Not too many years from now, history books will begin to note the rise of the home schooling movement as a major cultural influence in American life.
That may seem strange to you if you’re new to the movement. What you see is a very small fragment of the citizenry—around 3 % of the school aged population—being taught at home. But those of us who have been homeschooling over 30 years see much more.
We see the movement’s history. Some of us remember when “our” family was the only one we knew of that was home schooling. We thought we were doing something that no one else would understand. We weren’t sure we understood it ourselves. Trained as we were in the government schools where system and uniformity reigned supreme, we felt a little off balance at first with our informal “school time” at the kitchen table. The neighborhood was so quiet with most of the parents at work and all the children—except ours—in school.
Then we began hearing that we weren’t alone after all. With each year that went by, we heard of more and more families who had made the same choice, and of some who were suffering for it. The law was not favorable to educational freedom at that time. But surprisingly soon, home schooling organizations began to form. Parents were lobbying state legislatures. New laws were being passed. Home school conferences started popping up. And growing in size every year. Books were written about home schooling. Magazines appeared. There was no email as yet, but networks began to form. We began to realize that we were part of something that was going to be big.
The movement has indeed gotten big. But I suspect we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. With every new family that successfully teaches their own children, more families learn about it, see it and begin to believe that maybe they could do it, too. The schools certainly aren’t getting better, and more parents are looking desperately for a way out.
As these families look speculatively at home schooling they see results. What was once commonly thought of as a lunatic fringe group, has now produced winners of national scholastic contests, a Heisman Trophy winner and a host of lesser known but impressive performers in academics, entrepreneurship and politics. Colleges and employers are clamoring for home-taught graduates. Home schooled Michael New became a patriot hero when he braved the wrath of the U. S. Army and refused to slip the blue United Nations helmet cover over his army headgear. But I think we’re on the brink of seeing something far more revolutionary than all this.
You see, what academic contests and SAT scores never reflect is something called influence. That’s what is still under the radar; the impact that these young people are having on those around them. People who have never been subjected to the stifling, boring, confusing regimens of school are different from others. Many times I have been able to pick a home schooled kid out of a crowd of people, just by the brightness and confidence of his demeanor. Home schooling families are different as units, too. Watch the families at your favorite restaurant sometime. If you see one with happy kids who like each other and show respect to their parents, you’d win far more often than you’d lose if you bet on their being a home schooling family.
It is the sons and daughters from such families who will who will have a cultural impact far beyond any expectation commensurate with their numbers and the reason can be expressed in one word: leadership. 85% of the kids growing up in America today are learning in government schools and they are being conditioned to be followers. They are trained from kindergarten to move from cell to cell in groups at the sound of a bell, to wait in line for the drinking fountain, to copy things off the chalk board, to believe that their own lives and bodies are the result of a series of evolutionary accidents that imply no hint of purpose to their existence. They are being trained to be followers, as one would expect from any system controlled by a government. After all, what bureaucrat wants a population made up of millions of people who think for themselves? People like that don’t believe everything they’re told. They’re hard to control. They ask questions and challenge their leaders. Even more threatening is the
fact that their attitudes are contagious.
It is that contagion—the sizzling osmosis that makes the hunger for freedom and self-determination go viral through a population—that makes tyrants and petty bureaucrats tremble. Some of the more perceptive among them are trembling even now, as thousands of parents across America are standing up to a government that has wiggled its tentacles into far too many aspects of private and family life. They pronounce “homeschoolers” with the same mix of distaste and unease that they use when they say “Tea Party.”
But influence goes beyond resistance to misused authority.