A Brief History of Homeschooling

The concept of homeschooling has roots in many ancient cultures and societies, where children were often educated at home by their parents or tutors. It even goes back to the beginning of time! In Deuteronomy 6, the Bible tells us “You shall teach [the words of God] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Parents were always expected to be the sole educators of their children. That duty was never passed off to those “more qualified” or “better equipped”.

The concept of a formal school system is relatively recent, compared to the long arc of human history.

In the United States, before the public school system was established in the mid-19th century, most children were educated at home or in small community schools that resembled what we would now call homeschooling. These early forms of education were often conducted in one-room schoolhouses where a single teacher would instruct children of varying ages and grade levels.

The rise of industrialization and urbanization in the 19th and 20th centuries led to the creation of a formalized public school system, designed to prepare large numbers of students for work in an industrial economy.

This system took education out of the home and centralized it in schools, and for a long time became the dominant form of education.

The modern homeschooling movement began to take shape in the late 20th century. In the 1960s and 1970s, educational reformers and critics began to challenge the one-size-fits-all approach of the public school system. These critics came from both ends of the political spectrum, but they shared a common belief that the public school system was not meeting the needs of all students.

John Holt, often considered the father of modern homeschooling, was one of these critics. Holt was an educational theorist who believed that children learn best when they are allowed to pursue their own interests rather than being forced into a rigid curriculum. In the 1970s, he began to advocate for parents to take control of their children’s education through homeschooling.

Another key figure was Raymond Moore, a former U.S. Department of Education employee who began advocating for homeschooling in the 1970s based on his research showing that early schooling was detrimental to children. His work, along with Holt’s, played a significant role in the growth of the homeschooling movement.

Ever heard of The Leeper Case?

In a nutshell, the trial that played a significant role in making homeschooling legal as private schools in Texas is often referred to as the Leeper Case. The Leeper family, led by parents Shelby and Vivian Leeper, faced legal challenges for homeschooling their children in the early 1980s. At the time, homeschooling was not explicitly recognized by Texas law, and the Leepers were accused of violating the state’s compulsory attendance laws.

The case went to court, and in 1985, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of the Leepers, establishing an important precedent for homeschooling in the state. The court held that homeschooling constituted a form of private education, and as long as the education provided was bona fide, the Leepers had the right to educate their children at home. This landmark decision provided legal recognition to homeschooling as a valid educational option in Texas, and it has since influenced homeschooling laws and regulations in other states as well.

Since then, homeschooling has grown significantly in popularity. Today, it is recognized as a legal option in all U.S. states, though regulations vary, and is practiced by families of many different backgrounds for many different reasons.

So while one-room schoolhouses and similar community-based education models may seem similar to homeschooling, the modern homeschooling movement is actually a response to the limitations and shortcomings of the formal, institutionalized school system. The number of homeschooling families has continued to grow, making it a significant educational choice for many American families.

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