How to Strengthen the Homeschooling Community: Look to our past, focus on the present and plan for the future
By Tracy Klicka
I grew up wearing mood rings and bell bottoms, playing with Shrinky Dinks and an Easy Bake Oven, and listening to songs like “Summer Breeze” and “American Pie.” Yes, I was a child of the late‘60s/early‘70s. Back then, I hadn’t even heard of homeschooling. Yet, while many of us were still kids, the modern homeschooling movement in America was born.
While it’s true that as far back as Colonial America, many families – some well-known like the families of George Washington, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson – taught their children at home, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the homeschooling population had grown enough to even be noticed. These parents were the pioneers of a new movement to strengthen the family and better educate their children. Home educators during these years would have been noticed more so, if the vast majority of them hadn’t been homeschooling underground due to an unsupportive legal climate for home education in most of the US.
The 1980s marked a significant shift, however, thanks in part to several individuals who laid the groundwork – educational reformers like John Holt, Raymond Moore and Gregg Harris – as well as the monumental legal efforts of the Home School Legal Defense Association. Because of their hard work and the hard work of many others, the message of educational freedom and parental rights spread, along with legal changes which codified those freedoms in many states.
In 1990, the first year I started homeschooling our oldest child, Bethany, the homeschooling landscape in America looked far different than it does today. Families who answered God’s call to teach their children at home were still considered pioneers – trailblazers who faced a lack of curriculum choices and uncertain freedom – even though it was now legal to homeschool in all but a handful of states. With a strong sense of conviction and armed with a hopeful resolve, these pioneers forged the trail that eventually became a highway for families wanting to give their children an excellent, moral education.
Why is looking to the past important for homeschooling families today?
The sacrifices and efforts made by those pioneers – educational thinkers, HSLDA, and individual families – were costly ones. They made possible the climate of freedom, acceptance, and accessibility we all enjoy. The work of my late husband, Christopher Klicka, Senior Counsel at HSLDA and a much-loved speaker at homeschool conventions, gave me an insider’s view of the movement as a whole. As a homeschooling mother of seven children, the youngest now 16, I personally watched the movement grow from toddlerhood to adulthood.
We have benefitted greatly from the work of our homeschooling forefathers, and looking through the scrapbook of our past helps us to remember the price that was paid in the early years of the homeschooling movement so that we might enjoy great freedom today. If you haven’t read about the beginnings and development of homeschooling in America, I encourage you to read Home Schooling, the Right Choice and Home School Heroes, the Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, both written by my late husband, Chris. His books have documented well the vast amounts of our nation’s homeschooling history.
The wisdom of focusing on the present
While home education is definitely mainstream, the landscape is rapidly changing in America. Burgeoning governmental regulations and an increased intolerance of Judeo-Christian religious expression make the sacrifices of our nation’s homeschooling pioneers even more valuable. This growing threat of pervasive governmental control could spell trouble for the future of our homeschooling freedoms.
Because more regulation is always possible, as home educators we would be wise to do everything we can to maintain our current educational freedoms. How do we do this? By teaching our children well, being committed to our children’s academic success, complying with state homeschooling regulations, joining with HSLDA to advance and protect educational freedoms, and setting an example in our own homes of faithfulness, diligence, and love.
God is with us to help in all of these areas. Yet, as freedom can never be guaranteed, our efforts today are just as important as were those of America’s homeschooling pioneers. Giving great attention to what we are doing now as homeschoolers builds the life and integrity of home education in the US.
Planning for the future – an opportunity too good to pass up
Part of what has made the home education movement strong, as mentioned earlier, are the efforts of homeschooling pioneers who worked hard to lay a solid foundation and ensure freedom for every family who wanted to teach their children at home. Another reason we are strong, however, lies in our awareness that we are a community – knit together by a desire to give our children our very best. Although each of our homeschools may look quite different from each other (the liberty to creatively provide for our children’s education is one of the best advantages of homeschooling) our commitment to helping each other succeed is quite possibly as strong as our desire to school well ourselves.
Promoting the success of the homeschooling movement is planning for its future. How do we do this? As parents, it starts with looking at our own homeschools, assessing areas where we can do better tomorrow than we did today. Another equally important way to encourage the success of homeschooling is to partner with organizations that assist families that are homeschooling through hard times, like the Home School Foundation, the charitable arm of HSLDA. When we reach out to homeschooling families facing difficult challenges, we are investing in the strength of the movement as a whole.
We have been given a great treasure – our homeschooling past, from which we now enjoy the fruit of parental and educational liberty. But like anything worth possessing, it must be rightly stewarded to ensure its future value. We do this not only for our own good, but for the good of our community and, ultimately, for God’s glory.
Tracy Klicka (MacKillop) is the widow of former HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka and homeschooling mom of seven (mostly graduated and married) children. As a seasoned homeschooler and gifted writer and speaker for over 17 years, Tracy has addressed thousands of parents at homeschooling conventions and women’s event’s, has written dozens of articles, and has contributed to her late husband’s books on homeschooling. She currently serves as Director of Development for the Home School Foundation, the charitable arm of HSLDA. Out of many personal hardships, Tracy loves serving and encouraging homeschooling families. She and her husband Peter live in Northern Virginia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, 2015 Print Edition. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.