Homeschooling in Iowa in the 1970’s

by | About Our Family, Homeschooling | 2 comments

A reader asked about what homeschooling was like while living in Iowa in the 1970’s and early 80’s.

In a word: Jail! The states of Iowa and North Dakota were the last two hold-outs on making homeschooling legal.

In the late 70’s, when we were preparing to homeschool, the books, legal advice, and support were plenty scarce. We ran up large phone bills calling everywhere in our attempt to find like-minded families. Two big helps at that time were Christian Liberty Academy and the books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

In September of 1980, we officially began homeschooling our oldest son, Nathaniel, who was then three months short of age five. We would read about the Sessions and other families appearing in court and being jailed for teaching their own children at home. One would think we would have developed some discretion. Instead, we somehow managed to inform the entire community about what we were doing. Why wouldn’t they be excited about homeschooling? Well, they were – but not the way we were!

In the fall of 1982, the truant officer received an anonymous complaint and paid us a friendly visit. In the Lord’s favorable providence, Nathaniel was two months shy of the compulsory age in Iowa, which was seven years, so the truant officer lacked jurisdiction. After consulting with a lawyer who was representing other homeschooling families in Iowa, we narrowed our options down to four: 1. We could allow the school district to take us to court, but the lawyer told us that would be expensive and we were guaranteed to lose in the end because the Iowa Supreme Court had already ruled, and they weren’t about to reverse their own ruling. 2. We could stall for a time, but there were no guarantees as to how long. 3. We could go to jail, and although this may seem like a glorious option, we had four small children to care for, and after jail, there was still no solution, so we would have to exhaust other options before we chose this one. 4. We could move, which is the option we chose.

A couple of weeks after we were visited, we moved from the most restrictive state to the least restrictive state (slave state to free state) – from Iowa to Illinois. We returned regularly to testify at legislative hearings and to support our comrades in the cause. We were there, in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, when the Taylor parents exchanged places – the mother had served her thirty days in the county jail, and on her way out she kissed her husband as she passed him on his way in to serve his thirty-day sentence. The legislature eventually legalized homeschooling in Iowa, but we remained in Illinois because it has the most favorable climate for homeschooling.

We will never bring socialism under control in America until we have stopped the main engine of socialism – the government operated schools. Their very presence has a subtle but powerful eroding influence upon the entire culture. If we don’t develop a realistic plan to dismantle the whole system, we’ll be left with no option but to ride this locomotive until it crashes.

Harvey Bluedorn


  1. Melissa Markham

    Wow! I had no idea! Interesting post!

  2. Kim Brenneman

    Harvey and Lauri,
    I for one, thank you for being a pioneer. I remember when my children were little listening to you call in to the Jan Michelson radio program expoounding on the benefits of homeschooling. In doing that you strengthed not only my resolve to homeschool but also exposed the broader community to a better way of educating. I pray we never go back to the days of jail but unless we preserve our rights by being vigilant about them we as homeschoolers will be sucked back into the system. Today, in Iowa, homeschoolers are increasingly being persuaded back into supporting the system via the Home School Assistance Program.
    “We will never bring socialism under control in America until we have stopped the main engine of socialism – the government operated schools.”
    The HSAPs have such neat activities planned as a guise, along with lots of freebies, to intice the uninformed and those with a socialist mindest (don’t we all, who were raised in the system contain some of this?) back into the government school system. Are they truly homeschooling? Or is it a government school in the home? According to the law, these “homeschools” are to use the same curriculum as the state schools. These “homeschoolers” have simply not been called on it, yet.
    A history of the homeschool movement would be a wonderful thing to be available for this younger generation of homeschoolers who simply have no idea the price that was paid for the rights they are enjoying. I think this would halt the running back into the system. How did RC Sproul Jr. say it? Returning to Egypt, the land of slavery.


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