When the modern homeschooling movement started to emerge in the 1970s, many jurisdictions considered it a crime to teach your children at home. Today homeschooling is lawful in every state, albeit with different degrees of restrictions. That's one of the great victories for educational choice, and its impact is only increasing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homeschooled children has grown from 850,000 in 1999, when the center started to count them, to 1,770,000 in 2011, the last year for which it has done a tally.
We're long past the days when the stereotypical homeschooler was a hippie or a fundamentalist. They're still there, but they've been joined by many members of the American mainstream.
Here's an artifact from the days when homeschooling still seemed novel and strange. It's a 1981 episode of Donahue, and the guests include two homeschooling families and John Holt, a fervent critic of institutional education. Back then, if Holt's estimate on the show is accurate, there were only about 10,000 homeschooling families in the U.S. (That's families, not students. But even if each of those families had a dozen kids, it would still be a big jump from there to 1999's numbers.)
The audience greets the guests with a mixture of interest, skepticism, and sheer fascination. (One woman accuses one of the families of operating a commune.) Phil Donahue, as always, has a ball hopping around and playing devil's advocate. And the video includes the ads from when the program first aired, so you'll also get to see spots for everything from The Muppet Show to the Barnum & Bailey circus (RIP):
Bonus links: John Holt's one article for Reason, from way back in 1971, is here. The left/right alliance that legalized homeschooling is described here. And past editions of the Friday A/V Club are here.
National School Choice Week runs from January 24 through January 28 and features over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states. Go here for more information about events and for data about how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans.
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