History of Homeschooling

History of Homeschooling

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For some, the concept of Homeschooling is alien, strange, or even taboo. Some people scoff at the notion and even feel that the movement is some new, hipster idea. Surely, only tattoo covered, Prius driving vegans would ever consider such an insane undertaking, right? Well, no. In fact, the history of homeschooling is very much a part of the American story.

Education from 1800’s to 1900’s

It may surprise the average person that home education was the original method by which knowledge and skills were passed to children in the United States. Home education in America was common throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s. Parents with disposable income hired private tutors to enrich the experience, while those without took on the role of teacher. My, how times haven’t changed.


It wasn’t until good ‘ol Uncle Sam stepped in and enacted the “compulsory attendance” laws that children began flooding local school houses. (If you just dug up an image of Laura Ingalls Wilder skipping toward a one-room building with a bell, you’re not alone).

That was the beginning. It took nearly 200 years before people began to yearn for a different approach.

Homeschooling in the 70’s

Sometime in the 1970’s, a radical idea began to take root. The traditional model of “rote” learning began to look a lot like a training ground forclock-puncherss, and less like a journey through the world’s wealth of knowledge. Along came a character named John Holt, who was known in the world of educational theory.

Holt viewed the widely accepted model with suspicion, and felt that it had the potential to suppress rather than enlighten. Another thinker named Raymond Moore came along, who even published a book on the subject; “Home Grown Kids.”

Moore felt that the early part of a child’s education ought to be delivered at home, and should include a moral component. (This must have been the beginning of the stereotype of homeschoolers as thumpers. More on this later). Moore and Holt stepped up to advocate for home educators, and made the case for fewer restrictions by local governments. Soon, requirements for keeping children home became less burdensome, and most states viewed the subject with less of a scowl and more of a pouty frown. That is, until religious fundamentalists briefly hijacked things.

Homeschooling in the 80’s

In the 80’s, along with big hair and hot pink shorts, came the religious homeschooling movement. Schools were the devil, and school administrators were his lieutenants. All were hell-bent (see what I did there?) on indoctrinating atheism into our precious littles. It got pretty nasty, and school districts and many home educator groups were not communicating–not even on those huge, landline phones with long, spiral cords. The decade was tense, but by the end, most states had changed their laws to be less hostile toward the practice.  Once the hair got smaller, so did the tension, and the home education marched on, even if it was still dominated by culture warriors.

Modern Era of Homeschool

In modern times, or whatever we call this strange era we live in, homeschooling has become more accepted, and less scoffed at–at least a little. No longer are unapproving gasps released by strangers when they question why our children are with us at the store at 11AM on a Tuesday (most of the time). There’s much work to be done on those of the previous generations, who are struggling just to understand those cell-phone enamoured Millennials. But as it stands today, we aren’t automatically slapped into the religious fanatic category, and we don’t have meddlesome education officials knocking at our door. Even better, our students are performing better than their brick & mortar peers, and for that, we are grateful.

For more, check out our complete guide to Homeschool Myths and Stigmas.

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