The Home School Court Report
VOLUME XVI, NUMBER 4
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JULY / AUGUST 2000
Cover
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Cover Story
Average Families with Outstanding Courage

Special Features

Home Schoolers Making Headlines

HSLDA Debate Tournament: Final Round

National Center Reports

HSLDA Testifies on NAEP Reform

IRS Fines Families for Refusing SSNs

In Our Prayers: The Passing of Sen. Coverdell

Across the States

State by State

Regular Features

In the Trenches

Active Cases

Pending Cases

Staff News

Prayer and Praise

Presidents Page

F. Y. I.

The Widows Curriculum Scholarship Fund

C O V E R   S T O R Y


Home schooling takes courage—whether you are trying to juggle teaching three grades, keeping two toddlers quiet and cleaning the kitchen, or facing a truancy officer at the door. Perhaps you’re already doing those things and facing the lonely path of home schooling after the death of a spouse.

Every day at HSLDA, we hear stories of courage. Moms, dads, widows, even 12-year-old girls like the one in this article, stand up for the right to home school—and diligently exercise that right while negotiating bumps and roadblocks along the way. Your stories of courage inspire us in our daily work and in our own home schools. We hope that sharing these stories will encourage you, too.

ON THE WAY TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE . . . (IN A “SAFE” STATE)

The Ward family enjoys a board game. Cynthia Ward said, “It’s obvious that HSLDA is a ministry to you, and you see it as a ministry. That really meant a lot to me. I didn’t know what we were going to do if I had to go to court. Everybody should join. There’s no reason not to. Just the peace of mind is worth it. You can’t really home school when you’re worried about whether a truant officer or policeman is going to be knocking at your door.”

“Brandi, why don’t you come over and help me watch your little cousins for awhile?” asked her grandmother around lunchtime. Blond hair flying behind her, 12-year-old Brandi Ward began running the block to Grandmama’s house.

Suddenly, two police cruisers pulled up alongside her and one of the officers ordered her to stop immediately. “That was only the beginning,” said Brandi’s mom, Cynthia.

THE WARDS

Richard and Cynthia Ward live in a modest one-story brick home in Grand Prairie, a fast-paced Dallas suburb.

They’ve taught their three children at home for the past seven years. Dustin, age 15, can’t wait to turn 16 so he can get a job, and Chase, age 9, enjoys wrestling. Brandi, officially age 12 , “loves playing with her two dogs, talking on the phone, riding bike, swimming, and working in the nursery with her mom and grandmother.”

An Ongoing Problem

This wasn’t the first time that Brandi or her siblings had been stopped, Cynthia said. “We live off a busy street, and two blocks from the truancy administration building. And the public school is one block away.” But, in the past it has always been truant officers who stopped the kids.

“Any time they see one of the kids they stop,” she added. “They’ve already written down my kids’ names and I’ve told them that we home school.”

“I feel like putting a big old banner on the front of my house, saying 'WE HOME SCHOOL!’ so they can read it and just drive by without stopping to ask why my kids are outside. One time, we went outside for a science project. It was obvious that we were doing a school project, but a truant officer still stopped us.

“Another time a truant officer stopped me while I was walking to the grocery store with my children. Thankfully, I didn’t have any trouble that time. The officers were really courteous—they said, 'Oh, yes, we remember you.’”

STOPPED BY POLICE


ABOVE: Cynthia Ward (center) was in the hospital the afternoon Brandi (right) was stopped and questioned by police on the way to her grandmother’s house.

BELOW: Carrying on a family tradition to the third generation, Brandi loves working in her church’s toddler nursery.


But the policemen who stopped Brandi that day didn’t know the Ward family. As the cruisers pulled up beside Brandi, an officer commanded, “Stop! Why are you running away from us?”

Brandi explained that she hadn’t heard or seen them behind her and that she was simply running toward her grandmother’s house, not away from him.

“They said that they had honked three times,” Brandi recalled, “and asked why I didn’t stop. Well, in my neighborhood, people often honk at me while I’m walking down the street, so I didn’t realize it was policemen trying to get my attention. But, I could tell they really didn’t believe me.”

The officer began asking her questions, requesting her height, weight, birth date, eye color, parents’ names, and why she wasn’t in school. “I never got stopped by a policeman before. It kinda scared me,” Brandi said later. She respectfully answered the officer’s questions and told him that her parents home schooled her.

Her daughter was also frustrated, Cynthia commented, because she and her brothers had been stopped so often for simply being outside in the middle of the day. “It seems like every time we go outside, we get stopped and asked why we aren’t in school. I feel like I’m trapped in my own house,” said Brandi. “Even public school kids get recess!”

The officer followed Brandi to her grandparents’ door and asked where the girl’s parents were. The grandmother explained that Brandi’s dad was at home with the boys. At the time, Cynthia Ward was in the hospital with kidney stones.

“Grandmama didn’t think there was going to be any more trouble,” said Brandi. “The policemen acted like everything was alright.”

An Investigation

The police officer, however, reported this encounter to Grand Prairie Independent School District who then initiated an investigation of the family and, in a letter, threatened the Wards with criminal truancy charges unless they permitted school officials to review their curriculum materials.

Cynthia said, “I think part of the problem was that I didn’t call them back right away. The letter said 'at your convenience.’ Well, I was in and out of the hospital at that time with kidney stones, and continuing to home school, and it just wasn’t convenient for me to call them back then. But they didn’t really mean at my convenience. They meant 'right now.’”

Lenient Doesn’t Mean Trouble-free

“Texas is one of the most lenient states for home schooling, so we thought maybe we don’t need to join HSLDA this year. And the year we didn’t join, we had trouble. When we related our story to HSLDA, they called me right back and got on it immediately. I was impressed.”

Hope and Help

Due to the nature of the contact by public school officials, HSLDA made an exception to its policy that home schooling families must be free of legal problems at the time of applying for membership. HSLDA contacted the Grand Prairie ISD assistant superintendent, who had threatened the truancy charges, and informed him of state law governing home schools as set forth in the 1994 decision of the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Education Agency, et al v. Leeper, et al. Home schools must use a written curriculum designed to meet the basic educational goals of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a study of good citizenship.

When local public school officials ask about compliance with the compulsory attendance law, home educating parents need only assure the officials that their home school meets these requirements. HSLDA pointed out that this procedure is also current Texas Education Agency policy.

HSLDA notified Grand Prairie ISD that the Wards were in compliance with state law and advised him that they would not permit a review of their curriculum materials.

Vindication

Grand Prairie ISD’s attorney wrote HSLDA, acknowledging that the information HSLDA provided was sufficient to resolve this matter.

Cynthia Ward said that she received a letter of apology from the district as well.

A Note to Texas Members: Despite the fact that it has been six years since the Leeper case was decided, some Texas school districts are continuing to operate in disregard of state law. Any HSLDA member who receives a hostile contact from a public school official should notify us immediately for assistance.

A WIDOW TELLS HER STORY

The Rubio Family — (L to R) Back row: Danielle (15), Ralph, Jr. (17), and Austin (13). Front row: Christen-Gloria (8), Lissa, Lauren (5), Zachary (10), and Garrett (6).

“I count it a privilege to be home with my children,” says Lissa Rubio. “Especially reaching the milestone of my eldest son’s graduation. Time really does go by fast. It’s just a short amount of time that we have with our children.

“I’ve talked to older godly women who say that someday you will wish you could be back here—even in the midst of hard times. I think that by home schooling you get to spend the most time with your children and learn life together.”

Mother of seven children, Lissa Rubio knows keenly how short a time we have with loved ones. In 1997, her husband, Ralph, died six months after learning that he had cancer. Lissa is one of the first recipients of the Widows Curriculum Scholarship Fund, administered by Home School Legal Defense Foundation.

The Rubios are beginning their thirteenth year of home schooling. Lissa’s eldest son, Ralph, Jr., just graduated from high school in June and is considering entering the Marines. “Lord willing and depending on scholarships and grants available,” Lissa said, “Ralph, Jr., would like to start school in fall 2001 and to pursue a career in law.”

From her home in suburban El Cajon, California, east of San Diego, Lissa shared from her heart, “I’ve been a mom, homemaker, and home school teacher ever since my oldest was born. In the early years, we made a lot of sacrifices to do that.

Because of Barbed Wire

“We started home schooling because we lived in a very bad area. The local kindergarten was surrounded by barbed wire to protect the children from the drug trafficking in that area. We decided that we were not going to send Ralph, Jr., to a school enclosed with barbed wire. Although we qualified for busing because he was a minority, he would have been travelling an hour each way. We could not afford private school, and that’s when we started thinking about home schooling.

Lissa tentatively told her husband, “I think I can do this through second grade, but after that, we’re going to have to find another option.” But home schooling gradually became a conviction and a way of life for the family.

“God gives us the grace to do what He calls us to do,” said Lissa today. “God has raised up other people to help us. I have a wonderful math tutor who doesn’t charge us anything. She sees it as a ministry and investment. God fills in the gap even when I’m not able to.”

Lissa’s Husband, Ralph

An engineer, Ralph Rubio completed his four years of college through the military after he and Lissa were married. “He worked very hard—with a full-time day job, night school, and a family,” she said.

The Lord called Ralph home on January 8, 1997, after a short six-month battle with cancer. “The Lord gave him a lot of foresight and ordered his steps,” Lissa continued. “He was able to prepare our family in many ways for life without a husband and father. When he died, our oldest child was 14, and our youngest was 18 months.”

“That first year was really hard,” remembers Lissa. “In fact, May 1997 was the first time I ever seriously considered quitting home schooling, even though my husband and I had had long discussions on this subject, and his heart’s desire was for me to continue home schooling.”

At one point, Lissa called several local private schools, but learned that her children would be divided between three different campuses for different grade levels.

Furthermore, “attending private school would have been another upheaval in their lives,” Lissa recognized. “We’ve always home schooled and that would have been another huge adjustment to go through. Home schooling has kept us together. It hasn’t always been easy. But I think the investment is worth what the Lord has for us. We only have our children for so long.”

“I can see now that all we’ve had to go through to have them at home was worth it and gave us opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise. For example, we were able to take care of my husband at home. In fact, he died at home.

“One of my husband’s dreams had been to find some kind of work where he could be home and teach the children. For several months before he died, he was able to do that. My eight-year-old daughter remembers her little desk pushed up against his bed and his teaching her math. Without home schooling, my children wouldn’t have those memories of their father being able to teach them in the last few months.

“There are life lessons that as a parent you would never imagine but that God had in mind.”

The Body of Christ

One of the life lessons that made a lasting impression on Lissa and her children was seeing the body of Christ in action. She said that her church and the home schooling community were “incredible.”

“I’m very blessed to be surrounded by a church and Christian community who take very seriously the biblical mandate to care for widows and the fatherless. I see it as the hand of God. There are so many ways we are blessed. Before my son could drive, there was always someone available to drive my children to lessons or Little League practice, or wherever they needed to be.

“For a long time after my husband first died, there were four families who would give me weekly breaks. Then later, as my children grew, they gave me breaks to do special things with the older children.”

When the engine went on Lissa’s only vehicle, her church gave her a whole new engine. More recently, someone in the church saw the Rubios’ need and gave her a new vehicle. Just after the warranty expired on the new automobile, it developed a transmission problem. But a Christian dealership owner who believes in taking care of widows and fatherless fixed the transmission at no charge.

“You should apply . . . ”

Lissa first heard about the Widows Curriculum Scholarship Fund from friends and relatives. “I received about 10 e-mails and phone calls from people who knew us and urged us to apply for the scholarship,” she said. “Then I received something in the mail from HSLDA. I’ve been member of HSLDA for over 10 years. It’s a requirement of our umbrella school.”

“I called HSLDA, and they sent applications in the mail. It was a pretty fast process. I filled out the paperwork, and heard back within two or three weeks.”

“Because of the funds for curriculum, I will be able to pay for Suzuki violin classes for eight-year-old Christen-Gloria and 10-year-old Zachary,” Lissa said. “And, this is one of the first times I’ve been able to purchase brand new curriculum—special language arts software for Danielle.”

“Every year, I really rely on the Lord for curriculum,” Lissa said. “Often, I modify what I have on hand for the next child or try to find some used curriculum at bookfairs.”

“I’m able to stay in ATI because they’ve sent a scholarship every year since my husband died. And, our umbrella program has given us a scholarship, too.”

As a Single Parent

“It’s not a classroom or place that we would have chosen—I couldn’t have been imagined being widowed at 34 years old,” said Lissa. “But if it had not happened, my children would not have seen the Lord’s work in this way.”

“I would just encourage other single mothers to be stretched,” Lissa said. “And realize that God will grow you as he grows the children up. I never realized that I would be in a classroom, too.”

“Only as I humble myself, does God show himself strong. I don’t have the confidence. It’s really stepping out in faith and knowing that our children belong to him anyway. It’s He who begins the good work and He will be faithful to complete it.”