It is difficult to say exactly when home schooling started although the example of Alexander the Great being taught ‘at home’ by Aristotle more than 2,500 years ago is often cited as being the first case of home schooling.
In fact it was not until late in the 19th century that states began passing legislation compelling parents to send their children to public schools and, up until this time, all children were home schooled.
However, when we talk about home schooling today we are really talking about a movement away from the public schools and back into home schooling which was born in the mid 1960s out of the views of three people in particular.
Three Views On Home Schooling
The first and perhaps most influential was John Holt who was an Ivy League graduate and teacher who was unhappy with the public school system and sought at first to reform it. Realizing however that this was an impossible task he advocated adopting a home schooling approach and wrote extensively on the subject over a period of more than twenty years.
John Holt believed that children are naturally curious and eager to learn but saw in the public schools a system of structured learning based around curricula and schedules which dampens a child’s spirit of curiosity rather than encouraging it. He also believed that public schools are based upon a system which is largely authoritarian and advocated moving away from any structured system of learning and concentrating attention on assisting a child to learn by focusing on the child’s natural sense of curiosity.
In 1964 John Holt wrote his first book entitled ‘How Children Fail’ and went on to coin the term ‘unschooling’ which eschews any form of structured education, including the use of curricula and schedules. In 1977 he also published the first edition of ‘Growing Without Schooling’, a bimonthly magazine for home schoolers.
The second modern advocate of home schooling was Raymond Moore who was a devout Christian and ex-missionary who saw in the public schools a philosophy which ran counter to his religious beliefs.
Raymond Moore believed that education should be about much more than simply teaching facts and figures and focused his attention on many of the negative aspects of public schooling which he saw not least as being the violence seen in so many of our public schools. Moore advocated that parents should resume responsibility for the education of their children and, in particular, for the moral and spiritual education of their children, ensuring that children were prepared to enter into the adult world with a sound set of values on which to base their lives.
The third main player in the birth of the modern home schooling movement was Ayn Rand who was a novelist and philosopher. Although Ayn Rand did not write specifically on the subject of education (with the exception of a few essays) her wider views gave birth to the modern libertarian movement and views on a wide range of subjects including education.
Her views, expressed largely during the 1960s, were accepted widely and indeed out of them was born a political party this was, and remains, opposed to any form of state sponsored education system and, in particular, to any form of compulsory public education system. Libertarians however are not simply opposed to compulsory state education and negative in their approach, but also advocate the restoration of an education system which focuses on children as individuals and on developing a child’s own innate creativity.
All three of these views on the subject of education grew together during the second half of the twentieth century and, despite the fact that they are three radically different philosophies, they all have as their basis a common theme – that the public school is failing and will continue to fail because it does not deliver a satisfactory quality of education in and environment which is safe and which encourages the child to learn. In addition, all three views clearly advocate putting both the intellectual and moral development of the child in the center of the educational stage.