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Are You Prepared for Homeschool Advocacy Season?

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Are You Prepared for Homeschool Advocacy Season?

 By Linda Dobson

homeschool advocacy

My younger son, on the radio.

To everything there is a season. Florists have Valentine’s Day, oil companies get winter, and homeschool advocates take advantage of “back to school” time. To be ready for homeschooling’s best chance at the spotlight, though, you need to begin thinking about what you can do while the flowers are blooming and summer vacation plans fill spare moments.

You may not consider yourself a homeschool advocate, but I assure you it remains important to add at least a bit of advocacy to your “homeschooling mom” job description. Yes, you enjoy the benefits of growing numbers and a degree of acceptance that turns veteran homeschoolers green with envy. Yet while this current climate may make it more challenging for a single personality change in the school or local or state government to limit your freedom in educational choice, such an event remains a real possibility that could one day negatively impact the freedom you enjoy today.

Homeschoolers receives media attention on the national level when one wins a national contest, such as a spelling or geography bee. Homeschool support groups do a great job at the state level, especially during traditional conference season and in state capitols. Yet there are more opportunities – and one might argue the best opportunities – on the local level when newspapers, magazines, radio and television news programs begin addressing school schedules, shopping, and related local issues.

Get the Support Group Together for Homeschool Advocacy

Hopefully, you’re part of a support group that can share the minimal preparation required to get homeschooling into the news via a variety of talents to accomplish the goal. Sometimes, just making known your group’s existence or the act of homeschooling is enough to get noticed, but why not improve your odds by giving the media an activity or event that lends itself to action photos and plenty of interviews?

See also “The Homeschool quiz: Fun, Easy Advocacy for Everyone

A “not going back to school” party or picnic is a classic that I think will always capture the imagination of those reporters whose personal histories include dreading the first day of school. If you’d like to emphasize the joys and freedom of being on your own schedule, hit an amusement park, community pool, ice-skating rink, or beach that begs the headline, “Look, Ma, No Lines!” You might consider a group volunteer experience on the first day of the school calendar, be it a park clean-up, nursing home visit, or arranging with your local American Red Cross chapter for a pet CPR training to begin that day.

As a group, brainstorm the two or three most important points you want to make if you’re successful in getting your voice heard. Be sure that everyone who might be interviewed can recite them, even while asleep. For a bit of extra preparation, meet for an hour to practice using those points as answers to interview questions, no matter the questions or the direction an interview may take.

The cheerful and chatty among you can make phone calls to the local media outlets and gather contact information on each. Be sure to get a correctly-spelled name, phone number, fax number, cell phone number, and e-mail address.

Does anyone have a sales or marketing bent? She can create the press release and media advisory, and someone with an eye for detail can do the proof-reading. If need be, a quick Internet search can provide a quick lesson in the elements of good press releases and media advisories, chief among them to be brief, be brilliant, and be gone.

Another person can search the Web for all local community calendars and enter a brief description of your event on the appropriate upcoming date.

Homeschool Advocacy at Its Finest

About two weeks before you want attention, e-mail that press release to your contact list – twice. If possible, follow-up the second e-mailing with personal phone calls.

A week before your event, fax your media advisory – a one-page summary specifically stating the who, what, when, where, and why of your activity – to your media contacts list.

I assure you that if you’re fortunate enough to receive a response, it will come at the very same time Aunt Millie and Uncle Albert arrive for their weekend visit, when you least expect it, and with very little notice. Radio interviews conducted by phone are great. You can do this in your pajamas, locked in a closet with your cordless or cell phone for quiet, if you have to. On the other hand, it could be a reporter who is “in the neighborhood” and wants to drop by, or a television program located an hour away that wants you there in two hours – and, oh, by the way, could you bring one or all of your children to appear with you?

Do not, under any circumstance, respond with, “Whaddya nuts?” Ask for any specific instructions (one TV studio I had to visit had a secret knock), directions if you need them, and smile (they can hear it in your voice) when you answer, “Of course I’ll be there.”

You’re prepared, so you already have whatever clothing everyone needs to jump into clean and ready. You have an index card containing contact information for your group in case the station needs to make a last minute graphic to show on the screen. Of course, the gas tank is full.

Homeschool advocacy is a serious, important job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and include your children in it as much as you are able. Your family’s experiences will provide lasting memories that will be discussed at the dinner table for years to come. (My youngest still gets teased by his big brother because Diane Diamond said to him, on the air, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Ethan Hawke?”) Best of all, you will successfully accomplish a most important aspect of your homeschooling journey, homeschool advocacy.

This post originally appeared in Linda Dobson’s “Notes from the Road Less Traveled” column in Home Education Magazine (July/August 2007).
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