by Mike Donnelly
The saddest thing about ThinkProgress’s recent article is that it undermines homeschooling freedom and may prevent families and organizations from getting the help they need.
Mr. Michel’s harshly critical story casts HSLDA as part of the “vast right wing conspiracy,” and a pawn in Russia’s alleged attempts to infiltrate the United States just because I helped organize a global homeschool conference in Russia last year.
Homeschooling is a growing global movement and I’m proud to serve on staff with the world’s largest homeschool advocacy organization. Our mission is to make homeschooling possible. In my role as director of global outreach, I helped found the Global Home Education Exchange Council (www.ghex.org). HSLDA is generous in supporting the GHEX which has the mission to advance homeschooling everywhere and to help people understand homeschooling as a fundamental human right regardless of a person’s motivation or methodology.
What we do around the world is help new homeschool movements develop. Many countries are experiencing the same kind of resistance the American homeschooling movement did 30 plus years ago. We have a lot of experience to offer to our international colleagues. It is encouraging for them to know that they are not alone, and that there are about 2 million homeschooled kids in the United States who are well socialized and high academic achievers. This inspires them. And it’s the message I take around the world to parents who are frustrated with public, and in some places highly state-controlled private, education.
I suppose it is just the currency of the day that ThinkProgress sees things through a strictly politically-polarized lens. While I certainly have my own political views and, yes, they are conservative, I don’t see homeschooling as a “political” issue. I see homeschooling as a fundamental human right for all people everywhere, regardless of any status they may have.
Mr. Michel describes HSLDA as having a “right-wing religious bent.” Why do we have to have such labels? Yes, HSLDA is a Christian organization. Yes, we who work here do seek to honor God in our work. And HSLDA defends homeschooling for anyone, anywhere, with no litmus test for membership. Our membership is open to anyone who is homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling. I have personally helped all kinds of parents — regardless of their religious or political views, or life-style choices. That is true of all my “comrades” at HSLDA.
HSLDA believes that parents are the ones who should decide how their children are educated without unreasonable government interference — and we will fight to protect them. For example, two years ago HSLDA won a record breaking $700,000 civil rights judgement for a free-spirited unschooling mom.
As a former Army officer I fought in the Persian Gulf War and trained in the 1980s to meet soldiers of the Soviet Union on the battlefield. In Russia, I met several of my would-be foes who are now homeschooling dads or supporters of home education. I find it simply amazing to visit post-communist Russia and to see the freedom that exists there today.
Homeschooling in the Soviet Union would have been unthinkable just 30 years ago, but today it is a flourishing movement. The politics in Russia are not the same as they are here in the United States. I respect the right of people to have their own opinion about what the state of Russian-U.S. relations should be, but our global conference was no clandestine cover for a Tom Clancy novel — it was a gathering of parents who are hopeful about the possibility of homeschooling their children. When you look at some other European countries that persecute homeschooling parents — like Germany, Sweden, and even Norway — Russia stands out as being more free for homeschooling than they are.
Our founder, Michael Farris, has always said, that “if we don’t defend these rights everywhere, we won’t have these rights anywhere.”
We think that homeschooling is a universal right that belongs to all parents everywhere. And it is our amazing privilege to help people in many countries from all over the globe realize their dreams and aspirations to freely choose home education so their children can thrive in the best educational environment possible.
Now that would be real progress, wouldn’t it?
If you’re thinking about homeschooling or would like to show that you support us — you can join here.