The Washington Times
January 5, 2004

Op-ed - A good time to reassess, set new goals

Washington Times
January 5, 2004
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

The new year is a time of new beginnings, a fresh start for families looking forward to what 2004 will bring. The new year is also a time to reflect on 2003. How did the year treat you and your family? Many people will have experienced a difficult year; for others it may have been the best year on record. Maybe your family will need to make changes for 2004 or continue on the same path. Either way, decisions will be made and plans set during this time.

For most homeschooling families, how their children progress is always uppermost in parents' minds. Because homeschooling is flexible, a homeschool year can run at anytime. The new year, however, offers an important opportunity to take a step back and reflect upon the successes and maybe look at some things we could do better. It is hoped that most homeschool families have had a good year and that their children have grown in wisdom and maturity. If not, now is a good time to chart a new course, seek assistance and begin afresh. New beginnings are sometimes necessary if things are not working out as we planned.

New year's resolutions are fun to make but typically fade quickly as old habits return. Although not immune to this trend, a homeschool family can take this opportunity to establish goals. Where does the family want to be by the end of 2004? Were the goals for 2003 reached? Every family's answer will be different.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) also follows a similar pattern as we evaluate our progress and the condition of homeschooling in America. Last year was a good year for homeschooling. For the first time, the numbers of homeschoolers has been estimated consistently at about 2 million. Homeschoolers continued to succeed in national competitions, and no state implemented laws to restrict homeschooling, although many tried.

HSLDA continues to be the leading advocate for homeschooling, and its team of dedicated lawyers is ready to act on behalf of our 80,000 members - and non members as well - to protect the freedom to homeschool.

Homeschoolers have won many fights over HSLDA's 20-year existence, but still more can be done to level the playing field for homeschool families. As we at HSLDA plan for 2004, we will continue to oppose vigorously any restrictive homeschool regulations and have targeted some states to attempt to improve their homeschool laws. Homeschoolers cannot afford to see any of their hard-won freedoms rolled back by aggressive actions by state legislatures.

HSLDA also will remain vigilant in protecting our members' Fourth Amendment rights against overzealous state agencies investigating purported child abuse. People who have a grudge against homeschooling can fabricate claims of abuse and neglect against innocent homeschool families through anonymous tip hot lines. Immediate access to a lawyer can make all the difference when a family is challenged by the state in this manner.

HSLDA has made tremendous strides in 2003, and along with most homeschool families, we look forward to an even better 2004. The most important thing we can do, however, as homeschool families and as an organization, is to pray for God's guidance and blessing as we set out on the new year. We must remember that God is the source of our success. We must rely on Him, not on ourselves. Most homeschool families can point to the presence of God's grace in their lives through 2003, and we can be confident that God will be with us in 2004. Let's all pray for a safe, secure and productive 2004 for America.