Home School Court Report
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Ninth Circuit Upholds Family Privacy and Parental Authority

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United We Stand

Two from Washington

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Children Tax ID Act Moves Forward

President Vetoes Tax Relief

Navy Fills Quota

Home Educated Athletes

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S P E C I A L   F E A T U R E

Two from Washington

Senator Jim Hargrove: Standing for Parent’s Rights

Senator Jim Hargrove: Standing for Parent's Rights
Home school dad and Washington State Senator Tim Sheldon is part of an “informal home school caucus.“

Forester, baseball coach, state legislator, home schooling dad, and prolife Democrat—Washington State Senator Jim Hargrove wears many hats as he fights for parents’ rights in the Evergreen State.

When the Washington state home school law passed in 1985, “I actually voted against it because it was not wide open enough in my opinion,” said Senator Hargrove. “I believe that parents have the right to choose what form of education is best for their children. And, as it turns out, Washington’s home school law works very well.”

Senator Hargrove and his wife, Laurie, have home schooled their three children—Jimmy (senior, age 17), Jewel (sophomore, age 15), and Daniel (fifth grade, age 10)—since kindergarten. Although they had planned to send their children to a local Christian school, it closed just before Jimmy started kindergarten. Home schooling seemed to be their only option.

“My sister was also encouraging me to home school,” said Laurie Hargrove, “I said, ‘Lord, I can only do this with your help.’”

“As we went on,” added the senator, “we came up with more and more reasons why we should home school: curriculum, quality of education, social issues, etc.” The Hargroves believe that home schooling has enabled them to avoid negative influences and to bring positive influences and opportunities into their children’s lives.

“Our kids don’t have any problem with socialization!” declared the Hargroves. Among other activities, Jewel plays softball with the church, Daniel plays baseball, and both participate in an annual community musical production. Also a talented artist, Jewel has won first place in statewide home school expositions several times.

Jimmy played several sports in grade and high school. “The local school district has been very cooperative and open towards us and other home schoolers,” said the senator. “Jimmy got letters in golf as a sophomore and baseball as a junior.” Jimmy is now taking his first class outside home—speech class at a local college—and is doing quite well.

How does home schooling fit in with being a state legislator? “It offers a lot of flexibility,” said the senator. “For example, we like to go on vacation in the fall after everyone else is in school.”

Senator Hargrove traces his beginnings in government back to a 1980 Washington for Jesus rally he attended in the nation’s capital. “It was kind of a spiritual awakening for me in seeing that Christians needed to be involved in government,” he said.

“I felt that just as the Lord loves people and wants to bless them, the government—run properly—should bless people. I sincerely care about the people in my district and want to help them,” said Senator Hargrove. “When they sense that motivation, they really respond positively.”

Although he lost his first bid for a seat in the house of representatives in 1982, he won his next race—in 1984—and every race since. This is his 16th year serving in the state legislature: four terms in the house (1985–1992) and two in the senate (1993 to present).

As a forester, the senator said that he tends to deal with natural resources issues, but has also become an expert in human services and child protective services through his work in the legislature. And, during the 15 years he’s been in public service, the state has come to respect parents’ rights much more.

He’s seen attitudes in public school officials change from “those are our kids” to a recognition that the children belong to the parents and that the schools are providing a service. The schools are much more willing to work with families who want to home school full-time, or even part-time, he noted.

And the legal system has changed. Since the late 1970’s, the state literally allowed children to run away from home. Even five years ago, said the senator, instead of picking up and returning runaways, officials would put the young people in foster care and bill the parents for it. However, the law now requires authorities to return minors to parents unless there is an abusive situation.

A recent bill sponsored by Senator Hargrove has contributed to this positive paradigm shift. The provision allowed juvenile court judges to support parents’ authority by insisting that children obey their parents’ rules. “Since this law took effect,” said the senator, “we have judges, even school personnel, saying that this is a good idea. It’s working. It’s the first step in catching at-risk kids.”

“We’ve seen juvenile crime come down in the three years since getting to problem kids sooner,” he added. “I also introduced a tougher truancy provision. If a student is registered and enrolled in public school, he or she must go to school. But we were very careful to make sure this bill would not affect home schoolers.”

“Scripture says that foolishness is wrapped up in the heart of a child,” noted Senator Hargrove, “and they need loving discipline from their parents to help them grow up.”

“Our system is not perfect,” he admitted. “There are still flaws. But we’ve made some great progress.”

Senator Tim Sheldon: Protecting Washington Home School Law

Senator Tim Sheldon: Protecting Washington Home School Law
Home school dad and Washington State Senator Tim Sheldon is part of an “informal home school caucus.“

Believing that they could challenge their daughter better and give her more opportunities than the small rural local school, Washington State Senator Tim Sheldon (D-35) and his wife Linda started home schooling her in second grade. Today, Alexandra is 15, her forte is dance, and she attends Shelton High School part-time for art, science, and Spanish.

The Sheldons live on an 1100-acre family tree farm. They enjoy outdoor activities, boating, and restoring the senator’s classic 1947 Ford.

When the senate is not in session, Tim Sheldon can be found at one of his other jobs: serving as the executive director of the nonprofit Economic Development Council, logging on the tree farm, or managing a local water system.

Senator Sheldon’s legislative focus tends to be on natural resources and economic development. However, he, along with Senator Jim Hargrove, is part of the informal “home school caucus” in the state legislature, seeking to educate fellow legislators about home schooling.

“There are a lot of common misconceptions out there,” said Senator Sheldon. “For example, there’s the myth that home school children are isolated and they’re not!”

This group of home school-friendly legislators also looks out for home schoolers’ interests in practical ways: protecting the state home school law and making sure home schoolers are not negatively affected by any new laws.