The Pink Elephant

When our families chose to homeschool, we selected a lifestyle that runs against the typical societal grain.  While living and protecting that life of a small minority, we also learned to ask questions of everything put in front of us that could contend with our families' lives.  There have been some questions about  self-appointed spokesmen touting their multi-issue agendas within our hugely diverse Illinois homeschool community.  Terri Koyne has been thinking about the potential problems for homeschoolers and has expressed her concerns below:

Submitted by Terri Koyne – Macoupin County Homeschooling Mom

The Pink Elephant

I have been doing a lot of thinking since Thursday, and I may get rode out of town on a rail here, but I think the pink elephant in the room needs to be addressed. I am very, very concerned about those who are claiming to have a seat at the table with Senator Maloney, to be speaking on the behalf of all home schooling families in this state. Listening to that 2 hour interview Thursday* only confirmed my fears. I will admit, I am uncomfortable with IFI, ICHE, HSLDA, or even HOUSE representing my interest in any talks or negotiations in the scope of home schooling. David Smith proved Thursday that home schooling rights of parents is not IFI’s main focus. I feel that those rights will be lost in IFI’s agenda at that table.

Mr. Smith was given a perfect opportunity Thursday to take a firm stand against the registration/regulation of all home school students; to speak about SB 136 and what it meant for all home school students; to educate people on how these tactics have been implemented in other states and the effect that it had on homeschoolers in those other states. He chose not to do this. Instead, he and Laurie Higgins chose to spend a whole hour addressing IFI’s stand against homosexuality and liberal propaganda in the public school system. Quite frankly, it left me yelling at my computer “WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH REGISTERING/REGULATING HOMESCHOOLERS IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS?!” Was he there to speak about the threat hanging over the head of every homeschooling family in Illinois or to further IFI’s agenda? This led me to do some digging and I am frightened by what I found:

IFI is on a national list of hate groups? Of course I understand who drew up that list and I support IFI’s right to speak out for or against any issue they choose to, but the fact of the matter is that this is an “honor” which our opponents can throw out in front of the liberal media to bury us with. The last thing that we need is to be further labeled as a bunch of hateful, religious zealots who are “sheltering our children” (David Smith said something similar to this in that interview, btw) from the real world. They seemed unable to stay on track and focus on the rights of homeschooling throughout that interview. The fact that David Smith has bragged about knowing Senator Maloney personally (they shared office space before David started with IFI) and is working in secret with Maloney doesn’t instill a lot of my trust in him. IFI is heavily involved in a number of hot-button social issues. (I happen to agree with most of those stances.) To their followers, this is fine, but to others who do not share their beliefs, like a number of Democrat Legislators, it is not. Will they take the time to focus only on the home school issue? The fact that they could not give an interview on the subject of homeschooling without sidetracking the conversation for an entire hour to their anti-gay agenda instills very little of my confidence in this group’s ability to represent all home schooling families.

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. I was fighting with them tooth and nail the entire two weeks leading up to the hearing. Despite the fact that I sent them emails from State Senators urging us to contact every member on the Education Committee, regardless of where you live, HSLDA maintained their position that only those who lived in their district should contact them. Furthermore, they discouraged people outside of Maloney’s district to contact him and from contacting their own State Senators if they were not on that committee. I can only say thankfully a large number of people either didn’t get the message or chose to ignore it! Did Scott Woodruff deliver a good testimony during that hearing? From all that I have heard, I think it was adequate. The thing that truly concerns me is the fact that they are still telling their members that this is over, we won, it is time celebrate. They, along with IFI, ICHE, and HOUSE are intentionally discouraging people from remaining active in this fight. Why are they doing this? While I was digging on the internet, I found a couple of interesting articles with HSLDA as the subject. One that I found similar to our situation is this one: http://reliableanswers.com/hs/law/honda_hslda.asp. This well written and thought-out blog entry about HSLDA’s involvement with the HoNDA legislation definitely made me stop and think: http://homeschoolcommunity.blogspot.com/.

According to this, they were brokering a deal to make themselves the main entity to issue “home school diplomas”, diplomas that would be required for anyone who was home schooled entering the military. Some of the other things that I read, tying HLSDA with the military, if true, were very troubling.

ICHE is another matter. While I don’t agree with their religious doctrine or theology, I will support their right to practice any religion they choose to practice. Are they willing to say the same of others? Would they fight as hard for Catholic families as they do for their member churches? I get very uneasy when one group of Christians decides that another group of Christians is not Christian enough. Does anyone have any idea of just how many members this group has? I can only find 700 or so on their Facebook page. Even at 3,000 students, that is still only around 5% of the estimated home schooled students in this state. Very presumptuous of them to go and negotiate with Maloney on behalf of every home schooling family in the state, the majority of which do not follow their religious doctrine. Their idea of “true home schooling” scares me. I know that my family and I certainly do not qualify as “Christian” or “Godly” under their interpretation of the Scripture. I think I would be less afraid to stand before Christ Himself and answer for the way I live my life, rather than to have to stand before one of their board of elders. That is the true beauty of the freedom in living under the blood of Christ rather than under the laws of man. Sorry, I digress. HOUSE was the one group that I had no knowledge of until the hearing. I have been home schooling for 12 years and this was the first that I had ever heard of them. I will say that a comment made by Dorothy Werner concerns me; she thinks that the truancy laws need to be more stringent. More stringent for whom? Also they state on their website that daytime curfews are “there to protect us, not to threaten us.” What? They go on to advise that children carry a home school I.D. card and cell phone in case they are stopped and questioned by the police. Well, why don’t we just sew big red “H”s on our children’s jackets to avoid having them stopped and questioned at all?! I just recently fought down a daytime curfew in our county seat. This was a bad law and it was meant to protect no one; only to give more power and authority to the ROE and local police. There was no exemption for home schooled students. None. So carrying an I.D. would have done little good in keeping my children from being charged with a petty offense and fined up to $100 for being in public, even on the roadways, during school hours. Even with an exemption, once these new daytime curfews and new truancy laws are put into place, our children can be stopped and question, often being presumed guilty until proven innocent. This is one very important issue that I vehemently disagree with HOUSE on.

IFI, ICHE and HLSDA seem to be working in unison to monopolize this whole process. As my papa used to say, “They are like a bucket of snakes. You reach in to pull one out and they are so inter-twined that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.” All three of these groups have a highly religious agenda and that deeply concerns me. What concerns me even more about these three groups is that they seem to require a blind loyalty from their members, without question.

Most homeschoolers are independent and the range of reasons that they choose to home school is endless. The majority of people do not choose to home school for religious reasons, and yet here we have 3 very religious organizations pushing their way to the table to negotiate with the enemy. And yes, I do consider Senator Maloney and his like the enemy. They are hoping to turn him into the homeschooler’s biggest ally in Springfield? That shows a political naiveté that should exclude them from even being at the negotiation table. What is the purpose of these meetings anyway? There is NOTHING to negotiate. What are they hoping to get out of these meetings? Maybe something along the lines of what Julie Kleinke Durr has proposed; to set up a governing board, a non-education board as other states have, to oversee regulations imposed on homeschoolers by the State of Illinois, with them having guaranteed seats of authority on the board? Remember, they have already appointed themselvs the leaders of homeschooling in Illinois. One of the Senators at the hearing assumed that HSLDA knew where all the homeschoolers in Illinois were. Of course, when you set yourself up as the representative for an entire community, I can understand how she could have easily made that assumption. Really, is this what we are fighting for? To answer to some other authority on how we are allowed to educate our children? To report to them? To have them approve which curriculum can be used? Or maybe to decide what qualifies a parent to educate their own children? Is a board made up of IFI, HSLDA, ICHE and HOUSE members a better alternative to answering to the State Board of Education or the ROE? I am sure to their 2000-3000 members it would be. Why would they mind, they are already under their authority. However, I don’t think that the other 12,000 to 20,000 homeschooling families would think it any different than answering to the government. I am willing to wager that most who do not share these groups’ theology would rather be put under the authority of the government if given a choice.

I will sum this all up. What is the true agenda of IFI, HSLDA, and ICHE? Is it to fight registration/regulation/restrictions on homeschoolers in this state or to furthering their own agendas? I think it is a fair question, especially after hearing that interview, receiving their emails (all three sending out basically the same exact email to counter the Illinois Homeschool PAC and its efforts and then to encourage each of their members to join the two sister groups), and seeing how they manipulated the circumstances to put only themselves and their spokespeople on the front row at the education hearing. I have to ask again, what is there to negotiate with Maloney about? I would like to ask those at IFI if any of them are okay with testing home schooling students. I would like to ask the folks at HOUSE if any of them are okay with imposing daytime curfew on all Illinois homeschoolers to help the public schools reign in their dropouts and truants. Should our home schooling students have their freedoms limited because Regional Superintendents and Truant Officers are incapable of doing the job they are being paid to do? I would like to ask the attorneys at HSLDA if they will protect the rights of those parents who choose to unschool their children and also would they waive their fees for members in Illinois for 2 years after any deal they broker goes into effect? I would like to ask those in authority at ICHE if they can leave their religious beliefs out of the meetings. Will they be able to respect an atheist’s right to home school? How about a gay couple’s? Remember, these are the people who put themselves in a place to negotiate for all of us. Now back to the pink elephant I spoke of before. Who exactly decided that these handful of organizations where the homeschooling “leaders” or “experts” and had the right to speak on everyone’s behalf? And even though these organizations are highly respected by their members, will they be able to represent all the homeschooling families equally; without prejudice and without judging and forsaking those who do not share their religious beliefs? Will they admit that they are the minority in the homeschooling community in this state? Will they only focus on the home school issue and be willing to leave their groups’ agendas at the door? Will they agree to be transparent, open and honest with everyone who could be affected by their actions, not just their groups’ members? Will they publically announce who will be representing them in these meetings with Maloney and give the public their bios so that all parties can let it be known whether or not these organizations are representing them? Will they let the public know when and where these meetings will be held? Out of respect for every homeschooling parent throughout this state, I hope that they will do all the above.


Comments

The Pink Elephant — 1 Comment

  1. Hi Terry
    I looked up HOUSE website and from the looks of their website, I think they may be an inclusive group, not exclusively Christian.  Additionally, I am not a member of HSLDA (because I don't need anyone representing my family EXCEPT an attorney when necessary!), but I looked all over their website and could not find a mission statement of faith, unless it's on the application itself, which for some reason I am unable to download.  I did find quips from Catholic HS sites supporting HSLDA.  So perhaps they've changed some to portray some inclusion. 
    I have the same concerns of large groups 'representing homeschoolers", aka 'me' and try to keep a close eye on everyone.  I called ICHE the day after the hearing, when ICHE sent out an alert to keep calling; I told them I looked on Il.gov and saw that the bill had been tabled.  It took two hours for them to send out another alert stating NOT to call, the bill had been tabled.  I did not realize that HSLDA sent alerts to leave things be while they work with the senator.  Hmmmm
    Could you send the link of the two hour video you referenced?  I'd like to listen to it – thanks so much for your insightful thoughts.  I think its great that 'down home' Illinoisians are forming the PAC – Rock on!

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