Aah. Parents are busily deciding what to do this fall for the education of their children. Homeschool? Private school? Public school? Parents are deciding. Parents can decide!
This is reason to celebrate! Not too long ago, they would have had no choice at all, for between 1897 and 1986, homeschooling in the Mountain State was basically illegal.
Homeschooling isn’t really new though. Dating back as the earliest form of education, it was, in fact, quite common during our nation’s first 100 years. While public schools, private schools, tutors, governesses, and mentorships were all available options, home education was the foundational way to prepare children for adult success.
In West Virginia, however, home education came to an abrupt end in 1897 when the first compulsory attendance law was passed. Instead of parents choosing what was best, children of certain ages were required to be sent to the free public schools. While parents were a bit outraged at first, they soon accepted the new norm.
For the next 80 years, homeschooling all but disappeared. It became rare, difficult, and gradually forgotten. Compulsory attendance steadily expanded to include more years and more time – and parents became mostly superfluous in the educational process. Even the godly principles ingrained in early school houses were challenged successfully and schooling progressed – or, shall we say, regressed – toward secularism. Perhaps like the slowly boiling frog, parents hardly noticed the changes at first. Sending children off at age 4 or 5 has in fact become an unquestioned duty.
Throughout those eight decades, a trickle of brave parents sought alternatives for children who were not thriving, but a large-enough movement to secure a victory didn’t happen until 1986.
By the early 80’s, a resurgence of interest in home education finally emerged onto the national radar screen. But not until 1986 did the Homeschool Exemption Law pass in West Virginia, thanks to the sacrificial commitment of a handful of families who arose and secured a legislative victory which definitively recognized the parents’ right to freely educate their own children.
That was 35 years ago. CHEWV families committed to the same goal have been actively defending WV homeschooling ever since.
At the start of this school year, we celebrate and remember 3 1/2 decades of the Homeschool Exemption. Spend a moment thanking God for the privilege that we call homeschooling – and for the freedom to choose!