Idaho Homeschool History, Part Sixteen

Idaho Homeschool History
Part Sixteen
The Golden Age

33-202 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY … a parent or guardian shall either cause the child to be privately instructed by, or at the direction of, his parent or guardian; or enrolled in a public school or public charter school, including an online or virtual charter school or private or parochial school…


In 2009, the passage of new language in Idaho Code 33-202 gave Idaho the best homeschool law in the nation, and thus the world!  By working with the Department of Health & Welfare in 2010, we established reasonable guidelines for investigating allegations of educational neglect. An Idaho Parental Rights Statute was added to the Idaho Code in 2015.


This Triple Crown of blessing provides Idaho home educators with unprecedented freedom. The three organizations most responsible, the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators (ICHE), Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State (CHOIS), and Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), worked tirelessly for over twenty-five years to achieve this pinnacle of freedom.


What now?


As the leaders of these great organizations move into retirement, and early home educators graduate their last students, what frontiers are left for newer, younger home educating parents to explore?


Speaking as one of the mature leaders, I am tempted to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s response to the woman who inquired about what form of government the Constitutional Convention had established. “We have given you freedom, if you can keep it.” 


I am reminded of the wise words of the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan who warned, “Freedom is a fragile thing. It 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 have never known it again.”


In 1776, Alexander Fraser Tytler, a European professor and historian, published a book called The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic. He made some very significant points about freedom that are worth noting.


He stated, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations progressed in this sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith,

From spiritual faith to great courage,

From courage to liberty,

From liberty to abundance,

From abundance to selfishness,

From selfishness to complacency,

From complacency to apathy,

From apathy to dependency,

From dependency back again to bondage.”


If we were to apply this same logic to our own freedom movement, Idaho homeschoolers in 1982 were literally in bondage, jailed for the crime of daring to educate their children at home. Those brave families had plenty of spiritual faith and they needed that firm foundation when the ground beneath their feet began to wobble.


I appreciate the sacrifices those early homeschooling families made so that I could be free to homeschool my children! I recognize their courage, and I question whether I would have been able to call forth as much courage under similar circumstances.


I enjoyed the abundance of liberty that was purchased for me at great expense. It was wonderful to have the freedom to educate my children without having anyone from the government looking over my shoulder!  I want my children to enjoy this same freedom when they homeschool their children.


HSLDA President, Michael Smith wrote an article about this freedom cycle several years ago, and I have his permission to share a portion of what he wrote here.


“The reality is that a large majority of the early pioneering homeschool families were motivate by their desire to have their children receive a Christian education.  They did not want to subject their children to a secular public education. This caused them to resist the government and risk going to jail and or losing custody of their children.


It took great courage to homeschool.  Not only was one risking the power of the state to jail and significantly disrupt the family, but they also met opposition from family members, church members, and even well-meaning friends.  Family members were reporting them to CPS and public school truancy offices for failing to send their children to school.  These families were accused of isolating their children with the implication that they were ruining their children’s lives forever.  And accusations that their children would be uneducated, ill-equipped to be able to succeed as an adult.




Liberty has come as the tide turned in the 90’s when over thirty states passed new laws, recognizing the freedom to homeschool in some form, in every state.  There have been no roll-backs of freedom in any state.  HSLDA and the homeschooling community continues to work in the legislatures to lessen the red tape that mires moms down in bookkeeping and paper work.


The homeschool movement has truly been blessed. From the meager beginnings in the late 70’s and early 80’s of just a few homeschool families here and there, there are now close to 2,000,000 families homeschooling in the U.S., representing anywhere from 6-8% of the school age children nationwide. There are enough people homeschooling nationwide that if we had to take over Hawaii, and many other states, to preserve our freedom, we could do so.


God has abundantly blessed the movement so that we can demonstrate that home educated children test much higher than their public and private school counterparts, and that they are much better socialized as well as indicated by their participation in their community and in the political realm of our society.


Unfortunately, complacency and apathy are the next stages in the liberty cycle. It is human nature to want to take it easy and have life easy rather than hard. The pioneer spirit that made America great still exists, but in pockets. Most of our people have fallen into the trap of believing that they are entitled to something from the government other than things that the government should be legitimately providing to its citizens. In polls, most Americans indicate they would sacrifice liberty for security and the security they are especially looking for is financial support from birth to death. The reality is that a nation’s population that continues to rely on the government for education, healthcare, early childhood babysitting and old-age support will ultimately become financial and morally bankrupt.


But what about the homeschool movement? Where are we? Have we moved from abundance to complacency and apathy?


There are some positives. Home education is still growing spiritually and in numbers. We continue to see large numbers of children leaving public schools and public schools will not be any better in the near future, if ever. We see more and more families attending conferences with children who are not even school age. They are preparing early for home education.


Gallop polls indicate that over 50% of citizens now see homeschooling as a viable, legitimate choice for parents to make for the education of their children.


More and more homeschoolers are now graduating and positively impacting our society, higher education, the job market, and the political realms. Thus, more people are being exposed to the success of homeschooling through positive testimonies.


Growth brings challenges. Many families that are now choosing homeschooling didn’t go through the liberty phase, the battle to appreciate who the enemy is, and the appreciation for the sacrifice it takes to gain our freedom. They can’t truly appreciate the sacrifices that were made to achieve that freedom. With this so-called new breed of homeschooler, we may lack the commitment to preserving the necessary freedom it takes to effectively homeschool.  The good news is that some of us were not any more informed and committed than the so-called new breed is today, when we started. We did not understand that we were being obedient to God’s mandate for education. When we decided to teach our children at home, we were simply meeting the needs of our children because we loved them.


There is hope if we have new homeschool families taking up the challenge that homeschooling will continue to grow and thrive. However, it will be incumbent upon the leaders in the homeschool movement to educate these new homeschoolers so they understand the value of freedom and the importance of fighting for it, especially as it applies to home education. Additionally, as they stay with homeschooling, in the good and bad times, they will get a vision for the long-term benefits for not only their family, but their children’s family and beyond.


There is a group of homeschoolers that I am concerned about. It is the group that does not recognize the need for liberty and freedom from government oversight of home education. They are certainly apathetic about that issue and they are new and veteran homeschoolers alike. They are becoming dependent upon the government to provide finances and security for their homeschool program.


The school choice movement is seeking to provide more opportunities for state and federally supported opportunities for students outside the public-school building. There are several varieties of programs that are being offered.  The ones most popular now are vouchers and education savings accounts.  They both accomplish the same purpose.  State taxpayer money is given to families to educate their children in private or homeschools.  These are very attractive, and typically come with very few strings attached in the beginning, but will inevitably bring regulation which will result in all homeschoolers being subject to the regulation whether accepting government benefits or not.


Public schools are getting into the act as well. They are offering public-school-at-home programs, sometimes called charter schools or virtual charter schools.  In this situation, the family’s educational expenses are covered as well as extracurricular activities.  In California, it’s possible that almost one-half of all home schooling is done under these public-school oversight programs.  The good news is that the public-school oversight, in many cases, is becoming so burdensome that some parents are choosing liberty by leaving these programs.


Plain and simple, these government funded programs bring dependency upon the state. The very thing that has made homeschooling successful, independence from the state, is being voluntarily given up. The public-school establishment has figured out that they can accomplish the two things they lost when students left the public school to homeschool: money and control. They receive a portion of the “average daily attendance” money that goes to the virtual charter school program. Secondly, they can begin to exercise the control over these students through testing and ultimately, curriculum content and certified teacher oversight.


The concern we all should have as we look at this sequence is dependency leads to bondage. Like the frog in the water, the water temperature is turned up incrementally and after a period, the frog is trapped without knowing what trapped it and without resolve or conviction to escape the trap.


Unfortunately, as we indicated previously, complacency and apathy leading to dependency is our human nature. Those of us that have could come up through the bondage stage to the liberty stage have been blessed because we aren’t tempted by these programs. We like being free from the government looking over our shoulder and telling us how to educated our kids.  And we have made it without them up until now and results are really good.


What can we as homeschoolers do?


How do we reverse this trend? How can we address this natural tendency of our nature to become apathetic and dependent, leading to bondage?


We need to understand what we mean by liberty. The dictionary defines liberty as the condition of being free from restriction or control. The context of liberty for a Bible-believing Christian parent is to be able to raise my children in a way that does not restrict or control what I believe is best for them unless I’m abusing or neglecting my children.  Of course, that can be tricky as the state could define abuse and neglect in a way that violates my fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of my children. As citizens, we have an obligation to support our government, but resist in the areas where the government interferes with our God-given freedoms.


It is important to understand why liberty is important for home education. The reason liberty is so important in the homeschool context, is that it is gives us the opportunity to fashion an education that best meets the needs of the child.


When parents provide education at home, they can provide individualized education. Each child gets a separate education that is in the child’s best interest. This is the reason our children do better academically and socially. Government regulation always brings centralization and standardization. These two principles are counter-productive to education and to children’s wellbeing. This liberty that we’re fighting for is the liberty to do what is best for our families and our nation.  We that understand the importance of liberty, need to have a passion for liberty ourselves. It should radiate through our personality with a strong conviction as to the importance of liberty, translating into an ability to communicate the importance of liberty with passion.


And most importantly, we pray and live a godly life. We work hard to preserve liberty to the glory of God, but recognize that the results are up to Him. Unless He guards the city, the watchmen watch in vain. Unless the Lord builds the house, those that labor, labor in vain. We prepare the horses for battle, but God delivers the victory. It’s not by power, not by might, but by My Spirit sayeth the Lord.


If the homeschoolers will remain united on the importance of liberty for the movement.  And be committed enough to sacrifice to maintain it, homeschooling will be on earth when Jesus comes.”



Mike very eloquently expressed a relationship between homeschooling and the freedom cycle.


Yes, I know that there can be tremendous cost involved with home education. Yet, at the same time, I know that the price it requires is worth paying. As a retired homeschool mom with adult children, I can speak with authority when I say that it was worth every sacrifice; every penny spent, and every penny unearned as lost second income wages. I would do it all over again if I could, and I would probably do it with less expense, for I now know that many of the things I thought were necessary were really just bells and whistles.


Idaho homeschool families, I pray that you will remain resolute to maintain and advance the freedom that you have been given by the pioneer generation. And that you will fiercely fight to protect your liberty—the unimaginable gift that you’ve been given by the hand of God.


It will take tremendous courage to refuse financial enticements. It will take sacrifice. Please know that the cost of freedom is always high, for every generation and cause.  Stand firm Idaho! We may very well be the last free place on Earth.  

Committed to helping parents fulfill their God-given right and responsibility to educate their own children.