In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Homeschooling

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Data Sources
  • Homeschooling Worldwide
  • School-Sponsored Home Education Programs

Education Homeschooling
Patricia M. Lines
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0046


Homeschooling is the education of a school-aged child at a nonschool location. The United States accepts it as an alternative to school attendance under compulsory education laws, as do many other nations. Families have engaged in homeschooling before and after the advent of such laws, but the practice became a focus of interest to educators only late in the 20th century. A homeschooling movement began in the United States in the early 1980s, with numbers swelling from a tiny handful to an estimated 3 percent of the total school-aged population by 2007. Typically, homeschooling parents plan and supervise the activity, sometimes collaborating with other parents. Older students may engage in independent study. Children may study under the supervision of someone other than a parent or guardian at a variety of locations, including a public or private school, a homeschooling learning cooperative, a parks department facility, or an institution of higher learning. Some families adopt a philosophy of “unschooling,” as explained in the section on Education Theory, and allow children to set the pace and pursue their individual interests. Most families use a mix of strategies. Research on homeschooling is in its infancy, compared to research on public and private schools, and it poses unique problems to the researcher. The first entries in this bibliography direct the researcher to practical resources—General Overviews, Anthologies, comprehensive online Bibliographies, academic Journals that have addressed the issue most frequently, and Data Sources. A section on The Social and Political Context examines the interrelated externalities that encourage or discourage homeschooling, including Political Theory and Educational Theory, History, Constitutional Law, and State Legal and Regulatory Requirements. Descriptive Research on homeschooling requires both Qualitative Studies and quantitative methods, discussed under the rubric of Demography and Measurement. Studies of the Effects of Homeschooling include works on Academic Outcomes; studies of Attitudes, Socialization and Civic Participation; outcomes for Minorities, Girls, and Students with Special Needs, and the Post-Secondary Experience of homeschoolers. Finally, this bibliography includes works examining the spread of Homeschooling Worldwide, and a movement among public schools to offer School-Sponsored Home Education Programs. Anyone considering preparing an in-depth scholarly work may also want to examine material by homeschooling advocates and practitioners as well as resources on the broader role of families, private schools, and government in education.

General Overviews

A good overview provides a solid base for an undergraduate student preparing a short paper as well as a starting point for graduate students beginning an intensive study of the subject. It should inform the reader on a broad range of issues, including history, law, demographics, outcomes, and information on the diversity within the homeschooling movement. Lines 1987 provides an early overview of homeschooling at a time when the public was largely unaware of the practice. At the time it was illegal in a few states, and several more states required teacher certification or other requirements that made it difficult for most parents to engage in legal homeschooling. The article introduced the topic to the academic community and was subsequently reprinted in several anthologies. Clark 1994 provides an excellent review of the issue after it had come to the attention of the public nationwide. Lines 2000 revisits the issue and finds that homeschooling had become widely recognized and had gained growing public acceptance. The author also reports on a substantial movement among public schools to offer part-time enrollment or other services to homeschoolers. Ray 2005 provides a summary of who homeschoolers are, stressing the diversity of their beliefs and practices. Cooper and Sureau 2007 focuses considerable attention on relevant political responses and litigation around the country. Berends 2009 shows homeschooling to be still growing, along with growing public acceptance of the practice. Hill 2000 provides an overview that places homeschooling within the context of broad education movements, and predicts that homeschoolers will collaborate to establish a new kind of private school. In addition to the academic material cited here, a researcher may want to look at the diverse and often clashing views of homeschooling advocates.

  • Berends, Mark. 2009. Perspectives on homeschooling. In Handbook of research on school choice. Edited by Mark Behrends, Matthew G. Springer, Dale Ballou, and Herbert J. Walberg, 521–532. New York: Routledge.

    Includes an estimate of population size and characteristics, and discusses methodological problems in making such estimates. Reviews diverse practices and reasons for homeschooling. Some discussion of legal issues. Excellent discussion of the problems of measuring academic achievement of homeschoolers.

  • Clark, Charles S. 1994. Home schooling: Is it a healthy alternative to public education? CQ Researcher 4:769–792.

    In response to congressional interest in homeschooling following the defeat of the Miller Amendment (discussed under History), Clark provides a lively account, including quotations from individuals expressing views for and against homeschooling. The author covers history from the 1800s, state laws, demographics, research findings, and more, producing a well-researched commentary with footnotes, tables, and a bibliography.

  • Cooper, Bruce, and John Sureau. 2007. The politics of homeschooling. Educational Policy 21.1: 110–131.

    An excellent overview of recent history and growth of homeschooling as well as identification of major political players concerned with homeschooling. A section on law demonstrates the diversity in judicial approaches, but with some errors, as, for example, a claim that homeschooling was criminal in nearly every state as recently as 1987 (p.117). See the section on Constitutional Law.

  • Hill, Paul T. 2000. Home schooling and the future of public education. Peabody Journal of Education 75.1–2: 20–31.

    A general overview focusing on the impact of homeschooling on public schools. The author sees homeschooling as part of a broader movement toward privatization of education. He predicts homeschoolers are likely to create new school-like institutions and that many will accept help from public programs, preferably from charter and voucher programs.

  • Lines, Patricia M. 1987. An overview of home instruction. Phi Delta Kappan 68.7: 51─57.

    Reviews homeschooling history, characteristics, practices, legal issues, and data on achievement, with observations about the limitations of the data. This article provides early research-based estimates of the homeschooling population, based on reports from suppliers of curricula and a survey indicating how many homeschoolers use these curricula. An estimated 120,000 to 260,000 children were homeschooled in 1985–1986.

  • Lines, Patricia M. 2000. Homeschooling comes of age. The Public Interest 140:74–85.

    The author provides an historical analysis linking the rise of homeschooling to dissatisfaction with public schools. Discusses the weaknesses of available data, including data on academic achievement, but finds no evidence that the average homeschooler suffers academically. She describes diverse curricula, beliefs, and practices among homeschoolers and predicts future growth among ethnic minorities.

  • Ray, Brian D. 2005. A homeschool research story. In Homeschooling in full view: A reader. Edited by Bruce S. Cooper, 1–19. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

    A comprehensive overview of who homeschoolers are. Ray, with a Ph.D. in science education, also happens to be a conservative Christian homeschooling parent, thus falling into a group sometimes stereotyped in the literature. His cordial treatment of non-Christian homeschoolers and unschoolers, as when he summarizes Sheffer 1995 (cited under Minorities, Girls, and Students with Special Needs), defies the stereotype.

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