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Review: Homeschooling with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)

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“Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children and to protect family freedoms. We provide homeschooling-related legal advice and representation to our 84,000+ member families, promote homeschool-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels, and offer information and resources to encourage and support all homeschoolers.”

Taken From: About HSLDA

Translation:  HSLDA is a longstanding (established in 1983) Christian legal organization for homeschoolers. They help decipher state laws for all of us non-lawyers out there and will provide members with legal assistance and legal representation if necessary.

 

 

Homeschooling laws were the very first thing I researched when I first considered homeschooling our daughter back in 2011 (after all, I wasn’t going to homeschool my child if it was illegal!).  What I discovered was that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.  However, homeschooling is regulated at a state level, so homeschooling policies and laws differ from state to state.  Some states have more regulations than others and it is up to the homeschooling parents to comply.  Of course, you only need to know the laws governing the state you currently live in (if you move, make sure you research your new state’s homeschooling laws, what is expected of you very well might change).

Once I knew that homeschooling was legal, I went to HSLDA’s (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) website and researched my own state laws, New York.  The compulsory attendance law in New York State requires children between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend some type of school, either public or elsewhere.  Since my daughter was four, it was unnecessary for me to fill out homeschooling paperwork (letter of intent etc.) or worry about state standards and regulations.

A year later, when we finally did decide to homeschool kindergarten (my daughter was five), we joined HSLDA (even though we did not technically need HSLDA).  It was an easy decision to make and one that I’ve never regretted. My husband and I like to think of HSLDA as our homeschooling insurance policy; I wouldn’t drive a car without car insurance, and I wouldn’t homeschool without HSLDA. Being a homeschooler is difficult enough without having to worry about legal issues.  We have since contacted HSLDA with a variety of questions including attendance and compulsory age questions, and questions regarding our out of state move.  I like knowing that whatever occurs, legal experts at HSLDA are just a phone call away.  The peace of mind that this gives me, from being a member of HSLDA, is priceless.

Last year we finally purchased a lifetime membership (after two years of purchasing yearly memberships).  We figured that even if we decided to send our children to public or private school someday, HSLDA was still an organization that we wanted to support, in the long run.

Although there are many benefits to being a member of HSLDA (these are listed below), there is also a wealth of free homeschooling and legal information on their website.

 

Home School Legal Defense Association blackboard

Home School Legal Defense Association’s website has a vast amount of free information for available to all homeschoolers.

Free Resources from HSLDA

The following resources are free for all homeschoolers:

  • HSLDA’s website, which includes: news, legal information, research, teacher discount list,  teaching ideas, homeschooling information and more.
  • Events Page, which lists upcoming homeschooling conferences and more. (This is a partial list, but still very helpful.)
  • Special sections of the website devoted to homeschooling students pre-kindergarten – middle school (the Early Years), Struggling Learners (children that difficulty learning or learning disabilities), and homeschooling high school.
  • @home e-vents are online interactive workshops. @Home e-vents require registration.  @Home e-vents require prior registration for each event that you want to attend.  They are available for both members and non-members.  The price of these e-vents variety from event to event.  After the e-vent has taken place a video of the event is posted to their online library.  Some of these archived e-vents are free to watch while others must be purchased.  Prices of e-vents vary and member discounts are available.
  • Home School Heartbeat is a daily two minute radio program, produced by HSLDA.  Old programs are archived on their website (going back to 2012), and can be listened to at any time, free of charge.
  • HSLDA Store.  Teaching materials, curriculum, apparel, teacher and student Id cards,  books, audio and video resources, HSLDA publications and webinars are all for sale at the HSLDA store.  The webinars available at the store are from HSLDA’s @home e-vents.  In addition to webinars that must be purchased at a specific price, they also list a great deal of free webinars (If they are free, you will not be billed for them, but you still need to add them to your cart, check out and “purchase” them.).  After purchasing your webinar, you will be emailed a link to the video along with a webinar key.   You will have 30 days to view the webinar and you can view it as frequently as you like.
  • Selling privileges at the HSLDA Curriculum Market (anyone can sell homeschooling materials at the market, only HSLDA members make purchases).
  • HSLDA E-lert Service (see below for details)

 

State Information (free)

Homeschooling laws are broken down by state.  Within each state, HSLDA lists the state’s homeschooling laws, state organizations, legal cases involving homeschoolers (past and present), state-related news and common core information as it pertains to that state.

Support Group Lists (free)

Everyone can use a little support now and again (especially homeschoolers), which is why HSLDA provides a list of homeschooling support groups on their website (this list is provided as a courtesy).  This list includes national, local and overseas military support groups.   By no means is this a comprehensive list of all of the homeschooling support organizations out there but this list is a great place to start.  The information that is provided includes group names, mailing addresses, contact information and websites addresses.

HSLDA E-Lert Service (free)

HSLDA E-lert service offers several email publications to subscribe to:

  • HSLDA Alerts and Information. This publication offers homeschooling information and urgent action alerts.  This subscription is a required subscription.  Opting out of this publication will unsubscribe you from the entire E-Lert service.
  • HSLDA’s Weekly Update.  This is a weekly publication that offers information on HSLDA and homeschooling news and events.   There are usually 8 – 10 topics covered in this weekly newsletter.  These can include:  current court cases, international homeschooling news, HSLDA contest information, HSLDA event information (ex. Teacher Training days), conference information, changes to homeschooling laws, special offers, and more.
  • Special Offers.  Products, services and discounts are advertised through this subscription.
  • Homeschooling Thru the Early Years.  A monthly newsletter aimed at pre-kindergarteners – middle school students.  Activities, curriculum, reading lists, encouragement and inspiration are communicated through these publications.
  • Homeschooling Thru High School. Everything related to homeschooling a high schooler is included in this monthly newsletter.
  • Struggling Learner:  This is a monthly newsletter for families whose children struggle with learning issues and disabilities.
  •  Home School Heartbeat Daily. Daily transcripts of the Home School Heartbeat radio program along with links to the online audio and special offers.
  • @home. This publication provides information about @home e-vent lectures and events.  @Home e-vents require registration.  Some of these lectures are free and some can be purchased.  Prices of e-vents vary and member discounts are available.
  • The Foundation Report. News and information on the work of the Home School Foundation.
  • HSLDA Political Updates. News and information related to the limited political activity conducted by HSLDA.
  • Generation Joshua. News and information related to the Generation Joshua program.
  • International Newsletter. Quarterly emails providing updates on international cases and situations.
  • Patrick Henry College Preparatory Academy Information. Email updates about AP courses with a Christian worldview.

Member Only Resources & Services

Always Available (members only)

What we liked best about HSLDA is that they are always available.  You can reach them by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  They have a telephone number for emergencies and non-emergencies.  You can also contact them by email and through a form on their webpage.

home school legal defense day and night

Legal Advice and Legal Representation (members only)

HSLDA is there for both the small legal issues, as well as the gigantic legal issues.  If I have a curriculum question or a teacher qualification question, I can call HSLDA.  If a social worker comes to my door and they are there due to a homeschool related issue, I can call HSLDA.  If we have a homeschool related issue that winds up in court, I can rely on HSLDA to provide “full court representation” (About HSLDA).  There are no additional costs, beyond your membership fee, for either legal advice or legal representation.

They Know the Homeschooling Laws of Every State ( members only)

We started off homeschooling in New York, however four months later we moved to Washington State.  Just before we moved, I read Washington’s homeschooling laws, and then emailed our HSLDA representative, so as to verify my interpretation of the law.  Within a day or two, I received a response from my representative confirming my interpretation.  Without HSLDA I might have spent days pouring over Washington’s laws (all the while driving myself crazy), so as not to miss anything.  Instead, I quickly read over the laws, sent an email, and turned my attention to where it should have been… homeschooling my daughter (and packing).

Click here to view State Homeschooling Laws at HSLDA.

Countless Extra Benefits (members only)

There are countless extra benefits to being an HSLDA member.  Here are just a few:

  • Access to members only web pages (ex. archived newsletters, archived magazine issues).
  • HSDLA member only forms (ex letter of intent forms with an HSLDA letterhead).
  • Free consultations with an Early Years coordinator.
  • Free consultations with a Homeschooling thru High School coordinator.
  • Free consultations with a Homeschooling a Struggling Learners coordinator.
  • Buying and selling privileges at the HSLDA Curriculum Market.
  • Subscription to The Home School Court Report (HSLDA’s magazine).  This magazine is published quarterly.  Issues of this publication date back to 1985 and are available online to members only (The Home School Court Report Archive).
  • Special member discounts with other companies (HSLDA PerX).   Some of services and resources that are discounted include:  travel services, insurance, curriculum, record keeping products, course materials, and magazines.
  • Member discounts on other HSLDA programs and services, such as @home e-vents, the HSLDA Store, Patrick Henry College Preparatory Academy’s online AP courses, Michael Farris’s online Constitutional Law course, and Generation Joshua membership.

Access to Archived Newsletters (members only)

A wealth of valuable information is included in these archived newsletters from Homeschooling Thru the Early Years (2009 – current), Homeschooling Thru High School (2005 – current), and Struggling Learners (2010 – current).  Archived newsletters are either indexed in chronological order or by subject.   The topics covered in the archived Homeschooling Thru High School newsletters include:  college, curriculum, encouragement, enrichment, high school in general, parenting, post high school options, scholarships and competitions, tests, transcripts and how to teach high school.  The topics covered in the Struggling Learners archived newsletters include: aspergers, assessments, auditory processing problems, autism, attention disorders, brain research, child development, choosing curriculum, dysgraphia, encouragement, field trips, gifted with learning disabilities,, homeschool co-ops, high school, math, motivation, nutrition, portfolios, reading, record keeping, reference/study skills, respite care, sensory integration, science, signs of learning disabilities, spelling, student education plans, summer learning activities special needs professionals, teaching tips, testing and writing/composition.

Cost (members only)

They have four membership plans, you can pay as you go or purchase a lifetime membership.  A one year membership costs $120.  Membership for two years is $230, five years is $500 and a lifetime membership is $1,000.    Discount pricing is available for 1 year, 2 year, and 5 year memberships if you are part of an HSLDA group discount program, full-time pastor or missionary, or active, retired, or disabled military.  Payment plans are available, visit HSLDA’s website for details (extra fees may apply).

Joining and Membership Agreement (members only)

In order to join HSLDA, you must fill out and submit an application (you can find their applications on their website).  Once submitted it is reviewed by HSLDA and a decision is rendered within 2 – 3 weeks (approval is not guaranteed).  With an additional $40 payment, this review process can be expedited.

Homeschooler Responsibilities (members only)

HSLDA is there to protect the rights of homeschoolers, not dictate what teaching philosophies or curriculum they must follow.  You do not have to use a Christian based curriculum and unschoolers are welcome.  However, you must agree to teach your children in a responsible manner.  More specially, you must agree “to use a clearly organized program of education to instruct” your children and “to keep records of each child’s educational progress.”   Another responsibility that members have is to promptly notify HSLDA “of any threatened or actual legal action or contact related to our homeschool” (HSLDA membership application).

 

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HSLDA

The Facts:  HSLDA is a nonprofit organization that provides free homeschooling information for homeschoolers on their website.  For members of HSLDA, they provide legal assistance and legal representation for all homeschool related issues.

Their Christian Beliefs:  HSLDA is a Christian organization that fights for conservative Christian values.  There are many secular homeschoolers that do not agree with HSLDA’s conservative values and therefore, do not support them.

The Bottom Line:  HSLDA is a great resource for any homeschooling family, but an even better resource if you are a HSLDA member. The legal assistance that HSLDA provides to its members, can be as simple as answering an attendance question or as complicated as providing legal representation in a battle between a homeschooling family and school district.  HSLDA tries to resolve conflicts quickly and promptly before they escalate.  However if they do, HSLDA is there to help.   In addition HSLDA provides assistance and guidance in meeting all of your state requirements (letters of intent, standardized test scores, attendance records, portfolios, teacher qualifications, etc.).  Many secular homeschoolers might not like that HSLDA is Christian (and conservative), however HSLDA is very clear and upfront about who and what they support.

If you have any questions about HSLDA, please leave a comment or check out their FAQ page.

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