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Homeschooling: Getting Started

Let’s Get Started!
An interview with Vicki Bentley

As long as there have been parents and children, “homeschooling” has been happening. It was only with the emergence of widespread compulsory public education that this age-old method of instruction was virtually forgotten, but not eradicated.1

Foreign service workers or missionaries who by choice or necessity did not send their children to boarding schools continued the tradition of home education. Children who had illnesses that kept them from attending school were frequently taught at home. And families who lived in the remote areas of Alaska or other isolated regions answered their children’s educational needs with homeschooling.

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Did You Know?

Today an estimated 1.6–2.0 million children are being taught at home by their parents.

— Brian Ray,
Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling,
Broadman & Holman, 2002, p.7.

On average, homeschool students in grades 1–4 perform one grade level higher than their public and private school counterparts.

By grade 8, the average homeschool student performs four grade levels above the national average.

Rudner, Figure 3.

The number of families choosing to homeschool grows at an estimated annual rate of 7–15 percent.

—Ray, p. 8.

In a web poll taken by 989 respondents, 49% said religious conviction is the main reason they continue homeschooling; 15% positive social environment; 14% academic excellence; 12% specific needs of child; 5% curriculum choice; and 5% flexibility. 79% of respondents were HSLDA members; 21% were not.

—HSLDA web poll, 5/22–5/29/02.

In the 1970s and ’80s, homeschooling experienced a renaissance as a few parents began to question whether the public education system or existing private schools were right for their individual child. They wondered if they might be able to do a better job.

And what do you know? Parents discovered they could do a great job. They told two friends who told two friends and so on. The modern homeschooling movement was born.

It wasn’t entirely that simple, of course. The early days were rocky.

There were few curriculum suppliers who would sell to homeschoolers.

Teachers considered themselves experts. What made these parents think they could teach their own children?

While few states specifically prohibited homeschooling, legislators and school officials acted as if they had. Homeschooling parents faced threats of jail time and having their children removed from their home. Some were arrested. Many were taken to court.

Parents were confronted by concerned neighbors, worried friends, and aghast relatives—all of whom were sure that the homeschooling mom and dad were ruining their children’s lives and dooming them to an unproductive future of illiteracy and isolation.

But those early homeschoolers hung tough. They fought the court battles. They went to the library and crafted their own curricula. And they quietly continued teaching, letting their children’s achievement answer the charges of their fiercest critics.


1. Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance law in 1852; by 1918 all states had enacted similar legislation.

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