children, getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

The History of Homeschooling

It’s not uncommon for me to hear or read a young homeschool mom complain about how bad the homeschool persecution is currently and how frustrating it is for them.

I think, if you’re going to homeschool, it would be helpful to know who went before you and what transpired to make homeschooling possible.

I’m going to refer to the movement back toward home education in the late 20th century as “the homeschool movement,” but the truth is it should be called the “neo-homeschool movement” or the “new homeschool movement” because, for most of history, homeschooling (where parents chose the education for their children) was normal. Although some opponents of education freedom claim everyone before compulsory school was poorly educated, that simply wasn’t the truth.

Today, it’s common to come across people who disagree with the homeschool movement. However, I was homeschooled back in the 80s when a disagreement was the least of our worries. My mom had to fight, argue, contend, petition to be granted the right to homeschool. In our area, homeschooling had to be approved by the local school district leader on a case-by-case basis. I was outside the office. I heard a lot of yelling. I’m not exactly sure what happened. I only know my mom came out the winner.

Neighbor kids weren’t allowed to play with us because we homeschooled.

People called truancy officers and DHS on us.

We worried about police showing up at our house.

We couldn’t even leave our house between 8 and 3 for a long time.

It is frustrating when people are close-minded today, but not nearly as bad as when no one had even heard of homeschooling.

Pioneer homeschoolers even went to jail for pulling their kids out of school. People often think I’m joking when I say that: I’m not joking or exaggerating.

After compulsory schooling became the enforced norm in the early 1900s, it became illegal in many states to opt out of conventional schooling even if it was with a parent’s approval. That included homeschooling.

Starting in about 1965 the homeschool movement slowly gained popularity. Very few people homeschooled in the 60s. In the early 1980s, radio programs and books featured homeschooling as a viable alternative for educating children. My and my husband’s parents learned about homeschooling from a radio program in the early 1980s. In the 80s, it was mostly seriously devout religious families and hippies who were homeschooling.  

When we started homeschooling in the 1980s, we literally knew of one other family who homeschooled.

Just one.

As time moved forward, more parents wanted to regain the ability to have power and control over the education of their own children.

And, thus was born the homeschool movement.

It took many years and many battles –both socially and politically– to gain the freedom to homeschool. In the 1990s, the federal government tried to restrict or do away with homeschooling altogether. We showed up in such numbers and in such a force that they have not attempted it again.

So, the good news is people are allowed to have ignorant, obnoxious opinions about homeschooling, but –because of those people like my parents and in-laws who fought those battles decades ago– there’s not a single thing they can do except complain.

It’s nothing we haven’t heard before.

In fact, we’ve heard much worse.

So next time someone tells you that restriction on homeschooling and anti-homeschooling sentiment is worse than even (as I read recently), point them to the facts.

And, be thankful for your hard-earned freedoms.

Next time someone makes a joke about homeschoolers in jean jumpers remember: they’re the ones who bough you the educational and parental liberties you now enjoy.

Be vigilant.

Don’t let anyone take them away.


Sarah Forbes



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