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ANTI-HSLDA SITE

Filed at 9:42 pm under by dcobranchi

Some Virginia homeschoolers have put up a site that “exposes” HSLDA.

10 Responses to “ANTI-HSLDA SITE”


Comment by
speedwell
August 21st, 2003
at 2:23 pm

Daryl, I really appreciate you posting this!

I had offered to pay my partner’s sister’s young family’s HSLDA dues–I thought they’d be protected if the government went after them for HS’ing their daughter. I had some misgivings about HSLDA’s religious fanaticism and aspects of their political advocacy, but I thought they were “the only game in town.”

We’ll be exploring other options now. Thanks again for reporting on this sort of thing, even if it makes a few non-secular homeschooling families a little upset.


Comment by
Chris
August 21st, 2003
at 3:11 pm

Just an FYI – that content is not new. It was at folchs...d.com/ for the last couple of years. It may have been cleaned up and enhanced some of it though. They seem to have gotten a new domain that probably has all kinds of trademark infringement issues. I’ll bet they get a cease and desist letter within a week. After all, HSLDA is mostly attorneys.

Note – not that hslda.us is necessarily wrong – although I think they are overhyping the evilness of HSLDA in the same manner the HSLDA overhypes its necessity to homeschoolers.

Should keep the various homeschool email lists here in VA hopping for the next week or so!


Comment by
Dave
August 23rd, 2003
at 1:50 am

I’ve read this content before too – the general recommendation is to understand what HSLDA will/won’t do for you, and understand their politics and beliefs. As a long time supporter of HSLDA and Patrick Henry college, I do appreciate the other side of the story. That said, the story could be presented in a more convincing fashion – especially consdering that they are attempting to give legal advice! I’d very much like to read a list of specific criticisms with credible evidence (and a bit of objectivity) as back up rather than what is presented at this site to better appreciate the concerns.


Comment by
Scott Somerville
August 25th, 2003
at 10:24 am

As one of the attorneys at HSLDA, the thing that distresses me most about this site is that parts of it are knowingly and intentionally false. I have personally defended unschoolers for HSLDA, in some of the most interesting cases I’ve handled. The claim that HSLDA won’t defend unschoolers is doubly unfair: it makes us look mean and narrow-minded, and it prevents people who could really benefit from aggressive legal defense from getting exactly that for only $100 per year.

As for the “cease and desist letter,” we’ve tolerated what we believe are knowingly false statements on the old folc site for a long, long time. As a matter of trademark law, however, we either have to send out a cease and desist letter or we lose our exclusive right to the trademark (which is “HSLDA,” in this case). Nothing personal here, folks!


Comment by
Sheila
August 27th, 2003
at 11:28 am

Hi Scott 🙂 (a) Could you please provide details on the unschooler “cases”? No names, of course, but what have the conflicts been? What year, what states? How were they resolved, “defended,” on what grounds? (b) What else on hslda.us is false? This is a sincere, sincere request from me. As a rational, informedness-seeking homeschooler, I have to look at the overall picture *and* the details and determine for myself what the balance is. You responded to protest the unschooling point, but thus ignore and obfuscate all the other material on the hslda.us site. Jingoism and salesmanship and innocent wide-eyed protests don’t do it for me (and I don’t even mean to be harsh here), and my apologies but that’s what I’ve mostly seen coming from HSLDA, so I really hope you’ll respond.

(Very nice site, Daryl!)


Comment by
Daryl
August 27th, 2003
at 4:02 pm

I’ve taken the liberty to forward the previous comment to Scott. This topic can be radioactive. Everyone stay calm & civil, ok?


Comment by
Scott Somerville
August 27th, 2003
at 4:28 pm

Sheila, I’m happy to respond to your sincere request. I don’t mean to “obfuscate” the other points that Shay has up on her site (in fact, I’d love to thrash every single one of them out in a great deal of detail!), but I really can’t tolerate her repeated claims that HSLDA won’t defend unschoolers, especially because (in my opinion) unschoolers are more likely to need a defense than most!

As for examples… wow. Let me go back to the first tough case I TRIED to get involved in, in Dec. 1992. I had been at HSLDA for about six months when Mary Foley was prosecuted in Mass. for operating an unapproved homeschool. Her curriculum consisted of “daydreaming, respect for self and others, natural and social sciences, and making mistakes.” Her district, not too surprisingly, turned her down. I offered our assistance, but I suspect that Mary had heard too many negative things about HSLDA to want to take us up on that. We were not able to get involved, but I did all I could to provide info, cases, and other useful tips to her excellent local attorney, Russell Fales. (Mary won that case.)

As the HSLDA attorney for Massachusetts, I’ve had many opportunities to serve other unschoolers in that state. (Unschoolers have more problems in states like Mass., where each home ed proposal has to be individually approved by the school committee or superintendent each year.) One unschooling HSLDA member family in Western Mass. had a child with some learning disabilities, and their school committee put their foot down to say that they simply would not approve an “unschooling” plan. It took almost a year of phone calls and legal letters to get the district to accept that family, but they were never forced to stop their unschooling approach.

When I think about the cases where I have personally represented families in court, I instantly think of one unschooling family in Northern Virginia that I represented time after time, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I spent more time in the courtroom for that one family than any other client I’ve ever represented.

I still remember the unschooling family that sought a religious exemption from a Virginia school district, which rejected them because their beliefs were “New Age” rather than some more traditional faith. Will Shaw, president of the Virginia Home Education Association (and a personal friend of Shay’s, I believe) worked with me to get that religious exemption for that family. I just can’t see how Shay can claim we don’t represent unschoolers when Will saw me stand up for them before that school board!

I could go on and on. In addition to the cases that we’ve handled, there are also the policy decisions we make. I was just on the phone with the attorney for the Vermont Dept. of Ed., telling them that my (very traditional Roman Catholic) client could easily comply with their demands, but that we could not simply consent to those demands because Vermont’s new homeschool paperwork makes it nearly impossible for a true unschooler to “enroll” in their system.

I could go on with different cases where I have personally served unschoolers, but let me turn the question around. I’ve been here at HSLDA for eleven years, and I was a homeschool activist in my own right before that (past president of the Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire). I’ve been on the front lines of freedom for fifteen years now, and I invite ANY homeschooler who has ever dealt with me to give ONE case where I have ever done anything to harm unschoolers in any way.

I am personally committed to doing all that I can from my position of influence to make sure that unschoolers are free to do what they believe is best for their own children. If unschoolers don’t feel comfortable joining HSLDA, that’s fine. It’s a free country. But I object to Shay’s efforts to DETER unschoolers from finding out for themselves whether HSLDA is willing to accept unschoolers.


Comment by
Sheila
August 27th, 2003
at 10:39 pm

Were these things handled on religious grounds, or privacy grounds, or what? Dealing with courts, principals, superintendants, complying or explaining….? Some of HSLDA’s cases are described online at such pages as (randomly picked) hslda....lt.asp – are there any similar pages for the unschooling cases you speak of? I guess I’m asking for sufficient assurance, before I go saying “I think Shay’s wrong about this point,” because of the very strong anti-unschooling pro-let’s-outschool-the-schools bias that existed for so long in HSLDA circles, because of the formal curriculum-Christianhomeschoolingcoop orientation that is so prevalent still in HSLDA circles. There’s just a lot of stuff coming out of HSLDA that makes Shay’s charge about HSLDA (whatever) unschoolers very believable, grain of sand or no grain of sand, and it’s because of all that HSLDA-issued stuff that I look to you and say “need to see the meat.”

Thing is anyway Scott, to me those longstanding statements about unschoolers vs. HSLDA are a nit. Mike Farris has been a dork to me personally (online) about unschoolers vs. HSLDA. I *don’t* know how HSLDA handles things for unschoolers, granting you your assertion that you have worked with them. My perception is that HSLDA represents its members by sending letters and making phone calls, doing a general subtle-lawyer-intimidation thing, and that I’ve handled for myself the sort of issues that HSLDA would handle. My perception is that if HSLDA has to go into court, they seek to settle on materials grounds, not ideals grounds. My perception is that it would be as necessary to “cave” on points of principle for pragmatic reasons with or without HSLDA.

The other information on that website about HSLDA’s political activities is what has earned them my listening ear, because I’ve personally seen independent materials and activities that back that information up.

The unschoolers, IMNSHO, are the homeschoolers who have come furthest in their awareness of educational politics, in their questioning and reassessment of educational paradigms/pedagogies, who are most likely to see themselves as fellow citizens rather than followers or dependents. I don’t think it’s Shay’s claiming that HSLDA doesn’t (whatever) unschoolers that’s the determent. I’m smart enough to take such statements with a grain of salt. The stumbling block HSLDA sets up for me is the near-covert, controlled, closed activities of, for one, your Congressional Action Program. I am offended by the top-down hierarchy that produces done-deal legislation such as the current HR 2732 (or whatever the number is).

I’m so sick of this defining-myself business (as an aside, on your blog Daryl since mine isn’t going yet 😉 Nobody ever knows what these terms all mean, and I always have to explain. People (bureaucrats “from the state”, administrators, county-notification-takers) reject entire concepts based on their image of a word, thinking they know all because they are the Official in the Department, without having a clue what reality is. Bah.

I’m also not keen on getting sucked in to this topic (HSLDA) but I am, sincerely, wanting to hear more details from “the other side.” Actually, I really *hate* getting dragged (arm reaching out from computer screen and handcuffing me to the keyboard) into this.

Gotta go, my 4yo’s having a baby again (her sixth today)…


Comment by
Shay
August 31st, 2003
at 12:04 pm

Daryl, the site isn’t intended to be “anti-HSLDA,” but to offer full information about it–the stuff HSLDA’s site and materials doesn’t reveal–so that, as Dave noted here, people can understand the organization, know what they are really getting for their dues, and make an informed choice about whether they want to join. Some folks, like Dave, are happy to support HSLDA’s full agenda, Patrick Henry College, and all of HSLDA’s actions on behalf of homeschoolers. Others are inclined in a different direction. The word “evil” does not appear on the site. “Evil” is in the eye of the beholder.

I find Mr. Somerville’s comments fascinating. He states that HSLDA has “tolerated what we believe are knowingly false statements on the old folc site for a long, long time,” yet, during the 2-3 years I hosted the information, only once did HSLDA contact me about anything on the site. That was to inform me that some information on another site, to which “More Information About HSLDA” had linked. I quickly updated the info on the site and replied to the e-mail from the HSLDA representative. If HSLDA has had issues with some of the other information, why didn’t someone from the group make contact about it in all that time?

Here Mr. Somerville makes comment on one small passage on the site,”In order to receive HSLDA’s services, you must agree to use ‘an organized curriculum and a clearly recognizable program of education,’ which precludes unschooling.” He seems to be saying that the above is an “effort to DETER unschoolers from finding out for themselves whether HSLDA is willing to accept unschoolers.” I wonder how Mr. Somerville can say that “an organized curriculum” refers to unschooling. However, if he or another representative of HSLDA can illustrate how it does, then I am more than willing to send the updated information to the new Web Admin.

Sheila stated she believes Mr. Somerville is ignoring all the other information on the “More Info” site, to which he replied that there are many other points he’d like to “thrash out,” but he doesn’t refer to even one of them. That silence says a lot.

Dave said, about the “More Info” site, “the story could be presented in a more convincing fashion – especially consdering that they are attempting to give legal advice!” But there is no legal advice given there; only information from a variety of sources.

Dave also wrote, “I’d very much like to read a list of specific criticisms with credible evidence (and a bit of objectivity) as back up rather than what is presented at this site to better appreciate the concerns.” Yet, that *is* what is presented on the site.

Sheila says, “The stumbling block HSLDA sets up for me is the near-covert, controlled, closed activities of, for one, your Congressional Action Program. I am offended by the top-down hierarchy that produces done-deal legislation such as the current HR 2732 (or whatever the number is).”
And these are longstanding issues that have been brought to HSLDA’s attention by little ol’ homeschool moms, time and again, only to be ignored. Is it any wonder folks want “More Information About HSLDA?”

-Shay


Comment by
Shay
August 31st, 2003
at 12:08 pm

Daryl, the site isn’t intended to be “anti-HSLDA,” but to offer full information about it–the stuff HSLDA’s site and materials doesn’t reveal–so that, as Dave noted here, people can understand the organization, know what they are really getting for their dues, and make an informed choice about whether they want to join. Some folks, like Dave, are happy to support HSLDA’s full agenda, Patrick Henry College, and all of HSLDA’s actions on behalf of homeschoolers. Others are inclined in a different direction. The word “evil” does not appear on the site. “Evil” is in the eye of the beholder.

I find Mr. Somerville’s comments fascinating. He states that HSLDA has “tolerated what we believe are knowingly false statements on the old folc site for a long, long time,” yet, during the 2-3 years I hosted the information, only once did HSLDA contact me about anything on the site. That was to inform me that some information on another site, to which “More Information About HSLDA” had linked. I quickly updated the info on the site and replied to the e-mail from the HSLDA representative. If HSLDA has had issues with some of the other information, why didn’t someone from the group make contact about it in all that time?

Here Mr. Somerville makes comment on one small passage on the site,”In order to receive HSLDA’s services, you must agree to use ‘an organized curriculum and a clearly recognizable program of education,’ which precludes unschooling.” He seems to be saying that the above is an “effort to DETER unschoolers from finding out for themselves whether HSLDA is willing to accept unschoolers.” I wonder how Mr. Somerville can say that “an organized curriculum” refers to unschooling. However, if he or another representative of HSLDA can illustrate how it does, then I am more than willing to send the updated information to the new Web Admin.

Sheila stated she believes Mr. Somerville is ignoring all the other information on the “More Info” site, to which he replied that there are many other points he’d like to “thrash out,” but he doesn’t refer to even one of them. That silence says a lot.
In my experience (hslda....ns.htm) , HSLDA’s M.O. is to avoid talking about the real issues, attempt to sidetrack or re-word questions and then answer their own questions instead of the questioner’s, discount the nitty-gritty questions as “unprofessional,” and then, when it gets down to the wire, resort to silence, rather than continuing a dialog.

Dave said, about the “More Info” site, “the story could be presented in a more convincing fashion – especially consdering that they are attempting to give legal advice!” But there is no legal advice given there; only information from a variety of sources.

Dave also wrote, “I’d very much like to read a list of specific criticisms with credible evidence (and a bit of objectivity) as back up rather than what is presented at this site to better appreciate the concerns.” Yet, that *is* what is presented on the site.

Sheila says, “The stumbling block HSLDA sets up for me is the near-covert, controlled, closed activities of, for one, your Congressional Action Program. I am offended by the top-down hierarchy that produces done-deal legislation such as the current HR 2732 (or whatever the number is).”
And these are longstanding issues that have been brought to HSLDA’s attention by little ol’ homeschool moms, time and again, only to be ignored. Is it any wonder folks want “More Information About HSLDA?”

-Shay