Jamie Buckland wears many hats. One of a wife, and one of a home-school mom, but one of the most important hats she wears, according to her, is one of an advocate for education choice.
Not seeing local school boards or public educators as her enemies, Buckland just wants children to have equal access to all opportunities, and she’s poured much of her energy into doing so. Although she never attended college herself, education has been her life’s work.
Buckland is now married to her husband, Greg, and has four children. Her life hasn’t always been fast-paced — she had to go through difficult times just like anyone else, she said.
“My story could have so easily been so different,” Buckland said. “At 20, I was single, pregnant with a child whose biological father was addicted to OxyContin, and working paycheck to paycheck as a telemarketer to buy diapers and pay rent.
“When others look around and see ruins in southern West Virginia, I truly do see opportunity.”
She’s been working to help others see those opportunities ever since.
While Buckland’s job as a home-school mom involves educating her children, it also has a handful of other things that go along with it. She incorporated, organized, and now serves as the headmistress and executive director of Appalachian Classical Academy — where many elective courses are taught — while also consulting and advocating for education choice, the idea that families have the right to educate their child how they see fit.
Appalachian Classical Academy is a once-per-week tutorial for home-schooling families, completely run by volunteer workers with 30 students. Buckland currently tutors fifth- and sixth-graders in Latin and seventh through 11th in American literature, and also conducts online meetings tutoring introductory physics with her 10th-grade daughter, Emma, to help the other students in her class keep up with the work.
“I once had a wise, aged friend tell me she had never met anyone more addicted to seeing growth in others. That has stuck with me. It is likely true. It can be really unhealthy at times because I am not the best at setting my own boundaries and making sure I don’t end up sacrificing more than what is reasonable in an attempt to see things through,” Buckland shared.
She began home-schooling in 2007. At that time, her son had just finished what she calls a wonderful experience at Bradley Elementary School in Raleigh County, in pre-k and kindergarten, but they just felt home-schooling was the right decision at that time.
She’s enjoyed it since, she said.
“Nothing could ever replace the affirmation and satisfaction I feel when my children discover new ideas and concepts and conquer difficult things. I have found homeschooling allows me to be right in the middle of that,” Buckland said.
While advocating for education choice, she works to gain rights for students who are home-schooled, and with that comes the right of being allowed to participate on sports teams within the public school team or play in the marching band.
This brings forward a whole other role Buckland takes on — the role of legislative liaison for Raleigh Educational Association of Christian Homeschoolers, which entails listening to the members, close to 200 families and 400 kids, to hear their concerns, and then assisting them in communicating those concerns with those who are making decisions on legislation influencing their daily lives.
Allowing for students who are homeschooled to play on extracurricular sports teams will be a large portion of serving as the liaison during the 2020 legislative session at the state Capitol in Charleston. Only receiving the title in September this year, Buckland hopes 2020 will be the year a change is finally made.
During the 2019 legislative session, a bill dubbed the “Tim Tebow bill” would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in extra-curricular activities at public secondary schools. The bill ultimately failed, as have similar bills in recent years.
In 2017, Gov. Jim Justice vetoed an earlier version of the “Tim Tebow bill.” According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), at that time, 33 other states allowed equal participation for all students, and 10 other states had proposed legislation for equal participation. Seven states had non-equitable participation, with West Virginia being one of them.
Now, 37 states allow for equal participation, and West Virginia is still not one of them.
There are 697 homeschool students in Raleigh County alone, and if given the chance to be a part of extracurriculars, Buckland believes many teams may be able to fill spots they haven’t been able to before, and it would give every child an opportunity.
She said parents of home-school students still pay property taxes, and the money spent per student for support services is funded by those property taxes — they aren’t given a tax break for choosing to home-school, nor do they expect one, she said, but they should have those same opportunities.
“Why are we limiting opportunities? Why would we ever want to limit opportunities for any child?” she asked.
Although most of what Buckland is involved in serves as serious work most times, she said she does her best to keep it light, while often letting down her hair and volunteering as DJ for the local home-school formals and barn dances, putting her love of hip hop and line dancing to good use.
“I’m not the home-school mom today that I was in 2007. I had poor grammar, embraced some pretty crazy ideals, and had forgotten what you do with exponents,” she explained, “but I had seasoned moms in my corner reminding me that while I couldn’t give someone an education I personally didn’t have, I could be the lead learner and redeem my own education alongside them.
“That’s what we’ve done. I want to see others equipped and informed to make the decision to home-school if that is what they, the parents, decide is best. Some kids are better at home; some are better in school. The majority of the time, the parents are able to be the ones to make that decision.”
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