By Liz Ackerman
Many people fear to homeschool their children because it appears to be such an isolated, lonely, and overwhelming venture. Brenda Haws, a homeschooling mother since 1996, has spent years developing her vision of a nationwide network New Commonwealth Schools, which provide community and help for families. About seven years ago she braved Colorado's icy mountain passes to come stay in our home and share the NCS vision with area homeschoolers. Since her visit, a Commonwealth School has sprung up nearby, governed and staffed by parents and local community members. Before he began working, my son and I made the twohour round trip to attend their weekly Statesmanship Club. He loved it and I was grateful for him to have the opportunity to learn parliamentary procedure and participate in a mock trial, Liberty Bowl, and other group activities.
The New Commonwealth School Association, of which Brenda is now president, helps homeschooling families gather into communities, which then develop a constitution and found once-a-week schools where students are mentored and receive the highest quality of education. Through NCSA trainings, these community schools are strengthened, and parents are helped to learn along with their children. The Association provides networking opportunities with other schools across the country. Brenda's ultimate vision is to unite home educating families around the world. The word “new” is now a part of the association's title, reflecting the incorporation of all the group has learned over the years.
Even though there are now Commonwealth Schools located across the United States, Brenda will come share the vision with any group willing to accommodate her calendar and pay her travel expenses. She recently told me that this is on a “for now” basis, until the Association's growth leads to the hiring of regional directors who would then be responsible for the activities in their areas.
Once a gathering has progressed to the point of actually founding a school, the group buys a license from NCSA, which entitles them to 24/7 access to all training, whether in written or video format. The cost of a license is $1,800 per school per year, which would be shared by all participating families. For example, a school with 20 families would pay $45 per semester per family. Training topics include understanding the Commonwealth school model, curriculum choices, fund raising options, governance principles, and ways to grow the school.
My friends that are part of the NCS tell me that despite the inevitable hassles involved, they appreciate the help, structure and support that the school gives them. They are able to homeschool on their own while enjoying the fun and variety of group activities.