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One of the longest living trees on Earth, the Baobab of the African savannas, is a sacred symbol revered for its long life and many uses which have sustained African peoples since the beginning of time.

The Tree of Life, as it is often referred to, grows 75 feet tall with an enormous trunk 60 feet in circumference. Some of these noble giants are 2000 years old, and for generations have served as meeting places for villages to discuss community matters, relate the news of the day and to tell stories.

A Declaration of Independence

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Unschooling, Unit Studies, Waldorf Method, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Trivium, Curriculum “A,” Curriculum “B,” Eclectic. These are some of the many learning styles and approaches to education from which parents choose to homeschool their children. Cyber schools, public schools with part-time enrollment, public schools with study-at-home programs. These are alternatives to the traditional school environment, and are sometimes mistaken for homeschooling but they are not. In the past, it was fine to let politicians, media, family and friends think that homeschooling included all of these options, but not anymore. The blurring of these two does a disservice to both and threatens the freedom to homeschool.

Apples & Oranges
Families who choose cyber schools and public school study-at-home programs are exercising an important option, but these options must not be confused with homeschooling in its true sense. Why is this distinction important? In both examples, the children learn at home, right? The distinction is important to keep homeschooling a legal and viable option for families in every state. Grouping the two together threatens the rights of homeschooling by making families subject to the same government oversight as public institutions. Homeschooling families do not use public money and therefore should not be held to the same requirements as institutional programs. This means that homeschoolers, of all learning persuasions, need to work together, focus on the common goal of homeschooling, and not let different learning styles cause division. It is the freedom to choose what works best for each child that makes homeschooling so successful for all.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
About a year ago, I met a “homeschooling” mother at a local teacher supply store. “Eve” is the mother of two pre-teen boys, enrolled in the study-at-home program of the neighborhood school. She was surprised to hear that my children had never been to school and a bit disturbed when she realized that we that we were, in her words, “homeschooling alone.” Eve was excited about the study-at-home program in which she had enrolled her boys. Her family had decided to avoid the negative socialization that comes with physical attendance at the neighborhood school, but fully embraced the academic standards set by the State.

As we browsed the aisles of the teacher supply store together, Eve picked up a replica of the Declaration of Independence, a script written document on yellowed textured paper. A very tactile person, I was immediately drawn to it also, running my hand over it saying, “It feels nice.” Eve agreed, “Yes, I’ll have it laminated to keep it clean.” She stated that she intended to buy it because it fit with the coming year’s curriculum. As I reached for my own copy of the replica, I was surprised to hear a disapproving voice behind me say, “Oh, your girls are too young for that!”

Thrown off by her sudden change in tone, I cautiously disagreed, “No, my children are not too young, in fact in our homeschooling we have discussed the Declaration of Independence many times.” I explained how our annual preparations for Watch Night Services, Juneteenth Celebrations and of course the Fourth of July, have always included discussions of this great humanitarian document. She asked if I realized that most schools did not introduce the Declaration of Independence to students my children’s age. Puzzled by the relevance of her question I shook my head, “No.” I explained that as Unschoolers, we do not wait to teach according to the local school’s schedule, but prefer to learn as life leads us.

She pursed her lips and gave a stiff half nod, “Mmm.” “Well,” she concluded, and by her tone she was clearly closing the door of this discussion with a double lock Schwab™, “It would be a waste to get that now, they’re too young to really understand what it means, and by the time they are old enough, they won’t remember it, and it’ll probably be torn up.”

I wanted to buy the replica, because it fell in line with my children’s stated interests. I thought it would be wonderful for them to run their hands over the crinkly paper, and squint their eyes as they tried to decipher the Old English script. It would be a welcome addition next to our modern day copies of the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation. But because of peer pressure, I caved. I smiled wistfully and put the replica back on the shelf.

Declaring My Own Independence
Since that day, the topic of the Declaration of Independence has resurfaced several more times in our homeschooling. Most recently, the Declaration of Independence Road Trip made its way to our city. I’m sure Eve would have thought me crazy, but pregnant with my fifth child and my other four children, ages 1- 8 years in tow, I stood in line for more than an hour to see an original Dunlap broadside from 1776. In preparation for our visit, my daughters read an article about it in the newspaper and asked the librarian for reference books about the document. We compared it to the Emancipation Proclamation and discussed possible reasons why the Declaration alone has not been enough to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans, then and now. It was a wonderful experience and well worth the time and effort.

I have learned a lot since that fateful day at the teacher supply store with Eve. I realized that even as an adult, I am still vulnerable to peer pressure. I should trust my parental instincts and not let others put limits on my children based on their experiences. Soon after I noticed more media attention being given to so-called “homeschool” programs and the confusion and frustration, it brought to the general public and homeschooling families. Thanks to several active watchdog organizations, homeschoolers and parents interested in homeschooling are learning the difference between true homeschooling and encroaching publicly funded programs, which call themselves “homeschooling.”

"...homeschoolers, of all learning persuasions, need to work together, focus on the common goal of homeschooling, and not let different learning styles cause division."

WHEREAS homeschool parents are capable, intelligent people who accept responsibility for their children's education and have been effective without the enticements of a computer, "experts," reimbursements or packaged curriculum, and have succeeded without standards-driven accountability models, testing and other government interference;

WHEREAS the biggest difference between homeschools and publicly-funded school programs is that homeschoolers take direct responsibility by choosing a curriculum, an approach to learning, and the principles and values on which these are based while publicly-funded school program parents accept and follow detailed instructions about what to learn and how to learn it, using a curriculum designed to comply with state requirements and values;

--from the "We Stand For Homeschooling Resolution"

The "We Stand for Homeschooling Statement and Resolution” is a grassroots effort created by an ad hoc group of homeschoolers from all over the United States. Read the complete resolution and sign and show your support for homeschooling at

S. Courtney Walton lives and learns in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and five children. An advocate of Unschooling, Courtney serves as the Unschooling Advisor for the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance and writes frequently about her family's unschooling adventures in her column Real Living...Real Learning with S. Courtney Walton for The Good News Herald in St. Louis, MO. She is currently at work on a resource guide for African-American Homeschoolers.