Factors That Influence Parents to Homeschool in Southern California

About two to three percent of the United States’ school-age population are currently homeschooled (Bielick, Chandler, & Broughman, 2001; Ray, 2001). Proportionally, the growth of the homeschool population far exceeds that of public school enrollment. In a two-year period, Colorado’s homeschool rate has multiplied fifteen times (LaRue & LaRue, 1991). Homeschooling is currently the choice of  “100 times more American families than 20 years ago” (Sharp, 1997, p. 4). The Home School Legal Defense Association claims at least a 25 percent growth over the past 10 years (Weston, 1996) and some estimate the homeschool population is growing ten times faster than public school enrollment (Suryaraman, 1996).
The growing controversial homeschool movement, whose population is mostly taught by noncredentialed parents, boasts in many cases academic achievement that significantly surpasses that of the traditional public school setting. Research consistently supports that homeschooled children, on average, do as well as or better than children in conventional school settings (Arizona State Department of Education, 1989; Klicka, 1997; Ray, 1990, 1997, 1998; State of Oregon, 1990; State of Tennessee, 1988; Wartes, 1988). With such success, the homeschool movement deserves careful study to analyze why it is a viable alternative for many families and to give feedback for school reform for the traditional school setting.

Purpose of the Study

It is the purpose of this study to identify specific factors that drive parents out of the traditional school setting and attractive features that pull parents into the homeschool setting within the Southern California urban community. This study will identify: (a) demographic characteristics of those who homeschool in Southern California, (b) negative features which push families out of the traditional school setting, (c) attractive features that pull parents into the homeschool setting, and (d) implications of family income on the decision to homeschool.

Research Questions

Five specific questions were asked in this study:
1.       What are the demographic characteristics of parents who homeschool in Southern California?
2.       What factors push parents out of the traditional school setting?
3.       What factors pull parents into the homeschool setting?
4.       Is there a relationship between socioeconomic status and reasons why a parent chooses to homeschool?
5.       If money were not a factor, what would a parent’s first choice be in educating his or her children?

Importance of the Study

To date, no previous systematic, quantitative research has been conducted by the State of California to determine why parents are choosing home-based education over traditional education (Dennee, 1998) and minimal private research has been conducted in California. This study will begin to fill the vacuum of literature in this area, and hopefully help facilitate the concept that cooperation and collaboration with parents are essential aspects of any educational setting, encouraging the American public to listen to the voice of homeschool parents, embracing insights they have to offer in the area of school reform.
This specific study examines reasons parents homeschool in Southern California through Independent Study Programs (ISP). This particular ISP is a public ISP funded by tax dollars. Parents who enroll their children in this program use interdistrict transfers from districts of residence. Average daily attendance (ADA) funds are then transferred to the county program via Sacramento. Public funds are then used to hire credentialed teachers to collaborate with parents as they homeschool their children. Teachers also assess, track progress, and offer a variety of elective parent and student workshops, as well as tutorials, to supplement the child’s home instruction. Public funds are used to purchase a variety of state-approved textbooks. Parents and teachers together choose texts that meet their children’s academic needs, and parents supplement with additional materials.

Assumptions

This study assumes that parents accurately responded to the survey questions, reporting reasons why they never put their children into or pulled their
children out of the conventional school setting and reasons why they chose home-based study as the alternative educational program for their children.

Limitations and Delimitations

This study is limited to a self-selected sample of 332 parents from 40 school districts in Southern California counties. This study examines the perceptions of a specialized population of homeschoolers who were teaching their children at home while enrolled in an Independent Study Program with the Orange County Department of Education. This study is dependent upon parents’ perceptions of reasons why they homeschool.
Another limitation is that many parents who completed the survey have more than one child. The survey did not have a method for weighting specific responses for varying numbers of children. For example, a mother of three might be homeschooling one child for social reasons and the other two children for academic reasons. The survey requires that this parent make one response representing family reasons for homeschooling all of his or her children.

Review of the Literature

Demographic characteristics of homeschool families are not systematically available throughout the United States or in other countries; however, there appears to be consistent patterns showing that homeschool families are intact families with both mother and father in the home (Kilgore, 1987; Rakestraw, 1988; Wartes, 1988); the mother is usually the primary instructor (Kilgore, 1987; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Ray, 1995a, 1995b; Wartes, 1988); income levels are above average (Kilgore, 1987; Rakestraw, 1988; Ray 1991, 1993, 1995b; Wartes, 1988); parents are college-educated (Rakestraw, 1988; Ray, 1991, 1993, 1995a, 1995b; Wartes, 1988); and there is usually an average of three children in the home (Rakestraw, 1988; Ray, 1995a, 1995b; Wartes, 1988). Most homeschool families are Caucasian (Ray, 1995a) and the average homeschool child is in elementary school (Ray, 1997).
Van Galen (1988) divided homeschool parents into two groups: ideologues and pedagogues (in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991). Ideologues desire to impart values to their children and strengthen family bonds; whereas, pedagogues, are primarily concerned with academic achievement and leave the traditional public school because it is not working for their family. These parents reject the traditional school system and attempt to give their children a superior education at great personal sacrifice. The group of parents who are pedagogues may have special needs children (Duvall, et. al, 1997; Knowles cited in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991) or gifted children (Knowles cited in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991) for whom an excellent education may require more than public categorical programs can offer. The literature confirms that the two categories of homeschool parents, ideologues and pedagogues, do exist; however, the literature also confirms that there is a third category.
The third category consists of those parents who homeschool for a variety of social factors. These parents may be concerned about the negative influence of peers and desire more positive role models for their children (McIntire & Windham, 1995). Or, they may simply be concerned that their own child’s social behavior will not be appropriate in the traditional school environment (e.g., a child with ADD or ADHD). Or, the parent may have safety concerns that have to do with their immediate community/social environment (Bempechant, Drago-Severson, Dinndorf, 1994, p. 57).
Throughout the literature, predominate reasons for homeschooling appear to fall into three large categories: moral/religious reasons (Gray, 1992; Kilgore, 1987; Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; Madden, 1991; Mayberry, 1988; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Rakestraw, 1988; Wartes, 1988; Van Galen, 1988 in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991); instructional/curricular reasons (Cohen, 1995; Gibbs, 1994; Kilgore, 1987; Knowles, 1988; Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; Madden, 1991; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Rakestraw, 1988; Van Galen, 1988 in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; Wartes, 1988); and social/safety factors (Bempechant, Drago-Severson, Dinndorf, 1994; Cohen, 1995; Gibbs, 1994; Gray, 1992; Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Rakestraw, 1988; Sharp, 1997; and Wartes, 1988).
For the California population, the only study the researcher could locate was that of Stephen Gray from the University of California in Los Angeles UCLA. Gray (1992), while working on his dissertation at the UCLA, conducted narrative research with families across five counties in Southern California, determining factors that influence parents to homeschool. After interviewing the families, Gray transcribed each interview and then coded the most frequently mentioned reasons for homeschooling. The factors were as follows, listed in order of  frequency:
1.       Values Conflict Between Home and School
2.       Personality Changes in the Child
3.       Parents Dissatisfied with School Quality
4.       Outside Influences
5.       Parents Feel a Sense of Duty
6.       Child Has Special Problems and Needs
7.       Financial Constraints, Convenience, Availability
8.       Lack of Parental Control

When parents were asked in California, “Why are you homeschooling?” many of their responses fell into the category of curricular and instructional concerns and moral concerns. However, a host of other reasons promote home-based, independent study in California. These reasons include “drugs, gangs, and negative influences at the schools” (California Department of Education, 1994, pp. 7-1) as stated in the Independent Study Operations manual for the State of California.

Methods

Sampling Procedure
The sampling procedure used, rather than being random, was an attempt to survey the entire population of homeschoolers enrolled in the Community Home Education Program (CHEP), Orange County Department of Education. Eight hundred and seventy-one families were enrolled in the program, in January 1997, when the surveys were made available. When families came onto the campuses for their mid-year conferences, they waited in lobbies where surveys were available on a table. Thirty-eight percent or 332 families of the 871 families elected to respond.

Questionnaire Construction
The researcher wrote an original survey based upon the following experience: interviewing in person approximately 100 homeschool families in the private sector during the 1980s, interviewing by phone officials involved with homeschooling or correspondence schools in the Ministry or Departments of Education in all the Canadian province capitals in 1994, calling the US State Departments of Education from 1993–1994, editing McIntire and Windham’s Home Schooling: Answer to Questions Parents Most Often Ask from 1993 to 1995 which eventually became the American Booksellers’ Pick of the List in the Parent Category in Fall 1996, and interviewing 100 plus homeschool families in the public sector from 1995–1997 for the Orange County Department of Education. Based upon these experiences, a three-page survey was constructed with four sections: (1) the push/pull factors that influence families to homeschool, (2) a Community Home Education Satisfaction Scale, (3) benchmark factors (SES, gender, ethnicity, etc.), and (d) literacy questions. Sections one and three are pertinent to this research project.
In constructing the push/pull factor section, the researcher attempted to include categories for all factors that parents identified during interviews as influential in their decision to homeschool. These factors were divided into two categories—those factors which drove parents out of the traditional school setting (PUSH FACTORS) and those factors which drove them into the homeschool setting (PULL FACTORS).
After constructing the initial draft of the survey instrument over several weeks with many editing sessions, the researcher asked Philip Dreyer, Ph.D., of Claremont Graduate University, to review the survey. After inputting his suggestions, she took the survey to the Community Home Education Program staff of the Orange County Department of Education, which was the largest public home-based educational program under independent study law in the State of California at the time of this writing.
At a Fall 1996 meeting, 38 credentialed teachers, who had supervised homeschool families for from one to nine years at the Orange County Department of Education, as well as two homeschool administrators, read through the survey and wrote suggestions for changes (additions, deletions, etc.). Lively discussion ensued and several additional factors for homeschooling were added to the survey.
After the Fall 1996 meeting, the researcher read the input of her colleagues and revised the survey several times. Sheree Dennee, administrator of the Community Home Education Program, and Philip H. Dreyer collaborated in continual editing sessions until the final draft was complete.

Reliability
Reliability of the survey instrument was established via mail during the late Fall and early winter of 1995. Twenty-seven homeschool families received a copy of the survey by mail, and 26 returned the survey for both the first and second mailing. Reliability for PUSH/PULL factors  1–2, 4–17, 19–30, and 33-57 were established using paired t-tests. Items 15, 40, 48, and 50 had perfect reliability for the 26 respondents. Because paired t-test values for items 18 and 32 were .043, Cronbach’s alpha, a second reliability measure, was run on each item. Item 18 had a moderate alpha of .75 and item 32 had a strong alpha of .832, thus establishing reliability for each of these items.
The paired t-test for item 3, “poor instruction” indicated the 2-tailed significance was .004. In the case of paired t-tests, significance is undesirable because ideally there would be no difference between the first and second test. Perhaps “poor instruction” was an emotionally-laden item and interpreted in more than one way in the two separate testing sessions. Whatever the case, item 3 did not show itself reliable and will not be used in any statistical analysis in this study.

Validity
The validity of this survey was established through face validity. Forty colleagues, each with one to twelve years of experience (public and private) with homeschool families, validated that the factors mentioned in the survey rang true with their experiences in interviewing and working with homeschool families. The researcher wrote an original survey, because she was unable to locate any previously-used surveys which asked the basic research question, “What are the push/pull factors that influence parents to homeschool?” and included pertinent items for this urban population of homeschoolers as perceived by 41 professionals who supervise these families (38 teachers, two administrators, and the primary researcher).

Sensitivity
The original draft of the survey had a five point Likert scale (0–4) for measuring the influence of each factor. At a colleague’s suggestion, this Likert Scale was reduced to three points (0–2). Though the scale still accomplished the goal of identifying influential factors for homeschooling, reducing the scale to three points reduced the sensitivity of the survey. The researcher regrets this change and considers it a weakness of the survey.

Generalizability
The original intent of this survey was to identify the push/pull factors that influence parents to homeschool by surveying 100% of the Community Home Education Program of Orange County. The 38% response rate is a smaller sample size than desired; however, it represents well over one-third of the population of homeschool parents serviced through the Orange County Department of Education. Such a response rate is not uncommon when surveying parent populations. For example, Brian Ray (1994), when sending out a questionnaire to 2,585 Canadian homeschoolers, received a response rate of 31%. Similarly, Crawford and Freeman’s study, as described in their article “Why parents choose private schooling: Implications for public school programs and information campaigns” (1996) sent out 1,107 surveys and had a response rate of 34.7%.
It is questionable that the results of this survey could be generalized to homeschool populations across the continent in that this is a select group of urban homeschooling families in the public sector; however, results can lay the groundwork for future studies. Interestingly, however, some items, such as the SES item, show a perfect bell-shaped curve which would indicate that, in some respects, the sample is representative of the general population.

Results and Discussion

Research Question #1: What are the demographic characteristics of parents who homeschool?
In general, the typical homeschooling parent in this sample is a 38-year-old Caucasian Orange County female with 3.72 years of college education.  She has two school-age children and homeschools both of them.  She has homeschooled for three years and she is assisted by another family member, usually her husband.  Prior to homeschooling, her children were enrolled in a traditional public school.  Her family income is $52,631.
This study supports a consistent pattern in the literature showing that most homeschool families are intact families with both the mother and the father in the home (Kilgore, 1987; Rakestraw, 1988; Wartes, 1988), the  mother is usually the primary instructor (Kilgore, 1987; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Ray, 1995a, 1995b; Wartes, 1988), and parents are college-educated (Rakestraw, 1988; Ray, 1991, 1993, 1995a, 1995b; Wartes, 1988).
This study does not explicitly support the finding that there is an average of three children in the home (Rakestraw, 1988; Ray, 1995a, 1995b; Wartes, 1988), because the survey did not ask how many children the parents had, but instead asked the number of K–12 children in the family (item 67). The average number of K–12 children in the home was 1.94. More than likely, however, there are older and/or younger children in the home which could make an average of three children; however, it should not be assumed.
The literature indicates that homeschool families’ income levels are above average (Kilgore, 1987; Rakestraw, 1988; Ray 1991, 1993, 1995b; Wartes, 1988); however, for this urban Southern California environment, income levels are slightly below average.

Research Question #2: What factors push parents out of the traditional school setting?
Overall, mean responses to items 1 to 30 (PUSH FACTORS) indicate that “negative peer influence” (item 13, mean = 1.51), “class size too large” (item 1, mean = 1.37), “poor moral climate” (item 19, mean = 1.30), and “children not learning enough” (item 6, mean = 1.30) were the top four factors that pushed parents out of the traditional school setting (in descending order by mean).
Key values/religious issues that pushed parents out of the traditional school setting included: “poor moral climate” (item 19, mean = 1.30), disagree with values taught” (item 20, mean = 1.13), and “values not taught” (item 21, mean = 1.10). These identified concerns confirm national studies by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement that have attempted to identify why parents leave public schools for private schools (Sconyers, 1996).
Key instructional/curricular issues that pushed parents out of the traditional school setting included: “class size too large” (item 1, mean = 1.37), “children not learning enough” (item 6, mean = 1.30), and “unsatisfactory curriculum” (item 4, mean = 1.03). These results support the views of Hirsch, Finn, Sykes, and Thomas, as well as Gallup polls that continue to indicate a falling confidence in public education (Elam, et al, 1994, 1996).
Key social/emotional issues that pushed parents out of the traditional school setting included: “negative peer influence” (item 13, mean = 1.51), “safety concerns on campus” (item 10, mean = 1.11), and “gang influence” (item 14, mean = .97). These same concerns—fighting, violence, and gangs—are shared by the general public and noted in research conducted by Elam et al (1994).

Research Question #3:  What factors pull parents into the homeschool setting?
Mean responses on items 32 to 57 indicated that the attractive features of homeschooling (PULL factors) were much more influential in parents’ decisions to homeschool than were the negative aspects of traditional school setting (PUSH factors). The top three PULL factors that were most influential in affecting family decisions to homeschool included: “one-to-one instruction” (item 32, mean = 1.79), “I want to integrate family values within the context of education” (item 45, mean = 1.72), and “I want to influence the moral climate of my child’s education” (item 44, mean = 1.75).
The highest rated variables relating to values/religious reasons for homeschooling included: “I want to influence the moral climate of my child’s education,” (item 44, mean = 1.75), “I want to integrate family values within the context of education,” (item 45, mean = 1.72), and “I want to integrate religious beliefs within the context of education (item 46, mean = 1.39). These results confirm previous studies indicating that religion and values training are high priority concerns for parents (Gray, 1992; Kilgore, 1987; Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; Madden, 1991; Mayberry, 1988; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Rakestraw, 1988; Wartes, 1988; Van Galen, 1988 in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991).
For this population, there were more curriculum/instructional issues in the top ten PULL factors than values/morals issues. The key variables in the top ten PULL factors relating to instructional/curricular issues included: “one-to-one instruction,” (item 32, mean = 1.79), “I can insure my child is learning what he or she needs to learn,” (item 41, mean = 1.7), “choice in curriculum,” (item 33, mean = 1.68), “can teach around child’s interests,” (item 36, mean 1.62), “can fill in learning gaps,” (item 37, mean = 1.61), “can use above grade level materials,” (item 35, mean = 1.41), and “I can give immediate feedback on assignments” (item 53, mean = 1.39). These results confirm previous studies which documented curricular/instructional concerns (Cohen, 1995; Gibbs, 1994; Kilgore, 1987; Knowles, 1988; Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; Madden, 1991; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Rakestraw, 1988; Van Galen, 1988 in Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; Wartes, 1988).
The highest rated PULL factors relating to social/emotional reasons for homeschooling included: “I would like more influence regarding peer choice,” (item 57, mean = 1.44) and “safer at home” (item 39, mean 1.39). Peer choice is a concern frequently cited in homeschooling literature (Cohen, 1995; Gibbs, 1994; Gray, 1992; Litcher & Schmidt, 1991; McIntire & Windham, 1995; Rakestraw, 1988; Sharp, 1997; and Wartes, 1988), but safety concerns are not factors frequently cited in homeschool literature.
Overall, this homeschool survey confirms that parents who homeschool do so for the same reasons that parents choose traditional private school settings. These reasons include: religion and values, academic and curricular reasons, as well as safety/social  issues (Bempechant, Drago-Severson, and Dinndorf, 1994; Crawford and Freeman, 1996).
Many previous studies (e.g., Mayberry, 1988, Wartes, 1988, Kilgore, 1987) indicate that religion or philosophy is the primary reason that families homeschool; whereas, the current study indicates more of a balance between curricular/instructional issues, values issues, and safety issues for this population. This broader base for deciding to homeschool is supported by previous research (Cohen ,1995; Gibbs, 1994; Sharp, 1997). Additionally, there appears to be an emerging group of homeschoolers who have gifted or disabled children who are seeking to meet the needs of their exceptional children in the homeschool setting (Knowles, 1988; Duvall, 1997). This emerging group of homeschool parents, seeking to meet the exceptional needs of their children, is confirmed throughout the results of this survey (items 2 and 7) and particularly visible in the curricular/instructional AFTER path model.

Research Question #4: Is there a relationship between socioeconomic status and reasons why a parent chooses to homeschool?
Question four may well be the most significant finding of this study. “Is there a relationship between socioeconomic status and reasons why a parent chooses to homeschool?” When the researcher regressed the dependent variable, item 81 (SES), on the independent variables (items 1-2, 4-30, 32-47, and 51-57), six independent variables entered the equation (items 11, 20, 24, 30, 32, 39) to collectively explain 17 percent of the variation of item 81 (SES). Results indicate that low socioeconomic families homeschool because it is “safer at home” (item 39, beta = -.23), because there are “safety concerns to and from school” (item 11, beta = -.20), and because of “prejudicial issues” (item 30, beta = -.14). However, higher income families have more of an association with reasons for homeschooling, such as “disagree with values taught” (item 20, beta = .16), the school “schedule does not fit family needs” (item 24, beta = .13), and a desire for “one-to-one instruction” (item 32, beta = .10). See TABLES 1, 2, and 3 for further data.
The safety issues for low socioeconomic homeschooling families have not been quantitatively documented in any previous California urban homeschooling study. Gray (1992), who interviewed homeschool families in Southern California, did not find safety issues or prejudicial issues prevalent as he coded the most frequently mentioned factors for homeschooling. However, safety issues is mentioned in the California Independent Study Operations manual, specifically citing “drugs, gangs, and negative influences at the schools” (1994, p. 7-1). This is a major finding warranting further research.
These results were surprising to the researcher. Even though she had heard many parents during interviews describe safety issues as a key concern for enrolling in homeschooling, she did not realize the association between socioeconomic level and safety concerns. Clearly, the reasons for homeschooling differ when comparing high and low income levels. High income levels are more associated with values, convenience, and academic issues; whereas, many low-income families are homeschooling for survival reasons—“safer at home,” “safety concerns to and from school,” and “prejudicial issues.”

Item #
Independent Variable Description
Beta
T
Sig t
Q11 “safety concerns to and from school” -.20 -3.66 .0003
Q12 “disagree with values taught” .16 3.10 .0021
Q24 “schedule (school) does not fit family needs” .13 2.53 .0119
Q30 “prejudicial issues” -.14 -2.75 .0063
Q32 “one-to-one instruction” .10 2.00 .0416
Q39 “safer at home” -.23 -4.07 .0001

Multiple R                                .41590
R Square                                   .17297
Adjusted R Square                     .15770
Standard Error                          .15770

Table 1. Factors associated with Item 81, SES

 

Item #
Independent Variable Description
Beta
T
Sig t
Q11 “safety concerns to and from school” -.20 -3.66 .0003
Q30 “prejudicial issues” -.14 -2.75 .0063
Q39 “safer at home” -.23 -4.07 .0001

 

Table 2. Factors associated with low SES.

 

Item #
Independent Variable Description
Beta
T
Sig t
Q12 “disagree with values taught” .16 3.10 .0021
Q24 “schedule (school) does not fit family needs” .13 2.53 .0119
Q32 “one-to-one instruction” .10 2.00 .0416

 

Table 3. Factors Associated with High SES

Research Question #5: If money were not a factor, what would a parent’s first choice be in educating his or her children?
Half of the respondents in the sample are enrolled in their first-choice educational alternative.  However, for one-third of the population (33%), financial constraints have kept parents from their first choice in educating their children.  One-third of the parents’ first choices included “private home school” (religious or secular) and “private traditional school” (religious or secular).  Twenty-eight percent (28.2%) preferred a private religious educational setting, either traditional or homeschool.  In choosing CHEP, a public independent study program, these parents are choosing the “next best thing,” since finances prohibit their first choice.
This study confirms previous studies of the general population indicating that economic constraints are prohibiting parents from enrolling their children in their first choice educational alternative. In particular, this study confirms the work of Sconyers, of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, who reported in 1996 that six out of ten parents would opt for private schools over public schools if financial constraints were not a barrier. Johnson (1995 cited in Sconyers, 1996) has even higher statistics for numbers of parents who would choose private schools over public schools if economic constraints were not a factor. Bempechant et al (1994) also found that cost was a major factor in prohibiting parents sending their children to Catholic high schools. More than half of the families surveyed in their 1991 study cited the burden of tuition as a major factor in prohibiting Catholic high school enrollment (p. 60). In fact, many of the eleven percent of the population studied in this homeschooling survey, previously enrolled in private school, cited in interviews that a major reason for leaving the private school was economic constraints. Interviews with homeschool parents enrolled in this independent study program regularly reveal a need for accessing their tax dollars to purchase textbooks and materials for their homeschooled children. Parents regularly express appreciation for school districts who will collaborate with their desire to homeschool their children, providing support for both home-based study as well as on-site services (e.g., special assemblies, field trips, sports).

Conclusion

What is the foundational problem that drives parents to educate their own children at home? Clearly, the data from this survey point to a discrepancy between what is found in our neighborhoods and schools and what parents believe is best for their children. The 332 parents who responded to this survey believe that their children will receive better instruction in morals, values, and academics, in a safer environment, if they are homeschooled. Safety issues are related to morals and values, and morals and values are related to academics. These are not separate curricular areas, but one in the same. As one educator, Yardley, stated, “In the America of my youth, moral and ethical instruction wasn’t a specialized line of study, something tacked on to the curriculum in a desperate effort to get young people’s gyroscopes spinning properly. It was an intrinsic part of the national tapestry, the warp and woof of our lives” (in Noll, 1997, p. 5).
Historically, the purpose of school has been two-fold: socialization and academic training. These purposes are intertwined, and when both are interrupted by the social problems of our society (e.g., the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado; peer conflict; peer pressure; negative labeling of children with special needs), it is understandable that parents, out of love for their children, will take a “road less traveled.” It seems logical that, when the community is deteriorating, the greatest foundation parents can give their children is the safety of home (item 39), the unity of the family (items 38, 43, 56), the security of traditional values and morals (items 44, 45, 46), and a solid academic background that will help them grow and stretch intellectually (items 6, 32, 34–36). In this way, children can grow and develop at home, unencumbered by concerns, such as safety and emotional security, found at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy—but instead, are free to explore who they are, expand their intellectual development, and develop their skills to the fullest so as to have more to bring to society during their adult years.

Recommendations for Further Research

Continued research in school reform is recommended to explore ways to ensure that all families, regardless of  income levels, have equal access to equitable educational settings.
Additional studies are recommended regarding the role of fear and violence in the public school, and safety issues to and from the public school, to help make the public more aware of our children’s safety needs and to encourage constructive action. Exploration of how society can combat root problems (as opposed to combating surface problems), such as family and community fragmentation; communication difficulties; language barriers; cultural barriers; and social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual distresses; are essential to the next generation’s survival.
Furthermore, additional research on differentiated learning and how special needs are met in the traditional setting is needed. Exploration of an array of alternative educational options should be supported so as to provide maximum opportunity for children with exceptional needs as well as all student populations.
The merging of the child’s worlds (home and school) may be one of the most influential factors contributing to the child’s academic success in the homeschool setting. Studies ought to be conducted to control for this issue, because this may not be an issue we can duplicate in the traditional school setting, and it may be a factor that highly contributes to the current success of homeschooling.
A great deal of work in the political arena must take place to ensure that parents have a continued right to educate their children at home, including writing, educating, lobbying, and researching issues surrounding the homeschool movement. As Cizek and Ray (1995) aptly noted, “homeschool research is an ‘empirical cottage industry’” (p. 1) and many stones are left unturned.

NOTE: The ISP Community Home Education Program population has now become Orange County Charter School and has grown from an enrollment of 871 to over 1,500 students. Orange County Charter School, Orange County Department of Education, partners with Biola University’s Department of Education in ongoing research about homeschooling in Southern California.

 

References

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