Lee and I recently returned from a weekend training conference for home school support group leaders sponsored by the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC). While we certainly gained practical insights into bettering our organization, the most significant moment of the weekend was viewing a soon-to-be-released documentary called Taking a Stand in Texas.
Through this DVD presentation we learned about the challenging beginnings of home schooling in Texas, as told firsthand by some of the pioneering families. In those early days, there were no support groups, no online resources, and no curriculum fairs. In fact, families who felt called to home school faced the very real risk of being arrested for violating compulsory school attendance laws. Consequently, they were hesitant to even have their names on a mailing list, much less receive an e-newsletter like we do today. Another challenge they faced was the conflict between teaching their children to honor those in authority (the state government and its representatives) and standing up for what they strongly believed was their right to educate their children at home. Additionally, they faced strong judgment from their families, communities, and even their churches.
Before I saw this documentary, my perception of the early days of home schooling was somewhat romanticized. I imagined dutiful moms imitating the public school methods, using a pointer to draw their students’ attention to a wall map or requiring their children to sit in school desks. While that was (and is!) sometimes an accurate depiction, what was missing from my picture was the very real persecution that these families faced. Children did not play outdoors during school hours. Home schooling families lived in fear that a knock on the door might be a truant officer or an accusatory neighbor threatening to turn in the parents to Child Protective Services. The joy they felt as they followed their convictions was undoubtedly dampened by the burden of their circumstances.
Thankfully, these families were willing to take a stand for the right to home school their children. They graciously and patiently educated their friends and neighbors about the advantages of home schooling. They banded together and determined that they could force the state to acknowledge the legitimacy of home schools as private schools for the purpose of compulsory attendance by filing a class action lawsuit. Although it was arduous for the families directly involved in the legal action, their perseverance paid off. As a result of the historic Leeper v. Arlington case in 1987, the state of Texas acknowledged the right of parents to educate their children at home.
After watching this documentary, Lee and I became convinced that we have much to be thankful for as Texas home schoolers. First, we have tremendous latitude in how we choose to carry out the task of home education. According to the THSC Handbook for Texas Home Schoolers, the state requires the following: Parents must teach their children in a bona fide manner, must have a curriculum, and must teach reading, spelling, grammar, math and good citizenship. How we accomplish that course of instruction is completely at our discretion. Also, we benefit from the dedicated advocates at THSC, each of whom devotes much time and energy toward supporting the interests of home schoolers across the state. THSC’s efforts to represent home schoolers in the political arena mean that we have full-time representatives who are fighting to preserve our rights. However, we realized after considering the sacrifice of the pioneering home school families that have gone before us that it is vital that we participate in the political process so that we retain those hard-won freedoms. Praise the Lord that we have the freedom to teach our children at home without fear of reproach!
Our January 10 Fellowship Forum will feature a screening of this powerful documentary, Taking a Stand in Texas. As an added incentive, we will be giving away door prizes including THSC Handbooks and book bags. Lee and I would encourage you to be a part of this meeting so that you may gain an even deeper appreciation for the freedoms we have as Texas home schoolers. Hopefully you will leave even more motivated to be an active citizen in order that home schoolers in Texas may continue to enjoy educational liberty. We look forward to seeing you there!