The Washington Times
November 15, 2004

Washington Times Op-ed – Vigilance Needed Against Regulation

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

The revival of the modern homeschool movement does not have an official beginning, but most people who have been involved in homeschooling for a long time agree that it began gaining momentum in the latter half of the 1970s and early 1980s.

As a movement, it was made up of people with wide differences of faith and philosophies. The pioneers differed not only in their faith, but their backgrounds as well.

Some of the pioneers came from the ranks of those who were part of the liberal "free school" movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Others were the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who were reacting to the perception that the public schools were not friendly to their beliefs. These parents believed that you could not separate your belief system from academics. This belief also fostered the rise of the Christian private school movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

For both religious and non-religiously motivated homeschool pioneers, it took great courage to step out to take full responsibility for the education of their children at home.

They were going against the thinking at the time, which placed a high degree of importance on qualifications. Public school teachers were certified by the state because they had taken specialized courses in college to prepare them to be teachers.

Most people could not imagine that a person who was not licensed to teach could possibly teach a child. Only the "experts" were qualified to provide education for children.

The homeschooling pioneers faced another daunting challenge, perhaps the most difficult one to overcome: the legal challenge. They faced the possibility of jail and even removal of their children for teaching their children at home.

Most states declared homeschooling illegal unless conducted by a certified teacher. These early pioneers demonstrated civil disobedience.

Many, who were religiously motivated, argued that mandatory public school attendance for their children would violate their free exercise of religion. Others argued courageously that mandatory public school attendance interfered with their fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

As a result of these families' courage and perseverance, and God's blessing, currently, all states recognize the legality of homeschooling.

After homeschooling became "legal," tremendous growth was experienced with estimates of more than 2 million children being homeschooled today, says Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute.

Homeschooling is a movement with liberty at its core. However, there is a constant threat to any liberty movement. History demonstrates that there is a generally accepted cycle that countries and freedom movements go through when they are established on liberty.

Homeschooling is also a freedom movement. The early pioneers fought for the freedom and the right to teach their children at home and now we're seeing abundant blessing in the homeschool movement. But could the movement slip into complacency? Yes.

Each year Home School Legal Defense Association addresses efforts in state legislatures that attempt to place more regulation on homeschoolers.

Increased regulation of homeschooling would be a mistake because the genius of the success of home education is based upon individualized instruction.

Government oversight of homeschooling, either imposed involuntarily or through voluntary participation by homeschoolers in government programs, is not in the best interest of the children being homeschooled in our nation. Liberty and individual responsibility is the best recipe for success in education.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to media@hslda.org.