HOME EDUCATION - ON THE RISE IN MONTANA

 
Home education of children has always been part of Montana's heritage. For the past 20 years it 
has continued to increase in popularity. And in the last five years the number of parents choosing 
this form of education has grown at an even greater rate.

In 1895 and 1903 the Montana legislature acknowledged homeschools. In 1980 Attorney General 
Mike Greeley issued an opinion, stating that the 1971 legislature had done away with home 
education with the school recodification bill. The 1971 bill was limited to cleaning up the statutes 
and was to bring no "substantive changes" in the education laws. As a result of Greeley's opinion 
(what many regarded as erroneous), some homeschoolers were forced into court to defend their 
right to direct the education of their children.

Advocates of parental control and choice in education worked to obtain protection for home and 
private education in the 1983 legislative session. The present home school requirements (20-5-
109, MCA) were adopted by the legislature. In 1991 another section of law was added to 
Montana's statutes (20-5-111) which clarified the "responsibilities and rights of a parent who 
provides home school and rights of a child in home school". This new statute lists four areas 
which the home educating parent is "solely" responsible for; the educational philosophy of the 
home school, the selection of instructional materials, the time, place and method of instruction 
and the evaluation of the home school instruction. The result of our home schooling laws of 
Montana has provided a freedom in education unknown in many states. 

In the 1991 legislative session the Montana School Boards Association and School Administrators 
of Montana attempted to pass adverse legislation against home education. Their bill failed. But in 
the months prior to the current 1997 session, the same two organizations once again have been 
trying to rally support for new laws restricting the freedoms of home schooling parents in 
Montana. 

Montana law defines a homeschool as the instruction given by a parent of his child, stepchild, or 
ward in his residence. But for many families home education goes beyond academic instruction at 
home. Many children are directly involved in community service, field trips, home businesses, 
work experiences, apprenticeships or special workshops. Parents educating in Montana are free to 
select the type of curriculum from a vast collection of resources available from education sources 
across the country. The beauty of home schooling, is that the parent is able to direct special 
attention to special areas of interests the child may have. As well as give extra time in helping 
them get through a more difficult subject.

In 1990 the Montana Coalition of Home Educators contracted with Dr. Brian Ray of the 
National Home Education Research Institute to evaluate and analyze home education in Montana. 
92% of the families participating in the study spent less than $400 per student per year. The 1990 
study included results of test scores of 323 students. Nearly 90% of the tests administered were 
the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. On average, the home education students in the study scored above 
the national norm in all subject areas. These students scored, on average, at the 72nd percentile in 
terms of their reading, language and math performance. This is well above the national average. In 
a 1995 study the statewide results improved to the 73rd percentile.

Montana does not require any teacher certification to qualify the parent to home educate. In Dr. 
Ray's national study, which included samples of families from states which required home school 
teacher certification, it was found that whether either parent had ever been certified teachers had 
no impact on the academic achievement of the students. Further there was no difference between 
groups which represent various degrees of state regulation of home education.

There is a long list of colleges which admit home educated children after the successful 
completion of a standard entrance exam. In fact there are many universities and colleges who 
actively seek home educated students. In Montana, the university system allows a home school 
student to enter college under the condition of the first semester of probation. The student must 
carry a full schedule with a passing grade.

Parents choose to home school their children for many reasons. Home school parents are unique 
individuals with many different combinations of reasons for starting homeschooling and often 
continue because of the many benefits:

> Academic success - Studies show homeschool students doing as well and often better than 
conventional school students.

> Tutorial method's superiority provides more child-adult interaction, feedback and behavior 
reinforcement.

> Individualized instruction -The child is able to progress at his own pace with individualized 
curriculum.

> Special needs - Parents can become experts in that area. Children with learning disabilities and 
handicaps often do better in a warm and loving environment.

> Family closeness and unity - Provides respect for parental authority and is not undermined by 
outside influences.

> Ability to integrate religious and spiritual training into all areas of learning, thereby 
instilling moral values and build character.

> Positive, integrated socialization with better communication and respect between all age 
groups.

> Fosters independent thinking, leadership skills and self-confidence, while avoiding damaging 
peer dependency.

> More time for development of special talents and interests, creative activities, travel, field 
trips and community service.

> Flexibility to work around the father's work hours and plan travel experiences.

> Development of responsibility and respect for work ethic.


The home educated child is a true delight to be around. I am continually amazed as to the 
maturity which these children have. Many have excelled in sports and academics in Montana. We 
have seen home school students win national merit scholarships, national music awards, the 
Montana spelling bee (thereby qualifying to represent Montana in the national competition in 
Washington DC), first woman winner of a Montana 500 mile sled dog race, as well as many other 
fine achievements.

Home education may not be for all families. But for those who have chosen this method of 
education, the results and rewards will last a lifetime for both the parents and children. And even 
now we find home schooling parents who were themselves also home educated. Our families, and 
especially our relationships with our children have been strengthened. We appreciate our 
freedoms in this great state, and look forward to the adventures ahead.


For more information on home education in Montana write MCHE, P.O. Box 43, Gallatin 
Gateway, MT 59730



Written by Steve White
Montana Coalition of Home Educators


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