Who Does HSLDA Represent?

HSLDA founder Michael Farris has claimed to speak for all homeschoolers by majority rule. But does HSLDA comprise a majority?

HSLDA’s Own Figures Indicate it Represents a Minority

“Using these [HSLDA‘s own 1994] figures, HSLDA represents between 12% and 15% of the homeschooling population.”-Mary McCarthy

According to the numbers cited in HSLDA‘s “Three-for-Free” letter [mailed in January, 2000], the organization “serves more than 62,000 member families. But we estimate there are 400,000 – 500,000 home schooling families nationwide.” This illustrates that HSLDA membership comprises only about 14% of homeshooling families.-Shay Seaborne

Something like 9 out of 10 homeschoolers are not members of HSLDA.” [emphasis added] – HSLDA attorney Scott W. Somerville, on the NHEN forum in the HR 2732 folder, August 22 2003.

Does HSLDA Represent YOU?

On September 23, 1999, HSLDA held a “Proclaim Liberty” rally in Washington, D.C. Attendees received a packet of literature, which they were encouraged to distribute to members of Congress. The materials included position papers describing “Why Home Schoolers Support”… “The Straight A’s Act” and “The Teacher Empowerment Act;” and copies of Issues Alerts indicating that “home schoolers” oppose to the Commerce Clause Provision of the Religious Liberty Protection Act and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The one titled, “Why Home Schoolers Support the Straight A’s Act” says, “We (implying homeschoolers, not HSLDA) support the Straight A’s Act because…” “Why Home Schoolers Support the Teacher Empowerment Act” contains within the text “Home Schoolers (again, not HSLDA, but “home schoolers”) see the NBPTS not only as ineffective but also as a threat to their freedom to home school.”

From the Issues Alerts, on National Center for Home Education letterhead: “home schoolers, who have proven themselves champions of religious freedom in their fight to win the right to home school, oppose the RLPA.” Again, it implies all homeschoolers, not HSLDA leaders or members. In Mr. Farris’ cover letter, there is no mention of HSLDA representing its members, and throughout it refers to “home schoolers,” even when presenting “our position” on issues that many homeschoolers do not necessarily agree with HSLDA— and might not even consider them as being homeschooling issues. Some of these are: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Religious Liberty Protection Act, the Straight A’s Act, and the Teacher Empowerment Act.

None of these materials included any effort to inform the reader that HSLDA speaks only for its members. Instead, they implied that all homeschoolers are in agreement with all HSLDA positions.

“We have no intention of changing our practices which we believe…make it clear that we are giving our opinion, but that it does not necessarily reflect the opinion of everyone.”

-Michael Farris
Mon, 14 Feb 2000

“The media and public think HSLDA speaks for homeschoolers… [because] there is no other real and visible national voice and face of homeschooling.”

– Will Shaw

“Generally speaking about 10% of our members face a serious legal threat of their right to home school from government in any given year.”

-Michael Farris
[E-mail letter to Holzmann, Tue, 21 Dec 1999 17:31:58]

“According to Mr. Farris’ statement of 12/21/99 and HSLDA‘s figures in the “Three-for-Free” letter, approximately 6,200 members of HSLDA faced “a serious legal threat to their right to home school” in 2000.

-Shay Seaborne

“How come we’ve only heard of a handful [of cases]?”

-Dave Mankins

How Many Members Does HSLDA Have?

According to Mary McCarthy:
The Home School Legal Defense Association does not disclose exact membership figures. The numbers cited by the organcation are vague, and information sometimes conflict. HSLDA apparently isn’t especially careful or truthful about the accuracy of the membership numbers it supplies.


In an April 1988 article by Alfie Kohn published in “Atlantic Monthly”, Michael Farris indicated HSLDA had 7,000 member families that year.


The “Encyclopedia of Associations” indicated that HSLDA had 10,500 members.


In “Where Do I Draw The Line?” – Mr. Farris’ 1992 book – he is credited as being the founder and President of HSLDA, “providing legal assistance to more than 15,000 home-schooling families.”

Also included in the April/May 1992 issue of The “Teaching Home Magazine” was an HSLDA application that indicated HSLDA had 20,000 members.


The Wall Street Journal printed an editorial about Michael Farris’ campaign for Lt. Governor of Virginia entitled “Republican Intolerance” in which it was indicated HSLDA had 30,000 member families.


The “Encyclopedia of Associations” indicated that HSLDA had 25,000 members in 1994 and 1995.

In June of 1994 “American Spectator Magazine” published an article by Grover Norquist (“Home Rule”) in which Michael Farris estimated “that there are between 700,000 and a million children currently being schooled at home by 250,000 to 300,000 families. Michael Farris’ group has 38,000 members who pay $100 in dues each year.” Using these figures, HSLDA represents between 12% and 15% of the homeschooling population.


Robert Holland’s book, “Not With My Child You Don’t,” included a section written by Michael Farris about the H.R. 6 incident. In Section 10-15 he states, “By the evening of February 16, 1994, ‘Urgent Alert’ letters had been mailed to HSLDA‘s entire membership list of 37,000 families.”

However, on page 401 of Christopher Klicka’s book “Home Schooling: the Right Choice“, also published in 1995, he indicated “HSLDA contacted homeschoolers from around the local area to descend upon the HSLDA offices in order to stuff the mailings to 40,000 members.”

Additionally, in the June 9, 1995 issue of Human Events Magazine, a profile of HSLDA indicated it had 37,500 members and a total of 1.5 million children in America taught at home.

On October 26, 1995, Michael Farris testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution. In his testimony he introduced himself as president of the “largest home schooling organization in the nation representing over 51,000 families.” However, it wasn’t until the Nov/Dec 1996 issue of Court Report that HSLDA claimed to welcome it’s 50,000-member family on September 10, 1996.


During testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law committee on February 12, 1998, Michael Farris indicated he was speaking on behalf of the 55,000 members of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He spoke in support of the Religious Fairness in Bankruptcy Court Act (HR 2611) which would protect churches from being sued and forced to return tithe money that had been donated by church members who subsequently file for bankruptcy.


Early in the year, HSLDA sent an undated letter to member families, outlining their ‘Three-for-free’ campaign. (Enroll 3 members and yours is free.) The letter indicated that “HSLDA serves more than 62,000 member families”.


Legal Mumbo Jumbo

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