Monday, June 11, 2012

Hell no to HSLDA!

The Home School Legal Defence Association is good thing right ?

Not necessarily. It kind of depends if you are left feeling a little sick after discovering the following or not.

HSLDA is a religious organisation.

The founder is a practicing Quiverfull. (see note 1)

This is one of the more extreme versions of an already extreme sub section of Christianity.

This group believe in patriarchy, the submission of wives and children to their husband/father. They are against any form of birth control. Believe women should dress "modestly" (see note 2a). Favour homeschooling to isolate their children from being "contaminated" by any other beliefs or values. (see note 2b)

As a group they are taught it is Christian to practice physical punishment on their children. Details of how severe this kind of "godly" punishment can be is evident in the work of the Pearls. They advocate switching (using a small flexible implement as a whip, like a willow branch for example) for babies as young as six months old and using an even wider variety of implements to hit older children. In fact several children have been beaten or starved to death by their parents who mindlessly followed the Pearls advice. (see note 3)

HSLDA was one of the founders of a Christian university, and built it on their grounds. It teaches creationism. All students and teachers must sign "A statement of faith" that demand their adhesion to this concept. (see note 4)

HSLDA is not pro unschooling.

In their own words on their membership agreement you have to agree to...(note 5)

To use a clearly organized program of education to instruct our children.
To keep records of each child’s educational progress.

Many American unschoolers accuse HSLDA of prioritising a right wing Christian agenda above an agenda to defend homeschoolers rights. In fact HSLDA released this propaganda during the previous presidential election. "Homeschoolers for Huckabee".

Huckabee (see note 6), being a potential republican candidate with a bad track record for failing to stand up for homeschoolers rights, he was also strongly endorsed by the NEA who proposed:

"The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used."

Outwardly HSLDA claim to support unschoolers. But their affiliations, membership agreement and actions depict an *entirely* different picture.

HSLDA is a right wing organisation.

They founded Generation Joshua, a Christian organisation to get children politically active. It claims to have no specific political position. Yet only Republican candidates have been supported by their members. (see note 7)

And returning to their the slogan "Homeschoolers for Huckabbee" (a Republican presidential candidate). Please note they made it sound like they spoke for ALL homeschoolers, failing utterly to make it clear they were operating without the mandate of American homeschoolers in general. Unsurprisingly since American homeschoolers represent the whole spectrum of political affiliation. (see note 6)

HSLDA supports hitting children

In their own words on their FAQ page.

"The UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child is an example of the UN’s view of the family. We oppose the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child because it would strip parents of much of their authority to educate, train, and nurture their children according to the dictates of their conscience." (see note 8)

NB the use of the word "train" may sound strange to you in relation to children rather than dogs. However it is worth noting the title of the Pearl's book advocating a horrifying degree of physical punishment for babies and children, is called "To Train Up a Child". (see note 3)

They have a clear position on defending the right to hit children as can be seen in many statements on their site. (see note 8)

If Senate Bill 2180 passes the Mississippi Legislature, a parent would be in jeopardy of receiving a life sentence in prison for spanking a child. Sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins (District 52-Jackson), this legislation would make it a felony to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” thereby causing “bodily harm” to the child. “Reasonable discipline” would be an exception to this offense. The minimum penalty upon conviction of this crime would be 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty would be life in prison.Unfortunately, the terms “bodily harm” and “reasonable discipline” are not defined in the law, so it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment. Would bodily harm include inflicting pain or leaving red marks or bruises on a child? Is it reasonable discipline to use a switch, a paddle, or other object in spanking a child? Obviously there are differing opinions on this subject, and because of this, any child abuse legislation must precisely define terms to ensure that parents maintain the right to administer reasonable corporal discipline without fear of being imprisoned.Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to track the progress of SB 2180 and work with the homeschoolers of Mississippi to bring about a defeat of this dangerous bill."

HSLDA is anti gay.

On their site they are very clear that they will fight any attempt to "destroy the traditional family" by passing legislation that allows gay people to marry. (see note 9)

If you type "homosexual" into their internal search engine there is no lack of evidence, in their own words, that they are against tolerance towards gay people.(see note 10)

Why should you care over here in Italy ?

Because of while HSLDA claims it has no plans to open a European Office, it has in recent times been spreading its tentacles in Europe in its own right or via other Christian homeschool organisations that share their ethos.



HSLDA collaborated in creating and generating negative publicity about Gemany and Sweden. Obviously the respective governments and populations of those two countries were, in significant numbers, offended and felt misrepresented.

Hands up if you think the high profile involvement of a right wing, fundamental Christian pressure group helped to highlight that homeschoolers are a highly diverse bunch who AREN'T the homogenous stereotype of "religious "loonies" who want to isolate their children from the world" that we are often believed to be ?

Hands up if you feel that their approach was a sensitive and cautious way of "helping" two homeschooling communities already feeling serious pressure and prejudice ?

Personally I feel I need their help like I need a hole in the head and a sledgehammer to my frontal lobe. In fact you'd HAVE to take a hammer to my brain and render it well damaged before I'd ever endorse, collaborate or seek to emulate them.

Please be aware who these people are and what they stand for when you see references to them.

And please know, however they word things to indicate otherwise, neither they, (nor people who collaborate with them), speak for me.

Not as a homeschooler, not as a woman, not as a mother, not as a supporter of equal civil rights regardless of sexual orientation, not as a human being.

On any level.


In fact if HSLDA say something, even though I am a "homeschooling weirdo" just assume I whole heartedly DISAGREE, unless I explicitly state otherwise. In which case look up. Airborne bacon has arrived.


note 1
"Michael Farris - Farris, a conservative United States constitutional lawyer, founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College. His wife Vickie is the author of A Mom Just Like You (2002). The couple has ten children and six grandchildren.[42][43]"

note 2a

example of "modest" swim wear for young girls and women

note 2b
"Leading Christian patriarchy organization Vision Forum promises that if you raise your children according to their teachings, homeschooling in order to “shelter” from “evil influences” and “teach God’s truth” and emphasizing the hierarchical teachings of Christian patriarchy, your child will not stray from Christ’s side like all those willful pagan children in the public schools"

note 3

The Pearls - extract
"In their self-published book, To Train Up a Child, Pearl, 66, and his wife Debi, 60, recommend the systematic use of "the rod" to teach young children to submit to authority. They offer instructions on how to use a switch for hitting children as young as six months, and describe how to use other implements, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line. Older children, the Pearls say, should be hit with a belt, wooden spoon or willow switch, hard enough to sting. Michael Pearl has said the methods are based on "the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules."
There are 670,000 copies of the book in circulation, and it's especially popular among Christian home-schoolers such as Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Wash. In September, local prosecutors charged them with homicide by abuse after their adopted daughter Hana, 11, was found naked and emaciated in the backyard, having died of hypothermia and malnutrition. She had been deprived of food for days at a time, and made to sleep in an unheated barn.
Hana, originally from Ethiopia, also had been beaten with a plastic tube, as recommended by Michael Pearl. Carri Williams had praised the book--which advises that "a little fasting is good training"--and had given a copy to a friend, local authorities say."

Quiverfull movement and the Pearls, from a former Quiverfull member.

note 4

HSLDA and Patrick Henry College

"The school was founded with the help of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and now serves as the headquarters for the organization, with which it is still closely connected."

"Patrick Henry College (PHC) is a private, independent college with an Evangelical Christian basis"

"All students must sign a "Statement of Faith" before they arrive, affirming belief in what the college considers core Christian doctrines. For example, students are asked to acknowledge "Satan exists as a personal, malevolent being who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom Hell, the place of eternal punishment, was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity", and "Christ's death provides substitutionary atonement for our sins."[23] The college professes non-denominational Christian beliefs. Teaching faculty must also sign the "Statement of Faith", plus a more detailed "Statement of Biblical Worldview", which represents the College's requirements for what should be taught.[24] For example the Biblical Worldview Applications states that, "Any biology, Bible, or other courses at PHC dealing with creation will teach creation from the understanding of Scripture that God's creative work, as described in Genesis 1:1–31, was completed in six twenty-four hour days."

note 5
HSLDA membership agreement

note 6

details of Huckabee's record on homeschool rights

note 7

"Generation Joshua campaigns solely for conservative candidates who support pro-life and otherwise socially conservative platforms. [5] The group's focus on youth has led some atheists to characterize its mission as making "Christian nationalism palatable to the MTV generation"."

home page

note 8

HSLDA position on children's rights, primarily for the purposes of avoiding legal limits on corporal punishment.

HSLDA re corperal punishement and the law
...."Life Sentence For Spanking?

"If Senate Bill 2180 passes the Mississippi Legislature, a parent would be in jeopardy of receiving a life sentence in prison for spanking a child. Sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins (District 52-Jackson), this legislation would make it a felony to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” thereby causing “bodily harm” to the child. “Reasonable discipline” would be an exception to this offense. The minimum penalty upon conviction of this crime would be 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty would be life in prison.

Unfortunately, the terms “bodily harm” and “reasonable discipline” are not defined in the law, so it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment. Would bodily harm include inflicting pain or leaving red marks or bruises on a child? Is it reasonable discipline to use a switch, a paddle, or other object in spanking a child? Obviously there are differing opinions on this subject, and because of this, any child abuse legislation must precisely define terms to ensure that parents maintain the right to administer reasonable corporal discipline without fear of being imprisoned.

Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to track the progress of SB 2180 and work with the homeschoolers of Mississippi to bring about a defeat of this dangerous bill."

note 9
extract from HSLDA FAQ
"8. Why does HSLDA support efforts to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman?
The following answer is an excerpt from a letter written by HSLDA Chairman of the Board and General Counsel Mike Farris:

. . . We are a Christian organization (see answer to question number 4 above). This colors our way of thinking about many things. Fundamentally, it is reflected in what we believe is truth.

All truth is God's truth. Man's knowledge is limited. We think we know something only to find that future generations have found that we really didn't know what we are talking about.

The truth is that God created the family. It is God's view of the family that is reflected in our western civilization and in our law until very recently. If we tear down this God-based view of the family, then all of the God-based principles in our society are ultimately at risk.

The reason we have parental rights is because our law assumes that God gave children to parents, not the state. If we eliminate the assumption of God from our law, parental rights and human rights themselves are impossible.

I was in the Soviet Union in 1988 arguing for parental rights and religious freedom with the government of the USSR. They asked, "Where are such rights based in any international legal document?"

I answered, "If rights are based on man-made documents they are not rights, they are privileges. What man makes, man can change."

Only if rights come from God is it illegitimate for man to take another's rights.

It is impossible to say that the God of the Bible would sanction rights of homosexual marriage. Thus, there is no such right in a God-based theory of rights. Any man-made theory of rights is no theory at all. ... HSLDA is not willing to move into an era of human privileges. We believe this would jeopardize our liberty to teach our children at home and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Michael Farris"

note 10
HSLDA many objections towards improving tolerance towards gay people

link Italiano (How the stereotype lives on DESPITE the number of people choosing home education for religious reasons has fallen from two thirds to just over one third in a period of five years.) (the homeschoolers helping Rick Santorum were in no small number from Generation Joshua

Quiverfull and homeschooling, link in Italiano

in Italian
L'istruzione a domicilio in tutto il territorio nazionale deve la sua legalizzazione, nel 1993,
al lobbismo della Home school legal defense association (Hslda), organizzazione evangelica
che conta più di ottantamila famiglie"

"E’ quanto afferma Hslda, un’organizzazione non-profit che si batte da trent’anni in
America per garantire il diritto ai genitori di educare privatamente i figli. !
ASbc-TV ha deciso di prendere a bersaglio direttamente i cristiani con quello che in realtà
è un hate speech”, scrive il direttore di Hslda. “Questo programma ridicolizza i cristiani,
il cristianesimo, la Bibbia e i simboli cristiani in una maniera che sarebbe impensabile
se diretta verso un qualsiasi altro gruppo religioso. Per esempio, nella pagina di Facebook
si dice che ‘la fessura fra i seni ti aiuta a tenere dritto il crocifisso’. Potreste immaginare la
reazione della comunità musulmana se un messaggio del genere, completo di una foto altamente
suggestiva avesse per bersaglio la fede islamica?”.
Conclude Hslda: “Queste decisioni sono rese possibili dal fatto che sta diventando
pubblicamente accettabile umiliare il cristianesimo”."

"l’Home School Legal Defense Association (organizzazione che difende “il diritto costituzionale
dei genitori a indirizzare l’educazione dei propri figli”: 11 milioni, 2009).
Sono circa 300 le istanze di cui queste organizzazioni si fanno promotrici: un quinto
si focalizza solo su questioni interne, un sesto esclusivamente su questioni internazionali,
mentre il 64% su entrambe le tipologie di questione. Sul fronte interno tra i temi più gettonati ci
sono le relazioni Stato-Chiesa, la difesa dei diritti civili, la libertà religiosa delle minoranze,
le questioni legate ad aborto e fine vita. Sul piano internazionale: i diritti umani in generale,
la riduzione del debito e le tematiche economiche in genere, la promozione della pace. "

La Reppublica, motivazione Americani, NON Italiani.
" Per il 31% dei genitori iscritti all'Hslda si tratta di un modo per evitare che i bambini entrino in
contatto con droga, bullismo, parolacce e volgarità. Il 30%, invece, preferisce optare per una
ferrea educazione morale e religiosa da impartire all'interno delle mura domestiche,
mentre il 16% si è detto insoddisfatto degli standard d'insegnamento nelle scuole locali
frequentate dai propri figli. Tra le altre motivazioni, anche la possibilità di permettere ai bambini
di esplorare il mondo, sviluppare l'immaginazione e competenze da poter sfruttare negli anni
successivi oppure quella di averli sempre vicini, a casa, e non perdere i loro anni più belli."

Links In English

Forum members explain

"Why people don't like HSLDA" (from mainly structured, classical homeschoolers)

Joyce Fetteroll (well respected unschooler) expresses her qualms re HSLDA (scroll down)

Sandra Dodd expresses that HSLDA is problamtic and does not support unschoolers

"Does not support all homeschoolers: The homeschool Legal Defense Association has strict guidelines as to what type of homeschooling families they will support and what type they will not. You cannot just join the HSLDA, you must apply. Rules you must follow to maintain membership include, supervising children under 14 at all times, not be in legal trouble (with a few exceptions), you must also used a recognizable curriculum and not unschool. In addition, they will not represent a single parent in a custody battle."

"Secret negotiations by HSLDA"

"HSLDA is another concern. I have my own opinions on HSLDA from my personal experience with them. When you visit the HSLDA website, you can clearly see their own religious agenda. Google them and you will find their anti-gay stances. They also seem to be much more comfortable representing families that use a set curriculum, preferably one that they approve of. Where does that leave the unschoolers and the more eclectic and free spirited members of our community? I am all for HSLDA coming in and representing their clients in individual cases, even a group of their members in a case, but to come into a state and present themselves as “the” authority to speak on behalf of all homeschooling families is a bit much. They have a history of doing this on a national level as well. They completely refused to listen to anything that anyone outside of their closed circle has to say"

HSLDA and politics, from mainly structured homeschoolers

Are you a member of HSLDA ? (mainly structured homeschoolers)
poll result

reasons why not stated in forum

"In order to receive HSLDA’s services, you must agree to use “an organized curriculum and a clearly recognizable program of education,” which may be very difficult for unschoolers."

"Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA)

Web site:
HSLDA is a Christian, nonprofit advocacy organization established to protect family freedoms and to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children. Supported by a legal team and run by "an active board of directors, all of whom are homeschooling fathers who give guidance and direction to the organization," HSLDA provides annual memberships to homeschooling families which entitle them to receive legal support at no extra charge should they need it in the course of exercising their homeschooling rights. You do not have to be Christian to belong, but you do have to agree to "use an organized curriculum and a clearly recognizable program of education to instruct [your] children." HSLDA has been active in fighting against certain policies of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and in defending parental use of "reasonable corrective discipline."

long standing postion of vociferously supporting the parental right to practice corporal punishment, on little kids.

1n 2000
"HSLDA’s sustained lobbying against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — the top issue cited in an “issues alert” sent by the HSLDA to all members of Congress last fall — is necessary because “if children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children,” says Klicka. He had a similar explanation for the group’s opposition to increased federal child abuse laws — more laws would mean more likelihood that corporal punishment could be defined as child abuse. (Just this month, administrators from Patrick Henry College were among those testifying before the Virginia Department of Social Services for a measure that would allow foster parents to physically discipline foster children.)"

in 2007
>From the Home School Legal Defence Association E-lert Service…

December 4, 2007

Massachusetts–Your Calls Made a Difference!

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

Thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators about House Bill 3922, which would prohibit corporal punishment of children in Massachusetts–your calls made a difference! We believe that your calls helped convince the legislature to let this bill die in committee.

In addition to your contacts, several pro-family representatives attended last week’s committee hearing in opposition to the bill, which has little chance of passing. The Massachusetts public is overwhelmingly against House Bill 3922, and even Senator Karen Spilka, co-chairwoman of the committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities commented that the state will not be banning corporal punishment (See )."

"While the HSLDA does not hold an official position on the use of corporal punishment, Donnelly said it is clearly up to parents to determine whether corporal punishment is an appropriate form of discipline."

While they may not officially declare a position on corporal punishment, it would seem in the light of all the info that points to them being just a tad enthusiastic about maintaining the right to hit kids, some (self defining as Gentle) Christians started to become ambivalent about them...

The use of the expression "train up a child"

Micheal Farris speaks on the subject "Train up a Child"
"I was forced to mow the lawn, paint the house, re-roof our house, dig ditches for our irrigation system, and dig up some awful stuff in the yard called “quack grass.” I look back today and believe that my father did me an enormous amount of good by forcing me to work and work hard"

and reams of other articles on HSLDA containing "train up a child"

But so far I have't found anything where the organisation distances itself from the Pearls, who wrote the book "To Train up a Child". Which I would expect to see plastered all over the web if they were wholly against the sort of parenting the Pearl's promoted.

Exerpt from amazon reviews of the Pearls book "To Train up a Child"

"This is a book about how to "condition" children into obedience like one might condition a dog into obedience.
Except that these techniques are generally considered abusive and counterproductive amongst professional dog trainers, so yes, this is basically a manual for child abuse. It is based on a single Bronze Age principal from Proverbs 13:24, pithily stated by Samuel Butler (in a satirical poem): spare the rod and spoil the child."

"There was stuff in the books that I read and thought, "well that's a little extreme." Stuff that I did not apply. Such as "beware of a infant crying to manipulate you." "Spank until the child stops crying." I am ashamed to write I did this once. I felt so terrible afterwards that I never did again. I also do not agree with "breaking a child's will." God does not break our wills..why would I want to break my child's? I hate that one line he says over and over, "what your child is at 2 he will be at 12" I was stuck on this one and was so sure I was failing when my 2 year old was whinning excessivly. I started to hate the kind of parent I was becoming. So I started reading other books and have backed off. Please if you feel like you are being too over zealous with the dicispline read "Grace Based Parenting," by Dr. Tim Kimmel. I was so convicted reading this and have changed the way I see my children drastically. I just don't see any room for grace or room for mistakes in the Pearl's way of doing things. Then I read the whole thing about the 7 year old getting beat to death and it was like a slap in the face."

"What confuses me is why people think they need to hit, spank, smack or paddle their children in order for them to listen. I am a mom of 2 children under 2, a Sunday school teacher and a follower of Christ. Those who need to resort to spankings have obviously have not tried other methods.
I have a 2 year old and we ONLY use our hands for high fives and hugs. My daughter does not get everything she wants. My daughter knows that she is safe in my home, loved and well taken care of. Have ANY Of you talked with children who grew up in the "To train up a child home??
Well meet me. I think the book sucks! I am a 25 year old wife and mother of two. I grew up being spanked and hit till I was finally able to hit back. The only thing my parents taught me was fear. I grew up in FEAR because I was getting smacked for every transgression I ever committed. Why do you think you have to spank a child in order for them to listen??"


  1. Sarah, glad I've found you again. Great post. I can see I've got some catching up to do here :)

  2. I don't think I've ever seen a positive thing said or written about HSLDA - how do they keep going?

    1. Fear.

      It's what they do, create elevated and unneeded alarm to the power of 100, convincing parents that they are in mortal danger and NEED their help. Even though they pick and choose their cases even if you are a member there is no guarentee they will help, they have no legal representation available for many states in America, and you don't get your money back if after jioing up they decide you are the "wrong" kind of homeschooler and can't/won't help you.

      Their entire stratagy is about making parents far more scared then they need to be, thus encpuragingmthe, to believe they need some kind of legal "insurance".

      Clever really. Utterly not what I would call ethical, but clever when you conder the cost of joining an organisation that is at odds with so many peoples religious, political and parenting views

  3. Good thanks. HEing again since December and feeling like I'm back on my home planet. Really enjoying your blog. Go you!

    1. We came back to HE just after Xmas too. And snap ( :

      The poor kid was so stressed out and miserable, and I was agasht at having to cancel his spcial life full stop, so he could spend all day every day learning how to be a parrot and full of busy work.

      The Sock Dropper was pro him finishing the school year...but changed his mind when I lost mine and started throwing suitcases about.

      This year was odd though. In elementary school all the other mums at the school gates thought I was mad. This year they are my biggest cheerleaders and regularly phone to shout about how awful the schools are around here. I feel really bad for them, and especially bad for the kid who devolped a school related tic this year, but I do feel...exonerated. Which is nice. Or would if what they were telling me didn't make me so cross on their behalves.

    2. oh dear, English gone to pot. Child with high temp, no sleep for 2 nights, blame tired brian please. Or brain even.

  4. this is an excellent article, sarah. Ive been researching the same stuff recently. how strange!

    Youve given me a lot of material to work with...can I translate your post? it would be useful to share in the italian comunity. what do you think?

    always good reading you, and go rest your poor tired brain :))

    1. Of course love, I was going to badger The Sock Dropper into helping me translate it into Italian, but that is Hard Work!

    2. Melissa if you translate it could you stick it up on ypur blog? Almost all ypur readers are Italian and only a handful of mine are. Makes more sense to put it up where people will see it.



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