A Unit Study: A Texas Home Schooling History

By Anne Gebhart

Have a fun history class while teaching your children about some modern day history that directly impacts their lives!  There’s nothing like a little role-playing to help our students understand what the home schooling pioneers went through and what a special privilege it is to home school in Texas.

? Pretend you are a home school pioneer living in Texas during the 1980’s.  Stay in your house during school hours.  There are no co-ops, no support groups, and no extra-curricular activities for homeschoolers at this time.  School hours are typically from 8:15 until 3:30.  That’s a little over 7 hours. Discuss what you will do with all that time while you’re at home.  How many pages can you read in that amount of time?  How much school work do you think you can accomplish at home in seven hours?   What do you think the impact of staying at home all day had on family relationships?

? During school hours, home schoolers had to be discreet.  Today, every time someone knocks on the front door today, be very quiet.   Only your parent can answer the door.  Pretend you’re a home schooling mom (or dad).  With your sibling or parent, dramatize a scenario where a truant officer comes to the door, questions you, informs you that you are breaking the law, and then tries to arrest you for homeschooling your child illegally.  There is no THSC to call for assistance at this time in history, so you will be at the mercy of the truant officer.  What could you say that could convince him not to arrest you?

? Before home schooling became legalized in Texas, curriculum publishers didn’t view homeschooling families as legitimate schools and, therefore, would not sell their curriculum to them.  Your assignment is to write your own curriculum lessons for the year (remember, there are 36 weeks in a school year) in each of the following subjects:  math, language arts, writing, spelling, history, science, Bible/Christian worldview, music, and PE.  Oh, and there’s no internet to draw resources from, so you’ll have to do it the “old fashioned way” using library books and encyclopedias for information.  Older kids teach the younger kids.  Which subjects were harder to teach? Which ones were easier?

? Attend a home school bookfair.  Research curriculum publishers and find out which curricula were written by home schoolers to teach to their own children.  Find the ratio of family publishers to corporate publishers, by surveying the vendors at the fair you attend.

? The Austin TEA Party was an historic event in home schooling history.  Where is Austin?  Get out a road map and decide on the best route to get there.  Make signage, get your stroller, pack your bags, and drive to Austin.  Visit the Capitol building and have a peaceful demonstration outside.  When you get home, look up the Boston Tea Party.  Compare and contrast both events and write a report explaining how each event was significant.

? Find out the date of the Austin TEA Party.  Plan a special celebration on that date.  Make up invitations and plan a special TEA party for your home school friends.    Or, scrap the TEA and have coffee or punch instead.

? Study the Leeper vs. Arlington case.  What year did the case begin?  What year did it end?  Who is Shelby Sharpe?  Find a picture of him and add him to your timeline.  View the video “Miracle in Texas.”  Name at least five home school families who were involved in the case, and write a short biography of each of them.  Include pictures of each family.  Who was Helen Jackson and how do we know that her decision to home school was important to her?  Would you do the same thing if you were in her shoes?  Why or why not?  Discuss the sacrifices that parents make to homeschool their children.  Is it an easy decision?  Are the sacrifices worth it?

? Have a mock court trial dramatizing the events of the Leeper vs. Arlington case.  Why did the case go all the way to the Texas Supreme Court?  What is an appeal?  What was the state Supreme Court’s final decision?  What impact did that decision have on Texas home schoolers?  What impact did that decision have on school districts in Texas?  What impact does that decision have on you and your family today?

? Are home schooling freedoms in Texas guaranteed, now that the highest court in Texas has ruled in favor of parents who wish to teach their children at home?  If not, what things could happen which could cause those freedoms to be taken away?  How important is it that home schoolers actively participate in the political process?  Write a letter to Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition Association, asking him why he feels home schoolers should be politically active.

? Participate in a Capitol day sponsored by THSC.

? Find out which state representatives are home school-friendly.  Does your local state representative support home schoolers?

? Compare Texas home school laws with other states.  Which states have the most freedom?  Which states do you feel are the best states to homeschool in, and why?