What Homeschooling Means to Me: A Little History

I feel that this is an appropriate topic for my first post. Initially this was going to be something like Why I Homeschool, or How I Homeschool, but I like the feel of this better. You see, I’m not just passionate about homeschooling my own children, I’m also passionate about all families having the right to homeschool their children and being able to do so as they see fit, free from regulation. Homeschooling to me is synonymous with parenting, and, while no one would claim that all children should be parented the same, many people think all children should be schooled the same.

In Wisconsin, we are so lucky to have nearly complete freedom to homeschool without unnecessary regulation. This right was hard-earned by families that homeschooled their children in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, often with great difficulty, criticism, and sometimes at serious risk to their own families. Families that chose to keep their children out of school were harassed by public school officials and threatened by social service workers. This history is a fascinating record of what some families faced and how homeschooling families in Wisconsin came together despite differences in educational philosophies and, at a grassroots level, brought about a change for the better. The homeschooling law that resulted protects us from harassment and does not require us to meet more than just the most basic of regulations.

Not all families that choose to homeschool are so lucky. In many states, homeschooling families are heavily regulated and must meet endless school requirements ranging from having their ‘curriculum’ approved by local school officials to being forced to subject their children to standardized assessments. These families are basically forced to ‘school’ their children at home or they are not ‘allowed’ to homeschool. I’m not sure what I would do if I lived in one of those states. I do know this: all it would take is one introduced bill, maybe even a well-intentioned one, passing our legislature, and our homeschooling freedoms in Wisconsin could be radically curtailed in a heartbeat.

This freedom for families to raise and educate their own children in the way that is best for their family is precious and fragile. If you homeschool in Wisconsin, please consider joining the Wisconsin Parents Association. We need to remember our history and protect this right that has been passed on to us; no one is going to do it for us.

One thought on “What Homeschooling Means to Me: A Little History

  1. Thank you, Kim, for reminding any of us who might take the right to home school for granted that we had dedicated, courageous families laying the groundwork for us. I homeschooled my 3 children in Iowa in the late 1990s and 2000s, and lived a mile away from the family over whose children the legal battle was fought in Iowa a decade or two earlier. It has always been amusing to me that homeschooling represents a back to the future scenario. Up until the middle part of the 19th century, publicly funded education essentially did not exist. Virtually all schooling was homeschooling. There was no other option. Children learned at home. Even if they were from a wealthier family that could afford to hirer tutors, the tutors came to the home. So the legal battles you referenced restored a “right” that was the only option for most of human history. It’s ironic that pioneering home schooling families had to fight for what was once taken for granted.

    That being said, I would suggest that our approaches and attitudes toward homeschooling are strongly influenced by our race and ethnic backgrounds. If you come from a group that has historically had to fight for the right to attend school, a group that has a history of being shut out of public education, then your battles are going to be different. I think it’s not a coincidence that a disproportionate number of us home schooling families are white.

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