This article is part 14 in a series examining the origins of public education in the United States.
We’re all homeschoolers now! At least for the foreseeable future.
Government schools all across the United States have shut because of fears about the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, liberating tens of millions of children from government classrooms. That means millions of parents are being involuntarily forced to try out education at home, often for the first time.
In a matter of weeks, the homeschooling movement has ballooned to over 55 million children from around 3 million, just in the United States. It’s unprecedented.
Have no fear, though: Homeschooling has a long and amazing history in the United States and around the world. And the data is in: Home education works. Typically, it works amazingly well. Home-educated students on average perform far better than their government-schooled peers on every single metric, data show. It also has a well-established history of success.
Experts and activists told The Epoch Times this was a historic opportunity. Once the dust settles, critics of the government school system—with its escalating indoctrination, sexualization, and dumbing down of children—hope that the educational landscape in the United States and beyond will be forever changed.
Understandably, some parents are expressing frustration at this new reality. Establishment pundits claim to be worried, too. But talk of a “silver lining” involving a mass exodus from government schools has now moved from the fringes to the mainstream—a process that is accelerating amid the CCP virus (commonly known as the novel coronavirus) pandemic.
President Donald Trump recently declared that children should never be “trapped” in “failing government schools.” Talk show host Rush Limbaugh last year urged listeners to try out homeschooling. And evangelist Franklin Graham, responding to a New Jersey statute mandating LGBT ideology in public schools, called on parents to remove their children from public schools.
And that was before COVID-19.
But this won’t be uncharted territory. Indeed, long before the government usurped control over education at the urging of collectivists—a process recounted in detail in this series on public education—parents and families worldwide were the primary educators of children. Even when kids were sent away for some formal schooling, the basics such as reading and writing were generally taught by parents, grandparents, and older siblings.
Many of America’s most prominent heroes were primarily educated at home. The Father of America, George Washington, was mostly educated at home, receiving just a few years of formal education. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, was also primarily home-schooled. A century later, President Abraham Lincoln was a homeschooler, too. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
This has been the norm worldwide throughout most of human history.
“Homeschooling today is simply a revival of a millennia-old practice of parent-led, home-based education,” explained Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) and editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal “Home School Researcher.”
“Long before government certification and approval of teachers, human beings—in places as far and wide as Germany, Kenya, Brazil, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan—were inventing amazing processes and gadgets, creating great art, running complex businesses, building bridges and castles, writing incredible literature, battling wars, and curing diseases without a preponderance of children and citizens being taught, trained, and indoctrinated in state-run institutions called schools,” added Ray, one of the world’s top academic experts on homeschooling.
Parent-led education at home was the norm in colonial America, and throughout the United States—both in rural areas and the cities—until around 1900, Ray told The Epoch Times.
“Government-run schools did not come with the American flag, apple pie, and God,” he explained, contradicting the prevailing myths about government education.
One of the areas Ray has been researching for decades in home-education is what the data show. Like other academic researchers, he’s found that home-educated students typically perform significantly better than children subjected to government education—usually 15 to 30 percentile points higher on standardized academic tests, and much better in socialization, too.
“The largest study comparing homeschool students to others amazingly revealed that homeschool 8th-grade students score the same as 12th-grade public school students,” he said, referring to a study by Dr. Lawrence Rudner at the University of Maryland that administered academic tests to more than 20,000 home-educated students.
“There is no empirical evidence that a nation or society needs most or any of its children to attend state or government-run institutions called schools in order to be a civil and educated society,” Ray said, adding that the modern homeschool movement is “proof-positive” that the current government-education machine isn’t necessary for children to do well.
“The renascence of parent-led home-based education—homeschooling—is simply a re-affirmation of the natural abilities of parents and children and of the value to any society of a family-centered—rather than a government-run institution-centered—life,” he said.
Opportunity in Crisis
While establishment voices and the government-education system scramble to warn parents about the supposed dangers of home education, experts and critics of the public-school system told The Epoch Times that this crisis offers an incredible opportunity for parents.
Former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, for instance, said that the ongoing shutdown of public schools offers parents the “greatest opportunity of their lives” to retake control over what their children learn.
“This is such a great time for parents to try homeschooling and really give their children a true education,” she told The Epoch Times.
Warning that public education was harming children morally, academically, and spiritually, Douglas suggested that the future of America is on the line.
“The goal of American public-education architects like John Dewey was to under-educate and indoctrinate our children with secular humanism and socialism,” said Douglas, who now serves on the educational advisory board of organization Public School Exit.
Homeschooling expert Dr. Izzy Lyman, author of “The Homeschooling Revolution,” called on those already in the movement to help out the expected influx of newcomers.
“It’s an unprecedented opportunity for veteran home educators to offer encouragement and advice to parents who are now unexpectedly part of the mass homeschooling revolution,” she told The Epoch Times.
“During this exceptionally challenging time for our nation, one hopes that more families discover a silver lining—the joy and fun of learning together,” said Lyman, who serves as a county commissioner in Michigan and whose work has been published in The Wall Street Journal and many other leading publications.
More than two decades ago, Lt. Col. E. Ray Moore, an early pioneer in the homeschooling renaissance that began to flower about 50 years ago, decided that only a massive escape from the public education system into the safe sanctuary of homeschools and Christian schools could prevent the moral collapse of the United States. To bring that about, he created the Exodus Mandate, with a mission of sparking a mass exodus of Christians from public schools.
This current crisis, he said, may be just what the doctor ordered to help break the public school’s virtual monopoly.
“If this COVID-19 virus had come to our culture in 1980, we would not have had the infrastructure with families, 6 million alumni, magazines, books, homeschool conventions, organizations and associations to assimilate the many new children [into home schooling],” Moore, who now leads a coalition of dozens of organizations called the Christian Education Initiative, told The Epoch Times.
“It is happening now. The biggest decision has been made for families, that is, to go home and educate your children.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), perhaps the most powerful and prominent home-education organization in the world, has even released a guide giving parents an easy-to-follow guidebook to begin homeschooling amid the crisis. These include connecting with homeschoolers, knowing the law, finding the right curriculum, and making decisions on how to do it.
HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly, who also oversees the organization’s international operations, expects that many people will look back at the CCP virus pandemic as the time they decided to take the plunge and take charge of their children’s education. And this won’t be just an American phenomenon, but rather a global one.
Indeed, according to UNESCO, the United Nations “education” agency, more than 1.5 billion students are currently home from school around the world. And while the U.N. outfit hopes to lead “global cooperation” schemes on how to deal with it, the reality is that many parents will almost certainly choose to home-school, experts say.
“Home education is a global movement of parents seeking the best life opportunities for their children in response to a variety of factors,” Donnelly told The Epoch Times, adding that throughout the world, the homeschooling movement was gaining steam. “Home education is the fastest growing and most popular education innovation in the world today with the capacity to unlock limitless learning opportunities for millions of children.”
However, certain governments are less than happy about the trend.
“The harsh persecution of homeschooling parents in Cuba is a travesty that should not be tolerated,” said Donnelly, adding that ruling elites even in nations such as Germany and Sweden are persecuting home-schoolers and using their control over school systems to control citizens.
“The way a country treats parents who homeschool is a litmus test—it demonstrates how a nation’s leaders view their fellow citizens.
“Do they trust them? Free societies must respect and protect the rights of parents to choose what kind of education their children shall receive—and this includes home education.”
It’s not just the CCP virus that is causing massive growth for the homeschooling movement, however. “Parents are increasingly frustrated and frightened about public schools,” Donnelly said. “Bullying, controversial curriculum choices, and special learning needs are just a few of the reasons more and more people worldwide are turning to home education.”
By contrast, “research continues to show that home education delivers good results across all measured areas of academic achievement and socialization.”
While it’s currently being rediscovered by millions of parents amid this pandemic, it’s important to remember that home education was the norm for millennia across virtually the entire globe.
Outside of fascist Sparta and its military schools, the first known proponent of compulsory “education” was Plato. In his infamous treatise “The Republic,” the Greek philosopher called for a regime led by a “Philosopher King” that would require everyone to receive an “ideal education.” Plato’s elitist thinking was, in key respects, very much in line with that of 19th-century “reformers” such as Horace Mann.
Despite Plato’s ramblings, though, the idea of a government-mandated, government-provided education didn’t catch on until thousands of years later. Instead, throughout virtually the whole world, parents, religious institutions, and sometimes local communities were the primary educators of children—with parents retaining ultimate control.
The process and the motivations of those who created the government-school system have been extensively documented in this series. Basically, collectivists who wanted to undermine individual liberty and Christianity in the United States realized that the most effective way to do that was a takeover of the education system by government.
By the early 1900s, the foundations of that takeover were complete in America. From there, the schools became increasingly radical and dangerous—and increasingly less rigorous academically, focusing instead on “socializing” children and instilling government-approved attitudes.
By the 1960s and 1970s, following Supreme Court rulings purporting to ban the Bible and prayer from schools, more and more parents were looking for an escape route. Many chose private schools, a topic that will be addressed in a future part of this series. But millions would eventually choose to leave formal “school” altogether, giving birth to the modern homeschooling revolution.
Perhaps the most important single player in this was Dr. Raymond Moore, a former missionary who discovered that government schools were harming children—especially young children. In a series of interviews between 1979 and 1983 on Dr. James Dobson’s nationally syndicated program, Moore introduced home-education to millions of Americans. It was a spark that caught on and started a wildfire. The rest is history.
The official beginning of the contemporary homeschooling revolution is usually dated to around 1980 by leaders in the movement. Prominent home school advocate Israel Wayne, an author of many books on education and a leader in the home-education community, lived through much of that history in a family that pioneered the rebirth of home-education in America. He had a front-row seat.
“In the early 1980s, parents began to realize that they could educate their children better than the State,” Wayne, a home-schooling father of 10 children, told The Epoch Times. “Because of compulsory attendance laws, many parents were faced with fines and imprisonment for merely desiring to teach their own children in their own homes.”
Wayne’s family even developed escape plans to hide from social services if and when they came to the door. “Thankfully, through the work of the Home School Legal Defense Association and state homeschooling associations, homeschooling is now legal in some form in every state in the U.S., and is growing internationally,” said Wayne, author of “Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask.”
Wayne offered over a dozen reasons for parents to choose homeschooling. These include passing on values to one’s children, building closer relationships, customized academics, a great student-to-teacher ratio, real-life learning opportunities, ability to compensate for gifts or special needs, the fact that parents care more about their children than anyone else, costing a fraction of what tax-funded schools cost, higher scores on academic achievement tests, better social skills, teaching children how to think rather than merely test-taking, and much more.
Anti-homeschooling forces have existed since the rebirth of the movement decades ago. The National Education Association, for instance, regularly attacks home education, arguing that only state-certified teachers should be allowed to educate children. Those attacks have been intensifying as the education establishment frantically seeks to stop the growing exodus.
The Washington Post recently ran the headline “Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Will Set Back a Generation of Children.” And anti-homeschooling extremists at Harvard Law School are planning a summit aimed at accelerating the war on home educators, with one of the organizers calling for a “presumptive ban” on the practice and another claiming there is no such thing as “parental rights.”
By contrast, The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, among countless others, have run featured pieces touting home education amid the crisis. In an opinion piece by Wall Street Journal deputy editorial features editor Matthew Hennessey, himself a home school father, he argued that an increase in homeschooling numbers would be a “silver lining in a very dark cloud.”
Without question, the ongoing resurgence of homeschooling has been among the most important developments on the educational horizon in the United States and beyond. While this lost tradition was almost wiped out by the government takeover of education over the last century, it’s now coming back in a major way. And CCP virus may turbocharge the movement.
When the dust finally clears after the devastation wrought by the CCP virus, there may be one very bright spot: millions of new homeschooling families dedicated to ensuring the best possible education for their children. The opportunity is there. Now, it’s up to Americans to seize it.
Alex Newman is an award-winning international journalist, educator, author, and consultant who co-wrote the book “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.” He also serves as the CEO of Liberty Sentinel Media and writes for diverse publications in the United States and abroad.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.