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.
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!”
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.”