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A Brief History of Homeschooling in Oregon
Jeanne Biggerstaff, Legislative Liaison
Oregon Home Education Network
February 8, 2003
Prior to 1985, permission to homeschool was completely at the discretion of each school district. Some districts
required families to submit lessons plans; others flatly refused permission.
1986 saw the first law granting the statewide
right to homeschool, removing the requirement to get the permission of the local school superintendent. This was a definite
improvement over local jurisdiction, but it left many of the important definitions to be determined by administrative rules
that are not approved by legislative vote. Under this law homeschoolers were required to test annually, there were no provisions
for children with special needs and the district superintendents retained the right to remand students to school if they were
not showing satisfactory educational progress (a definition vulnerable to change at any time).
Between 1986 and 1997,
there were many attempts by various educational organizations to tighten restrictions on homeschoolers either through new
legislation or reinterpretation of administrative rules. Only through the tireless lobbying efforts of homeschooling families
and organizations were these efforts sidetracked.
In 1997, a bill to lessen the testing requirements and provide additional assessment options passed both the House
and the Senate, but was vetoed by the governor. During this legislative session, homeschoolers made it abundantly clear that
their long-term goal was complete freedom from government oversight of homeschooling.
In 1999, a total freedom bill was introduced. During negotiations, a compromise bill was developed that required
one-time notification and one-time testing. Additional testing would only be required if the student scored below the 23rd
percentile. After passing the House by a large majority, the governor indicated that he would veto the bill. Further compromises
were made and the final bill was passed and signed into law. The definitions of educational progress were written directly
into the law, an alternative assessment method (privately developed plans) for special needs students was added and the authority
to remand to public school was significantly reduced. This is the law that is currently in effect.
While homeschooling is legally defined as an exemption to compulsory attendance laws and has proven to be an effective
form of education, there are many who would like to see homeschooling outlawed, or at the least, highly regulated. Each legislative
session, bills are introduced that would increase the restrictions on homeschoolers. Often these bills are aimed at solving
problems outside the homeschooling community, but are written so as to directly impact us. (A good example of this is the
current SB 272, which was allegedly intended to address habitually truant students, but was written to include noncompliant
It is important for the homeschooling community to remain vigilant in protecting the rights that have been so hard-won,
if we value our homeschooling freedom.
Don't you think home schooling might negatively impact
the socialization process? I don't want my children growing up to be misfits.
Dr. Dobson Responds:
the question home-schooling parents hear most often from curious (or critical) friends, relatives, and neighbors. "Socialization"
is a vague, dark cloud hanging over their heads. What if teaching at home somehow isolates the kids and turns them into oddballs?
For you and all those parents who see this issue as the great danger of home education, I would respectfully disagree for
First, to remove a child from the classroom is not necessarily to confine him or her to the house!
And once beyond the schoolyard gate, the options are practically unlimited! Home-school support groups are surfacing in community
after community across the country. Some are highly organized and offer field trips, teaching co-ops, tutoring services, social
activities, and various other assistances and resources. There are home-schooling athletic leagues and orchestras and other
Even if you're operating completely on your own, there are outings
to museums and parks, visits to farms, factories, hospitals, and seats of local government, days with Dad at the office, trips
to Grandma's house, extracurricular activities like sports and music, church youth groups, service organizations, and special-interest
clubs. There are friends to be invited over and relatives to visit and parties to attend. The list is limitless. Even a trip
with Mom to the market can provide youngsters with invaluable exposure to the lives and daily tasks of real adults in the
real world. While they're there, a multitude of lessons can be learned about math (pricing, fractions, pints vs. gallons,
addition, subtraction, etc.), reading labels, and other academic subjects. And without the strictures of schedule and formal
curricula, it can all be considered part of the educational process. That's what I'd call socialization at its best! To accuse
home schoolers of creating strange little people in solitary confinement is nonsense.
The great advantage of home
schooling, in fact, is the protection it provides to vulnerable children from the wrong kind of socialization. When children
interact in large groups, the strongest and most aggressive kids quickly intimidate the weak and vulnerable. I am absolutely
convinced that bad things happen to immature and "different" boys and girls when they are thrown into the highly competitive
world of other children. When this occurs in nursery school or in kindergarten, they learn to fear their peers. There stands
this knobby-legged little girl who doesn't have a clue about life or how to cope with things that scare her. It's sink or
swim, kid. Go for it! It is easy to see why such children tend to become more peer dependent because of the jostling they
get at too early an age. Research shows that if these tender little boys and girls can be kept at home for a few more years
and shielded from the impact of social pressure, they tend to be more confident, more independent, and often emerge as leaders
three or four years later.
If acquainting them with ridicule, rejection, physical threats, and the rigors of the pecking
order is necessary to socialize our children, I'd recommend that we keep them unsocialized for a little longer.