invite him or her to meet with your support group members, do not bring up unrelated issues, which will feel like an ambush.  Stick to the topic at hand.

I have had wonderful interactions with many of these folks.  We once found a surprisingly kindred spirit in our local state senator.  He later told me that he was deeply impressed with the knowledge and good character that our group’s kids displayed.  He  asked us to march in a parade with him; our children volunteered for his re-election campaign.  He showed up twice as guest speaker for our group’s homeschooling event.  Although we were not in complete agreement with the voting record of our state representative, we found him to be a great listener and eventually a wonderful support for us homeschoolers in the state capitol.  When a bill came up that would have required our homeschooled children to carry some type of special identification during school hours—as part of a greater effort to curb truancy—he was already familiar with our issues and stood with us against this proposal.

In another instance, there had been a scheduling misunderstanding between our Congressional representative in Washington and our homeschooling group.  I had called this person’s local office, concerned that our homeschool support group was being overlooked.  The phone rang a short time later.  Our representative called me personally to apologize for the oversight and to assure me that our homeschooling concerns were being addressed.  Having already laid the groundwork through good communications before a problem arose undoubtedly served us well.

So, I urge you, get involved.  There have been so many new homeschooling families over the last ten years, and few of them realize how hard the veterans have worked to educate and share concerns with our politicians.  They, in turn, discover how strong the grassroots efforts of homeschoolers can be. 

Working with candidates for elected office, as well as those already in place, is a win-win situation.  Take the time to get involved on behalf of homeschoolers.  Your own children just might be the ones who will benefit the most.
Suzanne Wielgos became a homeschooling Mom in 1994.  Today, her oldest of five children is in college and her youngest is finishing 4th grade.  She coordinates her local homeschool group in the Chicago area, encouraging those new to homeschooling and providing a forum for discussion and support.