Historically, there were two principle ways parents taught their children: private tutors and parental education (homeschooling). Private education was only available to the wealthy and powerful, as only they had the means to hire private tutors.
Alexander the Great is widely recognized to have been tutored by famed Greek philosopher, Aristotle and, thus, one of the first known homeschoolers. On a side note, Alexander’s tutor, Aristotle, as well as his predecessors, Plato and Socrates, were educated in schools, known as gymnasiums in ancient Greece.
Throughout history, most children were either homeschooled by their parents or provided no education at all. Most primary education pertained to life skills only. Slowly, beginning in the 1700’s, the Church began providing education, mostly to young boys. This was designed primarily to educate the next generation of priests and laymen. After the Protestant Reformation, church-sponsored education spread throughout Europe, in part because many of the parish schools were being funded by taxpayers.
A century later, Abraham Lincoln was one of the first people of note to be educated, in part, by homeschooling. He always said that he went to school “by littles,” which meant a few weeks at a time when he was six, seven, eleven, thirteen, and fifteen. However, the sum total of his schoolhouse education and homeschooling combined amounted to less than two full years. Abe educated himself by reading borrowed books and newspapers. And, as the story goes, he studied by firelight, working out arithmetic problems using charcoal on a wooden slate. Later, when he was able to obtain paper, he practiced writing with a feather pen and blackberry ink.
Eventually, the modern compulsory education model made its way across the Atlantic to the Americas. This model stressed a one-size fits all concept, which meant the state could educate many children simultaneously, all receiving the exact same academic curriculum. Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to mandate compulsory education in 1851 and the last state, Mississippi, passed similar legislation in 1918.
Consequently, in the U.S., education became available to all. In the latter half of the 20th century, American school districts began to consolidate and standardize curriculum. Then, in the 1960’s and 70’s educational researchers’ findings began to reveal that formal schooling could, in fact, be detrimental to young children’s character. This research helped to validate the growing homeschool movement philosophy that the critical emotional development of children was best left in the home.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, further studies found that students in other industrialized nations were outperforming U.S. students. These studies eventually led to more and more governmental testing and curriculum control, eventually fostering an environment in which No Child Left Behind became the law of the land.
By the end of the 20th century, homeschooling became legal in all 50 states. And although homeschooling is not illegal anywhere in the U.S., there are many legal restrictions and hurdles that must addressed to the satisfaction of the state. They vary widely, so the best advice is to contact your local lawmaker for information. Additionally, Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hsdla.org) is an excellent source of information and one of the primary advocates available to the homeschooling public.
Homeschooling has had a long and colorful history and has existed, in one form or another for over 2,000 years, when Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle. Today, in the U.S., about 2.5 million students are being homeschooled and that number is expected to rise. And, as the homeschooled population rises, more and more homeschool programs and all types of educational resources for parents are becoming available. This is all well and good, because homeschooling is here to stay. As it should.
As always, I welcome comments and suggestions. Please feel free to leave them in the comment box below or send and email to me.
All the best in your homeschooling activities,
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