Nohe: An Attack On Homeschooling … By a Republican?

By Kris Nohe

There are several things that I said that I would never do: have an electric blanket, have more than two kids, text, wear flip flops, and homeschool.

I am zero for five on this list, because I can’t get through winter without an electric blanket on every level of the house, I have four amazing kids, I will text my daughter from the basement when she is in her room upstairs, flip-flops are as close to barefoot as I can get, and I am about to graduate my oldest from our one room schoolhouse that I lovingly refer to as Pajama Academy.

If my life were a pool, it would only have a deep end. My husband, Marty Nohe, and I spent our first year of marriage running his first campaign for the Board of Supervisors. We followed that up by having our first three children in a span of nine months as I discovered I was pregnant just three weeks after our two older children arrived at our house as our very first foster care placement.

Then, six weeks after the baby turned one, I found out I was pregnant again. Leaning into the chaos, I started my own business and decided to homeschool the kids. Deep end. No ladder. I learned to tread water very well.

As I said before, our older two children came to us from the foster care system. Our decision to foster was born out of our fervent pro-life belief that all life is sacred, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and as such should be protected, which includes the lives of at-risk children.

However, due to our children’s history, and to give them room to heal, we chose a schooling environment that gave them the intimate space they needed to grow instead of the larger environment of a public school which could swallow them before they found their voices to ask for help.

At first in a small Catholic school and then through homeschool, they have flourished and defied all the labels and preconceptions that were placed on them when they first came to us. Likewise, having our two younger children at home has cemented our family as a cohesive unit.

Our reasons for homeschooling were very personal, as are the reasons that any parent uses when choosing how to educate their child whether it be in a public school, a private school, or at home.

Like most homeschoolers, I’ve gotten used to justifying my decision to homeschool my children. We all have that helpful aunt who is full of advice for how we could be doing things better, or the stranger in a pharmacy who, upon learning why my kids are with me at a store at 11AM on a school day, proceeds to tell me how there is no way that they are ever going to be able to make it in the real world if I don’t cut the apron strings.

However, like using an electric blanket and texting, I never thought that I would be defending my school choice in terms of a political debate during a Republican primary, and yet earlier this week I found myself doing just that.

There is an unwritten rule that the families of candidates are not fodder for campaigns. My children’s education is not up for debate, and yet my husband’s political opponent in a Republican nomination contest for Prince William County Board of Supervisor Chairman, John Gray, felt that it was an appropriate tool to use to make a point about school funding.

Gray posted on Facebook, “As your chairman, I will focus on quality of life issues … My opponent homeschools his children and is out of touch with our public schools! My four children attended and graduated #PWCS.”

That’s right. My husband’s Republican opponent suggested that because we are a homeschool family, my husband can’t possibly understand or care about public school policy issues. Wow.

I will leave the fact that I pay taxes that support our schools while also buying my own books and education supplies on the table for now. That can sit right next to the fact that there are almost two thousand homeschool students in our county, each of whom will be a constituent of our next Board of Supervisors Chairman.

Because, all of that pales in comparison with the simple fact that families are off limits, and it is really no one’s business why we have chosen this method of education. And yet, here I find myself shouting into the proverbial political wind, “It was the right choice for our family.”

I have kept the story behind our decision to homeschool skeletal, because it is not just my story to tell, and as such, I must be weary of how many details I share. Much of our story is my children’s story, and I must respect that and protect their right to choose what details they wish to share.

Their right to privacy was flipped topsy when Mr. Gray, a man they’ve never met, decided to say that, because of the way they were educated, their father is not qualified to serve his community as an elected official. He placed the efficacy of their father’s leadership squarely on their shoulders.

Not only did this man get the details of their education wrong (both of my high schoolers have had fantastic experiences as dual enrolled students in the public school for engineering and economics, plus my oldest takes community college classes at NOVA), but he delegitimized their upbringing by questioning their parents’ efforts to provide them with the educational opportunities that best suited their needs. But hey, what’s that worth if he could score a few political points in a Republican primary? These kids should be used to it by now, right?

Marty and I are proud to be a homeschool family, and it is something that we have never tried to hide. Our county has a strong and vibrant homeschool community that supports one another. We have been heartened to see so many people have come to our defense in the face of this baseless attack.

However, that support has not just come from our fellow homeschoolers. Parents with children in public and private school have also spoken up to say that they understand there are many ways to educate a child and parents’ choices for their children are not up for debate in the political arena. We continue to be supportive of families having a choice when it comes to how their children are educated, be that homeschooling, public schooling, or private schooling.

No one outside of a family knows what goes into a family’s decision, and no one has the right to judge them for those decisions. We need leaders who will work for children in all schooling environments so that they can thrive and achieve their full potential, not politicians who take cheap potshots at families who make different family choices than them.

Kris Nohe is a homeschool mom of four children in Prince William County, a long-time pro-life Republican, and the wife of Prince William County Supervisor Marty Nohe.