Idaho Homeschool History
Did you know that the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of education? It set forth no guidelines on how American children should be educated. Apparently, the founding fathers left it up to individual states, churches and parents to best determine how their children were to be schooled. It turns out that this system worked quite well, creating a highly literate society, that could read the King James Bible, and which could write The Federalist Papers.
In fact, homeschooling was quite common until the late 19th century. Things began to change once states began passing compulsory attendance laws. In 1852 Massachusetts passed such a law to ensure that poor immigrant children would be “civilized” so that they did not contribute to social upheaval.
With the passage of the Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1965, public schools gained access to nearly unlimited funding from the US Treasury. The US Department of Education was formed during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Meanwhile, parents were quietly educating their children at home. Many of them began to see that public schools were increasingly becoming instruments of social change, rather than institutions devoted to learning.
As long as there have been children and parents, homeschooling has existed. In the 1970’s and 80’s homeschooling experienced a renaissance as parents began to question whether or not the existing school options were right for their children.
In 1972, Harper’s magazine published an article by Dr. Raymond Moore responding to California’s attempt to lower the compulsory attendance age to 2 years, nine months. The article was also published by Reader’s Digest, which was so popular that the editor’s called for a book.
His books, Better Late than Early, and School Can Wait, answered that request. They have been called “the books that launched the modern homeschool movement.” Dr. James Dobson liked the books so much that he interviewed Dr. Moore on a Focus on the Family broadcast in the early 1980’s. Many early homeschooling pioneers credit providentially hearing this broadcast causing them to make the decision to educate their children at home.
Also, in the 1970’s an educator by the name of John Holt began to challenge the idea that public schools were the best places for children to learn. This prolific author wrote books such as, How Children Fail, How Children Learn, The Underachieving School, and many more, including the classic, Teach Your Own. His writings encouraged the fledgling homeschool movement.
Slowly but surely, the idea of homeschooling began to take off, but the road ahead was not always an easy one. In the early days of homeschooling, there were very few curriculum options available to parents. And by very few, I mean none. Eventually a few Christian textbook publishers began selling their books to homeschooling families. A few brave souls even began writing their own homeschool books, which later became classics such as Five in a Row, and KONOS Character Curriculum.
While few states specifically prohibited homeschooling, legislators and school officials acted as if they had. After all, teachers went to college to learn how to teach, and what made these parents think that they had what it takes to educate their children?
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. No one knew whether or not homeschool graduates would be able to attend college.
But those pioneers were determined, and by God’s grace they stood fast.
In our next installment, we will talk about three Idaho families who made an enormous sacrifice. Read Part Two here.