When Tim and Lorri Reeses' phone rang at lunchtime on September 10, 1996, no one was supposed to be home. Lorri had taken the kids out to run errands, and Tim, who had come home for lunch, was due back at work. But he hadn't quite made it out the door yet, so through what he calls "a fluke," he was there to answer the phone.
"Hello, Mr. Reese?" the caller began. "This is Mike Farris with Home School Legal Defense Association, and I'm calling to congratulate you. Your family is our 50,000th member. We'd like to honor you on behalf of all our members by bringing you as our guests to the National Home School Leadership Conference in Dallas this October."
The Reeses, who live on Travis Air Force Base in California, had just begun their first year of home schooling. Their disenchantment with public schools started when their oldest daughter, McKenna, began learning New Age teachings from her fifth-grade teacher. They grew even more concerned as McKenna approached middle school age. A close home-schooling friend convinced them to try home education and gave them a checklist of important things to do in order to get started. One of the items on the list: join HSLDA.
The Reeses didn't send in their application right away. "I kept procrastinating!" Lorri said. "He kept asking me, 'Have you sent it in yet? Have you sent it in yet?'" Finally she sent it in, and the timing, as it turned out, was perfect.
HSLDA Membership Director Chuck Hurst knew that HSLDA would accept its 50,000th member sometime this year; it was just a question of when. He kept track of the numbers throughout the busy season, and he finally narrowed down the day when we would accept our 50,000th member-September 10. Of course, HSLDA approves hundreds of applications per day, so it was anyone's guess as to which application approved on that day would be the actual milestone.
Chuck called Mike Farris and Vice President Mike Smith on the afternoon of the 10th and explained the situation to them. The three went down to the mail room, where tubs of the day's approved applications were sitting. Mike Farris reached into a tub and drew out the Reeses' application, saying, "Okay, this is number 50,000." He called them right then, with Mike Smith and Chuck Hurst looking on.
When Tim and Lorri arrived in Dallas on October 10, accompanied by their 6-month-old baby, Preston, they were surprised to find that the man who had called them was the president of the organization. "I didn't know his name, so I just assumed it was somebody on staff!" Tim said. It was the first surprise of many during the weekend, as the Reeses attended sessions, fellowshipped with veteran home schoolers, and got acquainted with the home school movement.
The Reeses were welcomed into the home schooling community with open arms. Lorri described it as "a whole new world. It's warm feeling … It's wonderful to be around the families, people with the same beliefs that we have."
Tim said that while they had begun home schooling as a defensive action, they now were convinced that it was the best method of education around. "If we can apply part of what we've learned here, our children will be richly blessed," he said, adding, "But it's certainly not the path of least resistance, is it?"
It was obvious to Tim and Lorri that their being "drawn out of a hat" and brought to Dallas was no accident. They couldn't help wondering what God might have in store for them as a result of their experience. "Everyone keeps asking what home school group we're leaders of," Tim said. "We just say we're not home school leaders … yet."
HSLDA recognizes the Reese family as representatives of our entire membership, and our appreciation extends to every member family. We invite you to celebrate this milestone with us, for you not only have fought every battle alongside us, you have made the battles possible. All glory and thanks goes to God for His goodness to both HSLDA and the home school movement throughout the years.