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Homeschooling Background

Before public education became widely available in the United States and Canada during the late 19th century, many children obtained a formal education at home. Even throughout the 20th century many parents have continued to home school their children, usually for religious or cultural reasons.

In the 1960s and 1970s some families began Home Schooling to provide an education in which the child is free to pursue subjects that stimulate personal interest. In this form of instruction, known as child-directed education, parents and other adults give support but do not impose a course of study on the child. Families who adopt this technique believe children learn best at home because they are motivated to pursue an education in a less-structured but stimulating environment.

In the 1980s and 1990s even more families began home schooling, often because of religious convictions. Many parents believed that public schools were placing less and less emphasis on moral instruction. Often, these parents felt they had a duty to educate their children in a religious environment at home. Parents who home school their children for religious reasons typically offer a combination of religious and secular instruction.

Home Schooling Legal Considerations
During much of the 20th century home schooling was illegal in about half the states. By the late 1990s, however, all states recognized it as a valid way to meet compulsory education requirements. Rules governing home schooling vary considerably from state to state. With minor exceptions, all states require home schooling families to file basic information - such as the name and age of each student - with either a state or local education agency. Some states require parents to submit additional materials, such as lesson plans and student test results. A few states also require a specified level of education or testing for the parents, although no state requires parents to hold teaching certificates.

The Supreme Court of the United States has never explicitly ruled on the constitutionality of home schooling. However, it has decided cases that affect state laws governing the education of children outside conventional schools. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1928), the Supreme Court recognized the right of parents to direct the education of a child, subject only to reasonable regulations. The Court declared that an Oregon state law requiring attendance at public schools only was unconstitutional. In Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the court required the state of Wisconsin to excuse Amish children from compulsory education requirements after the eighth grade. The court sided with the Amish, who had argued that according to their religious beliefs, older children should be educated in the community rather than in schools. The court stressed that religious considerations were legitimate factors in directing the education of children, and that the case did not extend to those who home school for other reasons.

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