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lead article from 11/05 HEADSUP homeschooling newsletter

Wayne Walker here with the lead article from the 11/05 issue of my HEADSUP free monthly e-mail newsletter for homeschooling Christians on the theme of the history of homeschooling.


Monthly newsletter of general interest, encouragement,
and information for homeschooling Christians
% Wayne S. Walker, 9042 Amona Dr., Affton (St. Louis), MO  63123
E-mail: wswalker310@juno.com; phones: (314) 683-4719 (home), 544-1612 office
November, 2005; Volume 8, Number 4
by Wayne S. Walker
     I believe that I have told this story before, but right after Mark (then about 10) and I came to St. Louis in 2002, we were sitting in my office, while he was studying and I was doing some work, when he asked me if I knew who the first homeschoolers were.  At that time, I was trying to do some research into the history of the modern homeschool movement, some of which finds its way into this issue of the newsletter, so I replied, rather matter of factly, that no, I did not know but it would be interesting to learn who the first person in modern times was to have homeschooled.  His reply made it clear that he was making a joke when he said, “Well, of course, it was Adam and Eve.”  A joke, yes, but also the truth.  Can you not just imagine that if the National Education Association were in existence then, it would have told Adam and Eve that because they were not properly certified, they really could not teach their children anything but needed to send them to the local schools!
     This article and issue of the HEADSUP Newsletter do not pretend to contain a complete history of homeschooling.  It should be rather obvious that until the last hundred years or so, the primary way that children learned whatever they needed in life was by instruction from their parents.  We know that God ordained this process among the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 22:6).  Even after the establishment of schools, it was still common in the early days of this country for children to be taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic at home by their parents before they could enroll in school for further education.  Earlier this year, I read a biography of Dorothea Dix, born in 1802.  It said, “At that time children could not enter the public school until they knew how to read and spell.”  Therefore, when she was five, she asked her father to teach her to read.
     As the public school movement gained steam in the United States, beginning around 1850, and finally gained near monopolistic control over education in the early 1900's with the influence of John Dewey and others, the idea of homeschooling generally disappeared, except for people who lived in wilderness areas, such as Alaska, and for missionaries who were living abroad, although in England the idea of homeschooling continued to be promoted by educators such as Charlotte Mason.  However, in the 1960's and 70's, it made a significant if small resurgence, especially among those from a more liberal background, through the influence of John Holt, who wrote his book How Children Fail in 1964.  He compared the dreariness of a school day to having a “full-time painful job” and argued that forced attendance in schools causes students to dislike learning.  Some who followed the spirit of the times in “rejecting the establishment” accepted Holt's challenge to educate their own children in a freer atmosphere.  As a result, homeschooling during those times had a decidedly “New Age” or “hippy” reputation.  A Nov. 10, 2003, New York Times article profiled a fast-growing segment of the homeschooling population who, it said, are “neither hippies nor fundamentalists.”  A friend of mine who homeschools in Vermont said, “From my family's experience here in our state, we can vouch for the presence of the 'hippy' segment.”  I have been told that Holt was a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, but when he contacted the ACLU about defending people who were homeschooling, they basically ignored and rebuffed him.  Therefore, in 1977 he founded Growing Without Schooling, a bimonthly magazine for those who desired to seek educational activities outside the framework of traditional schools.
     In the later 1970's and into the 80's, a growing number of religious conservatives began to decry what they were beginning to see in public schools–public prayer had been removed by the Supreme Court; evolution was often taught as a fact in science classes; basics were being ignored so that students were graduating who were functionally illiterate; crime in school seemed to be on the increase, including drug abuse; new sex education programs were being promoted which tended to encourage promiscuity; history classes were downplaying patriotism while focusing in on multiculturalism; and those claiming to defend the separation of church and state said that all vestiges of the Bible must be removed from school.  Attempts to do something about these problems often met with stern resistance from school officials, so many who objected to what they saw as the downward spiral in the public schools found an ally in Raymond Moore, a former missionary to Japan and a U. S. Department of Education employee who laid the groundwork for what would become the modern “Christian Homeschool Movement.”  Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the family said, “I consider Dr. Raymond Moore to be the father of the modern home school movement. The avalanche of mail we received at Focus on the Family after our initial broadcast with Ray in 1979 confirmed that his pioneering theories on education had found a receptive audience! I’m tremendously thankful for his friendship that has spanned nearly twenty-five years.”
     The research of Dr. Moore and his late wife Dorothy, comparing early school entrants with late starters in such areas as hyperactivity, nearsighteness, and dyslexia, convinced them that prematurely taxing a child's nervous system with continuous academic tasks was harmful and that formal schooling could be delayed until around ages eight or ten, perhaps even twelve, without any unsatisfactory effects.  Dr. Moore explained, “These findings sparked our concern and convinced us to focus our investigation on two primary areas: formal schooling and socializing.  Eventually, this work led to an unexpected interest in homeschools.”  Dr. and Mrs. Moore went on to write several books, such as Better Late than Early and Home School Handbook, which encouraged homeschooling.  They co-founded the Hewitt Research Foundation and later founded the Moore Foundation to promote their ideas of home education.  I have not read the books of either Holt or Moore, so I do not know if either was aware of the work of the others, and have seen no information that would answer that question.
     If Dr. Moore laid the foundation for the modern homeschool movement, one man who was one of the earliest to build upon that foundation by calling for Bible believers to take their children out of the public schools and homeschool them if necessary was the late Dr. Paul Lindstrom, a fundamentalist Protestant minister with the Church of Christian Liberty in Prospect Heights (now located in Arlington Heights), IL.  He founded the Christian Liberty Academy, a church-related day school in 1968 as a result of dissatisfaction with government schools.  Around 1970, from this was developed a homeschool curriculum known as CLASS (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools, now Christian Liberty Academy School System).  Many of the early seminal court decisions which helped to win the right to homeschool, such as the 1979 Nobel case in Michigan, the 1982-1985 Budke case in Minnesota, and the famous 1993 DeJonge case also in Michigan all involved homeschoolers who were affiliated with CLASS.
     In 1983, Michael Farris and Michael Smith, two attorneys and homeschooling fathers, formed the Home School Legal Defense Association.  In her excellent book The Homeschooling Revolution, Isabel Lyman noted, “The constituencies attracted by Raymond Moore and John Holt, individually, reflected the contrasting backgrounds and lifestyles of the two researchers.  Moore, a former Christian missionary to Japan, earned a sizeable (but hardly exclusive) following among parents who chose to homeschool primarily to impart traditional religious mores to their children and are representative of the 'Christian Right.'  Holt, a humanist and Ivy League graduate, has become a popular figure with the wing of the homeschooling movement that comprises a coalition of homesteaders, former hippies, and New Age devotees.  Still, those who work with Holt Associates, like Susannah Sheffer, caution that Holt's books, like Moore's, have always attracted individuals who are more complex than these stereotypes” (p. 27). 
     In the 1970's and 1980's, it seems as if homeschoolers from both of these wings of the movement generally presented a united front to support homeschooling freedoms.  However, an underlying tension between the two groups has always been present and in more recent years a lot of public disagreement has been noted, especially after the H. R. 6 incident in 1994.  Mitchell Stevens seems to emphasize these disagreements in his book, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Home-schooling Movement.  Even Dr. Moore, who might be considered the “grandfather of Christian homeschooling” weighed in by writing a white paper calling Mike Farris of HSLDA all kinds of nasty names and accusing the religious conservatives of hijacking the homeschool movement.  One of the charges made against many religious homeschoolers is that they are “exclusive” as opposed to “inclusive.”  It is undoubtedly true that there are some “Christian” homeschool organizations that are very exclusive of those who disagree with them–after all, it is a free country and the Constitution guarantees the right of free association with whom we choose; but it is also true that some of the “inclusive” groups can be just as “exclusive” of those who have strong religious convictions.
     To illustrate these kinds of disagreements, the homeschool support group of which we are a part recently planned a legislative academy in our area to encourage others, and especially homeschoolers, to become more aware of how our state government works and how we as citizens can make our voices better heard.  I posted information about this academy on several homeschooling lists in the area, and one response that was posted was this.  “I checked out the groups who are speaking and it seems that all support a right-leaning, Republican view point.  It did not seem at all seem to promote a balanced approach.  I could be wrong as I just looked up the speakers you listed.  As I am not into right wing politics, this does not seem like something I would participate in.  Thanks anyway.”  I did not respond, but someone else did.  “On the other hand, it would therefore make a good balance for the pro-socialist, 'Left Wing' agenda of the public school “legislative” projects. Including the kiddie UN stuff. I wonder if they'll now get to practice cronyism, money laundering, and justifying warmongering by the security council members, just like the real thing.”
     It is not the purpose of this article to go into great detail as to who is right and who is wrong on these issues (I will say that as a religious homeschooling father I am a card-carrying member, supporter, and defender of the HSLDA, although I do admit that I do not necessarily agree with its stand on absolutely every issue; and as a conservative who believes in traditional, Judaeo-Christian values, I do generally support the Republican Party).  It is my opinion that there are probably some on both sides who are simply power hungry or whose egos just do not get along well together.  But it is also my belief that, while we homeschoolers certainly do have our differences, our similarities and shared aims outweigh our differences.  Therefore the differences should be minimized, except in the cases where unacceptable compromise is involved, and the similarities and shared aims should emphasized.  And even when we do disagree, we do not have to call each other nasty names!
     The following statement has been used in this newsletter before, but let me repeat the words of Zan Tyler from the book Anyone Can Homeschool, which she co-authored with Terry Dorian.  “Some states have two or more state organizations due to the different nature of the groups.  Where this is the case, it is extremely important that these groups lay aside their differences when it comes to legislative issues.  The homeschooling community is not large enough or powerful enough to support different legislative agendas on the state level–that is the kiss of death for both groups. Remember Lincoln's words: 'A house divided against itself cannot stand'” (p. 94).  The following articles look at the modern history of homeschooling from several different viewpoints.  I hope you find them interesting and informative.
     Sources used:
Anyone Can Homeschool (1996), by Terry Dorian and Zan Tyler.
The Big Book of Home Learning, Volume 1: Getting Started (1990), by Mary Pride.
The Homeschooling Revolution (2000), by Isabel Lyman.
Homeschooling: The Right Choice (1995), by Christopher J. Klicka.
Homeschooling Rights and Responsibilities (1995), by Christian Liberty Press.

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