AHEM Goes to the MASC/MASS Joint Conference
This year AHEM tabled at the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) and Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) joint conference, where school committee members network with peers and learn from sessions and exhibitors. MASC is a nonprofit that provides a range of services to Massachusetts school committees. AHEM became aware of their policy manual service about 10 years ago. In addition to storing school policies on their website, they provide sample policies to school committees.
While it is intended to be helpful, the MASC homeschool policy IHBG contains several errors or legally questionable requirements. As we know, policies are administrative tools and are not law. If a homeschooler abides by the guidelines in the Charles decision, they do not need to follow extralegal requests laid out in a school district’s policy, but that disconnect can be stressful. Also, the very same policy can be executed differently from one town to another, depending on who is in charge, and it is not uncommon for a policy to say one thing and the school’s homeschool form to say another. All to say, policy itself is not that important, and it was not AHEM’s main reason for attending the conference. But it would be nice if the policy that MASC distributes did adhere to the law, so we distributed handouts which are also accessible on our website in hopes of educating, and displayed an interactive “policy puzzle” to use as a conversation starter.
Because, conversation. That’s really why we went. We wanted to make connections with the people who have direct oversight of homeschoolers, to let them know that we are a friendly, reliable resource for them, and hope that as a result, they will think to turn to us if a question about homeschooling arises. The biggest takeaway? How much we have in common with school committee members: Many of them are parents or grandparents who care about children and community, and who volunteer their time to help. Most were curious and open to the idea of homeschooling. And some are former or current homeschooling parents themselves! We came away from our two days at the conference energized to have made contacts we can follow up with to promote understanding and positive change in the relationships between homeschoolers and school committee members.
School committee members are elected officials who are in charge of setting homeschool policy. If a problem arises around policy or its implementation, they may be your most valuable allies. You might consider being proactive by creating a connection with one or more of them before a need arises—arrange a meeting with several local families in the local library, or meet over coffee. AHEM can supply you with informational homeschooling-in-Massachusetts packets if you would find that helpful, but the real value in meeting face-to-face will be in demystifying homeschooling. Let’s be open minded and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Your efforts on a local scale are likely to be more rewarding in ways big and small than AHEM’s move to bridge the gap. Let’s keep the momentum going!