By Robert Bortins
I had the privilege of talking to Andrew Campanella, the founder and president of School Choice Week to find out what it is, why it got started and how homeschoolers can get involved.
I learned about the success they are having and how we can help more parents consider the choice of homeschooling and show them that they can do it to.
ROBERT: What is School Choice Week and what inspired you to become involved?
ANDREW: National School Choice Week is an annual celebration of the various choices that parents can make for their children’s education. That includes everything from educating children in the home—homeschooling—to choosing a traditional public school, public charter school, magnet school, private or faith-based school, or online academy. The Week is held every year, in January, and features thousands of individually-planned events across the country, everything from small gatherings at people’s homes to big rallies at state capitol buildings.
The goal is to let the public, through general awareness and a significant amount of positive local media coverage, know that when it comes to education, parents have choices, and parents want to protect the choices they’re able to make. While I wasn’t the one who started National School Choice Week (it was started by moms who wanted school choice to have a higher profile and get more attention), I have been honored to work with a dedicated team to help grow the School Choice Week effort over the past five years.
ROBERT: Why should homeschoolers get involved with School Choice Week?
ANDREW: I’ve always believed that homeschooling is the original “school choice.” It deserves more recognition, respect, and public celebration. All of the data and research shows that homeschooling is not only enormously popular, but it yields incredibly positive results for children, families, and communities. Homeschoolers should get involved in School Choice Week to help tell the world about how homeschooling works. By getting involved in the Week, parents can inspire other families to consider homeschooling, while sending a clear message to leaders at the state and national levels that the fundamental right to homeschool children should not be burdened by needless bureaucracy.
ROBERT: How can homeschoolers get involved in School Choice Week?
ANDREW: There are so many ways to get involved! Homeschoolers can celebrate by getting together with other families in their areas and planning an educational party or celebration, holding a roundtable discussion about homeschooling for parents who might want to learn more, taking photos and sharing them on social media, or by giving out awards to star students and parents who are involved in homeschooling.
What you do for School Choice Week is completely up to you. Homeschool groups can even get free materials and event supplies online at schoolchoiceweek.com/homeschools. The most important thing to remember is that getting involved is completely free; it’s not political or linked to advancing any legislation whatsoever, and participants can focus their efforts on advancing their own goals. It’s also a lot of fun!
ROBERT: What was your biggest takeaway from January 2015 School Choice Week?
ANDREW: I was inspired by School Choice Week in 2015, because so many different groups, individuals, homeschool organizations, and schools got involved and celebrated at more than 11,000 events. We saw school choice discussed in the media, not as an abstract policy idea, but as something that is transforming—in a positive way—the lives of countless kids and their parents. I was impressed, also, at the many different types of unique events that were planned to celebrate the week, and at how creative and enthusiastic participants are.
On the homeschooling front, I was very grateful that, thanks to our partnerships with Classical Conversations, Homeschool Now USA, and the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) as well as hundreds of other groups, there were more than 1,000 events focused on homeschooling during NSCW 2015, a big first for us.
But, by far, the biggest takeaway for me is that National School Choice Week 2015 demonstrated that school choice is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds, and the concept that parents deserve more freedom in the education of their children has become a mainstream cause, something that nobody can ignore or discount. School choice and educational opportunity is an unstoppable force that will transform, in a very, very positive way, the future of education in America.
ROBERT: Do you expect School Choice Week to grow again in 2016?
ANDREW: I sure hope so! National School Choice Week started in 2011 with 150 events across the country, and it has grown so much in just five years, to 11,000 events in 2015. If you had asked me, last year at this time, if I thought we’d see 11,000 events in 2015, I probably would have laughed and said, “I wish!” But that’s the best part of working with a truly grassroots effort; things ‘take off’ and become very popular if they are truly authentic and genuine. And during School Choice Week, we’ve worked to always spotlight the real people who matter—kids, parents, and teachers. So, I have faith that we’ll see a lot of enthusiasm in 2016, but I’m not going to predict the number of events we’ll see, because it’s out of my control! Let’s watch and see what happens.
ROBERT: How can homeschoolers find out more about School Choice Week?
ANDREW: Homeschoolers can learn more atschoolchoiceweek.com/homeschools or learn more at the website of HomeschoolNowUSA.com, which is an independent site that was set up by supporters of homeschooling to help facilitate homeschooler participation in National School Choice Week.
ROBERT: Do you have any words of encouragement for homeschoolers?
ANDREW: I want every homeschooler to feel like they are not only a part of the school choice movement, but that they are an essential component of this movement. Too often, homeschooling gets ignored or slighted as an important and vital factor in education reform, but it shouldn’t be ignored; it should be celebrated. Homeschoolers were and are the original reformers, parents who made sacrifices to give their children an education that is personalized and tailored and high-quality. This is something we, as a country, absolutely need to celebrate.
To me, homeschooling parents are heroes, and they deserve recognition and respect. And during National School Choice Week in 2016, we hope to work with more and more homeschoolers to share those stories, so that the American public at large has an even greater appreciation for the diversity that is the broader school choice community.
An outspoken advocate for education reform, Andrew Campanella is president of National School Choice Week. He has worked to significantly expand the effort’s impact, from 150 special events in 2011 to 5,500 events in 2014. Andrew owns Campanella Media & Public Affairs, a national, Florida-based media and events strategy firm specializing in education and economic development. He is also a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, Summer 2015. Read the magazine free atwww.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps atwww.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.