In the March 1988 issue of the Home School Researcher (Mayberry, 1988), I discussed the findings of the 1987‑1988 Oregon Home School Survey.  In that article I suggested that home schoolers are not a monolithic group,  rather they are a diverse group that come to the decision to home school for a variety of reasons.  Four general categories of home schoolers were identified:  religious, academic, socio‑relational, and New Age.[1]
            The 1987‑1988 Oregon Home School Survey was one aspect of a larger home school project.  In addition to gathering survey data on home schoolers, I conducted in‑depth interviews with twelve families to learn something about the lived experiences and meaning systems that inform the values and beliefs of those who teach their children at home.  In order to select the families I interviewed, a dimensional sampling process was used.  Dimensional sampling is an approach suitable for studying a small number of cases while still capturing the most important dimensions along which a group varies (Arnold, 1970).  The criterion used to select a family was its ability to represent not only the common properties within the dimension, but its diversity as well.  Thus, the combination of families selected captured the similarities and distinctions of each home school category.
            The results of the interview analysis are used in this article to illustrate the fundamental similarities and differences among home school families.  The strength of such an analysis is its ability to allow home schoolers to speak about themselves and their motivations for home schooling through their own voice.
                                                 Religious and New Age Home Schoolers
            Religious and New Age families home school for ideological reasons.  Home schooling makes sense because it provides them a way to reproduce their way of life by controlling the content of their children’s education.  Both groups are ideologically committed to home schooling, yet each have fundamentally different world views.
            Religious home schoolers are strongly committed to Judeo‑Christian principles and believe that, as parents, they are responsible to cultivate orthodox Christian values in their children.  A religious home‑based education is seen as not only a God‑give responsibility, but a necessity if Christian morality is to be restored and their way of life preserved.  One Christian father summed up the feelings of many religious home schoolers with the following comment:
                        We are a very typical home school family in this one 
            regard:  We believe that we are commanded by God, and 
            responsible to God, to bring up our children according 
            to His Word…  The responsibility of the father to train 
            and direct his family cannot be delegated to the school.  
            It is funny; if we were to ask someone, “Whose 
            responsibility is it to feed your children?” the 
            response would surely be, “Why, my responsibility, 
            of course.”  If we were to ask, “Whose responsibility is 
            it to clothe your children?  Who is responsible to love 
            them, to make sure that they have all of their physical 
            needs met?,” there would be no hesitation in replying, 
            “These are my children.  I am responsible for their 
            needs.”  And yet, so many people, when asked, “Whose
            responsibility is it to educate your children?” reply, 
            “The state’s” or “The school’s” without a second thought.  
            We see the responsibility to educate our children as being 
            as essential as feeding them, clothing them, and providing 
            for them….  Because we love our children, and because we 
            feel that it is the command of God, we home school them.
            Religious home schoolers reject the secular orientation of public schools; evolution, sex education, and moral relativism are commonly opposed curricula.  Home schooling is viewed both as a means to protect their children from these unwanted secular ideologies and as a means to insure that their children are raised with a belief in the authority of the scriptures.  Consider the following comments:
                        If you look in your high school textbooks, you’ll see 
            that evolution is caused by micromutations over millions 
            of years.  That’s an absolute bold‑faced lie, a disproved
            scientific supposition.  Where’s the proof, where’s the 
            truth?  Since there is no God we came from nothing…
            that develops into communism; for communists, evolution is 
            the scientific underpinnings for communism.
                        Recently, in the state of Washington, one mother went     to         court on a case where the school required her daughter 
            to read a book that attacked and undermined her Christian 
            faith and even contained blasphemous statements about 
            Jesus Christ Himself.  Call me a book burner, call me 
            closed‑minded, call me a censor, but call me concerned.  
            I wouldn’t have that trash in the hands of my child 
            anymore than I would furnish my child with pornography.
                        I still like ideas to be able to be expressed freely.             That’s why we don’t like the public school system, we 
            don’t feel that there is the freedom.  What it’s free 
            from is Christianity, that’s what it’s free from.
                        They have taken Christ out of Christmas and now it’s 
            winter break; they have taken the resurrection out of 
            Easter and now it’s Spring break; but they are 
            determined to leave witches and Satan in Halloween.
            New Age families also have strong ideological commitments that guide them into home schooling.  Home schooling makes sense to New Age families because it provides them the opportunity to give their children an educational experience which reflects the philosophy of the New Age.  Like religious home schoolers, they see home schooling as the vehicle to reinforce a way of life and a system of beliefs.  Their beliefs, however, are based upon metaphysical philosophies that reject the supremacy of God and uphold the supremacy of humanity; the ultimate source of authority lies not with God but within each individual.  New Agers’ commitment to the human embodiment of spirituality is reflected in the following comments:
                        Heaven is recognition of oneness with all that is; Hell        is feeling separate and alone; Eternal life is innate; 
            Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Einstein only showed us how 
            to make life more enjoyable, how to escape from the 
            “Hell” of our own making.
                        We create heaven and hell daily by our attitude; what        we        see is what we get.
                        I believe that heaven and hell are within each of us,           as         is God also.
            New Age parents oppose public schools because they do not nurture the values of New Age adherents:  the mutual awareness of oneness and interrelatedness of all reality.  Moreover, New Age families claim control of their children’s education to restore family unity and lay the foundations necessary for the ascent into the New Age.  As several New Agers explained:
                        I doubt if there’s a school espousing the belief      systems            of oneness with nature, Native American traditional                      beliefs, Sufism, Buddhism, etc.  
                        We teach reincarnation, the Law of Karma, and the 
            interrelatedness and interdependency of all life forms 
            upon each other to insure mutual quality survival, 
            including that of this planet earth.
                        We believe that the main task of education for the New     Age is to assist a child in developing the attitude 
            needed for the bridge between the personality and the 
            soul; we believe that parents who are bonded to and the 
            primary custodian of the child are the best people to 
            understand the individual needs of the beings in their 
            care; the parents are the optimal co‑creators of the 
            life experience. 
                        Home schooling allows us to actualize our full 
            potentialities as much as possible, to address social
            consciousness, quality of life for everyone, 
            ecological concerns, the seeming decline of individual, 
            personally motivated values and ethics, the economy, and 
            the potential for war.
                                            Socio‑relational and Academic Home Schoolers
            Socio‑relational home schoolers are less concerned with the ideological practices of public schools and more concerned with the pedagogical environment in public schools (Van Galen, 1986).  Their commitment to home schooling lies in the social and developmental benefits it offers.  Home schooling makes sense to socio‑relational families because it promotes family unity, allows the parent‑child relationship to be extended as long as possible, and protects children from possible negative peer influences and damaging socialization experiences.  These goals are best obtained, they argue, by families who take primary responsibility for their children’s education.  The following comments illustrate these themes:
                        I’m really committed to protecting my children, not 
            letting them grow up too fast; lost of nurturing and 
            hugging.  It’s just basically instincts…as a mother I 
            just felt I wanted to cuddle…things I really couldn’t 
            find the roots of…it just felt natural, felt right.
                        We feel that, in general, children are being pushed out      too soon into the world and want to nurture our 
            children and allow them to bloom at their own rate.
                        I would not send a child to middle school here or 
            anywhere.  They are too vulnerable to the peer pressure 
            at that age.  The school could change but the kids 
            won’t.  Children become, by home schooling, more 
            confident and happy about themselves‑‑not as much peer 
            group pressure.
                        At this moment, if I had to give up home schooling, I 
            would feel some sense of abandonment of my kid.  I 
            would be turning over their mind and their spirit and 
            their souls to a state institution.
            Academic home schoolers are most concerned with their children’s academic success and, like socio‑relational families, choose home schooling for pedagogical reasons.  Their concerns, however, are over the academic standards and educational programs of public schools (or lack of), rather than their educational environment.  Academic home schoolers believe that parents, not public schools, are best equipped to nurture children’s academic potentials and to provide for their special academic needs.  
                        I feel I can do a better job academically than either 
            private or public school.  Neither are adequate for what 
            I want for my children.
                        Josh was able to move faster than the school was set up              to move.  Thus, he was bored and becoming decreasingly       
            motivated…We are better able to supply the personal, 
            individual input he needs.
                        The nurturing that takes place within the home in 
            academic areas could never be provided by an 
            institution with nearly the same [nurturing] quality.
            Their commitment to home schooling stems from their belief that one‑on‑one instruction allows children to learn at their own pace and to develop their individual styles of learning.  Both factors, they argue, motivate children toward high levels of academic achievement.  Two home school mothers expressed their beliefs this way:
                        Children are individuals and parents should know what 
            their child is capable of….  Schools should try harder 
            to teach the children individually and not expect 
            everyone to be the same.  I wanted my child to have more 
            one‑on‑one training.
                        With home schooling they’re not pressured into doing an   assignment….  If I see they are off on a tangent, or I 
            see them interested in a concept, they are free to 
            pursue that in as much depth as they want…they’re 
            free to explore whatever areas.  They’re able to apply 
            their book learning and integrate the subjects; history 
            gets into economics, religion, and how that relates to 
            the situation now.
            Their rejection of public school is often shaped by their own public school experiences, or experiences they have had while their children have been enrolled in public schools (Knowles, 1988).  For the academic home schooler, then, placing educational duties in the home not only provides educational benefits to their children but solves current educational problems their children may be confronting and protects them against the development of future ones.  One mother’s comments illustrate this point:
                        Both of us were left with scars from our public 
            education.  We want our children to love learning and 
            be aware of differences.  I am grateful it is legal to 
            home teach.  After raising 6 other children and 
            suffering over their experiences, I can now take back        
            educational responsibility and not leave it to others.
            Although families begin home schooling for different reasons, several common themes unify their action:  their desire for family unity, their desire to protect or isolate their children from unwanted ideologies or influences, and their desire to either reclaim or not relinquish control of their children’s education to public institutions.  Each theme, I propose, is relevant for understanding why home schooling is the choice of a growing number of families in contemporary American society.  
            Similar movements have been analyzed as examples of educational conflict (Reese, 1985) and life‑style politics (Lorentzen 1980; Page & Clelland 1978), as well as responses to modernity and secularization (Hunter 1987; Shupe & Stacey, 1983).  These analyses suggest that the impetus for such movements may well be tied to the effects of contemporary culture on the belief systems people who join the movements are trying to revitalize and protect.  The findings of this study suggest that home schoolers may be one of the most recent social vanguards willing to take significant steps to protect their children from the effects of modernization and secularization on the American family, public education, and the moral fabric of American society.                
            Researchers studying new religious movements suggest that as social institutions become increasingly differentiated, rationalized, and secularized, humans take an active role in sustaining a stable world view and maintaining the symbolic universes that convey meaning and give order to reality.  Often the concern is with protecting and sustaining world views and life styles that embody sacred elements (see Hammond, 1985).  The activity of home schooling, I propose, is symbolic of a concern over an increasingly differentiated, rationalized, and secularized social system.  Home schooling provides families with the means not only to protect their children from the ideologies, values, and practices of public schools, but to actively preserve world views and meaning systems that offer stable guidelines to live by.
            Several dimensions of this research illustrate this point.  As noted previously, home schooling allows families to restore family unity, to control their children’s education, and to protect their children from the ideologies and values of public schools.  The analysis of the survey data (Mayberry, 1988) also demonstrated that most home schoolers, in addition to their rejection of public schools, lack confidence in mainstream social institutions and public officials, while maintaining a peripheral relationship to mainstream institutions.  Moreover, they have a high degree of religious or spiritual commitment and are actively involved in religious and communal activities in small, peripheral organizations.  Finally, home schoolers overwhelmingly feel that contemporary society is in a period of moral decay.  These findings seem to suggest that the choice of home schooling reflects not only a resistance to public schools but a disillusionment with the contemporary social order.  
            More specifically, religious home schoolers voice their concern over the shift in the locus of authority in contemporary culture away from the absolute authority of God.  New Agers desire a shift in consciousness from rational and linear modes of thinking to an apprehension of the unity of all living forms as well as the spiritual unity between humanity, nature, and God.  Socio‑relational home schoolers are dissatisfied with the quality of both family relationships and relationships nurtured in public schools; they seek a lifestyle that will allow them to protect and nurture their children’s social and moral development. Although these concerns represent different world views and meaning systems, what virtually all have in common is a discontentment with modern culture.  Home‑based education provides an activity directly oriented toward religious and spiritual renewal and toward family integration and control; it represents a commitment to regaining control over one aspect of life that is fundamental to the maintenance of world views‑‑the education of children.  In this sense, home schoolers are rational individuals seeking to achieve a rational goal.  They are not irrational individuals responding to economic or status deprivation, but rather individuals attempting to sustain a way of life that protects and revitalizes a  stable set of meanings.  Home schooling provides such a structure.
Arnold, D.O.  (1970).  Dimensional sampling:  An approach for studying a small number of cases.  The American Sociologist, 5(2), 147‑150.
Hammond, P. E.  (Ed.).  (1985).  The sacred in a secular age.  Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press.
Hunter, J.  (1987).  Evangelicalism:  The coming generation.  Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press.
Knowles, J. Gary.  (1988).  Understanding parents who teach children at home:  The value of a life history approach.  Home School Researcher, 4(1), 9-19.
Lorentzen, L. J.  (1980).  Evangelical life style concerns expressed in political action.  Sociological Analysis, 41 (2), 144‑154.
Mayberry, Maralee.  (1988).  The 1987-88 Oregon home school survey:  An overview of the findings.  Home School Researcher, 4(1), 1-9.
Page, A., & Clelland, D.  (1978).  The Kanawha County textbook controversy:  A study of the politics of life style concern.  Social Forces, 57(1), 265‑281.
Reese, W. J.  (1985).  The public schools and the great gates of Hell.  Educational Theory, 32(1), 9‑17.
Shupe, A., & Stacey, W.  (1983).  The moral majority constituency.  In R. Liebman & R. Wuthnow (Eds.), The new christian right (pp. 103‑116).
Van Galen, Jane Ann.  (1986).  Schooling in private: A study of home education.

    [1].  Although I will discuss these four categories as separate entities, it should be understood that the reasons a family gives for home schooling may be representative of more than one category.  The assignment of a family to a category was based upon primary reasons expressed by the family.

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