The Truth About The Homeschooling Movement

I have had a unique viewpoint in the homeschooling since 1991 when my mother started homeschooling us (I was in the eighth grade). The second phase of the modern-day homeschooling began in the late 80s/early 90s, so I've seen a whole lot that has happened in this sub-culture (for better or worse). In 1994, my mother became president of the North Florida Homeschoolers Association. I've personally written a blog post or two on homeschooling every year for ten years now. So my viewpoint is not omniscient, but I do think I have a unique perspective on where we have been as a movement and where we may be headed.

So...I admit the above paragraph reads a little weird, but since the post that inspired me to write this started listing the author's many homeschooling bona fides, I thought I might do the same. The post, A Shift in the Homeschooling Movement, is by Israel Wayne, who homeschooled through the late 70s and 80s, and whose mother published Home School Digest, which was a big deal in the 90s. He starts his introductory paragraph telling us of his unique perspective, and finishes it reminding us that he's not omniscient. So that's a little goofy, but Mr. Wayne makes some good points.

Mr. Wayne writes his update to us on the movement because of the stones of stumbling that have been the revelations of sexual sin in two very prominent leaders/teachers/gurus of homeschooling. One dominated the 90s, the other the 00s. He tells us his "heart is heavy for the future of the movement", but finishes the post with an optimistic welcome to "Millenial hipsters", who, it seems, are prone to none of the vices others homeschoolers have been.

I recognize that I'm writing flippantly, because Wayne's post tickled some angry raw nerves in me, which makes me want to make fun of people. The truth is, there was plenty of gold in his post, some of which I want to include below. After that, I'll tell you what I think he missed (although he did hint at it).
Since the 1980′s, there have been individuals who wrote about not only about home education, but an entire lifestyle surrounding teaching your children at home. In the early days, most of the people writing books and hosting seminars had very young children. They began talking about a vision of where we needed to go, and what goals our families should be aiming for. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of them had never successfully raised a child, never had a child go through the courtship processes they were advocating, and were, for the most part, just kind of making things up as they went; nonetheless, they were our fearless leaders! 
Fast-forward thirty years and many of these self-proclaimed experts ended up recanting much of their message as being misguided and off-base. They not only led their families into a ditch, they informed us, they also inadvertently led those following them into a ditch as well. 
How could this happen? I think there are a couple of reasons. First, there are leaders and then there are followers. Some people tend to want to ride on the coat tails of the success of others. If they see a family who appears to be successful, seems to have a game plan, and knows where they are going, they’ll hitch their wagon to that horse and follow along, regardless of what trail they may actually be taking. 
Secondly, it seems to me that some people lack the ability to filter teaching. What I mean is that, when I listen to a speaker, or read a book, I tend to spit out a lot of seeds, while still enjoying the fruit. I think, “This is a great point, but THAT is a really dumb idea! I don’t know what I think about that concept … I’ll have to chew on that for a while.” Apparently, some people must lack the ability to do that. If speaker/author “X” tells them to jump off a bridge, by gracious, they’re gonna jump!
As I've written elsewhere, I have some pity but little patience for people who sell their lives to some master with a method, and then have a huge crisis when said master falls or recants or repents or changes lanes.

Look, I was homeschooled before the ubiquitization of the internet. I remember the paucity of resources, and the desperate hunt for reliable educational tools. My best friend was the first homeschooler accepted into the University of Florida, and I the second. I remember all the hoops we had to jump through while the university tried to figure out how to process us. Now we homeschool our five kids. I know it's difficult; I've been there, I'm doing that. To this day, homeschooling in some states can be a difficult legal dance with the government.

There is an instinct to fear that many homeschoolers, including me, operate under. I was raised on stories of persecution of homeschoolers, stories that still happen outside the U.S., in places like Germany and Sweden. (Please don't write me with the latest exceptions in the news; I know.)

Our third child is having a hard time learning to read. I didn't think I'd ever have to deal with that. It looks like we'll be working into the summer again.

Look, I get it. I get the fear and insecurity. I get the desire to be part of a movement, to be a disciple, to be on the right track.

In the 80s, homeschooling had to be a movement. It had to me militant, or it wouldn't have survived. As Mr. Wayne said,
I would also encourage you Hipsters to do yourself a favor and research the history of the homeschooling movement. Find out how we got here, and why. Learn about the hundreds of families who sacrificed and risked much to pave the way for you to legally home educate your children. Be willing to give the gray heads in this movement a listen. You may not end up agreeing with them, but I think you’ll be the wiser for having done so.

In the 90s the movement aspect of homeschooling continued to carve out legal room for homeschoolers. It also began knocking down barriers that had often stymied an earlier generation. Homeschooled students gained access or started their own mainstream athletics. It became easy for homeschoolers to go to college.

But now...what?

The truth about the homeschooling movement is that it's not a movement. Or maybe I should say that capital H Homeschooling gets in trouble when it acts like a movement. There will always be work for organizations like the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. But it's time for homeschoolers to stop thinking they're part of a movement. The movement is over. It won. Homeschoolers should think of themselves simply as homeschoolers.

Homeschooling should be something people do.

There are a million and a half homeschoolers in this country. That's as many school-age kids as there are in the entire state of New Jersey. Or Virginia. Or North Carolina. Or Michigan. It's three percent of the school-age population of the nation.

Mr. Wayne's post hinted at this, but I want to really draw it out. Because of what homeschooling pioneers did, we don't have to be pioneers. Sure, there are difficulties in what we do. But they are simply the difficulties that we'd have to deal with regardless of how our children were schooled. Of course the government can still be a pain in the ass, but they are, with rare exceptions, powerless to harm us because of the work of the pioneers.

They worked with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. We don't have to do that. The walls have been built. It's time to live life.
For the foreseeable future, there is no place for homeschooling to go but straight up in terms of numeric growth. I hope that we can learn how to learn from the mistakes of our past, without running headlong into mistakes in the opposite direction. We HAVE made a lot of progress in this movement. It’s not all been bad. We have needed a correction, and we’ve gotten it. Now it’s time to walk humbly and mercifully into the future. Keep Christ the center. Love each other. That’s my plea.
(Warning: I use the word "movement" way to many times in what follows.)

Who, my friends, is "we"?

I'm sure my mom was familiar with Bill Gothard, but I didn't know who he was until the scandal emerged and all these homeschoolers started flipping out.

Several of my friends have used Vision Forum materials to their good, but I couldn't have told you who Doug Phillips was until the scandal emerged and all these homeschoolers started flipping out.

That, I believe, is how it should be. You are the ones educating your children, you are the ones raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You. Not "The Movement".

Mr. Wayne made the point that homeschooling is decentralized by nature. So let's stop fighting that. Let's stop searching for gurus and movements. "We" don't have to correct the mistakes of the past. You might have to, and I might have to, but the "we" of the homeschooling movement doesn't exist. Find some resources you like, look for local support, and connect with your church.

You are not the homeschooling movement. You are Christians who homeschool. You are your family in your town at your church.


  1. Excellent post. There is no ethereal homeschool movement living in some far off noumenal realm that individuals or families are somehow partaking of, and if there was a tangible "homeschooling movement" with any kind of defined parameters, the smart thing to do is to run away, quickly. The only collectivist groups in history that have ever had a positive track record are the church and the family, all the others are attempts to replace or supplement those things which need no supplementation.


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