Reaching the Homeschool Community

Reaching the Homeschool Community

A primer for organizations, businesses and politicians

The homeschool community is a fast growing, diverse and well networked group of parents who have taken it upon themselves to teach their children at home.

Currently there are an estimated 2 million homeschoolers in the United States. The growth of homeschooling has created a niche market that many businesses and groups now see a value in communicating with.

To really understand the homeschool community you need to have a basic understanding of it’s history.

A Brief History of Homeschooling

In the early 1960’s and 1970’s three streams emerged that catapulted homeschooling into the national sphere.

In the 1960’s John Holt wrote “How Children Fail”, 1964; “How Children Learn”, 1967; “What Do I Do Monday?”, 1970 these books coupled with his appearance on the Phil Donehue show pushed the ideas of homeschooling into the national dialogue. Holt also started the magazine “Growing without schooling” and in my mind represents the secular homeschooling world.
Wikipedia | Amazon | Website

In the 1970‘s Raymond and Dorothy Moore authored several books, “Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education”, 1975 and “School Can Wait” in 1980’s they were interviewed on James Dobson’s focus on the family radio program which helped spread the message of homeschooling into the conservative Christian community.
Moore Foundation | Amazon

Rushdoony wrote the book (The Messianic Character of American Education) in 1963 and was frequently called as an expert witness by HSLDA in court cases. Much of the leadership of HSLDA has been influence by Rushooney’s theology of Christian Reconstructionism. He advocated the complete submission of government to the biblical laws.
Wikipedia | Amazon | Chalcedon Foundation

The impact of the theology of christian reconstructionism on politics and the religious right is fascinating but will have to wait till another time.

In the early 80’s these streams flowed together bound by the necessity of numbers and the need to lobby for the legalization of homeschooling. Homeschooling as a legal and accepted form of education has enjoyed a very short history.

Growth

As the homeschooling movement grew in the late 80’s and 90’s the growth of the christian homeschool community outpaced the growth among secular homeschoolers. With this shift in power homeschool organizations began to disassociate with people they didn’t agree with and created “christian homeschool organizations”. These state organizations ran the state homeschool conventions, published newsletters and became the defacto legal defense of home education. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Also began to grow and unite the state organizations into a very powerful political unit.
Wikipedia | Website

Changes

In the 2000’s two changes impacted the homeschooling community.
In the early days there was more of a individualistic pioneer spirit, these are the people I refer to as the first generation or the pioneers. They had shown that parents could successfully educate their children at home, they had fought for legislation to make it legal, they had begged, borrowed, cobbled together and even written their own curricula. In essence they made homeschooling culturally acceptable. The pioneers opened the doors to the second generation of followers. While the pioneers were more ideological the followers were more concerned with, cost, test scores, quality of public schools, schedule, etc.

The second big change was the growth of the internet.
It was now easy to find information and purchase products online. You could also read and write personal reviews to help you decide what to buy and from whom. In the early days you had to make a phone call or attend a seminar to find out the homeschooling legislation and requirements, now it’s only a mouse click away. Before you had to go to the state convention to buy your curriculum for the year. Now there is more than enough information online and it’s usually cheaper.

Reaching the Homeschool Community

With this brief history in mind here are some practical ways to reach the very diverse homeschool community. Marketers, organizations and politicians all can use these tools to reach out to the homeschool community with either their message or their product. Traditional marketing means spending money to borrow someone else’s audience. The internet and non traditional marketing lets you spend time and money to build your own audience. I recommend using both methods.

Traditional Methods

Magazines

Some of these magazines have overlap and some hit different segments of the homeschool community contact them to find out who they reach. Along with selling advertising space most of these magazines also maintain an email list which you can rent.

Direct Mail

You can advertise in card packs, essentially you are buying a postcard slot in a large stack of post cards, these generally have a large reach and are mailed several times a year. You can also rent their mailing lists to send your own mailing. They usually maintain a rentable email list as well.

State Conventions

There are conventions in every state and sometimes several in a state. The old schoolhouse magazine maintains a good list. You can also google your state to find one near you. Some conventions only allow christian curriculum vendors, others only homeschool vendors while others have an open door policy.
Old Schoolhouse 2009 Conventions

Support Groups & Co-ops

I have yet to find a central database of local support groups and co-ops. Buy a google search for support groups in your state will point you in the right direction. Here is one example of support groups in Pennsylvania.
PA Homeschoolers

You can reach support groups and co-ops by calling or emailing the leaders and asking for an opportunity to speak to the group. Free perks for the organizers can be helpful.

Online Outreach

The homeschool community has always been very connected and self organizes in a way that would make most political parties jealous. A hot button issue can quickly spread among homeschoolers and shut down switchboards in Washington D.C. Homeschoolers are also extremely well networked online as well. “Homeschool Mommy Bloggers” talk about child rearing, teaching, curriculum choices, politics, faith, recipes, hobbies etc. on a regular basis. They also quickly adapt to new technologies and can be found wherever social media will take you.

Blogger Outreach

Blogger outreach is a very nebulus term that basically means reaching out to bloggers. You can reach out in a variety of ways. You can email the author and pitch a story (doesn’t work to well), purchase advertising on the blog (hard to manage more than a few), become a member of a group blog, link to the blog, write comments on the blog, offer free stuff in exchange for a blog post (i.e. review materials, exclusive interview, etc.). The best thing to do is appeal to the blogger’s self interest. What do bloggers want?

  1. Attention
  2. Exclusive Information
  3. Money

The best method I’ve found is to slowly build relationships with bloggers, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Read their blogs, comment on them and offer them information and/or materials that they would find useful.

Some examples of good homeschool blogs

To find more homeschooling blogs check through the past winners of the homeschool blog awards. Also check blogrolls to find out who bloggers like to read.

Twitter

Yes homeschoolers use twitter, if you want to reach out on twitter start an account and start following people. Use the search function to find people talking about your issues/products and join their conversation.

Facebook

While there are a lot of homeschoolers on twitter there are even more on facebook. Start a fan page and joint the conversation on facebook. Also faebook advertising is very effective at targeting your audience. Tip for facebook advertising don’t send them to your website with your ad, keep them in facebook, either on your page or one of your events.  Build your community of fans and talk with them regularly.

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Thanks for reading and please leave a comment or a question if you have anything to add or ask,

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