The process of becoming a committed, all-or-nothing homeschool family started as a thought when my daughter was about two. That thought blossomed into a potential, which evolved into real possibility. Then we dipped our toes into home-based education to see how it may feel and finally we became fully immersed into this way of life. Ta-da!
However, if my parents had started that journey with me when I was a toddler their story would have been very different. For us, homeschooling is simply one of several academic options we get to choose from for our children. Thirty years it was a radical movement which was not seen as socially except able by most. Not to mention it was not a legal option for most parents. Perhaps you already know about the pilgrimage back to home-based education: maybe you lived it. I’m writing this post for those of you who may not know the roots of your educational freedom. Knowing that we can choose to homeschool without having to hide, pay fines, be arrested, move or fight in court makes me feel truly grateful everyday we have school.
Authors and speakers such as Sir Ken Robinson and John T Gatto gave me my first introduction to the history of education in the United States. More specfically, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was a resource for learning the details of how the battle to educate children at home was finally won. I’ll give you a cliff note version of the articles I’ve read so you can get a clearer (and very condensed) picture of just how lucky we really are.
First, a look at compulsory education. Mandatory education goes back to the Aztec’s in the 15th and 16th century. The first laws for compulsory education in the United States came from Massachusetts in 1812 and spread to other states over the next 100 years. States implemented the idea of compulsory education as a means of facilitating acclimation for immigrants, preventing child labor and eventually to create a more educated workforce. By 1917 education laws were established in each state but were not strongly enforced. Stronger enforcement came with the growth and expansion of industry in our country.
During the 1960s parents with more liberal views on child rearing began a movement towards home-based education. They had no legal backing for what they were doing and no resources to use. These families had to hide what they were doing to stay beneath the radar of truancy offices and administrators. Only 5 states had legal provisions for home-based education at that point. The consequences of the decision to educate at home could included being arrested, jailed or fined until your children were placed into the school system. John Holt was a leader for the parents of the early modern homeschool movement. Holt equated the experience of these hidden homeschoolers to the Underground Railroad. Eventually Holt produced the first periodical for the homeschool community, who up to this point had no real resources for their endeavor.
The 1970s brought a new view on homeschooling as Dr. Raymond Moore began advocating the health benefits of home education. Moore’s family had been educating children at home since the 1940s. Moore was eventually interviewed on the Evangelical radio show Focus on the Family. The result was a significant movement amongst conservatives towards home based education. This burst of attention from Evangelicals lead in the formation of HSLDA who began to provide legal defense for families choosing to home school. The right-wing and the left-wing were now united to fight for the same cause: homeschooling. HSLDA attributes the distinct diversity within the homeschool community to the success of this movement to legalize. Victory for many homeschoolers started in 1982 as several states adopted new laws to facilitate home-based education.
There is so much more to read about regarding the development of legal rights for homeschoolers. Much has happened since 1993, the year homeschooling finally became legalized in all 50 states. Many families, education professionals and organizations have passionately fought to make homeschooling the experience it is today.
I’ve spent the last week and a half looking at my 2017 calendar and making notes like: select math curriculum, trip to aquarium, homeschool convention, etc. And that is why I wrote this post. Not all so long ago I wouldn’t have had a support system like that, resources readily available, networks of people having conventions, or the ability to travel all across the country side having field trips during compulsory school hours without fear of being caught. I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to homeschool at a time when the modern homeschool movement is as strong and vibrant as it is. I am thankful. Very thankful.