This year marks the thirtieth anniversary since HSLDA was founded to protect homeschool freedom. And this week on Home School Heartbeat , your hosts Mike Farris and Mike Smith review how the past year has impacted homeschooling.
Mike Farris: Mike, it’s hard to believe that we’re coming to the end of our thirtieth anniversary year. I know we had big dreams, but nothing as big as what God has had in store for us and for the homeschooling movement.
Mike Smith: You’re right, Mike, it’s been a real privilege to see what God has done. It’s tremendously surprising to me also.
Mike Farris: Thirty years ago, no one ever asked me this question, but today people ask, “Why do I need to join HSLDA? After all, homeschooling’s legal now, right?
Mike Smith: Well, Mike, there is a myth that because it’s legal to homeschool in every state, one does not need to join HSLDA anymore. And there are four basic reasons I believe why every family should be a member of HSLDA. First, the battle for freedom is not over. And until Jesus comes back, we’ll have to fight for our freedom to homeschool and every homeschool family needs to be a part of that fight. Secondly, many homeschool graduates still do not receive equal treatment as it relates to their high school diploma. Thirdly, HSLDA’s increasingly providing more benefits to our members. Additionally, we’re providing more and more availability to valuable curriculum to make it easier for our parents to homeschool. And, finally, by contributing to our sister organization, Home School Foundation, we can help homeschoolers that are going through hard times continue to homeschool.
Mike Farris: Thanks, Mike. We’ll continue talking about the thirtieth anniversary of HSLDA next time. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Mike, I know that HSLDA is always working to protect our freedoms and to improve the recognition of those freedoms. Tell us what’s going on in the states in this regard.
Mike Smith: Well, thanks, Mike. We had a very good year in advancing freedom to homeschool and parental rights through the legislatures this year. For instance, in Iowa, in partnership with the state association, we got a landmark bill passed, creating two new homeschool options with virtually no paperwork. It is truly revolutionizing homeschooling in Iowa, which, at one time, as you know, was one of the most difficult states to homeschool. In Georgia the homeschool law was significantly improved by lightening parents’ burdensome paperwork load. As a result, parents are no longer required to submit annual attendance records to the department of education. In North Carolina, Senate Bill 189 redefined the term homeschooling, giving homeschool parents a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they set up their children’s learning environment. Parents will be free to utilize co-ops, tutors, and specialists for their children with learning disabilities to be able to supplement their children’s home education.
Mike, on the parental rights scene, Nevada, Kansas, and Virginia all passed parental rights statutes, which is monumental. We also continue to protect homeschool students from additional requirements to qualify for drivers’ licenses and perhaps the major battle this year and for the future, Mike, was Common Core.
Mike Farris: Mike, the Common Core is so important, let’s talk about that more next time. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Smith: Mike, the Common Core has been getting a lot of attention this year. First of all, for our listeners who might not be familiar with the term, what is it exactly?
Mike Farris: The idea is that all over the country, all children will have a core of instruction that they have in common. What it really means is a nationalized curriculum, and we have tried to avoid, as a nation, a nationalized curriculum for a long time, believing that public schools are best when they’re controlled locally, and the ability to choose their curriculum is part of that important component of local control. The Common Core is another kind of effort to have Washington, D.C., dictate curriculum standards to the whole country. They’ve done it through the governors, but the federal funding has been the key component of it, and it is centralized government planning, and there’s no evidence anywhere that centralized government planning ever has produced quality education for any child.
Mike Smith: But why should we be concerned about that, Mike, as homeschoolers?
Mike Farris: It’s really a euphemism for a nationalized curriculum. For a long time, this country has fought on very many levels the idea of a nationalized curriculum: believing in public schools, local control is best; believing for private and homeschools, that parental and private school control is best. We should all be able to define our own curriculum and not be subject to these dumbed-down centralized government standards.
Mike Smith: Mike, thank you very much, and for more information on Common Core go to hslda.org/commoncore.
Mike Smith: We started off this spring with the Romeike family’s fight for asylum in the U.S. I think some Americans, Mike, assume this was a German problem—but can you explain for our listeners why the Obama administration’s reasoning for overturning the Romeike’s asylum was so concerning for the state of homeschooling in America?
Mike Farris: The Romeike family came to the United States in 2008 to seek political asylum, because Germany bans homeschooling and it takes away children permanently from the parents that persist in teaching their own kids. This family was granted asylum by the first immigration judge. He agreed this was a violation of religious freedom and that the German law was impermissible under human rights principles. The Obama administration appealed, and, throughout the case, they’ve argued that human rights principles permit Germany to override the rights of religious parents who want to give their kids an alternative education. And they’ve argued that it’s a legitimate thing for government to do to force all children to receive government kind of teaching so that children will become tolerant. This kind of thinking is incredibly dangerous because it means you can force American kids just as well. The way they’ve raised their arguments have been in very broad terms. It’s not limited to Germany; it’s about the nature of rights and parents and government in general.
Mike Smith: Well, thank you, Mike, this is a very sobering case. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.
Mike Smith: Mike, let’s not forget to mention the other big battle we’re facing this year—the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Mike Farris: All treaties which give the authority to make decisions for the public policy of this country to the United Nations are bad for all Americans. That includes homeschoolers; that includes all parents; that includes all citizens. That’s what this treaty does at its heart. But the core problem that’s pertinent to homeschoolers is the best interests of the child standard. That’s the standard by which the government gets to decide what it thinks is best for children rather than what parents think are best for their own child. This treaty would replace the current law. The current law is until parents are proven to be harmful to their kids, like child abuse or neglect or something like that, parents get to decide what’s best for their children. Under this treaty, the government gets to decide what’s best for children in every case. The government has the right to overrule parents, in this case, who have disabled children, who have children with special needs. They get to say, “This is what you’re going to do for the education of your child.” It is a very dangerous treaty.
Mike Smith: Well, thank you, Mike. To whom much has been given, much is required. May we at HSLDA and as Americans who have been given liberty and freedom unimaginable to the nations and peoples who’ve gone before us, be faithful to what we’ve been called and entrusted to do.
Mike Farris: Amen!
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 seven 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 ten children and 17 grandchildren.