|| 20th ANNIVERSARY
ALONG THE WAY
The curtain rises on HSLDA
by Zan Tyler
Act I, Scene I-The Smiths
It was 1981. Mike and Elizabeth Smith lived in Santa Monica, California, with their four children; Mike's private law practice was doing well, and Elizabeth cherished her role as wife, mother, and homemaker. The Smith's third child, Andrew, had recently made his kindergarten debut. Mike recalls, "I had him involved in very early education, pre-school, because I assumed that was the way to help him be successful in his life." But little Andrew was not interested in his education, and Elizabeth and Mike were very concerned.
Mike, pondering this educational dilemma as he traveled to court one day, tuned into James Dobson's radio program Focus on the Family. Dobson's guests, Dr. and Mrs. Raymond Moore, were discussing early childhood education, explaining that little boys typically lag two to three years behind little girls in their academic development.
Mike recounts, "In that 30-minute program, the Moores described my son and discussed the problems that arise when children, because of compulsory attendance laws, are thrown into school before they are ready. Then, they provided the solution—homeschooling. And as the radio program progressed, it sounded like the solution for us. After court, I went straight home and explained everything I had just heard to Elizabeth. Within a week, Elizabeth and I attended our first homeschool conference."
Mike quickly found himself inundated with requests to defend homeschooling families in Southern California. Mike lamented, "It was obvious that these families could not afford good legal representation. And yet I couldn't neglect my private practice to spend all the time that was needed to help these families. Most of them were looking for a Christian attorney. The tension of having the responsibility to feed my family and also having this desire to help these families caused me deep concern."
Act I, Scene II—The Farrises
It was the fall of 1982. Mike Farris had traveled from his home state of Washington to Utah to tape a radio program with Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Raymond Moore, a guest on the program, was there to discuss homeschooling. By the end of the day, Dr. Moore had convinced Mike, as well as the LaHaye's daughter, to homeschool!
Mike flew home to Washington and told his wife Vickie that he thought they should homeschool Christy, their oldest daughter, who was entering the second grade. What Mike didn't know was how fervently Vickie had been praying that Mike would be led to homeschool. She had heard of homeschooling on a Focus on the Family radio broadcast and been drawn to it, but she didn't think Mike would be in favor of it.
The Farrises started homeschooling in the fall of 1982; Vickie and Christy made the cover of the Seattle Times. As news of the Farris' homeschooling venture hit the streets, other homeschooling parents who were having legal struggles, started contacting Mike for help. While they wanted a good, Christian lawyer, most couldn't afford to pay for legal representation.
Act II, Scene 1—The meeting of the Mikes
By 1982, Mike Farris had already developed a regional reputation both as a political activist and as a Christian lawyer engaged in fairly high-profile constitutional cases.
Mike Farris' work took him to Sacramento, California, where he met Mike Smith for the first time. Mike [Farris] explained to Mike [Smith] his idea of starting a legal defense association for homeschooling families. His idea embraced the notion that if the education establishment attacked one homeschooling family, the whole homeschooling community would effectively come to their defense. Families would pay $100 and gain the comfort of knowing they would be able to defend themselves, rather than having to move out of hostile districts or capitulate to the heavy-handed educational establishment.
Mike Smith recounts, "When I met Mike Farris in late 1982, in Sacramento, he ran his idea for HSLDA by me. I was sorry I hadn't thought of it myself! I jumped on board and have never regretted it."
Act II, Scene 1—The meeting of the Mikes
In March of 1983, Mike and Vickie Farris and Mike and Elizabeth Smith became the founding board members of Home School Legal Defense Association. Chris Klicka became the first full-time employee in June of 1985.
Mike Farris moved his family to Washington, DC, in 1983 to work with Concerned Women for America. In June of 1986, he began working full time with HSLDA.
In March of 1987, Mike Smith left his established West Coast law practice and moved his family to Washington, DC, to join Mike Farris full time in the venture to defend and empower homeschooling families.
ACT III—Through many dangers, toils, and fears
In 20 years, HSLDA has grown from a fledgling idea with a handful of families to a robust organization representing over 70,000 families across the globe.
Throughout the 80s and into the 90s, Mike Farris and Mike Smith, along with the rapidly growing staff of HSLDA, threw themselves wholeheartedly and relentlessly into the defense of persecuted and prosecuted homeschooling families. Some faced the threat of jail; others faced the removal of their children from their homes; still others faced long, drawn-out court cases and steep fines.
HSLDA has also worked alongside state organizations from coast to coast, aiding them in the process of drafting and implementing homeschooling laws.
Today, HSLDA continues as a powerful voice in the defense and promotion of parent-directed education in the courts, in the media, and in the public square.
ACT IV—Grace for the journey
The goal of homeschooling is to equip our children for a productive life of service in this world, while preparing them for their heavenly home. With this in mind, both Mike Farris and Mike Smith have words of hope and inspiration for homeschooling families. As HSLDA celebrates their twentieth anniversary, these two men are looking to the future with great anticipation.
ACT V—When we've been there ten thousand years
As the final curtain rises on Act V, we witness the fulfillment of our homeschooling hopes and dreams. Throngs of parents are standing on the other side of the Jordan, hand-in-hand with their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren (along with the multitudes that their families have influenced for Christ). Together forever, they have the privilege of worshipping the Lamb who sits on the throne . . . This act will last for an eternity.
About the author
Zan Tyler is the Home School Resource and Media Consultant for Broadman & Holman Publishers and the Editor of the Homeschool Channel for LifeWay's Web Network (www.lifeway.com/homeschool). She is the founder and past president of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools. She and her husband Joe have three children and have homeschooled since 1984.