Chapter one traces the origins of homeschooling in the United States to the colonial era, demonstrating that homeschooling was at one point the only educational option available. It would be a mistake, though, to equate this instruction in reading and writing in the home with schooling today, which constitutes comprehensive preparation for adult civic life and employment. In the colonial era, preparation for employment was mostly a matter of learning by doing in actual workplaces. Though education in the home was the only option for most families, it differed greatly depending on the race and class of the family—while wealthy children often had tutors, enslaved children were often prohibited from learning to read and write. The state’s interest in, and control over, education grew as immigration and industrialization began to transform American society over the middle part of the nineteenth century. Reformer Horace Mann envisioned that all children would have access to schooling. Slowly but surely, compulsory education measures gained public acceptance among policy makers and the general public as an important means of ensuring that young people not only avoided the perils of industrial labor but also gained basic academic skills and citizenship training.
Keywords: formal schooling, child labor, parental rights, reform, right to education, Horace Mann