In the late 1980′s we started seeing incidents, at first seemingly unrelated but then increasingly fitting a pattern, until by March of 1991 we had become concerned enough to admit a growing sense of alarm to our colleagues, associates, and fellow homeschooling activists. In those days before email and the Internet were commonplace tools, we mailed a letter to a number of people whose counsel we trusted, advising them that we were recognizing patterns of behavior which caused us great concern, and we outlined why. We wrote that our efforts to communicate about and address these issues with the perpetrators had been fruitless, and we felt the point had been reached when a strong stand for homeschool freedoms needed to be taken. We were relieved and gratified when almost everyone we contacted responded in agreement and supported our publication of this now-historic document, titled Homeschooling Freedoms at Risk.

The passing of nearly two decades has taught us much, and from this vantage point we can better understand what we were seeing in 1991. The same dynamics which worked to divide the diverse homeschool networks twenty years ago are now more clearly visible. Individual responsibility and diverse, effective grassroots action was hijacked by the pursuit of political power. The history of the homeschool movement is instructive, in its details and its broader lessons, for the national politics of today.

Unfortunately, our most important lessons, the understanding families have gained about children and learning, remains mostly hidden outside of homeschool circles. Homeschoolers have been sidetracked from the task of gaining deserved respect and trust for children and the empowering dynamics of families. In fact, that effort has been made much harder by unreasonable and perceived ‘fanatic’ behavior, and today homeschooling families are facing renewed calls for greater regulation.

In spite of this, homeschooling is still an influential grassroots movement, and homeschooling families are making a strong social and political statement. This series of articles is offered with the hope that readers will better understand the lessons of homeschooling’s history, and thereby find a way to come together once again to shape homeschooling’s future.

© 1991, Home Education Magazine

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