Inside the system, outside the box
Louisiana's home schoolers have gained a reputation of being very effective in lobbying their legislature. They work hard, and they need to: the truant officers' association has made many attempts to take away home school freedoms. Over and over again, in the last few years, the Louisiana Association of Child Welfare and Attendance Personnel (LACWAP) has made many attempts to propose legislation to regulate or restrict home schoolers. Each time, by the grace of God and the hard work of the home school community, those efforts to reduce home school liberties have failed.
Christian Home Educators Fellowship (CHEF) of Louisiana had an opportunity to send two members to a LACWAP meeting last summer to do a presentation on the benefits of home schooling. Truant officers normally deal with the "problem" students, so they were surprised to learn from Beryl Amedee, wife of CHEF of Louisiana President John Amedee, and Violet Johnson, long-time home school leader from Tangipahoa Parish, that there are students who don't go to school who still like to learn, respect their teachers, and obey their parents. The meeting resulted in the formation of a small committee of leaders from the two organizations to brainstorm solutions to the problems the truant officers face.
Those problems are very real, and affect home schoolers and truant officers, alike. In July 2001, Louisiana raised the compulsory attendance age to 18. Home School Legal Defense Association opposes such legislation because it dramatically increases the number of dropouts who suddenly claim to be home schooling. That has certainly been the case in Louisiana: in many parishes, the truant officers are now struggling to keep up with the increased workload of confirming which students are being home schooled and which are simply dropping out. This has made LACWAP even more desperate for concrete suggestions from the new committee.
With advice and suggestions from HSLDA, CHEF of Louisiana plans to present LACWAP with some fresh approaches to dealing with dropouts. One idea is to help truant officers find more options for children outside the public school system. Some experienced home schoolers are willing to mentor parents who want to pull their children out of a bad school environment, for example. Another option may be apprenticeship. A long-abandoned model rediscovered by home schoolers, apprenticeship can be an excellent fit for teens who have given up on the traditional high school curriculum. HSLDA applauds CHEF's willingness to work "inside the system" while thinking "outside the box."
- Scott W. Somerville