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Giving Children Fresh Start After Storms

by J. Michael Smith, President, Home School Legal Defense Assoc

A flooded city is a horrible sight. It’s hard to comprehend that the instant the levees around New Orleans broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of lives were turned upside down, perhaps never to be the same again. And now Hurricane Rita has dealt the battered region yet another blow.

In the aftermath, grandparents, parents, singles, and children gradually have been putting their lives back together. But dealing with the displaced people has proven to be challenging. It has been especially difficult for children. Most children, in particular younger ones, look up to their parents and draw a sense of security from them. Hurricane Katrina washed that sense of security away. Right now, one of the priorities should be to return a sense of normality to the lives of children.

Everyone agrees the children need to continue their education. But more than 700 schools in Louisiana and Mississippi are closed or destroyed, which has led to the displacement of 372,000 children, and even more were affected by Rita.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings recently expressed her concern about how the displaced children will be educated and who will pay for it. I expect the tens of thousands of affected parents are wondering the same thing.

Opening private schools to public-schooled students has been proposed and certainly would help alleviate the situation, and the various government authorities will attempt to find places for all the children in the surrounding public schools. There’s no doubt it will take time to work out the details. In light of the pressing need, it may be time for parents to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for a government solution.

Educating children without a school building or administrative staff is exactly what hundreds of thousands of parents across the country do every day. Homeschool families are ideally positioned to help.
A few days after the hurricane struck, Home School Legal Defense Association, through the Home School Foundation, asked its members to focus on helping homeschoolers affected by the flood. More than 5,000 families from all parts of the country responded. We are in the process of trying to meet the needs of homeschoolers in the affected region who would like our help.

Parents who have been thinking about homeschooling may want to use this time as an opportunity to see whether homeschooling is right for them, particularly if their children are having difficulty adjusting to their new environment.

Temporary living arrangements are inherently unstable, especially when parents are seeking employment. A new job may be offered, but it could be in another part of the country. Parents also may end up traveling to different areas seeking work. It will be very difficult for children to regain that sense of security and stability in their lives if they are constantly on the move and shifting between school systems.

Moving around the state, country, or world is stressful for children. It is one of the reasons 10 percent of military families homeschool. Keeping a close bond between parent and child helps alleviate the inevitable shock of moving to different locations and cultures. The parents and the homeschool are the two things that remain constant. Homeschooling parents are willing to help any parent affected by the hurricanes to get started homeschooling. Parents can find help through state and local homeschooling organizations, which are listed on our website (

Fortunately, the states in the immediate area - - Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas -- do not have minimum teaching requirements to begin homeschooling. Any parent can take advantage of his or her right to direct the child’s education. Parents can refer to the HSLDA website for more information on the specific requirements in the various states.

Recovering from the tragedy will be a long-term project. But when the old has been washed away, it’s also a chance to begin something new. Many may find this is an ideal time to begin homeschooling.
Reprinted with permission from Home School Legal Defense Association’s January/February 2006 newsletter.
Maybe you’d like to know the latest homeschooling laws in your state, or you’re curious about how homeschoolers fare after high school ... or you just need some encouragement to meet the challenges of your dual roles as parent and educator. Home School Legal Defense Association provides information about legislation, homeschoolers’ performance and more at
You’re invited to start by visiting – take a couple of minutes to fill out the HSLDA survey, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your chance to win a camcorder, camera or a book by Lisa Whelchel, star of “The Facts of Life” on NBC from 1979 - 1988. After finishing the survey, you’ll see an introduction to the many resources on the HSLDA site ... or you can visit the site directly at
In addition to free information, HSLDA offers affordable memberships which supply:
• Full legal representation in court, should a homeschooling challenge arise.
• Email updates on current state and federal legislation.
• Discounts at the HSLDA bookstore.
• Partner discounts on services from auto insurance to school supplies.
• A subscription to the Home School Court Report – the definitive resource for homeschool legislative updates and HSLDA action.
Get to know HSLDA today – you’re invited to start at for your chance to win!

More From HSLDA-- a camcorder for your thoughts
HSLDA, Lisa Whelchel team up for survey contest

How often do you get a chance to win a camcorder or digital camera – and give your opinion too? That’s what you’ll find at ... the spring survey of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
HSLDA has teamed up with Lisa Whelchel, star of the popular 80’s NBC series “The Facts of Life,” to tell homeschoolers and those considering homeschooling they can help HSLDA serve them better ... and be entered for a drawing at the same time.

“Having a chance to win a camcorder, a camera or a helpful book that’s fun to read – that makes the survey fun,” says Suzanne Stephens, HSLDA’s director of communications. “It’s our way of saying ‘thanks’ for telling us how we can meet families’ needs better. And we’re thrilled to be working with Lisa. She has a wonderful ministry to moms and homeschoolers, an upbeat personality, a fascinating life and career story ... and she’s an HSLDA member too!”
For the prizes, HSLDA has partnered with and Focus on the Family Resources to give away 10 camcorders, 10 digital cameras and 50 books by Lisa Whelchel, So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling and Creative Correction.

HSLDA ( provides information & encouragement for homeschoolers in addition to defending homeschoolers’ rights with a spectrum of services, from educating officials on homeschool laws to providing free legal representation for members in court.■