April 1, 2004

Homeowners Association Threatens California Homeschoolers

HSLDA members John and Sandy Astin (names changed) chose to live in an upscale, gated community in Southern California for the safety and comfort it would afford them and their children. They never imagined that their Homeowners Association would threaten their ability to homeschool their children.

The Astins homeschool two of their own children. They also work together with other homeschoolers to ensure that their children are getting the best education possible. Twice a week, Sandy takes her children to a friend's home to be tutored in science, and returns the favor by having her friend's two children visit her home to tutor them in history.

Apparently, some nosy neighbors believed that the Astins were violating the policies of the Homeowners Association by running a school out of their home.

The Astins received a letter from the Association's expensive Los Angeles law firm accusing them of schooling "numerous children" in their home and of violating the Association's covenants by using their home for "non-residential" purposes. The letter demanded that the Astins "cease operating a home schooling program" in their home by March 12, 2004. The letter threatened fines and possible court action.

The family called HSLDA. J. Michael Smith, HSLDA President and California attorney, wrote a letter to set the Association straight.

"Because homeschooling differs significantly from more traditional forms of education, homeschooling families have been misunderstood—even targeted—because their children are at home when other children are away at school," Smith wrote.

He further explained that it is common for homeschooling families to play together and to share some teaching responsibilities. "Homeschooling families tend to associate with other homeschooling families because of the flexibility homeschooling affords and because of shared values and goals. By no reasonable interpretation could such visits be interpreted as converting a home to a non-residential use."

Smith concluded his letter by noting that the twisted logic being used against the Astins could be used in other ways as well.

"If parents were to send their children to a traditional school and then invite other children to their home to do homework together for three or four hours per week," Smith said, "that would not convert the home to a non-residential use any more than adults who invite friends over for dinner and drinks would convert a home to a non-residential bar-and-grill."

On March 17, 2004, the Association's lawyers responded to Smith's letter and conceded that the Astins had not converted their home to a non-residential use.