Home Front Educators –
Holding Down the Fort One Family at a Time
Lynchburg Business Magazine / March 2013
There is a growing trend in education, and it’s nothing novel, alternative or fashionable. It’s a tried and true approach employed for centuries across the globe—parents teaching their own children. That’s right, folks—homeschooling.
The most recent data compiled in 2007 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists the number of homeschoolers in the United States at approximately 1.5 million. Between 1999 and 2007, there was a 74 percent increase in the number of students educated at home, so that 2.9 percent of all students in the country were homeschooled. In the 2007 NCES study, the most common reasons parents gave for deciding to teach their children were to “provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent),” followed by “a concern about the school environment (21 percent),” and “dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent).”
Fears that such an education cannot compare to mainstream public and private avenues and may leave students poorly prepared for college seem to be unfounded. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) reports that homeschoolers typically score 15-30 percentage points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests. With the ever-increasing homeschooling bunch applying in greater quantities to institutes of higher education, hundreds of colleges and universities across the country have now adapted to accept homeschool curriculum.
Regardless of the myriad reasons for doing so, more and more families each year are choosing to forego the country’s traditional school systems and educate their children at home. Virginia is no exception, with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in 2012 reporting roughly 32,000 homeschoolers out of the state’s 1.3 million students—a 70 percent increase in homeschooled children since 2001.
In 1996 when Home Front Educators was born, the prospect of homeschooling one’s child looked far different from today. The plethora of homeschooling educational materials and resources now available with a quick Internet search simply did not exist, and the overall attitude towards homeschoolers was not necessarily friendly.
An anonymous homeschooling veteran describes the atmosphere:
“When I first began, the state wasn't sure I had the right to teach my own children. We all wrote letters to the local districts defending our right and religious obligation before God to teach our children. Some parents went to jail for it back in the 80's and 90's. It is our option to delegate that responsibility to others or keep it, in all areas of education, but ultimately parents are responsible to God for how their children turn out.”
Unless the mother had herself been homeschooled or was fortunate enough to be brought under the wing of someone who had previously forded these deep waters, a family that wanted its children to be taught at home most likely felt overwhelmed by the challenge and more than a little lost.
This was the situation for Audrey Britt, president and founder of Home Front Educators. With a kindergarten-aged son and looking for help, Britt joined a large Lynchburg homeschool group only to learn at her first attendance that it was shutting down.
Discouraged and in need of support, she began meeting with four other new-to-homeschooling families at her church. Thankfully, there were older and experienced women within the congregation who came alongside the group and provided the mentorship they craved.
Having experienced firsthand the difference that their support made, Britt and her friends “wanted to be that for other ladies.” They decided to create an organization that would help and encourage families that educated their children at home.
While many homeschooling groups are affiliated with churches and thereby require attendance or membership at that church, Britt and the other families wanted to provide support in their community for as many women as possible and so chose to make Home Front Educators independent. Although their materials state that they “operate using Christian beliefs found in the Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures, and classes may include prayer and teaching from these scriptures,” a person does not have to be Christian to become a member.
“We wanted something that was a little different, that would allow open membership to people. They didn’t even have to be of our belief. We wanted to be able to encourage families,” Britt said.
Today, 15 years later, Home Front Educators is a nonprofit support group in the Lynchburg area serving 150 families with children ages Kindergarten through 12th grade. It offers group field trips (such as outings in April to Patrick Henry’s home or indoor rock climbing in March), community events, support group meetings for parents to provide “encouragement, instruction, sharing of ideas, and relationship building,” and used curriculum sales. The major drawing point, however, that leads many to join Home Front Educators is their Friday Arts & Fun day—weekly specialized courses to enhance parents’ own home efforts with classes like Classic Literature, Advanced Biology, Fencing, Spanish, Economics and Virginia History.
Home Front Educators is supported entirely by membership dues, which amounts to an annual fee of $30. Class registration is an additional $20 per semester, and while most members do attend courses, participation is not required. You must be a member to register for classes. All classes, support group meetings and curriculum sales are held at Grace Evangelical Free Church on Timberlake Road. Unfortunately, membership for 2013 is currently closed, but Home Front Educators hopes to reopen membership next year.