The History of Homeschooling

Homeschooling is being practiced by many families today, despite the misconceptions about it. One of those is that homeschooled children will find it difficult to perform once they reach college. But did you know that for centuries, homeschooling was the only option for most people?

Before the law that requires school attendance in 1852 was introduced, children’s education took place at home. They are taught tasks such as working in the fields, making clothes, constructing homes, raising livestock, and so forth. It is because that time, practical skills are more needed to survive rather than a person’s ability to read and write. Though they were also taught how to read and write, but just the basic form of it, because when the fields and other household tasks demanded attention, the lessons were neglected.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the effectiveness of homeschooling was not in question. In fact, there are well-known people who are homeschooled. One of them was Thomas Edison who was taught by his mother. He actually attended only three months of elementary school. Other famous people who were homeschooled are Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Beatrix Potter, Charles Dickens, and John Wesley.

When the law on compulsory attendance became effective, people in America eventually relied on private and public schools for the education of their children. Only extreme rural families were left practicing homeschooling.

The Modern Day Home School

The modern-day homeschool movement started in the 1970s. An educational theorist and supporter of school reform named John Holt began arguing about formal schools focusing on rote learning had created an oppressive classroom environment designing children to be compliant employees. He called for the children’s parents to liberate them from formal education and follow a method called “unschooling” instead. His early followers connected through his newsletter called Growing Without Schooling, founded in 1977.

After the first homeschoolers were inspired by Holt’s arguments, his friend, which is an educational theorist named Raymond Moore, added to the argument that early schooling was detrimental to children. According to him, they should be schooled at home until the age of eight or nine to give them a firm educational, psychological, and moral foundation. He published a book in 1981 with the title Home Grown Kids. It became popular and it was usually the first book most of the homeschoolers read.

When Holt and Moore advocated homeschooling, it was legal in every state but was subject to varying regulations as well, and some of those were strict like parents are required to have teaching licenses in selected states. Early homeschoolers worked with their local school boards. They made sure to meet their standards and submit to them their home education plans. Whenever they meet problems, the organizations founded by Holt and Moore offered help in dealing with local officials and legal aid if needed.

The theme of homeschooling changed in the 1980s because new people joined the movement. They were evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who were involved in wars rhetoric about public schools as Satanic hothouses. These new homeschoolers were unwilling to cooperate with public schools because they saw it as evil. At this point, serious legal battles started as homeschoolers found themselves faced with uncooperative local public school officials. Some school officials also felt threatened by the rising population of homeschoolers. Because of all these issues, a head of one secular homeschooling group referred to the mid-1980s as the “look over your shoulder time”.

Homeschoolers turned to the state level from the local level as a response to the changed situation. They petitioned state legislatures to change laws for the accommodation of homeschooling. There were conflicts and arguments among homeschoolers because some are fine with standardized testing and submitting curriculum plans while others found those requirements unfair. In fact, there are many different stories behind the legalization of homeschooling. There are some states which saw the education policy change without the need for any legislative action. Some states only added a few words and sentences to their statutes and there were also others who composed and passed detailed homeschool orders. By 1989, the majority of the states had made peace with homeschoolers and only a few states were holding out at the beginning of the 1990s.

By 1990, homeschooling became inclined to conservative religious ideas and the Christian Right. Though Holt and Moore were the ones who founded the homeschool movement, their leadership did not last past the 1980s. In 1985, Holt passed away and Moore, on the other hand, found himself downgraded by the new homeschool leaders. They did not consider him “Christian” enough because he is a Seventh Day Adventist.

Religious and secular homeschoolers worked for hand in hand in forming local, state, and national organizations and as well as in fighting legal battles. However, their alliance began to break during the end of the 1980s. When 1990 came, Moore persuaded the homeschool community to stay united even though homeschool groups and organizations were increasingly Christians. They often require the signing of statements of faith and separating secular homeschoolers.

Michael Farris was the first among the new leaders of the homeschool movement. He’s a homeschool parent and attorney, and also the founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HDLA) back in 1983. It was one of the organizations engaged in legal efforts on behalf of homeschoolers to change state laws. In the 1990s, this organization made a name for itself because it brought about the end of the last remaining holdouts. In the mid-1990s, secular homeschool groups and organizations still existed but they were dominated by the political power and organizational strength of the HDLA.

Early homeschoolers were focused on their children’s liberation, allowing them to follow their interests. However, the new homeschool leaders have different goals and visions. They have created a vision that children would be homeschooled with the purpose of being launched into government, education, as well as the entertainment industry. They believed that this will transform the United States into a nation grounded in Christian beliefs. Some of the leaders even embraced the ideology that women should not attend college. Unlike early homeschoolers, the new homeschool leaders focused on properly training children, and they had also put more emphasis on religious ideology rather than on education.

Homeschooling continues to grow and it is now being seen as an acceptable alternative for education especially with the advancement of the internet. Today, some families chose to homeschool their children not just because of religious beliefs, but also because of other reasons such as the cases of bullying in schools, or the poor quality education in local schools.