[A review/summary of] “A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HOME SCHOOLING FAMILIES IN…
Purpose and Procedure
The purpose of Rose’s research “… was to determine why parents/guardians have removed their child/children from either the public or private schools in order to instruct them at a place other than school (home instruction)” (p. 106) and to determine the attitudes and responses of affected school districts toward these home schoolers? To achieve his goal, Rose addressed seventeen questions to two sets of five home schooling families and eleven questions to two sets of school district superintendents (or their designees). The ten home schooling families resided in ten different school districts in South Carolina. A superintendent/designee was interviewed in each district where home schooling families resided.
The procedure consisted of the following “split-half sampling process” (p. 107): (a) An interview instrument of seventeen questions was constructed, (b) the instrument was administered to the parents of five home school families, – “Tentative postulates were developed at the conclusion of the first set of five interviews…” (p. 106), (d) a second set of five families was interviewed, and (e) the tentative postulates were rejected or strengthened. The same procedure just described applied to the interviews with the superintendents.
Based on interviews with home school parents, Rose reported the following findings:
1. Most fathers of home schoolers are secure in their jobs and established in their professions. 2. Most mothers are homemakers. 3. Many home schooling families have combined incomes in excess of $25,000 per annum. 4. Most parents of home schoolers state that they withdraw their children from the public or private schools because of religion, discipline in schools, and wrong values being taught. 5. Many home schooling fathers have aspirations for their children to obtain at least a college or graduate degree. 6. Many mothers would like to see their children obtain a college degree along with being healthy and happy. 7. Many parents experience procedural difficulty in obtaining permission to home school. 8. The main source of difficulty encountered by many parents is with the superintendent or his/her designee. 9. Most home schooling families are acutely aware of other home schoolers. It is not uncommon for families to verbalize an awareness of several hundred other home schooling families in South Carolina. 10. Most home schooling parents believe that there are many more unapproved homeschooling families than approved homeschooling families in South Carolina. 11. Most curriculum is of a religious nature with secular material added. 12. Tests and testing done by home schoolers are widely varied, to the point that it is not practical to use these tests as a basis of comparison to outside groups. 13. Testing often exists but follow-up is rare. Most students are ranked above the 50th percentile in tests administered. 14. Most home schooling parents have attended college with some having obtained a college degree. 15. Education received by most home schooling parents is received from the public schools. 16. About half of home schooled children have never attended a public or private school. 17. The home schooling movement is comprised mostly of white families. 18. Many home schooling parents have said that their children have been curious about what school would really be like, but are not unhappy away from school. (p. 107, 108)
Interviews with superintendents/designees resulted in the following findings:
1. Most superintendents or their designees believe that home schooling is a parental right. 2. Many superintendents or their designees maintain that children are better served in the public school than in a home schooling program. 3. With the growing numbers of home schoolers, each school district in South Carolina will probably have to process one or more home schooling applications in future school years. 4. Most superintendents or their designees generally agree that existing laws regarding home schooling standards or equivalence to the public or private schools are not clear and concise. 5. Most superintendents or their designees feel that home schoolers are an added burden to their workload. 6. The view that financial support should be given by the state to the school districts for the home schooling workload is accepted by most superintendents or their designees. 7. Few school superintendents or their designees are aware of others who may be home schooling in other districts in South Carolina and most are not aware of any non approved home schooling families. 8. Most school superintendents or their designees feel that home schoolers are not attending the public schools for religious reasons. 9. Most superintendents or their designees feel that home schoolers are not receiving education at a level similar to that of the public schools. 10. While home schooling parents experience difficulty in the approval process, most school districts eventually approve home schooling requests. (p. 109, 110).
The researcher also reported five findings that were not originally addressed in his main research question and interview questions. First, Rose found that many home school families in South Carolina had not applied to their school districts for permission to home school their children. Rose estimated that only 15% to 25% of home school families had received approval to home school. Second, he found that a statewide association (Carolina Home School Association) existed to provide “… to home schoolers, or potential home schoolers, information regarding legal concerns, curriculum, evaluation and other matters regarding home schooling” (p. 111). Third, there was a lack of information and feedback within and between government agencies regarding home schooling. Fourth, the underlying attitudes of some school districts and their officials appeared to be hostility toward home schooling and suspicion of anyone associated with the home school movement. Home school families and their associates were often treated in a degrading manner by public school officials. Fifth, there was an overall lack of evidence that avoidance of racial integration was a reason for home schooling.
Alan Rose concluded:
At the time of this study, not enough is known about home schooling. In-depth research is needed to reveal facts and dispel myths about home schooling. Proper records and data need to be kept to show both the strengths and weaknesses of the home schoolers themselves. Education programs are needed, particularly at the university level, to better understand the home schooling phenomena [sic]. Education of the educators is needed to better understand of [sic] the home schooling movement. (p. 113)
Comments on the Study
Although Rose stated on page 106 that his research purpose was to determine why parents home school their children, the study actually provides more information about the characteristics of home school families and the perceptions of school district personnel toward home schooling (as the dissertation title implies). In fact, only two brief findings, of the 28 listed, directly address “why” parents home school
their children. The study is helpful to further investigation of home education in that it provides more basic data concerning its participants. Rose has played a part in providing a clearer description of those involved in the growing home schooling movement.
The researcher stated that “… the following postulates were substantiated through the split-half sampling process used…” (p. 107) and then listed his findings. Actually, these are not “postulates” in the sense of something assumed without proof. They are descriptive statements based upon data collected
in interviews. The term “postulate” might lead the reader to assume that some theory was developed by the researcher based upon “a priori• logical thought or extensive qualitative observations and research. This observation leads to the next point.
The title of the dissertation implies that a qualitative study was executed. The reader should recognize that “… “qualitative methodology• refers in the broadest sense to “research that produces descriptive data: people’s own written or spoken words and observable behavior•” (Taylor & Bogdan, 1984, p. 5). Qualitative researchers immerse themselves in the environment of their subjects and take a phenomenological approach to understanding the subjects’ perspectives of their world. Furthermore, qualitative research is inductive in that concepts and theory emerge and are developed from patterns in the
descriptive data. Rose’s research was not qualitative in the sense of that which was just described. The study actually represents an interview-survey type of research. Furthermore, the information collected by his interview instrument could be quantified.
Rose did go about his research in an interesting manner, however, by using one set of interviews to result in findings (or “postulates” as he termed them) and a second set of interviews to check the reliability and generalizability of the findings. This research method and its conclusions are much stronger, of course,
than if simply one set of five families had been interviewed.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the findings based on interviews with home school parents are consistent with the findings of other studies done to date (Ray, 1986). Also, the findings based on interviews with superintendents or their designees appear consistent with the findings of other studies that have involved public school officials and their thoughts on home education.
Ray, Brian D. (1986). “A comparison of home schooling and conventional schooling: With a focus on learner outcomes•.
Manuscript submitted for publication.
Taylor, Steven J., & Bogdan, Robert. (1984). “Introduction to
qualitative” research methods: The search for meanings, second edition.” New York, NY: Wiley.
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