Since the founding of HSLDA in 1983, the homeschooling movement has grown exponentially. This week on Home School Heartbeat , Mike Smith is joined by Mike Farris to discuss the future of homeschooling over the next 10 years and the challenges that may surface.
Mike Smith: Mike Farris, founder of Home School Legal Defense Association, joins us today. Mike, what do you see as the biggest challenge to homeschooling over the next ten years?
Mike Farris: Mike, unfortunately, I have two big challenges I want to talk about. One is the thread of centralized government taking over education in a way that would negatively impact homeschooling. What we see with the Common Core curriculum and the database that Bill Gates and others are behind goes with it is bad from two perspectives: it’s bad from an educational theory perspective, it’s also bad from a privacy perspective. And what they’re doing to education is this: they’re turning it from education into computer programming for people. There’s a checklist of things that you must know, and all that they’re doing on an individualization of education side is just cracking learning gaps. Do you know this particular thing you’re supposed to know on our little checklist? It is nothing about innovation, about personal growth, about what my child does well. Any of the positive sides of education are entirely left out of this homogenized program, and it’s dangerous to boot. So I think that’s one of the biggest challenges, and there are more.
Smith: Thanks, Mike, and next time we’ll cover that other concern you have. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.
Mike Smith: Last time, we had Mike Farris with us and Mike, you outlined a problem that you saw in the homeschool community, but you said you had another problem you want to talk about. What would that be?
Mike Farris: There is the effort by a number of leftist academics who teach at the top law schools of the country, who want to absolutely do away with homeschooling freedom because of their desire to impose a certain worldview on our kids. They say that we are intolerant because we’re teaching our kids, among other things, that Jesus is the only way to God. And other particular truths of the Christian faith they find to be utterly intolerant. And people like Kimberly Urocko at Northwestern University, Katherine Ross at George Washington Law School, Martha Albertson Feniman at Emory University—all of them have written and published major law reviews saying homeschooling needs to be either curtailed or absolutely eliminated, with Feniman saying all private education should be eliminated because she wants every child to be in the public schools to be coerced. She wants her value system shoved down the throat of every child in the country. And so I think tolerance education is actually going to be one of the greatest threats to freedom for our whole country but also specifically in homeschooling.
Smith: Thanks, Mike, for sharing those concerns with us again today, and as you know, HSLDA will continue to be on the front lines as we fight the battle for home education. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.
Mike Smith: Mike, what do you think is the most important thing that homeschoolers can do to keep going, that is, for the movement and for themselves?
Mike Farris: Mike, it may seem self-evident, but I think the most important thing people can do to advance homeschooling is to keep homeschooling. There are times where people feel like they want to give up, there are times where it just seems too hard. In those times you need to think about the long-range consequences, first and foremost for your own children and family, but also for the country. We need a whole core of people who believe in the principles of freedom and your kids can be that core if you raise them in this manner; if kids get their education from government schools, they tend to think, not always, but they tend to think that the purpose of government is to provide for my needs. And if you think the purpose of government is to provide for your needs, you believe in socialism. We need kids who believe in freedom, not socialism, and homeschooling has given us a great group of people who believe in the principles of freedom. The other thing I think we can do is reach out to people. We cannot become insular unto ourselves, we need to reach out to other people for Christ, we need to reach out to other people for freedom, and we need to reach out to other people for homeschooling, so spread the message. Advance the cause, and, protect your kids, but, get involved in the lives of other people so you can give them the good news about Jesus and then the good news about homeschooling.
Smith: Well, Mike, thank you very much for that helpful advice, and I know most of our listeners will take it to heart. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.
Mike Smith: Mike, is there something that really encourages you about the future of homeschooling?
Mike Farris: I’m encouraged by seeing Emma, Rachel, Ali, Mackinson, Aslan, Sean, Jenna, Cory, Abby, SueSue, Cate, Lucy, Sierra, and Addy, our fourteen grandkids, all being homeschooled. And we’ll have three more being homeschooled; well, they’ll be born in September and I guess we’ll wait till October to start homeschooling them.
I see my grandchildren being homeschooled and the oldest is just about fourteen years old, so, we’ve been at this a while now as grandparents as well. And when I see what my kids are doing as homeschooling parents and then I see my grandchildren being homeschooled, it really encourages me, not only that we did the right thing for our kids, but that this is going to last. And so I think the inter-generational nature of homeschooling is great; I also think that the new wave of homeschooling parents are really going to pull out a good energy into the movement and it will be a better movement for their involvement in the years down the road.
Smith: Well, thank you very much, that’s very encouraging. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.
Mike Smith: Mike, I know that we both feel blessed that HSLDA has helped so many people around the world. Do you have a vision for what HSLDA will be doing 10 years from now?
Mike Farris: Well Mike, I know that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and so if we aren’t still about our core mission of protecting the freedom to homeschool, we’ll have missed the boat someplace along the line. That’s gotta be first and foremost of everything that we do. I think we will also be helping to expand freedom for other people, including situations like we face today in Germany and Sweden. And a personal goal—I’m not sure exactly how HSLDA gets involved in all of this, but a personal goal for the homeschooling movement: to become a catalyst for real discipleship for Jesus Christ, that we see in our families the strength that other people want, and it’s really homeschooling’s not the ultimate thing; the ultimate thing is knowing Jesus. And if we have the ability to communicate what our family has learned about raising kids as a conduit to teaching people to know Jesus, then I think the homeschooling movement is going to be blessed enormously and we’ll be doing something incredibly valuable for the kingdom of God.
Smith: Well thank you, Mike, for sharing this very encouraging vision, and I know it’s gonna be an exciting 10 years. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.
Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vicki, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas where he played basketball, majoring in business administration. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego.
In 1972, he was admitted to the bar in California and also has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He is licensed in Virginia, California, and Washington, D.C.
Mike and his family began homeschooling because their 5-year-old flunked kindergarten. This was quite a disappointment to Mike in light of the fact that he was preparing this child to be president of the United States by starting his education as early as possible.
His family’s life changed drastically when he heard a radio program in 1981 which introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. When they started homeschooling, they began homeschooling one year at a time to meet the academic and social needs of their children. After spending lots of time around people like Mike Farris, he became convinced that he had been called to use his gifts and talents in the legal profession to assist homeschoolers who were being prosecuted because they didn’t hold a teacher’s certificate or satisfy the school district that they could competently teach their children.
Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.
Michael Farris is the chancellor of Patrick Henry College and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He was the founding president of each organization.
Farris is a constitutional appellate litigator who has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of 13 states.
He has been a leader on Capitol Hill for over 30 years and is widely known for his leadership on homeschooling, religious freedom, and the preservation of American sovereignty.
At Patrick Henry College, Farris teaches constitutional law, public international law, and coaches PHC’s Moot Court team which has won six national championships.
A prolific author, Farris has been recognized with a number of awards including the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship by the Heritage Foundation and as one of the “Top 100 Faces in Education for the 20th Century” by Education Week magazine.
Mike and Vickie Farris have 10 children and 14 grandchildren.