Share this page:

The Washington Times
February 17, 1998

The Revolutionary Nature of Home Schooling

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
February 17, 1998

Thomas Paine had an extraordinary influence on the American Revolution with his pamphlet entitled “Common Sense.” A few years later, in “The Rights of Man,” Paine chronicled the course and significance of both the American and French revolutions.

Much of what Paine has to say in this second work is extremely pertinent to many of the political problems our nation faces today. There is no doubt that Paine would classify our current federal government as illegitimate and despotic by virtue of its practice of taxing the next generation through the device of a $5 trillion national debt.

But I would like to focus on a different theme in “The Rights of Man” and suggest a lesson in it for home schoolers. Paine wrote:

    So deeply rooted were all the governments of the Old World, and so effectually had the tyranny and antiquity of habit established itself over the mind, that no beginning could be made in Asia, Africa, or Europe, to reform the political condition of man. Freedom had to be hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear made men afraid to think.

    But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. The sun needs no inscription to distinguish him from the darkness; and no sooner did the American governments display themselves to the world, than despotism felt a shock, and man began to contemplate redress.

    The independence of America, considered merely as a separation from England, would have been a matter but of little importance, had it not been accompanied by a revolution in the principles and practices of government.

There are two lessons home schoolers can derive from this passage:

First, if our reasons for home schooling are merely a rejection of the public school practices of our day, what we are doing is of comparatively little importance. There had been many political revolutions before 1776, but they consisted merely of replacing one set of non-representative rulers with another.

Home-schoolers should choose this form of education not merely because a second-rate education is being offered by the local school, but because the paradigm of home-schooling is fundamentally more sound than institutional instruction. If we criticize sex education, the public school can make it optional. If we criticize look-say reading, the schools can return to phonics.

Home-schooling is not about rejecting particular current practices. It is a revolutionary restructuring brought about by the conviction that parents need to teach their children academic subjects because hidden inside all academic instruction is a value lesson. We home-school because we desire to impart our values to our children.

The second lesson runs parallel to Paine’s observations that freedom could not be found in the midst of the Old World; there had to be a fresh start on a new continent. Once America raised the standard of freedom, common men everywhere began to yearn for liberty.

Something similar is happening today. Around the world there is a deep conviction that something has gone terribly wrong, with the family disintegration. While many seem to understand that there is a problem, few seem to even purport to have a solution.

We are beginning to see glimmers of light reflected from the far corners of the world. Home-schoolers in South Africa have come to us for help. Two German families have appealed to Home School Legal Defense Association for help in stopping the repressive practices of their government. We have heard from families in Switzerland, France and Japan. I will be traveling to the Czech Republic in March to meet with government officials at the behest of Czech home-school pioneers.

When I hear from these far-flung families, the message is very familiar. Similar to American voices I heard 15 years ago, these families are saying, “We want a Christ-honoring and family-centered education. The government won’t let us have this.”

Why are they turning to American home schoolers for help? The light of a good example has shone so brightly that it is being recognized throughout the world.

I am all for the rights of any parent to direct the education of his or her children, and I will fight with vigor for equal rights for all “brands” of home-schoolers. As for me, I want home- schooling because it helps me lead my family to God.

Isn’t it thrilling that this message is blooming in hearts all over the world, in part because of our collective example? Keep shining.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at