The organization Homeschool Legal Defense Association is well known among veteran and new homeschoolers alike. It is an organization that helps protect homeschool rights in all 50 states. They provide information, resources, articles and keep up to date on homeschool news.
What is HSLDA?
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a 27-year-old, 85,000 member non-profit organization and the preeminent association advocating the legal right of parents to homeschool their children.
We are organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under the rules of the IRS.
What are the advantages of being a member of HSLDA?
There are several advantages. By joining homeschooling families together each Homeschool Legal Defense Association member contributes to the advancement of homeschool freedom as we win cases and promote homeschooling at both the state and federal level and in the media.
Individually member families have access to an HSLDA attorney 24/7 to represent them if they have any difficulties with government officials regarding their homeschooling. HSLDA also has staff members who can help families all the way through their homeschool program from pre-school through high school.
We also have a number of member discounts. For example, through our PerX program, among at least 40 companies, member families receive 15% off Choice Hotels, 10% off Liberty Mutual, and an HSLDA membership card functions as a teacher’s discount card in many locations.
Are there any things that the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) will not do for me in relation to legal issues?
HSLDA’s primary mission is to protect the legal right of parents to homeschool. As a general rule, we do not become involved in divorce and custody cases.
To our members, we provide a free information packet containing briefs and expert witness referrals and we will consult with the member’s attorney where there is no conflict of interest. One exception to our basic rule is if a judge rules that homeschooling is illegal, which would have consequences statewide and not just for the parties to the divorce case. In those cases we will defend the legality of home education in that state.
What are some changes you have seen in the homeschooling movement over the years?
The most dramatic change has been the increased availability of curriculum. Since many families who started homeschooling in the 1980’s finished in the late 1990’s we now have many homeschoolers who have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge. A number of families turned what they learned into curriculum products which have been entering the market over the past several years.
Also, since homeschooling has been growing at an average of 7% per year, there are greater opportunities to participate in support groups and coops as well as sports programs, band, and drama. It’s much easier to homeschool today than it was even 10 years ago.
Should I be more concerned about legal issues today than at the beginning of the homeschool movement?
The conflicts at the beginning of the modern homeschool movement (1970’s and into the 80’s) concerned teacher certification and whether the government would recognize a parent’s right to homeschool. This battle was finally won in 1993 when Michigan became the 50th state to formally recognize a parent’s right to homeschool. However, while homeschooling is legal in all 50 states today, the threats are still very real. Many state legislators across the country regularly introduce legislation to regulate homeschooling and homeschool families are still regularly victimized by people who make anonymous tips to social services.
Also, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), if ever ratified by the U.S., could jeopardize our right to homeschool. The UNCRC would supersede every state and federal law and alter the legal relationship between parents and children by giving the state the authority to make decisions in the “best interests” of the child whether the parent agreed or not. We have seen this in Sweden (a signer of the UNCRC) where 7 year old Dominic Johansson was taken from his parents simply because they chose to homeschool. Swedish authorities cited the UNCRC as justification for the removal.
Can I join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association if I already have legal problems related to homeschooling and if so, will they be covered?
Families are welcome to apply for HSLDA membership even if they are experiencing legal problems. However, if you are in legal trouble, we may not be able to accept the application, or if accepted, may not be able to become involved in the current problem.
Applications with legal problems are reviewed by HSLDA’s legal department. HSLDA reserves the right not to approve a membership application. If your application cannot be approved, we will return your payment and send a letter of explanation.
Do you have to be a Christian or use a certain type of curriculum to join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)?
HSLDA is a Christian led organization but there is no “statement of faith” to be an HSLDA member family. We encourage all families who are exercising their fundamental parental right to educate their children at home to join HSLDA. We also accept families who use a wide variety of homeschooling strategies. All we ask is that the parents keep a record of their homeschool process so we’ll be in a better position to defend their rights should their homeschool come under scrutiny.
How important is it to have an HSLDA membership? Shouldn't I be spending my money on curriculum?
Of course, we think it’s important. But thousands of other families also feel the same way. Some families have relayed how they found themselves in legal difficulty and subsequently regretted not joining HSLDA. In our experience, most problems can be resolved quickly if a homeschooling family has quality, competent legal counsel right at the beginning of a conflict with the government. It’s the families who try to go it alone that make headlines. By joining together we can better defend the rights of all homeschoolers.
Any advice for new homeschoolers?
We strongly encourage new homeschoolers to join a local support group. Homeschooling is difficult and stressful at times so it is very helpful to have other families share the burden.
Also, try to remember that most homeschool families only spend about three hours per day formally teaching their children because homeschooling is so efficient. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel stressed that you are not making lots of progress quickly.
Another tip is not to become overwhelmed by attending every social gathering available. Certainly a few groups will be of benefit but trying to overcompensate because you are concerned about socialization often leads to undue stress and burnout.
For even more information about the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, you can go to their website and read more there. To find out more about what a membership includes and what kind of discounts are included you can go to their "What You Recieve" page and get all the details you need to make an informed decision.
The $115 per year membership is a good safeguard for legal protection and also provides discounts that sometimes pay for the membership itself.