They were right-wing fanatics, left-wing hippie screwballs or ultra-religious cuckoo birds.
Such were the cultural stereotypes of people who wanted to home-school their kids nearly 30 years ago, when Janice Hedin considered home-schooling her two children.
Back then, home schooling wasn’t just frowned upon; it was illegal.
Today, 25 years after the Legislature passed a law allowing home schooling, Hedin serves on the advocacy committee of the Washington Homeschool Organization.
And along with about 2,500 like-minded home-school teachers and scholars, she attended this weekend’s 25th annual WHO convention.
“I did not want to send my children to school. I wanted to be with them. I wanted to raise them. I wanted to be a parent,” Hedin said Saturday at the Puyallup Fairgrounds ShowPlex.
WHO Chairwoman Jill Bell estimates that in 2010, some 18,000 to 20,000 children are home-schooled in Washington, and 2 million are nationwide.
“It was legal in 38 other states when our law was passed in 1985,” Hedin said.
In Washington, the primary objection at the time came from “very conservative organizations who believed we already had the right. They fought the law,” she said. “They said, ‘God has already given us this right.’ I understand that. I believe that is true, but I didn’t want to risk truancy.”
The law passed, she said, after parents supporting home schooling hosted coffee hours for elected officials statewide.
“It was so the legislators could see that home-schoolers were normal people,” Bell said.
She estimates that today, perhaps 75 percent of home-school parents teach their children, whether Christian or Muslim or other, “for faith-based reasons.”
Parents or guardians must qualify as teachers; declare their intent to home-school their children; and provide testing for the students.
Teachers are required to provide “planned and supervised instructional and related educational activities” in 11 areas including mathematics, reading, history, spelling, social studies and science.
Home-schooled students can attend public schools part time – to learn chemistry, for example, or join a school orchestra. The students also can participate in interscholastic sports.
Their parents do, after all, pay a full complement of the taxes that support public education.
Decisions concerning doctrine, teaching materials, books, teaching methods, curricula and timing are the responsibility of the parent.
So a home-schooled child might not be celebrating a summer vacation this month.
Andrew Bell, 15, will wait to begin his.
He has spent time lately prepping for a debate competition, and he’ll be spending his days catching up on his other studies.
When people hear that he is home-schooled, he says, “They’re usually taken aback for a second or so. They ask, ‘Do you like it?’ A lot of people just go with it. When I was younger, people were more afraid of it. Over the years, home schooling has become more accepted.”
He likes “the flexibility, and the ability to set your own pace.”
As head of the state organization, his mother is committed to home schooling.
Still, she says, “There are days when I see the yellow school bus drive by and I want to say, ‘Wait!’”
“I have graduated four kids from high school,” said Sheri Smith, an Auburn mother of seven ranging in age from 3 to 24. She has been a home-school teacher for 20 years.
“The world is our classroom,” she said.
Along with a series of seminars, the convention featured vendors.
They sold all manner of materials related to home schooling, such as schoolbooks, coloring books, workbooks, flash cards, DVDs and laminated maps.
The range of books included “The Latin Road to English Grammar,” which was proclaimed to be “Biblical, Historical, Patriotic,” and a historical tome titled “Creation to the Greeks,” which included a chapter concerning the “dinosaurs of Eden.”
Along one drapery wall sat Linda Corson of Bend, Ore. She was selling her book “Teaching Cursive.”
“They’re calling this the cursive-illiterate generation,” she said. “Teachers don’t know how to teach cursive.”
It’s about penmanship.
For her, it’s a mission.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 email@example.com