August 16, 2004


Reading,writing &right-wing politics: This fall, conservative Christian homeschoolers will hit the campaign trail for George Bush and other candidates who support their political agenda. Why aren't liberal homeschoolers following suit? (Steve Grove, August 15, 2004, Boston Globe)

WHEN A SMALL NUMBER of parents started dragging their children out of public schools in the 1960s in order to teach them at home, critics argued that the new "homeschool movement" would impede children's social development and create a bunch of isolated, introverted misfits.

But 30 years later, homeschooling has blossomed into a significant social movement. Figures released last month by the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics place homeschooling numbers at around 1.1 million students, up from 850,000 in 1999 though some estimate the actual figure is closer to 2 million. And as the movement has grown, homeschooling advocates have brandished reams of studies and reports claiming their children are just as civically and politically engaged as their non-homeschool peers, perhaps even more so.

This election season, one segment of the homeschool population aims to turn its students into a political force. Last February, a predominately conservative Christian homeschooling organization called the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) launched "Generation Joshua," a Web-based program that aims to teach civics by putting 4,000 homeschooled kids on the campaign trail. The students will be sent out in "Student Action Teams," ranging in size from 25 to 200, to do grass-roots campaigning for socially conservative candidates in hotly contested races throughout the country. Not only must these candidates be supporters of homeschooling, but they must also fall in line with other core values held by the HSLDA.

"We believe that some day homeschooled young people will help reverse Roe v. Wade [and] stop same-sex marriage . . . ," wrote HSLDA president Michael Farris in a statement that launched Generation Joshua. (Farris is also president of Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville, Va., which was founded by the HSLDA in 1997 primarily for conservative Christian homeschoolers.) One of the program's first campaign efforts in support of Nathan Tabor's bid for the Republican nomination for North Carolina's 5th Congressional District seat ended in a loss. But director Ned Ryun says that Generation Joshua will be campaigning for many other Republican politicians this fall, including President Bush.

"It's no secret that homeschoolers are excellent grass-roots workers," said Ryun, who called the Tabor race more of an "exercise" for the coming general election. "This is the first real attempt to get them organized in a cohesive effort in the right direction.

"Not all homeschoolers, of course, share his definition of the right direction. But as "George Bush's secret army" (as The Economist recently dubbed conservative homeschoolers) girds itself for battle, it's worth asking why an equal and opposing army of liberal homeschoolers hasn't risen up to meet them.

The conservative Christian homeschooler may have overtaken the children of free-spirited hippies in the public imagination, but not all homeschoolers are social conservatives or even avowed Christians. HSLDA, which claims about 81,000 members nationwide, represents fewer than 10 percent of homeschoolers. According to the recent report by the US Department of Education, "concern about environment of other schools" (cited by 31 percent) outranked the desire to "provide religious or moral instruction" (30 percent) as the main reason for homeschooling, though other studies have estimated that evangelicals make up as much as 70 percent of all homeschoolers.

Well, 31 + 30 = 61% and there's no reason a liberal would cite concern about the public school environment--they created it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2004 12:46 PM

Are there liberal homeschoolers? I haven't met any yet.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 16, 2004 2:04 PM

For some reason I read the "&right-wing" in the link headline as "bright-wing" and was wondering what I'd missed this time.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 16, 2004 2:12 PM


Non-christian, certainly. Libertarian, very likely. Liberal? I don't know...

Posted by: mike earl at August 16, 2004 2:44 PM

Liberals have no time for their children.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at August 16, 2004 4:22 PM

Sure there are liberal homeschoolers. Environmentalist back-to-the-land'ers who cherish old dog eared copies of the Mother Earth News and breastfeed their kids until they're 15 years old. They have a gunrack and a "Reelect Bernie" sticker on the abck of their truck. You will find them at the curious juxtaposition of extreme Liberalism and extreme Libertarianism. They exist in a dimension not of sight or of sound, but of bizarre politcal theories. The signpost up ahead reads, "Welcome to Vermont."
Sometimes I think I truly live on the Bizarro Planet, but I'm not leaving any time soon.

Posted by: Governor Breck at August 16, 2004 4:52 PM

>Are there liberal homeschoolers?

No. No need to. They're perfectly satisfied with the public school system.

>Sometimes I think I truly live on the Bizarro
>Planet, but I'm not leaving any time soon.

Breck, I'm having a hard time figuring out if I'm watching the news or South Park. I think I can tell the difference because South Park makes more sense.

Posted by: Ken at August 16, 2004 7:13 PM

Is homeschooling really increasing? I remember this movement making big news, especially on talk radio, during the late 90s. I have not heard much about homeschooling since George Bush took office. It seems as though homeschooling has reached a plateau because most of the parents capable and willing to homeschool their kids have already done so, and because unsuccessful homeschooling parents have chosen to send their kids to private schools or return them to public schools.

Personally, I am not in favor of homeschooling. I know this is going to sound cliche, but all adults I know, who were ever homeschooled, turned out either to be a social morons or people who grew up to really indulge themselves in wild sex, drugs and other self-destructive behavior.

If you are really concerned with what your children are learning, send them to a good school and ask them questions every day about what they learned in school that day. If your children say they learned something that you truly believe to be incorrect or immoral, tell them your views on the issue and/or guide them to sources which offer an alternative viewpoint than the one offerred by the teacher. This way your children will receive a good education, experience all the joys that come with being in a school, and learn that there are people in the world, many of them wacky, who see life differently than they do, and they will be much more capable of resisting their evil influences. I think this will help children grow up to become strong adults.

Posted by: Vince at August 17, 2004 3:37 AM


In the good 'ole days, home education was very common, especially for girls, the poor and among those who lived in remote places. Did they all turn out to be social morons or wild and crazy profligates?

Posted by: Peter B at August 17, 2004 8:08 AM

The few that I've been aware of have won scholarships to leading Colleges/Universities and seem to be mature and well adjusted young people.

Posted by: Genecis at August 17, 2004 12:22 PM

I do not doubt that many homeschooled children receive great educations and perhaps even win fabulous scholarships to wonderful universities. My only point is that children could still receive a good education while being in a school setting, without their parents sentencing them to a life of social seclusion. Keep in mind, the primary reason parents homeschool their children is to protect them from the moral pollution abundant in many our public schools. Eventually, their homeschooled kids will have to go out into the world and interact with the kids who did attend the same morally bankrupt public schools, of which the homeschooled kids' parents worked so hard to keep them out. Don't you think the homeschooled kids would be much better capable of handling their contemparies if they had grown up with them in the first place? I don't see how they would be capable as adults when they spent their entire lives avoiding others.

Posted by: Vince at August 17, 2004 10:15 PM


That's an archaic view of homeschooling--they participate in many public programs, just not education.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 10:25 PM

Peter B, you are comparing apples to oranges. Life "in the good 'ole days" were just that: good 'ole days. The children who attended schools were raised in the same cultural environment as those kids who were homeschooled; therefore, there was no culture shock when the homeschooled kids interacted with the schooled kids. Furthermore, most people then lived in rural communities instead of the urban/suburban settings of today, which meant that everyone in the community was seen as a family member instead of a stranger. Third, although I consider rural Americans to be very nice people, there are many people who consider these people to be kind of hokey. So the jury is still out as to whether the homeschooled children of yesteryear grew up to become social morons and profligates.

Posted by: Vince at August 17, 2004 10:30 PM


The rather gaping hole in your theory is that public school kids are well-adjusted.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 10:36 PM

Orrin, I just view the homeschooling issue very similar to the gay parenting issue. Another words, the parents become very emotional about protecting their position without ever ceding that there just might be some problems with either keeping their kids out of a school setting or by denying them a mother or a father. Haven't you ever noticed how every homeschooled kid or kid raised by gay parents is always portrayed as the second coming of Christ who gets excellent grades, plays the violin, wins spelling bees and thinks his or her parents are just the best parents ever, and they couldn't possibly be any happier. I just think much of it nothing more than right and left wing propaganda.

Posted by: Vince at August 17, 2004 10:43 PM

Orrin, I never said that children should attend public schools. I just said that they should be taught in a school setting. That could be private or religious schools. That could even be a bunch of homeschooling parents getting together to form a school of their own, where one parent teaches on Monday and another parent teaches on Tuesday and so on.....

Posted by: Vince at August 17, 2004 10:46 PM


We have tons of both here and they seem pretty normal.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 10:49 PM


Why? The school setting seems almost uniquely unconducive to learning for many kids--especially active young boys.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 11:06 PM


Posted by: Vince at August 18, 2004 8:28 PM



Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 8:39 PM

Orrin, just as I never said that children need to attend public schools, I never said that school settings must be classrooms with desks lined up in rows, where Ben Stein-like teachers ramble on and on without connecting with their students. It could be an alternative school setting of some type, where the education is tailored to fit a certain type of child's needs, but I just think it is much better if the child is taught in a setting with other children.

Posted by: Vince at August 18, 2004 8:40 PM


Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 8:54 PM

Orrin, have you not been reading my earlier posts? I said that many homeschooled children grow up to become social morons.

Posted by: Vince at August 18, 2004 9:11 PM

Yes, I just thought the point obviously ignorant. Public school is a pretty recent innovation and not global, are you suggesting that thousands of years of your progenitors were social morons? On what evidence?

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 9:17 PM

Hello Harry and Uncle Bill,

Nice to meet you. I am a liberal, Christian, homeschooler who only breastfeeds the kids till about 3-3 1/2 years. I taught public school for years and that is why I am now teaching my children at home. I am not happy with public school education and know I do a better job with them at home. My kids learn in leaps and bounds because I can move as slowly or quickly as each new skill or content area comes to them. I also coop with three other families one day a week where mothers take turns teaching topics that they excel in. I teach flute to the teens in one family and social studies. Another mother teaches science and another does art lessons. We belong to an umbrella group academy that monitors our progress and keeps our transcripts current and a support group that hosts weekly PEs and monthly field trips and support meetings for the mothers who teach. They take riding lessons and two ballet classes a week. My son is about to start guitar and my daughter wants to try the mandolin. We are continually complimented on our children's maturity and conversational skills in many settings. Our cousins in another state have four hs'd kids who are older than mine and all are just wonderful fun kids to interact with. The homeschooler-s-social- moron thing just is not born out by the many college age homeschooled kids that I know. Maybe in the early days of the movement where it was truly just mom in the basement day in day out with no other contact with the world kids struggled, but that is just not how it is for most of us today.

Posted by: Lorrie at November 12, 2004 1:39 AM