Homeschool Day at the Capitol – A Blessing and Responsibility
Undeterred by the historic winter storm Jonas, homeschoolers from around West Virginia converged on Charleston for Homeschool Day at the Capitol on January 25th, including a number of parents with children and babies in tow who joined us for the first time. The day offered a valuable opportunity to connect with state legislators, meet new homeschool families, and showcase the musical talent of our homeschooled children. But for some of us, the highlight of the day was observing the House Education Committee meeting, which focused on legislation advocated by CHEWV, the Homeschool Modernization Bill.
Watching the House Education Committee discuss the Homeschool Modernization Bill was both a fascinating and frustrating glimpse into the democratic process. For much of the hour-long meeting, Monongalia Delegate Brian Kurcaba, the bill’s lead sponsor, along with the committee’s legal counsel, explained the purpose of the bill and fielded questions from other legislators. By the end of the meeting, we drew three lessons:
It’s important to show up. Woody Allen famously said that 80 percent of life is showing up. In the state legislature, at least, showing up has an impact. At the House Education Committee meeting, homeschooling families filled every available seat for the public and stood along the walls, overflowing out of the room. After the meeting, families expressed their gratitude to supportive legislators, and respectfully addressed misconceptions by opposing legislators. Our presence was impossible to ignore, and it sent a message.
We still have work to do. Despite a growing and uncontroverted body of empirical research showing the holistic merits of homeschooling, many legislators expressed remarkable ignorance about our constitutionally protected educational choice. We heard tired stereotypes about socialization, irrational fears about truancy, and unsupported claims about teacher qualifications, among other disappointing comments. Thankfully, within the committee itself, these views represented the minority position. The minority, however, was vocal, and it reminded us that we all must stay engaged in the democratic process by communicating our views to legislators and making well-informed decisions about voting.
CHEWV is making a difference. Apart from the legislators and the committee’s counsel, only one other person was recognized to speak at the House Education Committee meeting: John Carey, CHEWV’s legislative liaison. John, representing CHEWV and the state homeschooling community with great poise and effectiveness, has played a significant role in advancing pro-homeschool legislation for over 15 years. CHEWV’s active involvement in Homeschool Day at the Capitol has also bolstered support from other legislators. For example, at last year’s event, we joined fellow Harrison County CHEWV members to meet one of our local Delegates, Patsy Trecost. We introduced ourselves, took pictures and encouraged Delegate Trecost, a Democrat, to support our pro-homeschool legislation. Delegate Trecost voted for our legislation in 2015. This year, he not only co-sponsored the modernization bill but also enthusiastically greeted homeschool families at the rotunda during our afternoon event.
Overall, Homeschool Day at the Capitol was, once again, a memorable and worthwhile experience. We all enjoyed observing the legislative process and fellowshipping with other homeschool families throughout the day. It reminded us of both the blessing and responsibility of living in America. It also made us look forward to the day when, God willing, some of the seats in the legislative chambers will be filled by homeschool graduates!