History of Homeschooling
The history of homeschooling in the United States shows us two main reasons for its development. In our early history, there were no schools in many areas, so families and churches often provided education. This is still the case today for some families that live in remote areas. Secondly, a significant surge in homeschooling also took place after the 1960′s when public schools transitioned to secularism.
“Homeschooling” has somewhat of a broad meaning today, but the main definition is still “to have children complete their education at home instead of sending them out of the home for their education”.
Here is a brief history of homeschooling. Before there was compulsory education in the U.S., most people relied on family and churches to provide education. Although schools began appearing in populated areas in the 1700′s, they were almost always church schools. All early colleges were designed to train ministers. In 1852, Massachusetts copied the Prussian model of compulsory education, which spread eventually to all other states by 1917. Some Americans protested the idea of copying the Prussian system, because Prussia intentionally designed the structure to manipulate their masses. Around 1960, another wave of protests developed because of the systematic secularization of public education. This initiated a resurgence of homeschooling and church schools.
The current movement of homeschooling began with people that had the religious conviction that parents were the ones responsible for training their children. Initially, homeschooling was illegal in most states, because of the language of compulsory school laws. With the onslaught of secularization in public schools, many parents felt they were not fulfilling their parental responsibilities by allowing their children to learn in a system that undermined their beliefs. In 1962, school prayer was banned in the United States. The next year, all religious activities were prohibited. In less than ten years, the theory of evolution replaced almost all references to a “Created” universe, which many believe undermined the belief in God. The posting of the “Ten Commandments” in the classroom was also prohibited. Even in recent years, some social science textbooks that do cover religion often give much more space to other religions beside Christianity. It became clearer through time that First Amendment rights were being violated by forcing students to be indoctrinated in a system void of God. Parents that had a religious conviction, not a religious preference, began legally qualifying to homeschool. See Christian Homeschool.
For most parents and children of the last generation, it was very difficult to homeschool. It was not socially acceptable. Curricula options were limited. Parents had the intimidating task of registering with their school district, sometimes having to wait for the local board of education to review their annual request. Homeschool students would have to take tests in unfamiliar environments. Homeschool graduates would have to take a G.E.D., because the military would not allow them to enlist otherwise. College entrance was much more difficult. Some states required special monitoring if the student’s annual achievement test score was below the 50 percentile for the state, even though it didn’t require the same procedure for half the state’s students in the public schools.
Today, parents enjoy much more freedom to homeschool than the last generation’s history of homeschooling. It is now more socially acceptable. There are several high quality individualized curricula to choose from that allow parents to offer a quality education in all levels and subjects from home. Registering with the local school district has become much easier and accepted. Colleges and the military have restructured for homeschoolers. See Homeschools Strengths on this site.
The fastest growing homeschool option is enrolling in an online or distance education school. Technology and individual school experience have helped improve the success of distance or online schooling. The homeschool family can benefit greatly from being enrolled in an accredited school in case the student should ever transfer to a campus-based school. It can also help alleviate state registration requirements in some states. Just because the program is accredited, parents do not have to compromise Christian and other values. The school normally maintains records for the family, which frees up parent time and ensures school from home requirements are met. Often the school provides online achievement testing to measure annual progress, so the parent knows if the online school structure is successful. It also helps meet the testing requirement in many states. Most online schools provide initial diagnostic testing when enrolling to find learning gaps, so a customized curriculum can repair academic holes. Most schools provide some level of teacher support or a teacher on call, so the student can receive assistance for any level of subject when needed. A teacher feature can also cover all the subjective scoring that a computer cannot do, so the parent’s time is greatly freed up. An online school can better protect the student’s continued progress if the parent becomes unexpectedly busy or ill.
An online Christian school is obviously an advantage over other options. Even though it seems unlikely to ever be a problem the way homeschooling has trended, online Christian schools are still mainly protected by the First Amendment freedom of religion covering. Because the First Amendment right protects the ability to school from home due to religious conviction, a biblical program would help prove a religious conviction much easier than a secular program. See Christian Homeschool. Although many people homeschool as a preference, benefit, avoidance of negative influences in campus schools, and convenience, the First Amendment is the law that protects the right to homeschool.
Since becoming socially acceptable, many homeschool programs are receiving a large percentage of applications from academic and behavior problem students. This will create lower achievement test score averages, which could change how homeschooling and online school enrollment is viewed. There is an argument that these students were originally not functioning in the public school and need a longer period of time to repair for fair evaluation when completing school from home. With the other side of the argument, there are parents that are taking advantage of homeschooling for the wrong reason, and therefore the student’s success is doubtful. This situation is likely to bring some changes in how the government views homeschooling.
Currently in the United States, the current history of homeschooling shows it has gone from essential to controversial to essential. Will it go back to controversial in future versions of the history of homeschooling?