Monday, April 11, 2011

Why I do not support HSLDA

I've been asked why I am do not support the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).  It's a long, long story, but I'll do my best to keep this as brief as possible.

As many of you are aware (including, by now, Judge Joe Dale Walker of District 13), the homeschooling community is very political. We know what's up. When the legislative session starts in Mississippi, I can think of several families off the top of my head who check the Bill Status web site for bills that would infringe upon our freedom to homeschool and then share that information far and wide. Many activist-moms also check for bills referencing vaccination, midwifery, animal cruelty, health care, disability, etc. So, knowing and protecting our rights is not just "a homeschool thing." It's a freedom thing.

HSLDA claims to help homeschoolers maintain their freedom to educate their children at home. I disagree. However, I didn't always. When I first began homeschooling, I almost joined HSLDA. Hey, it sounded like a great idea: protect my freedom for one low cost so that I can concentrate on educating my kids. But shortly after I started blogging in 2005, I began to see a different picture of HSLDA. One that:

  • Narrowly defined what homeschooling is and who should homeschool.  
  • Authored restrictive homeschool legislation in many states to reflect these views.  
  • Refused to work with and, in many cases, even worked against local non-HSLDA homeschool associations.

My first exposure to the "other side" of HSLDA was in June of 2005. It wasn't even a high-profile legislative battle with far-reaching implications. It was a local matter in Prince William County, VA that was being handled by a small coalition of local homeschoolers. Despite their efforts and the promise of a successful outcome, HSLDA interfered and--in a matter of days--nearly destroyed the progress that took these families over 18 months to achieve. Although the effort was salvaged, the local homeschoolers ended up having to compromise with HSLDA. You can read about it here:

June 20, 2005: With friends like these...
June 20, 2005: HSLDA on Prince William County, VA
June 22, 2005: Congratulations, PW County!
June 25, 2005: Whaddaya mean "WE"??

This is not an isolated incident. HSLDA has a history of running roughshod over local non-HSLDA homeschool associations. And, to add insult to injury, the organization also has a habit of claiming full credit for or exaggerating its roles in successful outcomes, further marginalizing (and demoralizing) local homeschool community. Here is an article documenting the organization's pattern of disregard.  Please read it.

I believe that local homeschoolers know better than anyone else just what we need to successfully homeschool in our home states. When HSLDA over-reaches and insists that it knows what we need better than we do, the consequences are long term.  And we have to live with them long after their attorneys have flown back home.

This is not an organization that embodies my view of homeschool freedom. And this is why I and others like me (including many Christian families who are former HSLDA members) see this organization as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

[Coming soon: HSLDA's involvement in Mississippi and the potential consequences.]


Marlis said...

Thanks for all this info! I am horrified!

Ina's 5 and our Native Homeschool Blog said...

When I first started hs'ing I read over all their fine print and didn't feel it was beneficial to join. I also worried about if they carried a party line or if they actually fought for the homeschoolers. Now I know the answer is party line. Thanks for the info

The Cast said...

Thanks for this information. I was not aware of this issue.

Heidi said...

Wow! I've never heard anyone speak against HSLDA. It looks like your reasons are pretty valid. Thanks for making us aware of these issues.

Natalie West Winningham said...

I hadn't either until 2005. By then, I had been homeschooling for two years. The reason we didn't join prior to that was because I thought we'd be homeschooling briefly (a year or two) and then putting Kate back in school, you know after we got her "caught up" (so that they could damage her again? I don't know what I was thinking).

There are more reasons I don't support HSLDA, but this more-harm-than-good thing is the main one that homeschoolers of all political and religious affiliations can get behind. And it was the deal-breaker for me, personally.

Voice From The End of Town said...

Great post. I totally agree with you on the HSLDA. I've been homeschooling since '96 and have lost many "friends" over the fact that I wouldn't support what the HSLDA is doing. Wherever they go and get involved they only seem to make matters worse.

Matt Brady said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but HSLDA seems to have made matters better in the 13th district of Mississippi. I'm glad they were in my state defending homeschollers.

No doubt, HSLDA falls short of perfection, but I remain unconvinced that they are not worth supporting. It seems to me that there is more to the stories than the one sided links that were provided.

For the time being I think I'll stick with them.

That being said, if there is an organization here in Mississippi that is doing a good or better job, I'd love to know about them. Maybe I can support them too.

Natalie West Winningham said...

Matt, any attorney in MS could have done that. HSLDA does not possess special skills or have some sort of "in" with the court system here.

Better still, we have attorneys who would have handled this for free, which means (a) I don't have to join HSLDA to protect my ability to homeschool freely in MS and (b) even though I'm not an HSLDA member, your boys' attorneys handled it and it was *still* free to me.

With the $100 I just saved, I could buy books. Or shoes at DSW and a new dress AND a shrug on sale at Steinmart (which, incidentally, I did last weekend).

HSLDA is far more than imperfect; it's obsolete.

Jess said...

WOW! Thank you for opening my eyes. I will be cancelling my membership right after I finish this post.

Alternicity said...

Interesting post. There appears to have been a similar issue in the UK, with EO.

I've also come across what I regard as an 'old guard' within a home ed community.

Josh said...

Here's an anti-HSLDA site. Pretty interesting stuff:

Natalie Winningham said...

Thank you, Josh. Very interesting.

ogcmusic said...

just another wing of the right wing conservative movement targeting our children. there is something very wrong with this group, and they need to be stopped, hsdla is ran by tea party members that support the treason of the current congress in order to pass they're own jaded agenda

Wendy Jensen said...

Touche!!! Well said and I couldn't agree more. Now you just need to get the rest of the delusional Christian homeschool community to believe it. Thanks for simply stating the facts. Hopefully it falls on some good ground.

Cheryl Parker said...

I am so glad I came across this post. I have a special needs child and I was talked into getting an HSLDA membership at our local homeschool convention and I have always felt something has been wrong ever since. It started with the alerts for federal legislation, it seemed to always involve some type of fear mongering and it would leave me shaking and totally scared (to the point where I would beg and plead with my facebook friends to help with legislation), to automatically renewing my membership without even letting me know (until after it happened so now we owe 120 more dollars), to fear mongering over putting my special needs child in the publicly provided special needs services at the school. Thank you for letting me know about this. I am done with HSLDA, we will have to pay off our balance but then I am cancelling their services.