of Homeschooling in West Virginia
school attendance became the law in West Virginia in 1897. In 1939, Exemption B
of the state’s compulsory school law provided
for homeschooling. Under this
exemption, each individual county superintendent and board of education had the
right to approve or deny a family’s request to homeschool and to regulate
homeschooling as they saw fit. A family’s freedom to homeschool depended on
the county in which it lived, with attitudes ranging from absolute refusal to
permit it to very cooperative relationships between county and homeschoolers.
There was no uniformity across the state. This was the situation through the
few homeschooling families in the state at this time were loosely knit through a
newsletter called Alternatives in Education. The newsletter was produced
by people in Roane County during 1981 and 1982, after which Deirdre Purdy of
Chloe assumed publication of it, continuing until 1987.
the 1983 legislative session, West Virginians for Religious Freedom, led by Dr.
Phil Suiter, a former assistant state superintendent of schools, introduced
Senate Bill 184 providing Exemption K for private, parochial, church, or other
nonpublic schools. This exemption was not intended to be used for homeschooling,
but since it included “other nonpublic schools,” homeschooling families
quickly took advantage of it when it became law, registering with the state as
private schools, thereby bypassing control and regulation by individual
counties. For several years, most homeschoolers in the state used Exemption K
with no trouble, while some in “good” counties still used Exemption B.
Suiter was instrumental in bringing homeschooling families together when, in
December 1985, he arranged a meeting/seminar for homeschoolers called Ethics and
Commitment in Home Education at Appalachian Bible College in Beckley.
Homeschoolers from all over the state were in attendance. Dr. Suiter urged us to
organize. We would need organization and unity to “keep an eye on“
legislators and bureaucrats, who consider it part of their job to try to control
home education. A committee was formed to begin formulating the structure,
purposes, constitution, etc., of such an organization.
this emerged the West Virginia Home Educators Association, officially begun in
the spring of 1986, wit Don Fox of Glenville serving as president. The group saw
as its first and foremost goal the promotion and development of high quality
home education. Protecting the freedom of parents to home-educate was also a
number one priority. Other goals included establishing local support groups or
networks around the state, distributing information considered vital to home
educators, developing educational opportunities to help parents and others
involved in home education, and keeping fellow homeschoolers informed of
significant governmental and moral issues which had the potential of affecting
exactly the same time that WVHEA was being formed, State Superintendent of
Schools Dr. Tom McNeel, asked State Attorney General Charlie Brown for an
opinion as to
homeschools should be operating under Exemption K. Brown decided: “If your
school is providing instruction in the home to only your own children, it would
appear that you should apply for Exemption B status….” Dr Suiter and Don Fox
met with Dr. McNeel, which resulted in McNeel agreeing to wait for clarifying
legislative action before he took action against homeschool families operating
under Exemption K.
one of WVHEA’s earliest tasks became formulating legislation to guarantee the
rights of homeschoolers. The first thought was to amend Exemption K to
specifically define home education to fit this exemption. However, there was
considerable opposition from legislators and Christian schools to our tampering
with Exemption K. So attention turned to Exemption B. Since the current
Exemption B was not a problem in “friendly” counties, it seemed easiest to
add a section to it similar to Exemption K, which simply requires notification.
Our lobbying efforts proved successful, resulting in the addition of Subsection
b to Exemption B. The former Exemption B is now subsection a.
a good law now in place, WVHEA and homeschoolers across the state were able to
focus on some of the other goals and projects. After sponsoring a seminar with
Raymond and Dorothy Moore and joining the Christian Schools Association for a
conference in 1986, WVHEA struck out on its own to sponsor state conferences and
curriculum fairs. Minor problems in several counties, including a court case in
Braxton County were dealt with satisfactorily.
the fall of 1988, a nationwide push to establish exclusively “Christian”
organizations in the states was launched following a conference sponsored by The
Teaching Home magazine. WVHEA had always defined itself as a service
organization for homeschoolers rather than a religious organization. Several
times over the years, the issue of whether to remain nonsectarian came up at
board meetings. The majority always resolved the issue by remaining true to its
original mission: to be a service organization for all rather than a
religion-oriented organization. In a survey of the membership in 1989, 78 % of
those responding agreed that WVHEA should continue as a service organization.
However, Don and Penny Fox, who had attended the 1988 Teaching Home
conference, increasingly wished to change WVHEA into a ministry for evangelical
Christians. In the summer of 1990, they said that if WVHEA did not become such
an organization, they would resign. At the August 1990 board meeting, the board
voted to accept their resignations and remain a nonsectarian service
organization. Don and Penny subsequently started an organization to minister to
evangelical Christian homeschoolers in West Virginia; they named it Christian
Home Educators of West Virginia (CHEWV).
all these years, homeschooling has continued to grow in West Virginia. At the
time WVHEA was formed, there were approximately 60 Exemption K homeschools. Today
the number of homeschooling families in the slate is in the hundreds and
continues to grow.
(1995), homeschooling families look forward to WVHEA’s annual events --
Homeschoolers Day at the Legislature, Family Day, and the Fall Conference. WVHEA
offers annual testing in the Spring and publishes its newsletter, The WVHEA
Report, during the even months.