A Heuristic Inquiry into the Stress that Home Educators Experience

Jennifer Rathmell

Chiang Mai, Thailand, jen@rathmell.com1

Gail Collins

Department of Education, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, glcollins@liberty.edu


The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the stress that families incur when they choose home education as their primary educational method. Extensive studies exist regarding stress that traditional education teacher’s experience. However, research considering stress experienced by parents who are the primary educators of their children is limited. This study endeavored to provide insight and add to the home-education body of research. Using a heuristic inquiry research design, nine home educators participated in four data collection methods: a homeschool questionnaire, The Occupational Stress Inventory – Revised (OSI-R), a focus group, and individual interviews. The data revealed five primary unique home education stressors: (a) overwhelming responsibility, (b) dealing with behavior and discipline, (c) choosing curriculum, (d) stereotypes and stigmas, and (e) distractions and extracurricular activities. Additionally, the research revealed five primary flourishers in the home education experience. These included: (a) control and freedom, (b) poignant moments, (c) the right curriculum, (d) supportive spouses, and (e) the greater homeschooling community.

Keywords: homeschooling, homeschool, home education, stress


The journey of this study regarding the unique stress that home educators experience began as an outsider offering sympathy to worn-out, questioning, and often insecure parents who were neck-deep in the struggle of homeschooling. As a counselor, I wondered, “How much of parental stress is related to homeschooling and how much is not?”  By God’s divine will, my understanding of this stress turned into a poignant, first-hand experience when I began home educating my children 3 years ago. As a home educator, I wondered, “How can I not only survive, but also thrive, as I teach my children?” My doctoral journey provided an avenue to pursue these questions through this qualitative research study.




This research utilized heuristic inquiry to identify the unique stressors that home educators experience. As schooling in America becomes more eclectic, parents need a comprehensive understanding of educational options (Belfield, 2004). Klassen (2010) believed that as research identifies the areas of stress that occur during educational experiences, the focus can then shift to implementing strategies to alleviate stress and its associated negative impact. With this in mind, this research purposed to increase a more thorough understanding of what stressors might be exclusive to the home educator. Additionally, I sought to identify aspects of home education that contribute to a positive, flourishing learning environment.


Research Questions


This heuristic inquiry answered two research questions:

  1. What are the unique stressors that a home educator experiences?
  2. What are some ways that a home educator can flourish in light of these unique stressors?




Fraelich (1989) introduced the concept of “co-researcher” regarding research participants. He encouraged participants to join the primary researcher as a “truthful seeker of knowledge and understanding with regard to the phenomenon” (p. 68). Consequently, this research study referred to all participants as co-researchers. My rationale for this decision was two-fold. First, I believed that it added value to the person and role of the co-researcher. My desire was to communicate the trust, belief, and value that each co-researcher brought to this study. Second, I believed that it added value to the data and information from each co-researcher.

This inquiry consisted of nine women who are currently educating their children at home. Research revealed that the majority of home educators are mothers (Mayberry & Knowles, 1989). Those participating in the study were part of a purposeful and criterion sample (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2007). I selected six of the co-researchers from a personal network, and three co-researchers from within my professional ministry network. In order to participate in this study, each co-researcher was required to meet the following criteria:

  • Each co-researcher must currently be involved in homeschooling their children.
  • Each co-researcher must agree to the contributory ethos regarding this study.
  • Each co-researcher must be willing and able to articulate both the stressors and flourishers of home education as they experience them.



A unique aspect of this study is that each co-researcher is a U. S. citizen, yet resides outside of the United States of America. Six co-researchers are connected to the U. S. military community in Okinawa, Japan. Each of these co-researchers has homeschooled both inside and outside of the United States. They also have access to both the public school on base, as well as numerous English-speaking, American-based Christian schools off base. They choose to forego these options in favor of home education.

The remaining three co-researchers are involved in ministry to the U. S. military and have access to Christian schools off base. Each of these families has utilized a Christian school in the past, or is utilizing it currently with one or their children. Table 1 summarizes the demographics of the participants.


Table 1

Demographic Information of Co-Researchers







Years Home-schooling Number of Children  

Home State

Level of Educa-tion
Rosey White <1 3 MD H.S.
Jane White 2 3 MD B.S.
Ginger White 7 3 AZ B.S.*
Anna White 10 3 NC M.S.
Melinda White 4 4 CO B.S.
Belle White 2 4 CA H.S.
Cindy White 3 4 SD B.S.*
Elizabeth White 2 3 TX M.S.
Emily White 5 8 NY B.S.



The reason for this unique setting resulted from my familiarity with the population due to our ministry in Okinawa for 10 years.  Ironically, despite being located in Japan, the U.S. military population provides a cross-section of Americans living throughout the United States. This study included high-ranking officer families, as well as low-ranking enlisted families. As well, these families hail from various geographical locations, and maintain different cultural traditions (e.g., perceived “southern” values, proud “Texan” roots, and northeast “forthrightness”). While some co-researchers were acquainted with each other, most did not know each other well.




Heuristic inquiry is a phenomenological research method that searches for underlying meanings in human experience (Moustakas, 1990). Beginning with a personal challenge or puzzlement, the researcher internally examines the problem through self-dialogue, focus, indwelling and self-searching. This method then incorporates others’ perceptions and feelings to enhance the understanding of a particular phenomenon (Moustakas, 1990).  This process provided an ideal platform for examining and understanding both stressors and flourishers involved in home education.

To fully internalize the problem under consideration, heuristic inquiry demands that the researcher have experience in the phenomenon being examined.  This “like-mindedness” helped alleviate any defensive posture home educators might feel regarding their decision to home educate.  Another unique aspect of heuristic inquiry is the inclusion of the researcher’s voice in the study, as well as the voices of those formally participating.

Moustakas (1990), creator of heuristic inquiry, provided the foundation for this study’s research plan. Specifically, this study utilized his six-phase delineation of heuristic inquiry: (a) initial engagement, (b) immersion, (c) incubation, (d) illumination, (e) explication, and (f) culmination of research in a creative synthesis (“The Phases of Heuristic Research, para. 1). These phases guided the heuristic inquiry process.

Husserl (1927) believed that the starting point for phenomenological studies included self-experience, sensations, perceptions, and ideations that develop when one focuses attention on a subject. Moustakas (1990) believed that a heuristic researcher seeks to understand wholeness and patterns of experience in a scientifically organized and disciplined way. This understanding moves from the individual (self), integrates the experiences of others, and returns to the self. In heuristic inquiry, the researcher must have experiential knowledge of the phenomenon under consideration (Moustakas, 1990).

As a Bible believer, I cannot completely endorse this humanistic philosophical framework. A philosophy emphasizing the glory of man outside of a Biblical understanding is antithetical to my belief system. From a Biblical worldview, every person has value because God has given him or her that value. I believe people are created in the image of the triune God – a unique belief of Christianity. For this reason alone, people are invaluable in both God’s and man’s sight.

Consequently, a person made in the form of deity allows even the nonreligious unbeliever to bear the glory of God. As a Biblical counselor, I agree with Moustakas’ (1990) principles of empathy, compassion, understanding, and sympathy regarding the human condition. However, these characteristics flow from the Biblical truth that we “belong to each other,” making each Christian obligated to one another in love (Rom 12:5, New International Version). This mirrors Moustakas’s (and other humanists) postulate of interconnectedness that humans feel towards each other. Proverbs 20:5 states, “A man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out” (New International Version). While humanism attempts to understand complex phenomenon through human nature, I wholly rest on God-given abilities and spiritual insight concerning these matters.


Data Collection


Four data collection tools provided information regarding this study:

  1. Home School Information Questionnaire. This questionnaire provided basic demographic information regarding each homeschool family, such as number of children, number of years the family has homeschooled, extracurricular activities, and so forth. This tool gave me a snapshot of what school looked like in each co-researcher’s home.
  2. The Occupational Stress Inventory-Revised. The Occupational Stress Inventory-Revised (OSI-R) (Osipow, 1998) measurement seeks to understand the major variables of stress and the outcomes of stressful situations (Hicks, Fujiwara, & Bahr, 2009). This assessment tool concisely measures three areas of occupational adjustment: occupational roles, psychological strain, and coping resources.

I believed that such an assessment would be helpful in understanding stress levels in the participants of this study. The OSI-R demonstrates high reliability and validity (Osipow, 1998).  Information gathered from this assessment served to help develop questions for use with the focus group and individual interviews.

  1. Focus Group. Krueger and Casey (2000) noted that a focus group allows for a relaxed, comfortable, and often enjoyable discussion as members share ideas and perceptions. Qualitative researchers have found that the interactions between participants in focus groups stimulate feelings, beliefs, and perception that would not have occurred in individual interviews (Morgan, 1997). Aligning with the philosophy of heuristic inquiry, focus groups often start with one question because participants take on a major responsibility for stating and drawing out the views of those involved (Gall et al., 2007; Moustakas, 1990). During the focus group, I loosely guided the conversation, but primarily allowed the co-researchers to develop, consider, and verbally contemplate their personal stresses incurred in homeschooling.
  2. Individual Interviews. The most common way of gathering data in heuristic inquiries is through extended individual interviews (Moustakas, 1990). The researcher is encouraged to express ideas, feelings, and images in a natural manner. Before each individual interview, I spent time focusing on each co-researcher’s completed homeschool questionnaire, OSI-R report, and comments made during the focus group. This allowed me to be very familiar with the ethos of each co-researcher during our conversational interview. A heuristic inquiry is complete only when the individual has had an opportunity to tell his or her story to a point of natural closing. At such a time, the primary investigator is ready to locate and interview others (Moustakas, 1990).

Data Analysis


To analyze the data, I utilized open (or inductive) coding of each data collection tool, as well as peer review, member checking, and the establishment of an audit trail.  Open coding took place as I examined the data line by line and identified prominent themes and categories (Elo & Kangas, 2007). Maxwell (2005) stated that coding allows the researcher to “rearrange data into categories to facilitate and aid in the development of theoretical concepts” (p. 21).

The coding of the homeschool questionnaire and OSI-R provided initial insight into the demographical stressors of home education.  The OSI-R also identified a “snap-shot” of stressors currently experienced by home educators.  These two instruments gave a broad picture of stressors unique to home education.

The focus group and individual interviews offered a very detailed illustration of both the co-researcher’s stressors and flourishers. After compiling a master list of codes from all four data collection tools, I began to synthesize the codes into comprehensive themes. Dey (1993) stated that when formulating categories by inductive content analysis, the researcher comes to a decision, through interpretation, as to the coalescing of categories. Namey, Guest, Thairy and Johnson (2007) suggested a good starting point for reduction of data is frequency of themes, which gives an idea of the prevalence of similar responses across participants. I began to reduce the data from each collection tool initially by the frequency of similar themes.

Creswell (2007) stated that the final phase of coding takes place when the researcher “systematically relates the phenomenon to other categories and thus validates the relationships” (p. 240). After reducing to the most prevalent categories, I looked for relationships within the remaining categories. For instance, while determining that discipline was a major theme, I placed heart attitudes and motivation inside this stressful theme. The final process of coding and reducing the data became clear as I began to see the strong relationship between both the stressors and flourishing factors of the home education experience.




Research Question One


The first research question of this heuristic inquiry focused on unique stressors that are experienced in the home education process. In answering the question, “What are the unique stressors that a home educator experiences?” I collected data through a homeschool questionnaire, the Occupational Stress Inventory-Revised, a focus group, and individual interviews. Using coding and memoing, member checking, and peer review, I triangulated the data analysis to identify the prevailing stressors that home educators experience.

This inquiry revealed five predominant stressors. While each co-researcher felt these stressors in varying degrees, the following dynamics were found to be the predominant stressors within the home education context:

  1. Overwhelming Responsibility
  2. Dealing with Behavior & Motivation
  3. Curriculum Choice
  4. Stereotypes and Stigmas
  5. Distractions/Extras.

Research Question Two


Research question two endeavored to discover the “upside” of home education. Five prominent themes from the data emerged in reference to what helps home educators flourish in light of the unique stressors they experience. Analyzing the data from each collection methods, the distinct areas that provide strength and encouragement in home education include:

  1. Control and Freedom
  2. Poignant Moments
  3. The Right Curriculum
  4. Supportive Spouses
  5. The Greater Homeschooling Community.




In my interaction with the co-researchers, I found that, with one exception, there was an initial awkwardness in considering negative or stressful aspects of home education. After thoughtful review of the data, it became clear why this dynamic presented itself. First, there is a sober and appropriate hesitation to speak negatively about a decision you have invited, even beckoned, in your life. This is a humbling and vulnerable process. Second, every stressor found in this study seemed to have another “face.” For instance, “dealing with bad behavior” was wearing on a homeschool mother, and yet the same situation provided an opportunity to “communicate family values, teach, and train” which was a primarily flourishing and positive aspect of home education. What seemed to be an initial reluctance is what I believe to be an inner tension of categorizing any facet of homeschooling as completely stressful.

Lazarus’ (1991) appraisal theory provided insight into these double-sided responses to the homeschooling experience. Smith and Kirby (2009) stated that

Two individuals will react to the same circumstances with different emotions if they appraise the personal significance of those circumstances differently. Similarly, the same individual will experience different emotions to the same circumstances over time if his or her appraisals of those circumstances change. (p. 1353)


As the co-researchers spoke of homeschooling aspects, they sometimes “appraised” the same situation to be frustrating, yet and other times, flourishing. The same event, depending on situational context and personal coping abilities (secondary appraisal), could “make or break” the homeschooling process for that day.

This heuristic inquiry revealed that many of the stresses mentioned, in a different light, could strengthen the homeschooling experience. The five major stressors cited in this study are actually allayed by what I believe to be a correlating stress-reducer or flourisher. Figure 1 summarizes these inextricably linked sides of home education.


Responsibility vs. Control


Co-researchers in this study felt an enormous responsibility to ensure that their children were receiving a quality education. In a twist of culture, these home educators are adding another charge to parenthood—one that has for many years been regarded as the responsibility of public or private traditional educators. Feelings of insecurity lurked in the shadows for many home educators as they innately compared their children’s educational experience to those attending traditional school. This responsibility felt very heavy at different times and seemed to increase as children get older and their academic needs become more complex.

This responsibility can be understood in light of Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory. Home educators alone offer the social context that provides learning that leads development, unlike those who send their children to traditional or private school, where instruction is shared. Additionally, home educators understand their obligation to translate lower learning functioning into more highly developed learning functions that underpin Vygotsky’s theory of learning. These are heavy implications for highly trained educators, and, perhaps, they weigh even heavier on home educators.

Conversely, on the flourishing side of home education, having the control that this responsibility brings is empowering to the home educator. The co-researchers in this study loved the freedom that they experience in home education—the ability to “do what they want.”  The chains of schedule, perceived traditional teacher inadequacies or peculiarities, as well as undesirable environments for their children, are all elements about which home educators don’t stress. This freedom allows home educators to choose the social context that their children are exposed to, providing purposeful and strategic modeling opportunities that Bandura (1986) espoused in social cognitive theory. However, this control clearly cannot be experienced without the substantial responsibility that accompanies a choice to home educate.


The Struggle of Behavior/Motivation vs. Teachable Poignant Moments


Troublesome behavior and lack of motivation are likely the most discouraging areas in home education. Misbehavior, and the time and effort needed to handle discipline and correction, has been linked to emotional exhaustion and distress in traditional educators as well (Kokkinos, 2007; Tsouloupas, Carson, Matthews, Grawitch, & Barber, 2010). Unique to homeschooling, a home educator also plays the parental role and thus, is more culpable in the discipline and correction process. Whereas a traditional educator may simply “wait it out” and make it till the next period, the home educator experiences behavioral issues in the context of both parent and educator. One co-researcher said it the following way:

And you know, if I only had the children home 3 hours a day, I could probably make it through most days and not snap…but, instead I’m with them 16 hours a day and sometimes I snap.


Perhaps one underlying frustration with our children’s behavior is that it reveals our own inadequacies in patient correction and discipline. Ozdemir (2007) found that educators with low classroom management efficacy are prone to burnout. Similarly, a home educator’s inability to deal with misbehavior can also be stressful. A family unit usually functions with an honesty that does not translate in other areas. While teaching in a traditional school, social pressure constrains my frustration and inclination to obvious disappointment and discouragement. On the other hand, my family knows my best and worst sides. My children also know how to “push my buttons” more than 25 comparable strangers. In effect, I am armed with social stigma and responsibility in a traditional classroom that sometimes dissolves in the face of my own children. I believe this underlying stress is unique to the homeschooling process.

Ryle (2007) is quoted as saying, “The same fire which melts the wax hardens the clay; the same sun which makes the living tree grow, dries up the dead tree, and prepares it for burning” (p. 210). The truth of Ryle’s statement resonates in this homeschooling tension. Surely, the drain of visible, negative behavior and motivation is mitigated by the intimate, life-giving rebukes that Solomon refers to in Proverbs 15:31: “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (New International Version).

Interestingly, the co-researchers in this study found themselves buoyed by the platform home education provides to speak into their children’s hearts and lives in a passionate and personal way. These instances paved the way for the discipleship and mentoring process that is so valuable to these home educators. Additionally, the joy of learning together, couched in the mundane moments of everyday life, was very encouraging to the co-researchers. Vygotsky (1966) stated, “As a child begins to practice with respect to himself, the same forms of behaviors that others formerly practiced with respect to him, he has internalized the behavior and concept” (p. 39). Homeschool parents resonate with this underlying principle of sociocultural theory. Home education afforded these parents the ability to model their worldview, to know their children intimately, expose negative attitudes, create unity, and be part of the learning process. This opportunity seemed to abate the stress of misbehavior and discipline.



Curriculum Choice vs. The Right Curriculum


The dichotomy of this important element of home education is clearly evident. The co-researchers enthusiastically agreed that finding the right curriculum for the family is one of the most significant decisions that a home educator makes. The availability of information on the World Wide Web has provided both a conduit and curse for choosing curriculum. There is an abundance of options for homeschooling curriculum, making it difficult for a novice home educator to choose. This stressor is especially notable during the early years of home education.

Traditional schools often have a team of dedicated curriculum specialists to assist with this portion of the educational process. These individuals focus on finding a fit for a large group of students to help meet their learning needs. In contrast, most home educators are untrained in such a specialized area as curriculum choice. This can often be overwhelming to home educators who feel insecure in discerning these types of complex educational decisions.

After a homeschooling family finds the right curriculum, this stressor promptly moves to the flourishing side of home education. Consider Melinda’s comments:

My child was really struggling to understand the Math curriculum that came with Sonlight. I didn’t know anything about Math curriculums, but I knew this one wasn’t working. After talking with some other homeschooling moms, I found another one that had worked for children who were struggling the same way that my daughter was. I ordered Math-U-See, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. If she were in traditional school, we would have to keep plugging away at something that wasn’t working for her. The right curriculum made all the difference for her.


In the above situation, Melinda provided a clear example of Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) appraisal theory. The co-researchers felt that homeschooling became a highly stressful process when they utilized a curriculum that did not work. Using primary appraisal, Melinda assessed the situation’s significance to their homeschooling “well-being.” Secondary appraisal allowed Melinda to evaluate her ability to deal with the situation created by the problematic curriculum. By changing curriculums, Melinda reduced the amount of stress in her homeschooling experience.

Home education allows for individualized learning and management of learning difficulties. Unencumbered by school demands, home educators have more freedom to meet their children’s needs with different teaching methods, curriculum, or presentation (Ray, 2002). Curriculum choice at the onset of homeschooling can be highly stressful. However, each co-researcher concluded that the right curriculum provided an essential foundation for a thriving home education experience.



Stereotypes and Stigmas vs. The Right People’s Opinions


As home educators choose to go outside the mainstream and provide different opportunities for their children academically, they are sure to encounter opposing views regarding their decision. This struggle ranged from odd looks at the grocery store to unofficial “testing” of the children’s academic prowess by relatives or friends. These interactions ebbed away at the co-researcher’s confidence and caused them to feel defensive regarding their choice of education.

Making the choice to home educate is a very personal one. As the co-researchers interacted with others regarding this decision, opposing views and opinions affected their outlook regarding home education. Bandura (1997) stated that self-direction serves as a “major guide, motivator, and deterrent. People do things that give them self-satisfaction and self-worth, and refrain from behaving in ways that produce self-censure” (p. 168). As co-researchers spoke, it was clear that their choice to home educate stemmed from a highly developed value and belief system. Many times, they felt the awkwardness that accompanied interactions with others who could not understand this educational path. Unique to the homeschool experience, home educators often feel the need to justify why they have made the decision to homeschool, unlike parents who send their children to traditional school.

Conversely, I was struck by the weight with which the opinions of the right people could encourage and breathe life into a home educator. The empathy and strength of a supportive spouse is crucial to the family’s success in education and unity. Additionally, every co-researcher remarked that other home educators were a significant source of help and inspiration and contributed to a flourishing educational endeavor. The negative perception of others who were distantly connected (if at all) could be discouraging, but every co-researcher had people they could go to for reassurance and support as they home schooled their children. This may account for the growth of encouragement or support groups for home educators around the United States. The findings of this study suggest that such a group, whether living abroad or in the United States may help reduce stress in home educators.


Distractions and Extras vs. The Homeschool Community


The numerous distractions that occur as home educators teach their children were notably discouraging and stressful. Many of the co-researchers in this study have small children who are not yet school age, often making it necessary to teach around nap and feeding times. If, for any reason, those windows of teaching closed, home educators often found themselves falling behind in their schooling.

The co-researchers also agreed that the effort that a home educator puts forth for extracurricular activities often created more stress than they were worth. Having courses like Drama, Art, and Physical Education incorporated into the school day is normal in a traditional school setting. For most home educators to participate in these kinds of activities, they must commit and drive to another location. The co-researchers felt that, in particular, if other core subjects were not completed, these kinds of activities created a significant amount of stress in the home education experience.

In my interaction with the data, I once again found that this particular stress had roots in a flourishing aspect of home education. Homeschool co-ops, where many of the extracurricular activities took place, were a great source of encouragement to home educators, especially those who were new to homeschooling. These settings and “extras” are also activities that home-educated students really enjoy, providing an often needed “win” for the home educator. Additionally, home educators understand that they are not the “competent adults” in every area that Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development suggested for optimal learning. Surrounding themselves with people who can facilitate learning in unique disciplines contributes to greater learning (Vygotsky, 1978). In the case of home education, extracurricular activities can also alleviate stress.

Bandura (2003) noted the power of social support in social cognitive theory. He stated “enabling social supporters can raise personal efficacy by modeling effective coping strategies for managing difficult situations. This demonstrates the value of perseverance and provides positive incentives and resources for efficacious coping” (p. 171). The strength the co-researchers received amongst other home educators was essential to a positive homeschooling environment.


Implications in Light of Relevant Literature


Jane, the one co-researcher who stated that she “did not choose” homeschooling for her family, exhibits frustration and often feels that homeschooling is “very stressful for her.” This correlates with McDowell’s (2000) research regarding the profound impact that motivation plays in the homeschooling experience. In McDowell’s study, the two participants who felt “forced” into homeschooling exhibited greater stress and bitterness toward the entire educational process, much as Jane does, even while exhibiting great commitment to it. This suggests that if homeschooling is an intrinsic decision, it is more likely that the home educator will experience less stress. However, home educators who choose homeschooling for external reasons, or as a last resort, tend to exhibit stressful and unhealthy levels of coping.

During this research process, I interviewed Dr. Susan McDowell regarding her aforementioned research. Her work was the only homeschooling specific research related to stress that a home educator experiences. As we spoke, she mentioned her use of the word “feminist,” which she cleverly attributed to home schooling mothers. Ironically, she felt as though home educators (mothers only in this case) embodied the true definition of feminism and found them to be “passionate about the education of their children, highly informed concerning their legal rights and obligations, unhesitatingly vocal in their opposition to any perceived infringement on or lessening of these rights, and generally suspicious and untrusting of established institutions” (McDowell, 2000, p. 2). While not the stereotype normally attributed to home educators, this inquiry provided experiences with home educators that affirmed McDowell’s characterization of many homeschooling mothers. Consider Anna’s remarks regarding the removal of her son from what she perceived to be a detrimental learning environment for him:

When I think about stress level…the day we pulled Gil out of that Spanish class, I felt liberated…I was no longer trying to help him follow this teacher’s assignments or logic, and I was like, “Whoo Hoo! We got off that roller coaster!” And that is what has kept us from going back. I mean, obviously there were a lot of reasons over the course of the year, and she’s continued to give me reasons over this year. I’m thankful that I had the discernment to not put Anna in that class even when we were assured that everything would be different. Yeah, that having the control can feel liberating at times.


The co-researchers in this study were formidable women who took home education seriously. Their commitment to providing a quality, unique, and purposeful learning experience exhibited unrivaled strength, correlating with McDowell’s (2000) vision of feminism in the context of education.


Conclusion and Creative Synthesis


This heuristic inquiry has provided a much-needed in-depth look at the unique stressors that home educators experience. Furthermore, this study considered flourishing factors that strengthen home educators in light of these unique stressors. These findings add to the research conducted on home educators. It is my fervent hope that these findings will fuel further insight into the field of home education, as well as encourage and strengthen those who utilize this remarkable educational alternative around the world.

The conclusion of a heuristic inquiry research design includes a creative synthesis where the primary researcher produces an original literary piece that describes the inquiry experience. Moustakas (1990) explained that the creative synthesis invites “a recognition of tacit-intuitive awareness of the researcher and knowledge that has been incubating over the months of research” (“Outline Guide for Procedures of Analysis of Data, para. 8). To end this heuristic inquiry into the stressors and flourishing factors of home education, I submit this charge to home educators with the hope of inspiring them toward a rewarding, steadfast educational experience as they lead their children with grace and dignity.


Home Education Charge



Surely, there will be moments of frustration – but they will be shadowed by poignant ones of learning and discipline.

Surely, the times of exasperation will be exchanged with hopeful years of peace as you diligently train your children.

Surely, your fearful decision making will one day become the wise counsel you pass on to another.

Surely, that doubting look from another will be dissolved in the strength of those who support you.

Surely, the distractions and activities of today can be your joy tomorrow.

Surely, these momentary struggles mask your greatest strengths.

Surely, your hope is in the One who can “turn your grief into joy, your mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11)

Surely, to God alone be the glory, great things He has done…and will do!




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Authors’ Notes:


  1. Jennifer Rathmell received her Doctorate in Education with an emphasis in Teaching and Learning at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. She lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.    ¯