The Washington Times
January 1, 2007

Washington Times Op-ed—Building on Successes in New Year

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Today is the first day of the new year. It is a time of hope, opportunity and renewal. At least for one day, we are able to put the past behind us and look to the future.

For everyone, including homeschooling families, it is the natural time to both reflect on 2006 and prepare for 2007.

For most homeschooling families, how their children are developing is always uppermost in parents? minds. Some questions families may be asking themselves include: Did our homeschool program meet its goals in 2006? How could things be different, or better, in 2007?

Hopefully most homeschool families had a good year and their children grew in wisdom and maturity. If not, now is a good time to chart a new course, seek assistance and begin afresh. A fresh start is sometimes necessary to make significant change for the better.

Homeschool families should remember that they are not Home- Schooling Alone. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), founded in 1983, acts on behalf of our member families and nonmembers as well to protect homeschool freedom.

HSLDA continues to be the leading advocate for homeschooling, and we stand ready to resist any attempts to take away the freedoms that have been won over the past 24 years, and further advance these freedoms in the future.

Last year was a good year for homeschooling. Even though there were attempts to roll back homeschool freedoms across the country, no significant laws were enacted that caused a decline in homeschool freedom.

In addition, the number of homeschoolers continues to grow. The best estimate from the National Home Education Research Institute is 1.9 million to 2.4 million homeschooled children in 2006. This is roughly a 10-percent increase from last year’s best estimate.

Homeschoolers have won many fights over HSLDA?s 24-year existence, but still more can be done to level the playing field for homeschool families. As HSLDA plans for 2007, we, along with state and local homeschool organizations, will continue to oppose vigorously any restrictive homeschool regulations and will target some states to attempt to improve their homeschool laws.

In 2006, Vermont and New Hampshire made some improvements to their laws covering home educators. It has been a long struggle and homeschoolers are aware that we cannot afford to see any of our hard-won freedoms rolled back by aggressive 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 legal advice can make all the difference when a family is challenged by the state in this manner.

HSLDA introduced a significant benefit for the homeschool community in 2006 by adding a way to buy and sell curriculum products online, through the Curriculum Market, which brings buyers and sellers under one roof. Hopefully, we will continue to improve our service to the homeschool community in 2007.

We do not know what 2007 will bring, but we approach the new year with confidence knowing that a home education, via the intensive one- on-one tutorial method, which tailors an education program to fit the child, is the best way for children to be educated.

We look forward to more families experiencing the blessings of a home education and seeing their children flourish in a nurturing home environment. From all of us here at HSLDA, Happy New Year, and may 2007 be your best year yet.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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