Thirty Years Ago (Homeschooling in Virginia)

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I was seven years old. My parents had just completed their first year of Homeschooling. I had done second grade via a correspondence course from A Beka Publications in Pensacola, FL ( and managed to almost fail because my handwriting was so bad) and my two-years younger brother had completed 4K.

Homeschooling was brand new although we knew a few other families that did it, most of the ones we knew were homeschooling that year because the little local Christian school where many of us had gone had closed and there weren’t really any other options in rural Charles City County.

After that first year of homeschooling my parents and several others got together to form a little school. Three Kindergartners, three Second graders, three Third Graders (I was one) and half-way through the School year a Fourth Grader was added. My mother was the principal and taught French, Math and Kindergarten. Mrs. S taught Second and Third grades and I think they split the Fourth grader’s studies between them.

That was the year that Dr. Raymond Moore began to be talked about in our circles and I seem to recall several mothers going off to hear him speak. Anyway pretty much everyone decided to homeschool after that year and I wouldn’t go into a classroom again until college!

We weren’t at all isolated- we had a weekly gym class with homeschoolers from our own county and the surrounding ones. I think there must have been thirty families involved (maybe more). We had Science fairs, Speech Meets, Spelling Bees (including some non-competitive ones which I thought were really dumb – what was the point of standing up and spelling a list of words that you knew how to spell and had in fact given to the person who was running the meet to ask you?). We also put on plays and Field Days, Christmas programs with plays written by various people or adapted by a parent (I was the grandfather in Peter and the Wolf when I was nine or ten).

Every year we got together as a group to do our standardized testing and most years Mom went off to the Home Educators Association of Virginia Convention at the end of the school year.

I remember the first newsletter from those days. It was called HEAV’n which I think was supposed to make people think of homeschooling as heaven but I found it funny to refer to as “Heavin'” (as in “How are you doing heavin’ that load?” . I thought that it was rather appropriate to recognize the amount of heavy lifting that went into homeschooling.

Anyway…it was a true newsletter, black and white, stapled together and self-mailed. A long one (I think) was about twelve pages long. It always had some legislative news (usually from Yvonne Bunn) and a “Virginia Kids Did It” section as well as information about contests and support groups.

The “Virginia Kids Did It” was the first thing we turned to when “HEAV’n” came in the mail- we knew we were different and we wanted to see what that difference could accomplish. It was exciting to see how parents and children were applying themselves to learning and coming out with amazing accomplishments for God’s glory!

In those days it wasn’t unusual for us to be asked “Why aren’t you in school?” when we went to the library or dentist. Homeschooling was new and small and really unknown in a lot of ways and there were many worries about truant officers and the legalities of it all. I remember getting a phone call from the call chain we had asking everyone to call their Virginia legislative representatives in order to tell them to vote for the current homeschool law, and the great sense of relief when that law passed and everyone knew where they stood.

Someone said to me the other day that they thought that the first generation of homeschool parents were pioneers. I disagree. For my mother at least homeschooling was an adventure. She was learning and discovering along with us and her delight in learning became our delight as we were exposed to it on a daily basis. It impressed me then and it impresses me now how the vision of just a few people could blossom into a movement that educates children, builds families and continues to spread throughout the world.

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2 Responses to Thirty Years Ago (Homeschooling in Virginia)

  1. Kathleen says:

    You and your sibs were brilliant, your good example encouraged me to homeschool mine when the time came.

    • K_Steinmann says:

      I think it was more that Mom was willing to do anything to get us to understand and WANT to learn. That flexibility made a huge difference…K

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