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Homeschooling History

I’ve been doing a little reading on the history of education in America. Did you know that the state of Massachusetts was the first state in America to establish a compulsory education law? That was in 1852.

According to a 2011 article in The Old Schoolhouse magazine, prior to that most children were schooled at home or in private schools. The article, put together by Liz Koon, went on to say that by 1870 all states had free elementary schools, and by 1918 every state had laws requiring compulsory education attendance. I found a number of interesting facts in this article and I want to share a few more. 

By the late 1960s, it is reported that there were between 10,000 to 15,000 homeschooled children. By the 1980s, the homeschooling movement grew because Christian schools were being shut down due to new tax regulations, but homeschooling was illegal in 30 states. And, in 1983 the Home School Legal Defense Association was founded.

By 1985, with the addition of Christian families, there were now around 50,000 children being homeschooled. By 1993 homeschooling became legal in all 50 states, and by 1999 there were around 850,000 children being homeschooled. That number grew to approximately 1.73 to 2.35 million children by 2010.

Of course there’s so much more to the story. The”movers” began writing as proponents of homeschooling–Charlotte Mason who published Home Education in 1885 and authors from the 1900s like John Holt (published How Children Fail, 1964;  How Children Learn 1967 and Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, 1976); Harold Bennett  who published No More Public School, 1972 and then in 2002, John Taylor Gatto who published The Underground History of American education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling.

Then there were the “shakers.” There were various court cases dating as early as 1925, including Pierce vs. Society of the Sisters, where the “Supreme Court affirmed the right of parents to direct their children’s education by sending them to private religious schools.”  And, the People vs. DeJonge (Michigan) case in 1993 where the “DeJonge family allowed to educate their children at home without certification, as a constitutional right based on the First Amendment.”

There’s a saying about freedom, you know–“Freedom is never free.”  It is sad, but true. It’s something we have to fight for. We know this from a military perspective, but it’s true on other fronts of life as well. Even today, Americans have to fight to keep our freedoms from being taken captive by our own government…like having the right to do what WE (the parents) believe is best for our children, be it homeschooling or otherwise.

Hmmm? (finger tapping chin)

Nah, I won’t go down that path in this post. Maybe another time…

*You can read more on compulsory education history here and find The Old Schoolhouse magazine here.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]About the Author

“Homeschooling-mom” and “mom-blogger” are two roles Tracy Zdelar didn’t plan on owning. However, as they often do, things changed. She is the Prime Parents’ Club Homeschooling Contributor and also writes at her blog Hall of Fame Moms. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.[/author_info]


In addition to homeschooling her boys, Tracy owns and writes from her blog Hall of Fame Moms sharing not only reviews on family-friendly products and places but also posts about homeschooling resources, frugal living, her faith and more. Like her boys', she enjoys wild things in nature. Catterpillars, bugs and tadpoles are welcomed guests in their home. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Crystal Paschal

    September 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    This is such a great article. My kid aren’t school-aged yet, but we are definitely considering homeschooling. I don’t like the large class sizes in our local school system, and private school probably won’t financially be an option for us.

    I like the ability to have control of my children’s education. Thank you for writing this piece; it helps me to appreciate just how fortunate we are to have options!

    • Tracy @ Hall of Fame Moms

      September 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks, Crystal ;)

      I’ll tell you, I was NOT a fan of homeschooling before I made that decision (even though some of my family had been homeschooling their children before me). With that said, homeschooling has been a wonderful experience for me.

      There are so many advantages included but it is a lot of work and having the kids with me almost 24/7 isn’t always easy but I again- its so worth it.

  2. Prime Parents' Club

    September 7, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I found it SO interesting and had no idea that homeschooling was illegal. CRAZY!


  3. Jennifer

    September 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I was one in the mid to late ’80’s who was considered “neglected”. My mother took me out of a New York public school to homeschool me and was taken to court for child neglect. We won and home schooled through 8th grade, I now live in FL and homeschool my children and am loving it and the freedom we now have because of what others did before us!

    • Tracy @ Hall of Fame Moms

      September 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      I’m glad to hear that, Jennifer. How brave of your mother to go through that and her “win” in court has helped parent’s keep their God-given parental rights!

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