This article is the second in a three-part series on HSLDA’s three core values.
Last time, I described our core value of Christlikeness. As followers of Christ at HSLDA, our team members work as if they were working directly for our Lord—everything we do is motivated by our gratitude to and love for God, love for those we serve, and passion for making homeschooling possible.
As we carry out our mission of making homeschooling possible, we want our staff to share the character traits of Jesus: serving each of our neighbors with honesty, integrity, excellence, empathy, grace, humility, generosity, good stewardship, and care.
In this issue, we’ll focus on another of our core values: Freedom and specifically the freedom to homeschool—the right or power for us as parents/guardians to choose the educational method and approach that we believe will best equip each of our children to thrive.
Free to teach
HSLDA began in 1983 with the goal of making home-schooling a legal option for families in every state. At that time, many states insisted that because their state education law did not explicitly authorize home education as an alternative to traditional schooling, it was not legal.
Other states’ laws recognized some educational alternatives but required those options to be equivalent or comparable to the public schools. Equivalency was often interpreted to mean the parent educator had to have a teacher’s certificate and/or a college degree. This meant many parents didn’t qualify.
All states allowed private schools as an alternative to public school attendance, however. So in some cases, we argued that the private school exemption could accommodate homeschooling.
The battle wasn’t easy, and in some states, it’s not even completely over. But today, in California, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, and Nebraska, homeschooling families teach their kids under their state’s private school exemption.
In other instances, homeschooling freedoms extend further: since 1983, at least 36 states have passed laws or regulations recognizing the right of parents to homeschool, with varying degrees of regulation. Five states—Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey, and Oklahoma—have expressly recognized homeschooling without new legislation or regulation.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: A more subtle way that homeschoolers can lose our freedom is by voluntarily giving it up. I recommend you read Jim Mason’s lead article in this Court Report where he covers this in detail.
Freedom is a fragile thing
Perhaps you are thinking, “Great, it’s legal to home-school in some way in every state—we have won the war on the freedom issue!”
Not so fast, my friend. Let me remind you of Ronald Reagan’s words: “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it will never know it again.”
Although Reagan was not talking specifically about homeschooling freedom, his conclusion applies to us as well.
Since the first appearance of modern homeschooling in the late 1970s, there have been—and continue to be—efforts by some in the public school establishment to regulate homeschooling.
From their point of view, there are two significant problems with homeschooling: (1) It threatens the amount of money that flows into the public school system, and (2) it threatens their control of the education of a significant part of the student population. Numerous times, public school officials have told me: “We have authority over the education of all children, including the homeschoolers.”
Some other voices opposed to homeschooling freedom come from the legal and academic elite. In law review articles and education journals, it’s not unusual to hear concerns expressed that homeschooling parents have too much independence in the education and raising of their children. These experts believe that parents who choose to homeschool intend to indoctrinate their children by not exposing their children to different cultures, religions, and viewpoints which a student in public school would encounter. One elitist has even gone so far as to argue that not only should home education be forbidden, but private schools should be as well.1
Homeschooled students make up 3–5% of the student population, compared to 90% of students who attend public schools. Because we are a minority, we must vigilantly pre-serve our homeschool freedom. Homeschooling succeeds, academically and otherwise, because our children are receiving an individualized education—no mandated curriculum, formulaic testing, or one-size-fits-all method of instruction.
This is the real genius of home education. We will always be a challenge to the securely-entrenched public school establishment and elitists, who want to see homeschoolers subject to ever-increasing government control. This is the real genius of home education. We will always be a challenge to the securely-entrenched public school establishment and elitists, who want to see homeschoolers subject to ever-increasing government control.
An ongoing challenge
Every year, we see attempts to rein back the freedom that homeschoolers have achieved over these last 40 years. Just this year, home-educating families in California, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Kentucky gathered together and prevented rollbacks of liberty in those states.
For example, a California bill proposed that home-schoolers homes would be subject to annual fire marshal inspections to check up on homeschooling children. This measure was defeated, but only after thousands of home-schoolers called, emailed, phoned, and visited their legislators, voicing opposition. When the California Assembly Education Committee convened a hearing, over 3,000 homeschoolers showed up. Over 1,300 testified against the bill. The committee refused to move the bill forward.
Whenever the next challenge to our freedom comes, I hope the homeschooling community will respond with unity and quick action just like the Californians did!
It’s also important that we teach our children the lessons of freedom—the backbone of the homeschool movement—and the responsibility of every family and generation to maintain that freedom.
The homeschool movement began as a grassroots movement. Parents across the U.S., without the impetus of a major leader or organization, went against the norm—and sometimes against the state—to homeschool. If we succeed in preserving our gift of freedom over the next 40 years, it will again depend on grassroots efforts. Let all of us—individual families, co-ops, support groups, state associations, and national organizations like HSLDA—stand strong together to preserve this great freedom we have today!'
1 Vander Hart, Shane. 2018. “Mary Mascher’s Lame Attempt to Ban Private Schools and Homeschooling.” Caffeinated Thoughts (blog), Iowa Politics. March 23, 2018.