July is the month when Americans celebrate freedom. We observe the anniversary of our independence as a nation, and we talk about the freedoms we hold most dear: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc. I wonder, however, how many people count the freedom to homeschool among our most precious freedoms.
In 1975 when I began homeschooling, my husband and I were able to locate only two states where homeschooling was legal. Fortunately, New Mexico was one of them, and since we lived only a few miles from the New Mexico state line, we sold our house in Texas, bought another one in New Mexico, and made the move that gave us the freedom to homeschool.
The word homeschooling had not yet been coined, and when I tried to explain to people what we were doing, they just shook their heads. In fact, homeschooling was so rare that I homeschooled for eight years before I met another homeschooler.
Since the homeschooling movement was God inspired, however, the number of homeschoolers literally exploded, and it soon became apparent that two states where homeschooling was legal were not enough. Parents began to realize that the right to educate their own children is God given, and they began to demand the freedom to homeschool in every state in the Union.
When I began homeschooling, my plan was to quietly educate my children with as few people as possible knowing what we were doing. Since each of the children was enrolled in Calvert School’s extension program for the elementary grades, I told them that when anyone asked them about their school, to tell them that they went to a private school. This was true since Calvert School is a private school in Baltimore, Maryland, with an extension program that has existed for more than one hundred years. Each child was assigned an “advisory teacher” at Calvert School, and their tests were sent to the school for grading and record keeping.
Even though we had written permission from the state of New Mexico to homeschool, I feared that we might somehow become targets of the state department of education. I wanted to keep a low profile and did everything I could to make sure that we were off the radar. Nevertheless, word began to get out that we were homeschooling. It seemed that the more I tried to remain anonymous the more people found out about our homeschool.
As a result, I was asked to testify in Leeper vs. Arlington, the case that legalized homeschooling in Texas. I also spoke twice to the legislators in North Dakota when they were debating whether to legalize homeschooling in their state; soon after North Dakota did legalize homeschooling. Ironically, more than fifteen years after I had begun my homeschooling journey, I was asked to speak to legislators in New Mexico as they reconsidered their homeschooling law; they kept homeschooling legal in my state.
That I was repeatedly asked to speak on behalf of homeschoolers in an effort to legalize homeschooling, is a testament to how few homeschoolers existed in the years between 1975 and 1995. That our numbers have grown to the point that homeschooling is no longer an oddity, is a testament to God’s special provision for His children. We now have homeschool sports teams, homeschool proms, homeschool support groups, and all sorts of homeschool curricula. Literally everyone has heard of homeschooling, and almost everyone knows at least one homeschooling family. What began as a longing in the hearts of a few parents across this land to educate their children in a way that would provide a solid, traditional education while protecting them from the negative forces that were moving into the public school system, has grown into a huge movement that has resulted in laws that allow homeschooling in every state of our United States.
This month as we talk to our children about the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, we should not fail to tell them that their freedom to be homeschooled is among the most precious that we enjoy. Let them know that many Americans worked hard to pass the laws that allow homeschooling, and that homeschoolers in every state were willing to go the distance to make certain that their state made homeschooling a legal option for all parents.
Freedom is never simply bestowed without effort on the recipients. The freedom to homeschool was won through the efforts of many homeschooling pioneers. It will be up to future generations to hold onto that freedom. So when we count our blessings and thank God for the freedoms we enjoy, let’s not forget to include the freedom to homeschool.
Joyce Swann is a nationally-known author and speaker. Her own story of teaching her ten children from the first grade through master’s degrees before their seventeenth birthdays is retold in her book, Looking Backward: My Twenty-Five Years as a Homeschooling Mother. Her newest novel, The Warrior, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net/ or like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/frontier2000mediagroup