The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXII
No. 2
Cover
March/April
2006

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- disclaimer -
Together, for freedom

J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association

Since Home School Legal Defense Association began in 1983, our membership has grown steadily, just like the homeschooling movement. We currently have slightly less than 80,000 member families, and I want to extend my personal thanks to each of you for your support. Without you, HSLDA would not exist.

However, over the last several years our membership growth rate has slowed considerably. In 2005, for the first time, we had fewer members at the end of the year than at the beginning. HSLDA uses two components when computing membership growth. The first component is our renewal rate. Currently, 75% of our members renew annually—down from 80% in 1995.

The second component is new members. Slightly more than 20,000 families joined HSLDA for the first time in 2004. That figure dropped to 18,000 in 2005.

So, I am asking you to help us grow our membership. First, I ask that you continue to renew your membership with HSLDA.

Second, we work very hard to make your membership more valuable each year, and I welcome your suggestions on how we can better serve you.

Third, I am asking you to be a recruiter, encouraging your homeschooling friends to join HSLDA. Listed below are four reasons your friends should become members.

We work to preserve their fundamental, God-given right to homeschool.

This is the primary purpose for which HSLDA was founded in 1983. Since then, homeschool freedom has grown by leaps and bounds. Home education is now legal in some form in every state. However, because homeschooling challenges government control, homeschoolers still face threats to their freedom on a daily basis.

Some families do not see a reason to join HSLDA because they are living in a "safe" state. They forget that every homeschooler is part of this freedom movement! By joining, they support their brothers and sisters in states where homeschooling is difficult, but their membership also does a lot more. The loss of legal ground in just one state could be used to reduce freedom in other states-including their own. If we have a long-term, multi-generational commitment to home education, we must recognize that the battle for our liberty has just begun.

We fight for their right to direct the upbringing of their children.

Parental rights are under attack in America. There are ongoing efforts to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which would become the "supreme law of the land," governing how we raise our children. This treaty would take the "best interest of the child" standard-used in juvenile court dependency matters where there are allegations of abuse or neglect-and apply it to ordinary families. Judges, not parents, would decide where a child attends school, what religion he is taught, what friends he has, and what activities are appropriate for him. HSLDA has been instrumental in the fight to keep the UNCRC from becoming law in America, and we will continue to fight zealously against its passage.

We continue to help our member families who are contacted by government officials regarding allegations of child abuse or neglect. HSLDA has also helped to pass legislation in Congress that requires social workers to receive training in the Fourth Amendment and inform families of the allegations against them upon initial contact. We will continue to work in Congress and in the states to strengthen the protection of parental rights.

We monitor legislation in Congress and all 50 states.

HSLDA works in conjunction with state organizations to ensure that no legislation is passed that would roll back the freedoms homeschoolers have gained. Each year, challenges to educational freedom arise at the state level around the country, and we respond by preparing talking points and position papers, testifying at hearings, and notifying you so you can respond to the legislation.

On the federal level, we monitor all legislation that relates to homeschooling and parental rights. Several years ago, a bill was introduced in Congress that would have required all teachers, even those in homeschools, to be certified in every subject they taught. With your help and that of many other homeschoolers, we mounted a nationwide opposition to the bill, which resulted in Congress receiving over one million telephone calls in a 10-day period. The bill went down 413 to 1. We also advance legislation to resolve obvious discrimination against homeschoolers, such as in college entrance and military enlistment, as long as there will be no loss of freedom to homeschoolers.

We provide valuable resources for homeschool families.

Whether your friends are just launching their home education program, teaching a gifted or special needs child, or graduating their last child, HSLDA has an abundance of helpful resources. HSLDA members have direct contact with our high school and special needs consultants. Each member also has 24/7 access to our legal department's emergency line. As a bonus, our PerX program allows members to receive sizeable discounts from many companies and organizations, including Patrick Henry College, insurance, hotels, and WORLD magazine. Several members have found that the discounts more than pay for their annual HSLDA membership fee.

I want to encourage you to be an advocate for HSLDA, thereby becoming a partner in our mission to advance and preserve homeschool freedom. Let's join together and commit to making sure that the freedom to homeschool and direct the upbringing of our children is extended not only to our children, but to our grandchildren and beyond. Thank you for taking this challenge to heart!