Home-school research

An Essay By Christa // 7/3/2007

Being home-schooled, I thought I would value learning all my life. It’s true, I do. But I also know that sometimes school can force you to face ideas and problems you may not wish to face.
I’m in my fifth year of doctorate studies. I’m working on my dissertation. My dissertation is about parental involvement beliefs and children’s learning. In particular, I developed a survey for home-school parents to take. However, I always receive mixed reactions from home-school parents when I ask them to take a survey for me. Some happily fill out the survey (one parent, to whom I will always be thankful, even sent me a thank-you card). Most of the other parents pretend I don’t exist.
When current home-schoolers are asked about their home-schooling experiences, they generally go on the defensive. Which makes sense in today’s society: whatever is not the norm is always questioned.
It’s my belief that home-schoolers need to get away from the defensive. If I were to bring away only one thing from my developmental psychology degree, it is this: ALL children are unique. We try to measure them in groups, but those groups reinforce the idea that ALL children fall on a continuum – a lot of children fall in or near the middle, some do not. Some children need public schools and some do not. And if I were to bring only one thing away from my home-school experience, it is this: home-schooling was right for me. I did go to public school for a while, and I did fine there. But I love and value the academic freedom that home-schooling gave me.
Home-schoolers need to stop being defensive. For their education, their family, it is their choice and the right thing to do. It may not be the right choice for all families, (in fact, it would be a rather dreadful place if all parents were forced to home-school, wouldn’t it?) but it is the right choice for some families. And the law, and therefore our society, supports ones right to home-school. People question it because it is different. I believe it is only by explaining home-schooling to society, in a non-defensive manner, that all people will better understand this educational choice.
I research home-schooling because I was home-schooled, and because I believe that by researching it in a relatively un-biased manner it will make it more understandable to society. I recently read a response to a research paper by a few home-school parents who made this claim: “Why should we participate in research? We shouldn’t have to validate what we do to people who will just twist our words around.” Any researcher worth their salt are not going to make up data that says that all home-school students are better than the average public school student, nor are they going to make stupid statements about “bringing home-schooling parents back into the public school system”. I strongly believe that home-schooling and the products of this educational choice have a lot to offer. After all, I was home-schooled, and I still feel like I have a lot to offer to today’s society.

Comments

Tell us more about what you

Tell us more about what you found from your research, or more about the process of researching. I'm interested!

Ben | Wed, 07/04/2007

more about research...

thanks for your interest! Basically, I look at home-schooling through a "parent involvement" lens, so I ask parents questions about whether they feel their involvement (at home-schooling or otherwise as the case may be) makes a difference, and if they feel like it's their "job" as a parent to be really active in their kids education. What I thought was most interesting from my master's thesis was that these "parent involvement" variables were more motivating for home-schooling than typically examined reasons in the home-school literature, like disagreement with public schools, religious reasons, etc. If anyone's interested in reading my master's, it was published and I'd be happy to send them the article. As for the process of researching, I might just have to write another essay on that. Thanks!

Christa | Thu, 07/05/2007

Good for you!

I love to hear about other homeschool graduates who are doing "something" to further the development of homeschooling in our country. I agree - it's time homeschoolers stopped feeling so defensive, though I have to admit it isn't easy. As not only a homeschool graduate, but a homeschooling parent, I know how intimidating it can be when others believe they know what is best for your children. The truth is though --- they don't. Every family is unique, and for parents who desire to be this actively involved in their children's lives homeschooling is the right choice. It is a wonderful thing to have the freedom to do what we know is right for our specific children.

Anonymous | Sat, 07/07/2007

Good thinking!

I was educated in public schools, and I taught in public and private schools, but I have homeschooled my three kids from the beginning. Some of my friends have had horrible experiences with people who oppose homeschooling. A couple have even had people start quizzing their kids, as if it were a total stranger's job to make sure the kids were learning! So, I can see why people are defensive.

However, I completely agree that we should do our best not to be defensive. In fact, I go out of my way to make sure that our encounters with "the public" leave very favorable impressions on "the public" in question. This person is a voter, I always remember, and I need his or her support to keep the wonderfully laissez-faire laws we have here in Indiana.

So, if someone asks my child questions, I let them answer (if they know the answer), or I say something like, "She's forgotten some of that from last year, because we've been focusing on chemistry this year." Since the schools don't teach chemistry in elementary, I make my point in a casual, friendly way. If someone remarks on a history book I'm reading to the kids in the doctor's waiting room, I drop the reading to talk with them about how much we enjoy homeschooling, and how much all my kids' friends do, too. If they like the book, I write down the title and author for them, and throw in a few other good ones, too. My kids are polite and well-behaved, so that helps. Even if people ask about socialization, I keep my cool. I talk about all their group activities, and how I know their friends and their friends' parents, and how I can coach them but still leave them to work things out themselves. After all, most people don't know much about homeschooling, and they are just curious. I'm THRILLED if I get to be the person to teach them about it!

You are completely right -- we have no reason to be defensive. Also, we have a lot to lose if we are.

Anonymous | Tue, 08/07/2007