Twenty-five Years of Working Together
Where has all the time gone? It just doesn’t seem possible that 25 years ago Home School Legal Defense Association began as a dream to establish the legality of parents teaching their children at home.
HSLDA / Art CoxJ. Michael Smith, President, Home School Legal Defense Association
YOU ARE TRULY
THE REASON THAT
FREEDOM TO HOMESCHOOL
It seems like yesterday when I first met Mike Farris in Sacramento, California, in 1982 at a homeschool conference. (Yes, they had homeschool conferences in 1982!) Like my wife, Elizabeth, and me, Mike and his wife, Vickie, were teaching their children at home, although they lived in Olympia, Washington, at the time. As a lawyer who was also a homeschool dad, Mike was experiencing the same opposition to home education in Washington State that we were experiencing in California. Both states had taken the position that unless you were a certified teacher, you could not legally teach your children at home; therefore, many families were being threatened with prosecution, removal of their children, and even jail time.
These families were coming to us asking for legal help. It became obvious that most of them could not afford to pay for legal services. I was in private practice, and there was only so much free legal work I could do. But my heart went out to these families because I was one of them. It was against the backdrop of these legal battles that Mike Farris came up with the idea of Home School Legal Defense Association.
As we met that first time in Sacramento and discussed the common issues we were facing in defending these families, Mike revealed his idea for beginning an organization that would be made up of members who all taught their children at home. The purpose of the organization would be to establish parents’ right to homeschool, and the members’ dues would make it possible to advance homeschooling nationwide and provide competent legal counsel for each and every member family no matter where they lived. Mike asked me if I would be interested in starting such an organization with him. I remember thinking, “I wish
I had thought of this idea myself.”
We immediately agreed that this was the right thing to do. The initial incorporators of HSLDA were Mike and Vickie Farris and Mike and Elizabeth Smith. Shortly thereafter, we expanded our board of directors since our wives decided they needed to focus on teaching our children at home. Twenty-five years later, thanks to the support of our members and all the state organizations and leaders around the country, homeschooling is legal in some form in every state. Homeschooling families no longer need to cower in their homes, waiting for the truant officer’s knock on their door.
On a personal note, the last 25 years have been the highlight of my professional career as a lawyer. I have been able to apply my profession full-time to my passion for homeschooling. It is such a blessing to be able to work at something that truly is a labor of love, and I can share with you that all of my co-laborers here at HSLDA view this work as their labor of love as well.
As we gathered as a group to discuss our 25th anniversary and how we would celebrate it, the common theme seemed to be that we need to remember that this freedom homeschoolers have achieved came about because of God’s blessing, and what a tremendous blessing this freedom is. To truly appreciate this freedom, all you have to do is talk to one of the pioneer homeschooling families who homeschooled before it was legal.
So as we begin this celebration of our 25th year, we want to thank you, HSLDA’s members. You truly are the reason that freedom to homeschool exists today. As a result of that freedom, thousands upon thousands of families are now experiencing the blessing of home education and the impact it will have—not only on this generation, but on future generations—as we recognize our responsibility to serve God through the discipleship of our children at home.
Because we have received so much, we have a responsibility to share our blessings with others. “To whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). If the homeschool movement is to continue to grow and be a viable movement in America, there are several things homeschoolers must do.
First, continue to support local homeschool groups through participation, and support state organizations through membership and conference attendance. Even if you don’t buy curriculum at your state conference, you’ll find encouragement and helpful information. You'll also be contributing to an effort that is absolutely necessary to the continued survival of the homeschool movement.
Second, be an evangelist for home education. Be alert to young families
in your church or neighborhood who have an interest in homeschooling, and offer to mentor their family until they are able to mentor other families in homeschooling.
Finally, continue to support HSLDA through your membership and encourage others to join. Homeschooling’s ability to remain free is dependent upon your willingness to respond at a moment’s notice when our liberties are being threatened either in state legislatures or in Congress. Homeschooling is a grassroots movement; its strength is in large numbers of committed families willing to make the sacrifice to advance and maintain freedom.
I look forward to the opportunities we will have to celebrate HSLDA’s 25th anniversary with you. But this celebration is really not a celebration of HSLDA—it is a celebration of 25 years of working together to advance the precious freedom we have as parents to direct the upbringing and education of our children.