August 27, 2015 Statement by R.L. Stollar, Executive Director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out:
I am extraordinarily grateful to Jessica Huseman for the opportunity to be interviewed for her impressively researched ProPublica article, “Small Group Goes to Great Lengths to Block Homeschooling Regulation” (also republished by Slate as “The Frightening Power of the Home-Schooling Lobby”). As someone who was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school graduation and has spent the last two and a half years working to bring abuse and neglect within homeschooling to light, I appreciate Jessica, ProPublica, and Slate’s willingness to highlight these important matters.
I do, however, grieve the statements made by HSLDA and its founder, Michael Farris, in the article. Jessica writes, “When I spoke to Farris, he dismissed both organizations [HARO and the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, (CRHE)] outright, calling them ‘a group of bitter young people’ who are ‘fighting against homeschooling … to work out their own issues with their parents.'” It saddens me that Farris has not only resorted to personal insults, but insults he knows well are entirely false, simply to dismiss and ignore the growing numbers of voices from the movement he helped build. Several board members of HARO had personal relationships with Farris due to the homeschool speech and debate league he created through HSLDA. My father was even president of the league while Farris was on the league’s board.
My experience with homeschooling was positive and my relationship with my parents is better than it’s ever been. My parents (as well as many other homeschooling parents) support the work HARO does. And it is because of my positive homeschooling experience that I do the work I do — because I hope that every single future homeschooled child will have a positive experience like I did. Farris should be ashamed to knowingly spread falsehoods, and HSLDA and its other attorneys should demand more honesty from him.
Furthermore, HARO has attempted on several occasions to reach out to HSLDA only have doors slammed in our faces. It is HSLDA, not HARO, that refuses to help move the homeschooling movement forward in more healing, productive ways. It is HSLDA attorneys, not HARO board members, who engage in mockery. Thus when Farris says that HARO “will ‘say the opposite, no matter what we say,'” he is willfully misleading. He knows full well that HARO has offered to set aside our differences and partner with HSLDA; it is HSLDA that opposes HARO, no matter what we say.
A final important point of clarification regarding Jessica’s article: HARO advocates neither for nor against increased legislative oversight of homeschooling. On several occasions, Jessica’s article makes it sound as if part of HARO’s work involves promoting more homeschool regulations. This is untrue. That is the work of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), not the work of HARO. While both organizations were created by homeschool alumni, CRHE and HARO are distinct and separate. They share only one board member in common (me). CRHE advocates greater legislative oversight; HARO advocates for the wellbeing of homeschool students and improves homeschooling communities through awareness, peer support, and resource development.
HARO’s advocacy involves three strategies:
- Launching awareness and education campaigns within homeschooling communities on recognizing and addressing child abuse, mental illness, self-injury, and LGBT* students’ needs
- Building peer-support networks between homeschool students and homeschool graduates
- By developing resources for therapy, life coaching, education assistance, and financial support.
True to our organization’s vision of “Renewing and transforming homeschooling from within,” we promote changes from within homeschooling rather than changes from without (such as regulation). You can read more about HARO’s vision and mission here. HARO’s FAQs page also makes this clear: “HARO does not advocate for or against public policy. HARO advocates for awareness and education, peer support, and resource development from within homeschooling.”