Childhood Studies Homeschooling
by
Gary Wyatt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0055

Introduction

In a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study, Planty, et al. 2009 (cited under General Overviews) reports that in 2007, approximately 1.5 million American children were being homeschooled. While this number is likely an underestimate, it represents 2.9 percent of all school-aged children in the United States, a 74 percent increase in the number of children that NCES found were being homeschooled just eight years earlier. Given the number of children involved, the impact of homeschooling on them is of considerable importance to scholars, and, consequently, numerous research studies have explored this phenomenon. While some of this research is of high scholarly quality, some of it, including some of the most publicized homeschool-related research, suffers from methodological problems, including nonrandom samples, response bias, and unwarranted generalization. In light of these concerns, a goal of this article is to guide readers to the research that is most credible. Finally, while this article will focus on issues related to child development including the socialization and academic achievement of homeschooled children, it will also include information about the history and growth of homeschooling, its philosophical underpinnings, the demographic characteristics of homeschoolers, the motives for homeschooling, and the responses of critics to this alternative.

General Overviews

Despite the growth documented in Planty, et al. 2009, homeschooling remains a controversial practice and consequently is of keen interest to many scholars. Gaither 2008 is a valuable historical portrayal of homeschooling throughout American history, including its reemergence in modern times, and Murphy 2012 is one of the most comprehensive surveys of the homeschool movement to date, including its history, its current practices, and the state of scholarly research on it. Kunzman and Gaither 2013 is a comprehensive and high-quality review of the literature on homeschooling, Medlin 2000 provides a review of the research on the socialization of homeschooled children, and Stevens 2001 provides an analysis of modern homeschooling and the ideological and pedagogical polarization that exists within it. Lois 2013 explores the lives of homeschooling mothers and offers a new and well-defended assessment of their motives as well as the emotional, time-, and identity-related challenges they must manage. Some of the research on homeschooling suffers from significant methodological problems. In his recent survey of the demographic characteristics and academic achievement of homeschooled students, Brian Ray (Ray 2010) acknowledges the inability of researchers to obtain representative samples of the homeschooling population and that his efforts and the efforts of others to address this problem remain inadequate. Kunzman and Gaither 2013 (p. 5) is correct in reporting that much of the homeschool research is “qualitative in nature” and has “an anecdotal quality it has yet to transcend.”

  • Gaither, Milton. Homeschool: An American History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive historical analysis of home-based education in the United States from the colonial period to the present. Provides a credible explanation for the emergence of homeschooling in modern society. This explanation includes the mainstreaming both of libertarian and right-wing countercultural ideas, the role of suburbanization, the “cult of the child,” and the increased bureaucratization of public schooling. Influential leaders and organizations and their role in legalizing and mainstreaming homeschooling are presented.

    Find this resource:

  • Kunzman, Robert, and Milton Gaither. “Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of the Research.” Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives 2.1 (2013): 4–59.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper is the most current, balanced, and comprehensive review of homeschool research to date. The authors have analyzed the “entire universe of English-language homeschool research and scholarship,” and with competence and balance they address the quality, significance, and distinctiveness of the scholarship. Concludes with solid guidance for the direction future research on homeschooling should take.

    Find this resource:

  • Lois, Jennifer. Home Is Where the School Is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive ethnography exploring the lives of homeschooling mothers in the northwestern United States over an eight-year period. This research provides new insights into the motivation of these women and the challenges they face managing emotional conflicts. Well researched and creative, this is the first and best research that focuses exclusively on the lives of homeschooling mothers. An important treatise on homeschooling, gender, and motherhood.

    Find this resource:

  • Medlin, Richard G. “Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization.” Peabody Journal of Education 75.1–2 (2000): 107–123.

    DOI: 10.1080/0161956X.2000.9681937Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Medlin provides a review of the research on the socialization of homeschooled children. His review is thorough and concise and includes all major studies to date. He describes and critiques the methods of each study, as well as their findings. Readers will appreciate his understanding of research methods, the limitations of the findings, and the concerns that need to be addressed in future research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Murphy, Joseph. Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive survey of homeschooling in America. Provides insights into the emergence and growth of the movement, demographic characteristics of homeschoolers, motivation for homeschooling, strategies homeschooling parents employ to educate their children, and a current review of the scholarly literature on homeschooling. A credible interpretive framework for understanding the complexity of the movement is presented.

    Find this resource:

  • Planty, Michael, William Hussar, Thomas Snyder, et al. The Condition of Education 2009. NCES 2009-081. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This omnibus survey of the state of education in the United States includes information on homeschooling. The report finds that 1.5 million children are currently being homeschooled in the United States. This represents 2.9 percent of all American children and is a 74 percent increase over eight years. Characteristics of homeschooling families and their motives for homeschooling are presented as well.

    Find this resource:

  • Ray, Brian D. “Academic Achievement and Demographic Traits of Homeschool Students: A Nationwide Study.” Academic Leadership Journal 8.1 (2010).

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A nationwide survey measuring the demographic characteristics or homeschooling families and the academic achievement of homeschooled children. Respondents were limited to the subset of homeschool families who volunteered to provide the test scores and who tended to be sympathetic to Christian-based homeschooling.

    Find this resource:

  • Stevens, Mitchell L. Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Stevens’s extensive observational research provides support for two qualitatively different kinds of homeschooling. The first one emphasizes an unstructured “unschooling” approach to education; the second, a more structured school-at-home approach. Stevens gives a credible and in-depth look at modern homeschooling in the United States, including growth of the movement, ideological divisions within it, organizational leadership, motivation for homeschooling, and the importance of networks and support groups for homeschoolers.

    Find this resource:

Books

Ideas presented by the early proponents of homeschooling are presented in the Philosophical Foundations subsection. Included are critiques of institutionalized learning and arguments for homeschooling as a revolutionary alternative. Early-21st-Century Scholarship includes current research studies focused on homeschooling.

Philosophical Foundations

In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of influential and revolutionary writers, including educators, came to believe that institutionalized formal education was inherently harmful to children, and they urged parents to violate compulsory attendance laws and to remove their children from school and to teach them at home. The works produced by the scholars cited in this subsection are philosophical and historical in nature and do not include the results of data analysis. Given their historical import, they may be of interest to many readers. Rushdoony 2002 (first published in 1961) decries the secular nature of schooling and argues that the divine must be embedded in any educational system in order for it to be coherent. Illich 1971 states that institutionalized learning is a contradiction in terms and is doomed to fail. Revolutionary strategies for reforming education are offered. Holt 1981 is a treatise posting that formal schooling uses fear to undermine children. It urges parents to withdraw them from school to prevent further harm, and it introduces readers to “unschooling,” an unstructured approach to learning that best occurs outside education institutions. Holt 1982 describes formal schooling as an environment where children’s natural curiosity and love of learning are undermined. Moore and Moore 1984 describes how public schooling undermines children’s moral and academic development; strategies are presented for educating children at home. Gatto 1992 presents essays critiquing formal schooling as a tool of ruling elites for maintaining social inequalities, and it offers homeschooling as a viable alternative. Guterson 1992 describes school as a confining place where children are isolated from the real world, and it presents homeschooling as a liberating alternative.

  • Gatto, John Taylor. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Philadelphia: New Society, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gatto, recipient of the 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year Award, offers five essays critiquing institutionalized schooling as a tool of society’s ruling elites to maintain existing social inequalities. Formal schooling exists to maintain and strengthen the status quo. He offers homeschooling as a viable alternative.

    Find this resource:

  • Guterson, David. Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Former high-school English teacher and award-winning novelist, Guterson offers justification for homeschooling. Drawing on his experiences, Guterson argues that there is much about institutionalized learning that dulls creativity and turns learning into a chore. Done correctly, homeschooling offers an antidote to the tedium of organized, bureaucratized learning embedded in many public schools.

    Find this resource:

  • Holt, John. Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education. New York: Delacorte, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Holt, an award-winning educator, became disillusioned with public schooling and urged parents to remove their children from school and to teach them at home. Formal schooling destroys curiosity and undermines children’s desire to learn. Strategies for “unschooling” are presented. Second and third editions published in 1986 and 1997, respectively (Liss, UK: Lighthouse).

    Find this resource:

  • Holt, John. How Children Fail. Rev. ed. Classics in Child Development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Formal schooling undermines children’s love of learning by placing them in an environment where fear of failure is the key motivator. Schooling also imposes on children a motive to please adults. This leads to a host of inappropriate behaviors counterproductive to true learning. Originally published in 1964 (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin); reprinted by Addison-Wesley as recently as 1995.

    Find this resource:

  • Illich, Ivan. Deschooling Society. World Perspectives 44. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The institutionalization of education is inherently a failure, and no amount of tinkering or reform will fix it. Schools should be replaced by strategies that provide resources for learning to all who want them, regardless of their age or situation, and that allow all to share their views and to teach and learn from each other. Republished as recently as 2010 (New York: Marion Boyars).

    Find this resource:

  • Moore, Raymond, and Dorothy Moore. Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home. Nashville: W Publishing, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An influential and foundational homeschool advocacy book. Offers a justification for homeschooling, by labeling formal schools as places were moral development is impeded and curiosity is destroyed. Strategies for homeschooling using recourses readily available at home are presented and discussed. Religious and moral overtones are present. Originally published in 1981 (Waco, TX: Word Books).

    Find this resource:

  • Rushdoony, Rousas John. Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis, and Education. Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Originally published in 1961 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing). A critique of secular society and its rejection of God. Because society and schools reject the divine order of things, they have lost their bearing and are intellectually and morally bankrupt and incoherent. This work is considered by many to be the catalyst for Christian homeschooling.

    Find this resource:

Early-21st-Century Scholarship

The following list of books reflects some of the most recent scholarly books published on homeschooling. Gaither 2008 provides a high-quality historical investigation of homeschooling in America from colonial days to the present. Murphy 2012 is a comprehensive analysis of modern homeschooling, including history, practice, and a review of the current scholarship. This is a very important work that informs readers on a wide range of homeschool-related issues. Lois 2013 explores the lives of homeschooling mothers, with a focus on their motives for homeschooling and their efforts at emotional management. This work has significant implications not only for the study of homeschooling but for the broader study of gender roles and mothering. Stevens 2001 is an in-depth exploration of homeschooling as a social movement and the divisions that exist within it. It includes interviews with homeschooling families, leaders of the homeschool movement, and others. Kunzman 2010 includes in-depth interviews with six conservative Christian homeschool families and thus provides insights into the largest subset of homeschoolers. Wyatt 2008 explores homeschooling as a tool for resisting elements of the culture to which homeschoolers object and for strengthening family relationships.

  • Gaither, Milton. Homeschool: An American History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive historical analysis of home-based education in the United States. Significant attention is given to homeschooling in early American history, as well as the emergence of modern homeschooling. Arguably the most authoritative history on the homeschool movement. Provides one of the best explanations for why homeschooling reemerged in modern American society.

    Find this resource:

  • Kunzman, Robert. Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. Boston: Beacon, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Case study of six conservative Christian homeschooling families from across the nation. On the basis of interviews with, and observations of, these families, a vivid and detailed description is offered of their experiences as Christian homeschoolers. The role of homeschooling in American society, the use of homeschooling as a tool for political and cultural change, and the need for common academic assessments are discussed.

    Find this resource:

  • Lois, Jennifer. Home Is Where the School Is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive ethnography exploring the lives of homeschooling mothers in the northwestern United States over an eight-year period. This research provides new insights into the motivation of these women, the sacrifices they make, strategies they use to defend their decision to homeschool, their efforts to reduce the stigma and criticism associated with it, and the challenges they face managing emotional conflicts.

    Find this resource:

  • Murphy, Joseph. Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive survey of American homeschooling. Explores the history of the movement, its emergence and growth on the modern educational landscape, the diversity of motives and strategies for homeschooling, and the state of the current research on it. Noted for its detail and balance. One of the more important scholarly books on homeschooling.

    Find this resource:

  • Stevens, Mitchell L. Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschool Movement. Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Stevens gives an in-depth look at homeschooling, by interviewing and observing many homeschooling families in a variety of contexts, providing a balanced interpretation of what he hears and sees, and offering a solid historical framework for his study.

    Find this resource:

  • Wyatt, Gary. Family Ties: Relationships, Socialization, and Home Schooling. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Qualitative study based on observation and personal experience over a ten-year period. Compares the literature on the socialization that both homeschooled and public-schooled children experience. Homeschooling emerges as a tool families use to resist cultural elements they object to, and to create a deeper type of family.

    Find this resource:

Journals

There is one academic journal that focuses exclusively on homeschool-related research, Home School Researcher, which is published by the National Home Education Research Institute.

  • Home School Researcher. 1985–.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Home School Researcher is a peer-reviewed journal that focuses exclusively on scholarship related to homeschooling. Since 1985, it has been published once or twice a year by the National Home Education Research Institute, a homeschool advocacy group. Authors who publish in this journal tend to be sympathetic toward homeschooling.

    Find this resource:

Government Reports

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes an annual report titled The Condition of Education. Occasionally this report presents information relevant to homeschooling.

  • The Condition of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 1975–.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An omnibus survey on American education, including homeschooling. Perhaps the most-authoritative sources for information on the size and growth of the homeschool movement and the demographic characteristics of homeschooling families. Various authors over the years.

    Find this resource:

Socialization

Given the importance of Social Interaction and Values Transmission for children’s growth and development, questions about socialization have been the most-pressing concerns about homeschooling, eclipsing even questions about academic achievement. Consequently, many studies have explored the nature of the socialization that homeschooled children experience, with some focusing on social interaction and others on values transmission.

Social Interaction

An ongoing area of research explores the social interaction and social-skills acquisition that homeschooled students experience. Chatham-Carpenter 1994 determines that there is no significant difference in the time homeschooled and traditionally schooled children spend in significant social contacts, while Shyers 1992 is a double-blind experimental design that finds no difference in social skills between homeschooled and traditionally schooled students, except that homeschooled students were less likely to engage in problem behaviors. Cogan 2010 finds no difference in persistence and graduation rates between homeschooled and traditionally schooled college students. Sutton and Galloway 2000 discovers no significant differences between homeschooled, privately schooled, and publicly schooled college students on five social-interaction-related variables. Pennings, et al. 2011, however, finds that highly religious homeschooled graduates report more feelings of hopelessness, feel less prepared for college, and divorce more than other students. Kunzman and Gaither 2013, Medlin 2000, and Murphy 2012 provide comprehensive analysis and reviews of virtually all homeschool research related to socialization.

  • Chatham-Carpenter, April. “Home vs. Public Schoolers: Differing Social Opportunities.” Home School Research 10.1 (1994): 15–24.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Measured the social interaction of homeschooled and publicly schooled children over one month’s time. There were no statistically significant differences in the number of significant social contacts between these two groups. Available online by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Cogan, Michael F. “Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students.” Journal of College Admission 208 (2010): 18–25.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The retention and graduate rates of homeschooled students compared with traditionally schooled students revealed no differences—they persist and graduate at the same rates. Available online.

    Find this resource:

  • Kunzman, Robert, and Milton Gaither. “Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of the Research.” Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives 2.1 (2013): 4–59.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article provides a detailed review of the scholarly research on the socialization of homeschooled children, including social interaction, values transmission, and adjustment to adulthood.

    Find this resource:

  • Medlin, Richard G. “Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization.” Peabody Journal of Education 75.1–2 (2000): 107–123.

    DOI: 10.1080/0161956X.2000.9681937Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is a comprehensive survey of over seventy scholarly works on the socialization of homeschooled children, including their participation in community life; their learning of behavioral norms, values, and beliefs; and their engagement as members of society. Readers will appreciate the understanding of research methods, the limitations of the findings, and the concerns that need to be addressed in future research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Murphy, Joseph. Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book, also cited under General Overviews and Early-21st-Century Books, contains an excellent chapter summarizing the scholarly research on the social development of homeschooled children, including social engagement, self-concept, social skills, and their success as adults.

    Find this resource:

  • Pennings, Ray, D. J. Steel, David Sikkink, Deani Van Pelt, and Kathryn Wiens. Cardus Education Survey. Hamilton, Canada: Cardus, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Survey of private Christian schooling, on the basis of random sampling of college students that included eighty-two homeschooled graduates. Religious homeschoolers reported higher levels of hopelessness and felt less prepared for college than other students. They also reported higher levels of divorce, perhaps because they married at younger ages. Replication and explanations are needed because this finding seems inconsistent with the results of other research studies.

    Find this resource:

  • Shyers, Larry E. “A Comparison of Social Adjustment between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students.” Home School Researcher 8.3 (1992): 1–8.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In a double-blind experimental design, Shyers compared seventy traditionally schooled children with seventy homeschooled children on social adjustment. Shyers found no significant differences between homeschooled and traditionally schooled children on self-concept and assertiveness, while homeschooled children were less likely to engage in problem behaviors. Available online by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Sutton, Joe P., and Rhonda S. Galloway. “College Success of Students from Three High School Settings.” Journal of Research and Development in Education 33.3 (2000): 137–146.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Measured undergraduate success of college graduates from public schools, private schools, and homeschools in five areas of college success, including achievement, leadership, professional aptitude, social behaviors, and physical activity. All three settings produced students who were equally successful in these areas.

    Find this resource:

Values Transmission

This section presents scholarly ideas and research that explore the role of homeschooling in values and belief transmission. Balmer 2007 and Reich 2002 express alarm at the perceived unchecked control that homeschool parents exert over their children, and at the social Balkanization in society that they believe homeschooling produces. Uecker 2008, however, finds that homeschooling does not strengthen parents’ control over the religious orientation of their children, and, after controlling for family background variables, Smith and Sikkink 1999 finds that homeschool and private-school families are more engaged in civic activities than are publicly schooled families. Merry and Howell 2009 presents an argument that the desire for increased intimacy between parents and children is a credible justification for homeschooling. Finally, Wyatt 2008 finds that homeschooling is a tool that families use to resist elements of the dominant culture and to develop closer relationships with each other.

  • Balmer, Randall. “Homeschooling Endangers Democracy.” In Home Schooling. Edited by Heidi Watkins, 16–24. At Issue: Education. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that traditional schools promote democracy and equality by providing a common experience for all students. Homeschooling polarizes people and prevents full civic engagement, including interaction with diverse people.

    Find this resource:

  • Merry, Michael S., and Charles Howell. “Can Intimacy Justify Home Education?” Theory and Research in Education 7.3 (2009): 363–381.

    DOI: 10.1177/1477878509343193Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A philosophical justification for seeking greater intimacy with children by homeschooling. For attentive parents, homeschooling promotes greater intimacy and guards against the alienation from children that public schooling may produce. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Reich, Rob. “Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority over Education: The Case of Homeschooling.” In Moral and Political Education. Edited by Stephen Macedo and Yael Tamir, 275–313. Nomos 43. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Homeschooling may give parents too-much authority and control over their children. The state and the child are separate interests that should balance parental control in educational and other decisions about the lives children lead.

    Find this resource:

  • Smith, Christian, and David Sikkink. “Is Private School Privatizing?First Things 92 (April 1999): 16–20.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    After controlling for a variety of demographic variables, private-school and homeschooling families are consistently more active in a wide variety of community and other civic activities when compared with public-school families. These data show that homeschooled families value civic engagement and are not isolated from community life or democratic processes.

    Find this resource:

  • Uecker, Jeremy E. “Alternative Schooling Strategies and the Religious Lives of American Adolescents.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47.4 (2008): 563–584.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2008.00427.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Compares the religiosity of adolescents enrolled in Catholic schools, Protestant schools, and homeschooling with adolescents enrolled in public schools. Parents retain a strong influence on their adolescents’ religiosity after controlling for peer influences, mentors, social networks, and school situations. There were no differences in the religiosity of homeschooled youth when compared with youth schooled in other environments, including public school. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Wyatt, Gary. Family Ties: Relationships, Socialization, and Home Schooling. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Acknowledges concerns about the limited socialization that some homeschooled children receive, while providing a review of the research on the social world children experience at traditional schools. This evidence suggests that the socialization many traditionally schooled children receive is itself very problematic. Families use homeschooling to resist elements of the dominant culture they object to, and to develop a stronger sense of family.

    Find this resource:

Academic Achievement

This is one of the most researched and yet controversial areas in the study of homeschooling. Numerous studies have been conducted since the turn of the 21st century on the academic achievement of homeschooled students, most of them by Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a homeschool advocacy group. These studies generally have large numbers of respondents but suffer from nonrandom sampling and response bias (Ray 1994, Ray 1997a, Ray 1997b, Ray 2010, Rudner 1999). Typically, questionnaires are distributed by sympathetic and like-minded homeschool support groups to their members, who are asked to supply standardized test scores. Naturally, the results cannot be generalized, and parents whose children score high are more likely to reply. The results generally place homeschooled children in the 80th percentile ranking or higher. These studies can also lead to the conclusion that a high-quality education can be reduced to a standardized test score, a controversy that swirls around conventional schooling as well. Critiques of this research are offered in Kunzman and Gaither 2013 and Welner and Welner 1999. However, given that there are no sampling frames listing all homeschoolers, the researchers conducting these studies have done the best they could to get credible samples, but perhaps they needed to be more forthright in the press releases trumpeting their results. Some early-21st-century research efforts have attempted to address the methodological concerns presented above; Martin-Chang, et al. 2011 is a notable example.

  • Kunzman, Robert, and Milton Gaither. “Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of the Research.” Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives 2.1 (2013): 4–59.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reviews and summarizes the literature on homeschooling and academic achievement. Homeschooled students tend to score higher on standardized writing tests than do publicly schooled students and to score lower on math tests. Once family background variables, including social class, are controlled for, homeschooled students do not differ from publicly schooled students on standardized test scores.

    Find this resource:

  • Martin-Chang, Sandra, Odette N. Gould, and Reanne E. Meuse. “The Impact of Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Homeschooled and Traditionally Schooled Children.” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 43.3 (2011): 195–202.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0022697Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Seventy-four students were recruited, of which thirty-seven attended public school and thirty-seven attended homeschool. Some of the homeschooled students had a structured homeschool experience, and the rest had an unstructured homeschool experience. The structured homeschool students scored highest on achievement tests, followed by the publicly schooled students, with the unstructured homeschooled students coming in last. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Ray, Brian D. A Nationwide Study of Home Education in Canada: Family Characteristics, Student Achievement, and Other Topics. Salem, OR: NHERI Publications, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A survey measuring family characteristics and academic achievement on standardized test scores of Canadian families who homeschool their children. Students scored in the 80th percentile ranking or higher. The sample was nonrandom.

    Find this resource:

  • Ray, Brian D. Home Education across the United States: Family Characteristics, Student Achievement, and Other Topics. Purcellville, VA: HSLDA, 1997a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A survey measuring family characteristics and academic achievement on standardized test scores of American families who homeschool their children. Students tended to score in the 80th percentile or higher. The sample was nonrandom.

    Find this resource:

  • Ray, Brian D. Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers across America. Salem, OR: NHERI Publications, 1997b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A survey measuring the family characteristics, academic achievement, and posthomeschool academic achievement of homeschooled students. Students scored in the 80th percentile or higher on all areas. The sample was nonrandom and included 5,746 families, with 1,657 choosing to participate, for a 28.8 percent response rate.

    Find this resource:

  • Ray, Brian D. “Academic Achievement and Demographic Traits of Homeschool Students: A Nationwide Study.” Academic Leadership Journal: The Online Journal 8.1 (2010).

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An effort was made to broaden the sampling base, but response rates were very low at 11 percent and the sample was not random. A wide variety of demographic characteristics of homeschooled families were measured. Students scored in the 84th percentile or higher in all areas.

    Find this resource:

  • Rudner, Lawrence M. “Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998.” Education Policy Analysis Archives 7.8 (1999).

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The most publicized study on the academic achievement of homeschooled students. Commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the study included over 20,000 homeschooled children associated with Bob Jones University whose families volunteered for participation. Although students performed in the 70th percentile ranking or higher, the nonrandom nature of this study is problematic.

    Find this resource:

  • Welner, Kariane Mari, and Kevin G. Welner. “Contextualizing Homeschooling Data: A Response to Rudner.” Education Policy Analysis Archives 7.13 (1999).

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A methodological critique of Rudner’s research on the academic achievement of homeschooled students, cited under Rudner 1999.

    Find this resource:

Motives

A variety of researchers have explored demographic characteristics of homeschooling families, in an effort to provide a profile of these families and to learn about their motives. Wyatt 1999 is a theoretical argument based on the observation that homeschoolers are motivated by the desire for autonomy from institutions they do not trust and for freedom to direct their own lives. Fields-Smith and Williams 2009 reveals escape from discrimination as a leading motivation for black homeschooling families. Isenberg 2007 documents some of the challenges in studying a population, many of whom do not want to be studied, and provides some surprising findings about the practices of many homeschoolers who vacillate between home and public schooling, picking and choosing based on their perception of what’s best for the individual child. Planty, et al. 2009, relying on a large random sample, offers perhaps the most methodologically sound estimate of the size of the homeschool movement, the demographic characteristics of homeschoolers, and their motives for homeschooling. This study finds religious conviction to be the primary motivation for homeschooling, as does Kunzman 2009. Safran 2010 is a study of British and American homeschoolers that finds support-group integration, not religion, as a main motivation for a commitment to homeschooling. Hanna 2012 is a longitudinal study documenting the increased use of external resources that families use with the passage of time, suggesting shifting attitudes toward the nature of homeschooling. Lois 2013 is a longitudinal ethnography that suggests an intense commitment to mothering as a prime motive.

  • Fields-Smith, Cheryl, and Meca Williams. “Motivations, Sacrifices, and Challenges: Black Parents’ Decisions to Home School.” Urban Review 41.4 (2009): 369–389.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11256-008-0114-xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    On the basis of information from twenty-four black homeschooling families in the South, motives are revealed: first, to avoid discrimination that occurs in public schools; second, for religious reasons. Other issues that emerged in this research involved the criticism these women experience for not working and for abandoning public schools after civil-rights gains. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Hanna, Linda G. “Homeschooling Education: Longitudinal Study of Methods, Materials, and Curricula.” Education and Urban Society 44.5 (2012): 609–631.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013124511404886Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is a 10-year longitudinal study of 250 urban, suburban, and rural homeschooling families in Pennsylvania. Over time, these families used more prepared curricula—including materials provided by public schools, made greater use of public libraries and online resources, and increased networking with other homeschoolers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Isenberg, Eric J. “What Have We Learned about Homeschooling?” Peabody Journal of Education 82.2–3 (2007): 387–409.

    DOI: 10.1080/01619560701312996Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Quantitative research on homeschooling, with an emphasis on the limitations of the data, the number of children being homeschooled either full- or part-time, the motives for homeschooling, and comparisons with charter, voucher, and private schools. While Isenberg documents commitment to homeschooling, his research also finds that many homeschooling families homeschool only part–time, while others homeschool some of their children but send others to public school. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Kunzman, Robert. Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. Boston: Beacon, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Case study of six conservative Christian homeschooling families from across the nation. On the basis of interviews with, and observations of, these families, a vivid and detailed description is offered of their experiences as Christian homeschoolers. Highly motivated by religious convictions and their desire to instill them in their children.

    Find this resource:

  • Lois, Jennifer. Home Is Where the School Is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comprehensive ethnography exploring the lives of homeschooling mothers in the northwestern United States over an eight-year period. This research provides new and well-defended insights into the motivation of these women, which is based on the identity of good mothering.

    Find this resource:

  • Planty, Michael, William Hussar, Thomas Snyder, et al. The Condition of Education 2009. NCES 2009-081. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Relying on a large, nationwide random sample, this report finds that 1.5 million children are currently being homeschooled in the United States. This represents 2.9 percent of all American children and is a 74 percent increase over eight years. The authors identify the desire to provide religious and moral instruction, and concerns about the environments at school, as prime motives for homeschooling.

    Find this resource:

  • Safran, Leslie. “Legitimate Peripheral Participation and Home Education.” In Special Issue: Anthropological Perspectives on Learning and Teaching: Legitimate Peripheral Participation Revisited. Teaching and Teacher Education 26.1 (2010): 107–112.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tate.2009.06.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This research explores how the motivation and commitment to homeschooling increases among British and American homeschooling parents over a three-year period. Group dynamics labeled legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) is offered as an explanation and is salient for homeschooling families who join support groups. As their acceptance in the group increases, so does their commitment to homeschooling. Finding is consistent with sociological theories related to group influence on individuals. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Wyatt, Gary. “The Homeschool Movement in the Postmodern Age.” Home School Researcher 13.4 (1999): 23–30.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The recently emerging information society and its accompanying postmodern culture have provided the environment conducive to the emergence of the homeschool movement and other comparable alternatives. Homeschooling, alternative medicine, barter economic activities, alternative political parties, and other such realities that have recently emerged reflect the desire of people to assert control over their own lives. Available online by subscription.

    Find this resource:

Criticisms

The most-current criticisms of homeschooling reflect a common theme; namely, a fear that homeschooling is a tool for advancing religious extremism and for preventing children from exposure to a diversity of ideas and people necessary for their well-being and for proper citizenship. Franzosa 1991 and Lubienski 2000 lament the lack of a commitment to the common good that the authors believe homeschooling represents. Balmer 2007 and Reich 2002 perceive homeschooling as a form of intellectual tyranny of parents and social isolation of children that does not serve the best interests of children, families, or society. Apple 2000 views homeschooling, in part, as part of a conservative antigovernment movement that undermines the common good. Curren and Blokhuis 2011 is a case for the common school and compulsory-attendance laws as essential for child and societal well-being. Ross 2010 and West 2009 reflect deep suspicion of religious conservatism and the control the authors fear that homeschooling cedes to parents to impose it on their children. The authors listed above offer arguments that are philosophical and anecdotal in nature and are based on perceptions of what they imagine homeschooling is.

  • Apple, Michael W. “Away with All Teachers: The Cultural Politics of Home Schooling.” International Studies in Sociology of Education 10.1 (2000): 61–80.

    DOI: 10.1080/09620210000200049Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Homeschooling is a component of a conservative, religious, antigovernment social movement. Its participants reflect a homogenous segment of the population who undermine the common good by removing their children from school. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Balmer, Randall. “Homeschooling Endangers Democracy.” In Home Schooling. Edited by Heidi Watkins, 16–24. At Issue: Education. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that traditional schools promote democracy and equality by providing a common experience for all students. Homeschooling polarizes people and prevents full civic engagement, including interaction with diverse people.

    Find this resource:

  • Curren, Randall, and J. C. Blokhuis. “The Prima Facie Case against Homeschooling.” Public Affairs Quarterly 25.1 (2011): 1–19.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers an argument that the common public school provided for all children is an essential component of citizenship. Furthermore, compulsory-attendance laws reflect a desire to provide students with an experience that will prepare them for integration into society. These claims have been subjected to considerable criticism. Common schools have never provided a common experience, and compulsory-attendance laws have often been used to maintain existing social inequalities. Available online by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Franzosa, Susan Douglas. “The Best and Wisest Parent: A Critique of John Holt’s Philosophy of Education.” In Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Edited by Jane Van Galen and Mary Anne Pitman, 121–135. Social and Policy Issues in Education. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Homeschooling, Franzosa states, reflects what John Dewey called the “narrow and unlovely.” By this she fears that it fosters a value that parents should care only for their own children, as opposed to what’s best for all children.

    Find this resource:

  • Lubienski, Chris. “Whither the Common Good? A Critique of Home Schooling.” Peabody Journal of Education 75.1–2 (2000): 207–232.

    DOI: 10.1080/0161956X.2000.9681942Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Homeschooling undermines the common good of society, by removing children from school and thus minimizing the stake their parents have in the well-being and success of public education and the children it serves. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

    Find this resource:

  • Reich, Rob. “Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority over Education: The Case of Homeschooling.” In Moral and Political Education. Edited by Stephen Macedo and Yael Tamir, 275–313. Nomos 43. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reich argues that homeschooling may give parents too-much authority and control over their children. He contends that the state and the child are separate interests that should balance parental control in educational and other decisions about the lives children lead.

    Find this resource:

  • Ross, Catherine J. “Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 18.4 (2010): 990–1014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides a brief legal history of the rise of homeschooling and identifies religious conviction as a major motive for the reemergence of the practice. Expresses a concern about homeschooling as a tool for imposing religious extremism on children, unchecked by state regulation. The state has an obligation to ensure that children are exposed to diverse people and perspectives, and some homeschooling parents, it is feared, prevent their children from having those experiences.

    Find this resource:

  • West, Robin L. “The Harms of Homeschooling.” Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly 29.3–4 (2009): 7–12.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Raises concerns about the harm Christian fundamentalist homeschooling may pose for children and society. Correctly suggests that some research on the academic achievement of homeschooled children is inflated by sample bias. Acknowledges that some homeschooling parents provide an excellent education for their children; consequently, the call is for regulation, not the elimination of homeschooling.

    Find this resource:

back to top

Article

Up

Down