The young man was out of place. The formal halls, the bustle of activity, the insistence on dress “Sunday best” all made the Legislative Plaza feel cold and unwelcoming to a west TN boy from farming country. He didn’t really believe he could change life in Tennessee, but he knew he had agreed to do just that. The families already charged for truancy or child abuse and neglect were examples of what he could become, if they only knew he was doing it too. If they found he was one of them, what would they do?
The bulletin boards lining the halls felt safe, so much like Haywood County High School. After reading through every item the Education committee in the House and Senate were going to hear, it finally dawned on him.
If God really wanted this father to train the children entrusted to him by his loving Father, God was going to have to make it possible. God was going to have to change Tennessee’s education laws.
This was 1984, not George Orwell’s book. It was the real thing. The times, they were a changing.
I stood in that hall and asked myself, “What does God want me to do now?”
That’s always a good thing to ask.
Claiborne and Lana married in 1972. God blessed them with 3 children and one grandson. Their youngest child is scheduled to finished his piano performance masters program in Kansas City.
His annual Taylor family reunion that began in 1826 is the largest ongoing family reunion in the world and they are part of that each year. You get a deep sense of community from a gathering like that.
Mr. Thornton was elected President of the Tennessee Home Education Association at the first meeting of the board in 1984 and has been repeatedly re-elected to serve in that capacity since then. Homeschooling has changed from being marginally legal, to being fully legal but significantly restricted, to now being a mainstream option in education with home schoolers being sought after students for colleges and positions of responsibility in business and industry.
The face of education, the freedom for families to make choices of what is best in the training of the children entrusted to them is magnificently changed. The freedom is not complete, but families all across this state and nation and now even increasingly around the world are gaining enough freedom to see their family bloom and their children thrive as they mature.
Over his time of service we have seen home education as it has increased in number from a few dozen families to now having somewhere more than 120,000 Tennessee students in home schooling.
THEA has seven area chapters. Each chapter has its own local board and works to provide all the services necessary for each family to succeed in home education as close to their kitchen table as possible. THEA also has a statewide chapter Christian Communicators of Tennessee for promoting and learning the skills of speech and debate by establishing and supporting local clubs with training and then hosting tournaments across the state.
Home education works because God designed it to work. “Fathers train your children” is what the Good Book says in Deuteronomy 6. As long as we follow Him and faithfully carry out the work He has called us to do, home education will be an increasing place of freedom in today’s society for love, for beauty, for truth, for peace, and will strengthen the heart and mind of one child at a time building stronger families.
BIO Claiborne Thornton