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U.S. Dept. of Ed. Conference Highlights Homeschooling

by Maggie McKneely • October 23, 2018

On September 20, the Department of Education held its 14th annual Private School Leadership Conference. This year, homeschooling, and Home School Legal Defense Association, took a surprising amount of the spotlight.

The event is hosted by the department’s Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE), which was created to be the liaison between the federal government and private and homeschool communities. It helps to ensure the concerns of homeschooling and other non-public school families are heard in D.C. The annual Private School Leadership Conference provides a forum for discussing Department of Education initiatives and programs, highlighting new education innovations, and listening to the concerns of the non-public school community.

In the past, the conference, as its name suggests, has focused primarily on private schools. But as the options for education continue to expand, so does the focus of the conference. At the 2018 gathering, homeschooling got to stand in the spotlight, alongside virtual academies, private schools, and faith-based educational communities.

Reaching Out

The conference also gave HSLDA Online Academy staff the chance to show the broader education community how they can help their students.

Steve Oberlander, HSLDA vice president of finance and technology, attended the conference with the academy. He explained that “sometimes a private school can have difficulty finding or compensating a qualified instructor to teach a particular class.” But the HSLDA Online Academy can help fill in the gap for those schools.

The academy offers 38 different online courses, 9 of which are AP® courses. And unlike many other online courses, these are all taught live via video streaming.

During the conference, HSLDA Online Academy Program Manager Megan Blank,and Academics and Faculty Supervisor Jennifer Schlaudt, took part in a panel on virtual non-public education. They explained how the academy is filling in the curriculum gap for high school students nationwide. Megan said that the presentation allowed the academy “to showcase the format of our courses, demonstrating that an online course can be interactive, affordable, and flexible.”

Meeting Challenges

Although most academy students are homeschoolers, participating in the conference allowed academy staff to show that they can serve a wide variety of students. Megan explained that the presentation “was a wonderful chance to show private school administrators what we can offer and the benefits of partnering with the academy.”

For example, many of the private schools in attendance at the conference were Christian and Catholic schools, which have the added challenge of finding quality curriculum that also teaches a Christian worldview. The academy’s presentation highlighted the fact that it has “an outstanding group of Christian instructors.” The academy’s online classes could be the solution that many of these schools are looking for.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also took the stage at the conference, where she emphasized the importance of school choice and her support of alternatives to public education. In her remarks, DeVos encouraged attendees to think boldly and creatively about how to best meet students’ needs. She also said that her agency is “committed to expanding freedom and choices in education.”

Educational freedom allows students to flourish, and it’s refreshing to see the Department of Education recognize that through such an event as this, and by inviting the HSLDA Online Academy to present its own innovative approach to education.

Maggie McKneely

Federal Relations Liaison

Maggie McKneely travels regularly to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators and to encourage them to preserve homeschool freedom.

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