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I Remember Chris Klicka

By Mary Pride
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #90, 2009.

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Mary Pride

A great warrior for homeschoolers has gone to his eternal reward. I am speaking of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka, who passed away on October 12.

Chris is an example of someone who accomplished amazing things, while struggling for years against difficulties which would have caused many others to simply give up.

For the last 15 years of his life, Chris fought an unending battle against adult-onset Multiple Sclerosis. While getting progressively weaker, he continued to:

  • Promote changes in the law to benefit homeschoolers
  • Travel widely to speak at homeschool conventions
  • Help new groups start in countries outside the USA
  • Write books encouraging homeschooling
  • Defend the rights of American homeschoolers through his daily casework with HSLDA

I began to know Chris, and his work, better when he started writing a regular column for Practical Homeschooling, back in 1999. We had many long conversations that ranged from the state of the world to discussions of how his latest treatments were working.

Chris Klicka and some family members in Niagara Falls, New York, 2008
Chris's first column for us, in PHS #30, was also the subject of his last column, in PHS #70: the status of homeschool grads who want to serve in the military. His first column explained how Chris was able to get Congress to add an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. The bill created a five-year pilot project automatically placing homeschool recruits (who formerly had been placed in the same class as high-school dropouts) into preferred Tier I status. Each of the four armed services (Marines, Navy, Army, and Air Force) were required to allow up to 1,250 homeschool diploma recipients to be considered under the Tier I status.

By 2006, the year of Chris's last "military service" column, he had managed to get the "pilot" program enacted into ongoing law and Department of Defense practice. In that year, Chris and J. Michael Smith (head of HSLDA) were able to meet with the Assistant Secretary of Defense and a few other Pentagon officials. Chris recalled, "We came to the meeting in the midst of a rain storm. In spite of being soaked to the skin, we hammered out a solution. As a result, in January 2005, the Department of Defense issued a letter stating that homeschoolers were considered 'preferred enlistees' and that there were no 'practical limits' to the numbers of homeschoolers who could obtain entrance into the armed services."

I personally have Chris (and HSLDA) to thank for my son, Joseph, being able to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. And that was only one of the many areas in which Chris was instrumental in removing barriers for homeschoolers. As J. Michael Smith wrote in a Washington Times op-ed:

    [Chris] lobbied Congress on behalf of homeschoolers to level the playing field in the military, colleges and universities; as well as issues regarding educational grants and benefits, Social Security, and veterans benefits. Through his advocacy, homeschoolers were exempted from requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that could have allowed the federal government to regulate homeschooling. . . . He helped write legislation that amended the Child Abuse and Protection and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to establish the rights of parents and guardians. . . . He also persuaded Congress to require that all social workers and police officers be trained on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. . . . No one individual has done more to bring about the freedom to homeschool in the United States and around the world.

Although Chris was only 48 when he died, he accomplished more, under harsher conditions, than would normally be expected from a dozen people—even assuming they were all lawyers and writers!

Much of the credit for Chris's accomplishments must go to his wife, Tracy, who with him has helped raise their seven homeschooled children, while herself facing serious health challenges. Our thanks to you, Tracy and the Klicka children, for all the love and support you gave Chris, which he then passed on to the entire homeschool movement.

Mary Pride is the publisher of Practical Homeschooling.

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