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The Homeschooling Image: Public Relations Basics

The Homeschooling Image: Public Relations Basics

By Ann Zeise
Permission to use exerpts given by Mary Griffith

Guiding Principles

  • The understanding and support of the general public plays a crucial role in keeping homeschooling a legal and commonly recognized option in education.
  • There is too much diversity within the American homeschooling movement for any one organization to present a complete and accurate view.
  • Homeschool groups across the country share similar needs and problems; we can learn from each others’ ideas and experience.
  • The most effective level at which to infuence public opinion about homeschooling is the local level; local homeschoolers are the best people to do so.
  • Homeschoolers who are active members of their communities — and visible as homeschoolers — can be the best ambassadors for homeschooling.
  • Homeschoolers can be most effective dealing with the media if they are familiar with and abide by the standard formats for presenting information.

Introduction

I could never homeschool my kids — it must be so much work!

Homeschoolers are too protected and isolated. They’ll never learn to work with people.

Kids need to know that some things in life are tough and unfair. Homeschoolers have far too rosy a picture of the world.

All homeschoolers are either hippies or religious fanatics.

Too many times we’ve heard remarks like these, sometimes even from friends and relatives we thought were beginning to understand homeschooling. We know the concept of homeschooling is sometimes difficult for those raised with the assumption that learning in schools from teachers according to long-established norms is the way one becomes educated. Most of us eagerly explain our alternative. But how can such misconceptions about homeschooling be so prevalent?

How many times have you heard or read comments like these next few?

It’s a good idea to not let your children be seen in public during school hours.

We don’t tell people we’re homeschooling so we don’t have to explain things to anybody.

We shouldn’t call attention to ourselves as homeschoolers — the more attention we get, the more regulations will be thrust upon us.

When you contact your legislator, don’t identify yourself as a homeschooler — just say you’re a “concerned citizen.”

Do many of us actually believe our educational choice is so obviously unacceptable or indefensible? If we talk this way, should we be surprised that much of the public still thinks homeschooling is an eccentric or peculiar thing to do?

Certainly the climate for homeschooling has been less than hospitable in years past, and there are still a few places in the United States where it is viewed with real hostility. But for the vast majority of us, there is no legal impediment to homeschooling. Officials opposed to the idea are confined to tactics of intimidation and disapproval; they have no legal recourse to prevent us from homeschooling if we are determined to do so.

Sometimes, though, those tactics of disapproval and intimidation can be daunting. To persist in homeschooling when faced with carping and criticism from members of your own community requires self-confidence and stubbornness and just plain grit.

What’s the way to defuse officials bent on discouraging homeschooling? What stops politicians dead in their tracks and sends them scurrying off in the opposite direction? What is our single most effective weapon to keep homeschooling legal across the country, and better yet, make it an unremarkable educational option?

Public opinion.

If the public at large understands and accepts homeschooling as an option, we will keep the legal right to homeschool. If the public somehow gets beyond mere acceptance to the idea that homeschooling can be fun and exciting as well as effective, we will discover active support for the option, even from those who do not choose homeschooling for themselves.

How do we create that positive, favorable picture of homeschooling? That’s what this booklet is all about.

The Homeschooling Image: Public Relations Basics is intended for homeschooling support groups and homeschooling activists who are looking for a basic, no-frills guide to public relations. We’ll concentrate on the skills you’re most likely to need: putting together press releases and general information about homeschooling, being interviewed about homeschooling, and organizing events such as information nights.

The material you’ll find here is a revised and updated version of the Homeschooling Information Clearinghouse Spotlight, a newsletter I published in 1994 and 1995. Lillian JonesJulie StuffelbeamLenore Hayes, and Melissa Hatheway have all been kind enough to allow me to use their articles and interviews. Other homeschoolers helped me develop my ideas for this publication, including Barbara Falcon, Dianna Broughton, and especially Mark and Helen Hegener, whose support and encouragement have been invaluable.

Kim Stuffelbeam, who’s been designing publications for longer than I’ve been writing them, taught me most of what I know about making things look good enough to read, and is always a pleasure to work with, even when he finds some of my most egregious mistakes.

I fantasize that one day I will create a publication completely free of errors, but I know that it is only a fantasy: hard as I try and as many times as I proofread, there are always mistakes. Tell me about the ones I missed, and I’ll fix them in the next version.

–Mary Griffith (1996)

This ebook version of The Homeschooling Image is the result of several years of mild nagging from a number of homeschooling friends since I published the original print version in 1996. I long ago gave away my leftover stock to the National Home Education Network, and since I’m at least four computers past the one I used in 1996, this version is completely retyped and edited, giving me not only the chance to update the material and correct errors but to introduce entirely new and original mistakes.

Public acceptance of homeschooling in all its variants is far more widespread than in 1996, and some of what I wrote in the mid-nineties seems almost overwrought in retrospect. But the basics of good public relations haven’t changed much, though the advent of the web and widespread use of email has made distribution of news releases and other publicity tools much easier (and much less expensive). Rather than completely revamping the original text, I’ve merely added comments here and there where appropriate.

–Mary Griffith (2008)

Contents of The Homeschool Image

Introduction

Part 1: The Basics

Getting StartedLooking ProfessionalDeveloping a House StyleTo Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate?Creating & Using Logos

Part 2: Announcing Yourself

NewswritingPress Release FormatLive Radio Spot Format

Part 3: Being Interviewed

Talking About Homeschooling with the MediaTips for Print InterviewsTips for Broadcast InterviewsTalk Radio: Melissa Hatheway

Part 4: Putting Your Message Out

Creating Media KitsBuilding a Media ListA FAQ on FAQsFeaturing Homeschooling

Part 5: Events & Community

Homeschool Information NightsCommunity Education ClassesConferences & Trade Shows

Bibliography

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