In April 2012, Texas homeschoolers celebrated 25 years of freedom to educate their children without restriction. The amazing opportunities that modern homeschoolers enjoy are only possible because of those who stood up for your right to homeschool.
Each homeschooling family has chosen to homeschool for reasons very important and very personal to them; you no doubt felt convicted that this was the best option for their family. And Texas is one of the best states in the country to do just that.
This freedom has always existed, but it was threatened severely in the 1980’s. According to the Texas Homeschool Coalition, “…the 1980s were a perilous time for home school families all over the country, but especially in Texas. More than 100 families were prosecuted by the state for teaching their children at home in those years. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) had taken the position (reversing almost 70 years of policy) that home schools were not private schools and therefore students being taught at home were truant. Everyone who decided to teach their children at home in those days understood they were taking a chance and that they had to be involved in the political process to protect themselves.”
I was at the Austin TEA Party in 1986, at the age of 14, with my parents. When my mom and dad got wind of this hearing we, along with three other homeschooling families, traveled from Collinsville all the way to Austin.
There was a lot fueling this mad dash to the capitol:
1) My mom and dad had been completely dedicated to homeschooling from the start. There was never any talk of “trying it out” or going back to public school later. They were sold.
2) My parents had already been arrested for homeschooling in Oklahoma, and they wanted to be sure that wouldn’t happen again.
3) Our family was prone to exercise our right to free speech. This was not the first march, and it wouldn’t be the last.
As with most homeschooling families, we survived on one income, and had little extra. But we packed our tents, sleeping bags, and camp stove and took off. We camped at a KOA campground and ate sandwiches from a cooler.
Why? Well, I’ll tell you:
Some of you have heard my story, about how my parents were arrested for homeschooling. But the story doesn’t really belong to me; it belongs to my Mom and Dad and to my aunt, Kari. They were the homeschool parents who experienced a literal rude awakening early one morning in October of 1983. This arrest took place in Oklahoma, and was the result of an anonymous complaint.
Police officers knocked on our door at 7:00 that morning. A very apologetic deputy informed my parents that they were under arrest for truancy, and he needed to take them to the Jefferson County Sherrif’s office. (Three days before, my dad had been fired from his job in this very office without warning and without explanation.)
My parents immediately called our Pastor. The Pastor went to inform my aunt Kari, who lived across town, that the deputy was on his way to her house, since she didn’t have a phone. He arrived at the same time the police showed up, so it was a complete surprise to Kari. She grabbed her Bible, a toothbrush, and a sweater, because for some reason she remembered hearing that it was cold in jail!
All four of us kids stayed with the pastsor’s wife, while the pastor followed the offenders to jail in his own car.
Mom and Daddy were members of Home School Legal Defense Association, so phone calls were quickly made. John Eidsmoe, who was a professor of law at Oral Roberts University at the time, took Kari’s case at no charge, since she was a widow. Michael Ferris, John Whithead, and Charles McLaughlin were all involved.
The legalities of homeschooling were a big deal at this time, as homeschooling had begun to grow in popularity. At the time, there were 7 homeschool defense attorneys in Texas. But no one expected a problem in Oklahoma. Oklahoma was, and still is, one of the best states for homeschooling, so this was unheard of!
Bail was set for $200, which our Pastor graciously paid. So Mom, Daddy, and Kari were fingerprinted and processed, but never locked up. They spent the day in the Sheriffs office while the attorneys were contacted.
The court date was set for January of 1984. Meanwhile, John Whitehead called the Oklahoma Attorney General and the State Legislature. Kari had a phone installed at her house in order to keep up with the case. We visited with the attorneys handling the case. Our families even went to the home of Kirk and Beverly McCord (whose name you may recognize as the founders of the Home School Book Fair). We, the children, were questioned privately to prepare us for the court proceedings.
In December, Kari received a phone call from another Oklahoma homeschooler who said that 300 other homeschoolers were planning to march at the courthouse where the case would be heard. She was so happy just to know there were other families actually homeschooling in Oklahoma!
Just days before the case was to be tried in court, the Terral School Superintendent dropped the case. He even came to our home and apologized to my parents for the inconvenience. Kari, however, did not receive a letter or an apology.
I was 11 years old when this happened. My sister was 8, and my cousins were 7 and 4.
In all the history of the world, freedom has never magically appeared. Battles for freedom of any sort had to be fought…sacrifices had to be made to win and keep freedom.
I remember the fear of having police officers knock on our door so early in the morning, and finding out that they had come for my parents. I also remember spending the day at the Pastor’s house, waiting for my parents to come home. I did have some worry that they might have to stay in jail. We had only been homeschooling for just over a month, so it was scary to think they had done something really wrong.
As far as my Dad remembered, they were the first to be arrested for homeschooling in Oklahoma.
(As a side note, homeschooling in Oklahoma has been legal since its statehood in 1908. All it took for an arrest was the perfect mix of an uniformed school district, a compliant sherriff’s office, and brand new homeschoolers with no knowledge of their rights. Unfortunately, this still happens all over Texas and the United States.)
My family’s story, although quite dramatic for us, is a simple one compared to many others. There are numerous families who have been through worse. Thanks to the good people at Home School Legal Defense Association and Texas Homeschool Coalition, much is being done every day to protect this very basic parental right. Arrest may not happen to you, but your support of these organizations will help protect families whose rights to homeschool are in danger.
People who did not consider themselves “politically active” in any way suddenly found themselves speaking out against, fighting against, and even dying because of threatened tyranny. The United States of America would not exist without the willingness of brave families who gave up everything and risked everything to seek freedom for themselves and generations to come. The Pilgrims, who first fled to Holland from England and the tyranny of the King, left their second home, and in their desire to raise their children away from the dangers of the culture around them, they picked up everything and braved a 6 week ocean voyage, wilderness, Indians, and the great unknown. They had very little knowledge of this new world, its weather, terrain, people, vegetation, or possibilities. But it was worth it to them to protect their children and save their souls.
I, for one, am humbled by their sacrifice and thankful that they were willing. They suffered many hardships and losses, but they also produced some of the greatest men and women in history.
The American colonists did likewise. They did not simply wake up one morning and decide to start a revolution; they recognized the threat to future generations and took it upon themselves to do something about it in their lifetime.
John Adams said, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”
You do not have to be an activist; you should be knowledgeable and aware. Click & Tweet! All homeschoolers need to be willing to act on information regarding threats to our freedom.
“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.”
The threats still exist, at the local level, the State level, and the national level. Make no mistake: parents who take responsibility for the upbringing of their children are a real threat to the liberal agenda.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has listed among its many demands to “ban the private ownership of land” and “make homeschooling illegal because religious fanatics use it to feed their children propaganda.” This movement has the public support of President Obama and other Democratic leaders in Congress.
The freedom to educate our children is vital to the future of America. We can thank the pioneers of the modern homeschooling movement for standing up for that freedom. But it is our responsibility to keep it.
Texas Homeschool Coalition has played a vital part in preserving the freedom of Texas Homeschoolers. They work closely with the Governor and the State Legislature, closely examining every piece of legislation for threats to families who educate their children.
I am so thankful to my parents and my aunt, and all other homeschooling pioneers for their bravery in paving that road for us today. Now it’s up to us to keep the way open for our children and grandchildren.
The legal threat to homeschooling is always with us. Thankfully, Texas remains a safe place to homeschool. However, new ideas are creeping in among the homeschool community, and unfortunately are being pushed by the very people who used to protect our freedoms.
The Texas Homeschool Coalition has had its eye on homeschool participation in UIL activities (public school sports and other teams) for some time now. Each new legislative session in Texas sees more effort on their part to get this legislation through. In Texas, its known as the Tim Tebow Bill. I strongly oppose this legislation and I wrote about it here. The bill died in the house during the 2015 legislative session.
THSC has introduced new language in their recent communications. “School choice” is all the rage among politicians and parents, and THSC has taken up the standard. In my opinion, it’s a clever marketing of the Tebow Bill. School Choice isn’t at all what it’s being sold as, and the masses are ignoring this to their future detriment. School Choice is simply the state or federal government allowing you to “keep” the education tax dollars earmarked for your child to use in whatever education avenue you choose.
But consider: “Once bureaucrats get a foothold into controlling some homeschoolers, they’ll find ways to extend that to all,” she warns. “Thus, the only way to maintain all homeschoolers’ independence from government overreach into our homes is by everyone refusing any and all offers of government-sponsored financial ‘help.’ When we pay, we get the say – as it should be.” (Tina Hollenbeck; Homeschool Resource Roadmap).
For many years THSC has been vigilant in protecting the right of Texas homeschool families in one of the few states with zero oversight. Their work has been appreciated by me and thousands of others.
But this bill changed all of that. Their refusal to listen to hundreds of homeschool parents in Texas about their opposition to this pet bill, their silencing of those parents on public forums, their bait-and-switch tactics in the legislature, AND MOST OF ALL their willingness to risk a valuable freedom for the “opportunity” to go back into the school system from which we walked away has soured me on the leadership of that organization.
Sadly, this kind of betrayal by state homeschool organizations, as well as HSLDA, is not happening just in Texas. It’s long past time for homeschoolers to stop depending on lobbying organizations to speak for us in state and federal legislatures. Click & Tweet! They are clearly not listening to their support base, and seem willing to compromise on too many of our freedoms. Parents, if you homeschool, or plan to, or used to, please take up the fight personally to see that your freedom continues.
August 2016: Do you want your children to be “assessed by sates and incorporated into their accountability system” on the basis of “social and emotional learning?”
“ESSA requires that at least one non-cognitive trait be —>assessed by the states and incorporated into their accountability systems. The dilemma is how to measure the progress.”
“During the U.S. House proceedings for Every Student Succeeds Act that replaced No Child Left Behind, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, made the stunning statement that Common Core is being redefined as social-emotional learning (SEL), which must come first in the learning hierarchy — with academics ranking second!”
“In the Austin, Texas independent school district, skills such as understanding and managing emotions, forming positive relationships, solving problems, and being optimistic have been integrated into the curriculum. Teachers are asked to spend 30-45 minutes a week teaching a lesson on an explicit skill. They have hired expensive consultants and created new programs and materials to formally teach what we once did for free.
In Dallas, Texas the Dallas Morning News (DMN) reports that the Dallas Independent School Board (DISD) has “…quietly passed a policy pushed by trustee Dan Micciche that requires social and emotional learning — already used informally in some schools – to be taught in all classrooms over the next 10 years.” The DISD notes the program will follow that of the Austin ISD and questions whether federal funding can be obtained.” Read more here.
Join this Facebook group for up-to-the minute info on what I call “fake-school-choice” in Texas. It’s full of knowledgeable Texans, veteran homeschoolers and educational freedom advocates.
Read my School Choice Page for a complete explanation.
It’s a new world for Texas Homeschoolers. The time has come to re-educate ourselves and find new support resources:
Heritage Defense is a conservative non-profit legal organization specializing in defense of the family. It’s only $19/month to join.
Check out my Homeschooling in Texas page HERE.
Hi! I’m Nicki! Welcome to my blog! A little about me? I’m a 9th generation Texan living on a nine-acre homestead in North Texas with my husband and five children. I write about homeschooling, history, freedom, my faith, homesteading, reading, and quilting. If you want faith-based encouragement, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!