The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that provides many valuable services to homeschooling families. The HSLDA website features tons of resources for homeschooling families that are not limited to legal services and explanations.
What Is the Home School Legal Defense Association?
Michael P. Farris and J. Michael Smith, who were both homeschooling fathers and attorneys, founded the Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983. The organization grew to include tens of thousands of homeschooling families in their membership. According to HSLDA, their mission is "to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms."
Low-Cost Legal Services for Home School Families
The HSLDA defends for the rights of families to homeschool their children based on religious freedom and parental rights. They help homeschooling families with legal issues related to homeschooling by providing low-cost attorney services ranging from legal advice to defense in court proceedings. To reap these benefits from the organization, you must first become a HSLDA member.
Free Resources for Home School Families
You don't have to join HSLDA as a member to get help from the organization. It's part of their mission to support all homeschooling families. The main benefits for non-members come in the form of free information and resources. Their website covers home school topics for all age groups from toddler through teen. They also share information through a free podcast called Homeschool Talks.
While HSLDA focuses on legal resources for home school families, they have also created other groups with different missions and are affiliated with other institutions.
- HSLDA Action is a nonprofit sister organization that can endorse political candidates.
- HSLDA PAC is an affiliated political action committee that can endorse federal candidates and share support for that candidate with the main HSLDA members.
- HSLDA Compassion is a division of the organization that provides grants to home school families in need.
- Patrick Henry College was founded in part by HSLDA.
- Parentalrights.org is a separate nonprofit founded by HSLDA with the mission of protecting parental rights through amending the U.S. Constitution.
The main goal of the HSLDA is creating a large membership base of homeschooling families for the purpose of providing quality professional legal defense at a low cost. Once a family pays the yearly membership fee there are no additional charges for legally defending the family's right to homeschool. The cost of membership is $130 for one year and is meant to represent the standard pay for one hour of an attorney's services. Although the HSLDA is a Christian organization, they do not limit membership based on religious beliefs.
Legal Services and Fees Covered by Membership
Once you've paid the annual membership fee, you are entitled to legal help related to homeschooling. Some of the main services provided include:
- Explanation of federal and state laws
- Phone calls or written letters from an attorney on behalf of your family
- Expert witness costs
- Travel expenses related to proceedings
- Treatment as a client of the attorney
- Any other court costs allowed by the state
Additional Benefits of Joining the HSLDA
Membership with HSLDA also gets you other services and benefits such as:
- Use of a 24/7 legal emergency line
- Personalized advice from attorneys and educational consultants
- Members-only website with links to important forms
- Discounts with select national home school vendors
- Bi-monthly newsletter Home School Court Report
- Online curriculum market where only HSLDA members can bid on the items
- Discounts at the HSLDA bookstore on items like home school diplomas and graduation attire
Homeschooling families that decide to join HSLDA must first complete an application. The application can be filled out online or downloaded, printed and mailed to HSLDA. Parents can also request the application be sent to them by mail. It takes about three weeks for your HSLDA application to be processed, but you can pay an extra fee of $40 to have it expedited and reviewed within two business days.
Pros and Cons of HSLDA
Anyone who is thinking of homeschooling is currently homeschooling, or who wants to support homeschooling, can benefit from HSLDA.
Who Benefits the Most?
Families who are dealing with related legal issues will obviously benefit the most, especially low-income families who might not otherwise afford legal counsel. Families living in states that are not considered "home school friendly" will also benefit the most from these services. Since the organization is Christian-based, those who subscribe to Christian beliefs will might be most comfortable working with the group.
Concerns About HSLDA
Like most nonprofits, HSLDA is not without complaints or bad reviews. One blogger, Libby Anne, shared extensive complaints about HSLDA's alleged opposition to some state laws that would ban harsh corporal punishment and their involvement in helping families who faced allegations of child neglect or abuse. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) also points out some perceived flaws in HSLDA's stance on homeschooling regulations.
Help for Home School Families
If you are a member of the homeschooling community, becoming a member of the HSLDA offers many benefits and most importantly legal protection if the need should arise. As with any organization, you should take a good look into the beliefs and practices of HSLDA before making your own decision on whether membership is right for you.