Home school pioneers reflect on education today

Home school pioneers reflect on education today

August 20th, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Tamarah and Stuart Goggans, former heads of the Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association, speak on "homeschool revolution in Tennessee" at the Chattanooga Public Library Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Goggans spoke on their experiences homeschooling their children.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

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Stuart and Tamarah Goggans remember when they were young parents.

They were worried about raising their children to be responsible and of service to others. They were concerned about preparing them for kindergarten and raising them in God's image.

They believe that God made them "stewards" of their children's lives and they took that role seriously. They took it so seriously that they decided to educate their children at home because they thought, who knew their children better and who loved them more?

And in turn, the Gogganses had to fight for the right to educate their children at home.

More than 40 years later, the couple reflected on what they call "the home school revolution" and their role in it at a recent meeting of Hamilton Flourishing, a new conservative think tank in Chattanooga.

"The question of how our children would be educated drastically altered our lives," said Tamarah Goggans.

They were among several families in the 1980s and 90s who helped fight local and state officials to legalize home-schooling in the state of Tennessee.

Hamilton Flourishing hosts monthly seminars at the Chattanooga Public Library, called "Third Tuesdays at the Library," according to its president, Doug Daugherty. He said the goal was to bring scholars and experts together to discuss healthy, civic topics.

"We're here to bring to the community good civic content about health things that are going on in the community," he said. "I could think of nothing more healthy than what I call the home school revolution. These folks got involved in the fight to legalize the right for parents to educate their own children at home here in Tennessee."

On Tuesday, about two dozen people gathered at the library to hear about the Gogganses' experience.

"As we studied the Bible and our beliefs and philosophers, we really came to the belief that we were responsible for our children," said Stuart Goggans. "We believed it was our responsibility, that they were ours to steward, to bring them up and educate them how we thought best and how we knew best. Who knew them better than us? Who loved them better than us? We believed it was our obligation."

Home-schooling was first legalized in Tennessee in 1985, when it was signed into law by then-governor and now U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, but the Gogganses said the fight was not over.

Home-schooling families were still viewed as outsiders and still had to make the case to lawmakers for why and how they should educate their children.

In 1992, the Gogganses were among several families that filed a federal civil rights suit against the Tennessee Department of Education, which at the time required parents to have at least a bachelor's degree to home-school their children.

Today, parents can choose from public schools, private schools, religious or church-based schools, public charter schools, home-schooling, co-ops, online or virtual schools and even forest schools. School choice has even become an often politicized topic.

There isn't firm data on how many students are home-schooled in Hamilton County or across the state. Families can either register under an "umbrella" school, or larger organization that provides curriculum and some guidance to families, or submit a letter of intent through their local school district.

As of 2018, 281 students in Hamilton County were home-schooled, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Education.

Today, all of the Gogganses' nine children are grown and many have children of their own. Some are home-schooled, some attend public schools, but they say it is important to not be judgmental about a family's choice.

"It's important not to be judgmental, it's the parent's authority," Tamarah Goggans said. "There are some cases where in actuality the kid might be better off [in school]."

Most of all, they say there has been a mindset shift in parental authority and rights over how to raise their children.

"Culture and the way it has continued to shift has made it in some ways harder for families to home-school," Stuart Goggans said.

"The biggest thing is the change of mindset," Tamarah Goggans added.

"It has resulted in now people rethinking parental authority and the family," Stuart Goggans said.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757- 6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.


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