|| ALONG THE WAY
ALONG THE WAY
Abounding in the work of the Lord
by Zan Tyler
Mike Smith, president of Home School Legal Defense Association, articulates the mission of HSLDA in visionary terms: "The purpose of HSLDA is to advance the kingdom of God through home education."
|HSLDA Chairman Mike Farris poses with the Fall 1997 intern class. The intern program was a precursor to Patrick Henry College.|
"When HSLDA began," Smith continues, "our first purpose was to advance freedom for homeschooling parents. Secondly, we wanted to advance home education in general. And thirdly, we wanted to encourage creative alternatives to traditional education at the college level-something we are now doing through Patrick Henry College."
For 20 years, HSLDA has been pursuing these goals in a wide variety of ways, and not just in the legal and legislative arenas. HSLDA's services to the homeschooling community range from publications to a widow's fund, from internships to a radio program. Read on for a roundup of how HSLDA is advancing the exciting option of home education.
The intern program
Recognizing that some of the best advocates of home education are homeschooled students, HSLDA has thoughtfully and intentionally invested in the lives of young people through a unique and effective internship program.
Mike Farris, now president of Patrick Henry College and chairman of the board of HSLDA, recalls:
Years ago, we saw an opportunity to use the enthusiasm of some of the special young people in the homeschooling community to help advance the cause of homeschool rights and liberties, as well as give them a great experience, by instituting the intern program. For each intern class, eight homeschooled students were selected to spend six months working at HSLDA in various capacities. These young people were so committed and talented, that nearly eight to ten years later, many of them are still working at HSLDA in a full-time capacity.
The value of this type of hands-on training can be verified in the lives of the program's graduates. Steve McGarvey, an HSLDA intern in 1995, has since served as an editor at Crosswalk.com and, more recently, as assistant editor in the HSLDA communications department. Steve is now the Editor of Interactive Media at Prison Fellowship's Wilberforce Forum. Steve's intern experience was life-changing and career-enhancing, he says.
I can say without a doubt that going to HSLDA to be an intern changed my life in many positive ways. Most importantly, it got me thinking about how I wanted my career to be about something bigger than myself. I wanted to work for something that I truly believed in. I wanted to be sure that this aspect of my life especially honored God. It was at this juncture in my life that I began to realize how important it is to focus on the "big picture" of life. I met many people during my internship who invested in me personally and were anxious to see me grow.
Patrick Henry College
The overwhelming success of the internship program sparked the idea of a college for homeschooled students. According to Mike Smith,
In 1997, the HSLDA board decided we would begin a two-year college combining strong academics with an apprenticeship model of learning. We believed that carrying the homeschooling success story from home through college would be beneficial to America-producing graduates with strong academics, meaningful work experience, and high moral standards. Shortly after, we decided to go with a four-year college. HSLDA's intern program was phased out in the spring of 2000 and Patrick Henry College opened its doors that fall. Today PHC has 243 students.
PHC President Mike Farris is committed to training leaders who are capable of engaging the culture for Christ and restoring America to the biblical principles espoused by our Founding Fathers. Farris is already experiencing the benefits of a well-trained group of young people:
Yesterday, I was engaged in the middle of the fight for the Federal Marriage Amendment. I needed help with research for my written Senate testimony. HSLDA Attorney Darren Jones, a homeschool graduate who came to HSLDA in 1996 as a legal assistant while in law school, helped me do the research and draft some of my response to written questions from U.S. senators. When I walked into the press conference being held at the National Press Club with Dr. Dobson, Gary Bauer, Sandy Rios, and others, the young man handing out press packets was a Patrick Henry College student, who is doing an internship with Concerned Women for America.
In the midst of all this, I talked to a Senate staffer in an attempt to get the Senate to understand the importance of truly protecting the institution of marriage. That staffer didn't seem to understand, so I called another one. This staffer was a homeschooled student who had gone through my constitutional law class and had been a faithful volunteer at HSLDA for many years. He understood.
Next, I talked to someone in the White House who didn't adequately understand our position, so I called another person in the White House who is a graduate of Patrick Henry College. I explained our position to her, and asked her to pass it through the lines of communication, knowing that she fully understood the importance and implications of our position.
It was really encouraging to me, in a 24-hour period, to see so many of the young people who have been touched by these programs actually serving in positions of influence and power (albeit, on the young side of the positions of influence and power); it is a tremendous blessing to have all those people in the right positions when we're in the middle of a fight for the future of Western civilization.
HSLDA has taken the lead in commissioning vital research that verifies the success and effectiveness of homeschooling. "Without research, the credibility of homeschooling is hard to establish," says Smith.
Tom Washburne, Executive Director of the National Center for Home Education, concurs:
As a homeschooler myself, there are a lot of things I know about my own children. I know they're doing well academically; I know they're doing well socially; but what I know about my own children does not translate into the kind of proof that is needed to refute the charges that the critics of home education make. As we encounter these critics in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the arena of public opinion in general, the kinds of studies done by HSLDA and researchers like Dr. Brian Ray are critical in establishing and maintaining the positive image of home education.
The most recent study released by HSLDA, Homeschooling Grows Up, demonstrates that homeschooled students are not only successful academically, but are empowered citizens who vote, participate in elections, and take their civic responsibilities very seriously. (See the feature story highlighting this study on in this Court Report.)
HSLDA is committed to sponsoring more research in the future in their ongoing commitment to advance the cause of homeschooling.
Communications and publications
"We have an outstanding communications department," says Mike Smith. "Suzanne Stephens and Grace Matte have been with us for many years. Their knowledge and understanding of HSLDA and homeschooling are both broad and deep. They have an intuitive sense of what the homeschooling community wants and needs. When they produce publications, they do an outstanding job."
|HSLDA offers a variety of resources to aid their members and the homeschooling movement at large.|
HSLDA's signature publication is the Home School Court Report, a bimonthly magazine-newsletter designed to keep members abreast of state and national homeschool news, trends, issues, and items of general interest to home educators. HSLDA member Linda Christian of West Virginia says that as a result of the Court Report she has become a more informed citizen, as well as an enthusiast for original historical documents:
I saw what was happening to families who were homeschooling. I decided it was important to educate ourselves about our rights as Americans. I wanted to learn more about my rights as an American citizen, and what I could do to protect those rights. We studied the Founders, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The communications department also produces Home School Heartbeat, a two-minute daily radio program broadcast on 600 media outlets nationwide. According to Mike Smith, "The major purpose of the program is to expose people to the homeschooling message, just like my wife and I were first exposed to the idea in 1982 when we heard Dr. Dobson talking about homeschooling on the radio. Additionally, we hope to give confidence to people who want to homeschool and to those who are currently homeschooling."
Some of HSLDA's most valuable resources are online-the website and the HSLDA E-lert Service. The website contains a wealth of information on homeschooling and the association. "Homeschooling laws, news, legislation, cases, and organizations for each state are just a click away," says HSLDA Webmaster Andrew Hawes.
Hawes explains how the website and e-lert service complement each other in keeping homeschoolers up-to-date on important events. "HSLDA's attorneys and staff work behind the scenes studying the potential impact of new state and federal laws. Then, they disseminate background information and request action by posting it on the website and sending an email alert to our e-lert service subscribers. The e-lert service keeps over 67,000 subscribers informed in a timely and effective way. Late-breaking changes are immediately noted on the website and in email updates."
In addition, Hawes points out that current and past court cases can be tracked online each step of the way. Browsing HSLDA's website keeps homeschoolers updated on hot homeschooling issues, links to relevant commentary, and articles on the Internet. It helps provide a window to the big picture of home education across the U.S. and around the world.
Online archives of the Home School Court Report date from the present back to 1997. Home School Heartbeat transcripts and streaming audio are available back to 1998.
HSLDA members will find on the website a growing list of money-saving member discounts, state-specific information and notification forms, an email form for contacting staff, and efficient online renewal.
The Home School Foundation
Nothing epitomizes the giving spirit of HSLDA and the homeschooling community quite like the Home School Foundation. Indeed, the foundation's motto is "Giving . . . the heart of homeschooling." The foundation is a non-profit organization designed to help homeschooling families in need. In addition to the General Fund, the foundation has five other funds: the Widows Curriculum Scholarship Fund, the Special Needs Children's Fund, the Friends of Homeschooling Fund, the Members Helping Members Fund, and the PHC Scholarship Fund for HSLDA Members.
|An HSF scholarship enabled single mom Anna Calabrese to purchase a customized program that takes into account her son Boby's Down syndrome and his own personal capabilities.|
Chuck Hurst, membership and human resources director at HSLDA, is also the administrator of HSF. Hurst says, "The Home School Foundation is designed to demonstrate God's love and faithfulness to families by meeting practical needs. I see the foundation as one of those hands that God uses to distribute his blessings to other people. We're a doorway God uses to bring a blessing to someone else."
The first foundation fund established was the Widow's Fund. Hurst testifies to God's faithfulness: "We are able to give widows up to $1200 for curriculum, depending on how many children they have. We can't meet all their needs, but we try to meet a need that is geared directly toward homeschooling."
Through the Special Needs Children's Fund, the foundation is able to give up to $1,000 to families who want to homeschool their special needs child. The Members Helping Members fund is designed for families who can't afford membership in HSLDA. Hurst says, "I give out five to ten scholarships every week. I pray over every family that we give to. It's about more than giving money. It's about being an answer to someone's prayers."
Hurst continues, "A lot of people don't homeschool because of fear. If we can help take that fear away and show them that they have a whole community that they are a part of that is supporting them, then they might be willing to step out and begin homeschooling."
At the 2003 National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference, HSLDA President Mike Smith delivered a stirring keynote address on how homeschooling is impacting culture. His theme was I Corinthians 15:58: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (NKJV)
As Smith encouraged conference attendees to consider this verse, homeschooling leaders from 42 states, one territory, and four countries realized that his address emanated from his heart and his life. All 10 HSLDA attorneys, as well as the entire HSLDA staff, are individually and corporately committed to "abounding in the work of the Lord" through serving the homeschooling community at home and abroad.
As we watch homeschooling prosper around the world, it is obvious that HSLDA has not labored in vain. HSLDA's 20 years of service have enabled families to teach their children confidently and freely. It's exciting to imagine what the next two decades hold!
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.