Homeschooling Approach: How Do Parents Decide?
Letitia (Tish) Walters
David P. Daves
The University of Southern Mississippi, email@example.com
This study examined the factors influencing parental selection of homeschooling approaches for their children. Factors explored were parental motivators for selecting homeschooling approaches, and parental reasons for choosing to homeschooling. The population consisted of a sample size (n = 228) that included parents with at least one year or more of experience in teaching homeschooling and the primary educator being involved in answering the survey. Participants in this study responded to items from a researcher-adapted questionnaire. The majority of the participants were from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Participants with graduate level education achievement was noted at 18.9 % which is nearly half of the most common educational attainment was a bachelor’s degree at 39.9%. The highest average household income indicated was $70,000-$100,000 and Christianity, including Protestant and Catholic, was the preferred religion reported. Classical education was the highest in the child’s performance of the suggested homeschooling approaches. Cooperative schooling, computer-based schooling and traditional school at home were identified in this order as the next most performed homeschooling approaches. The main three chosen parental reasons for chosen homeschooling are religion and moral instruction, values, and school environment concern. Significant correlations were found between parents’ select homeschooling approaches and parents reason for homeschooling. Implications are described for homeschooling parents and higher education personnel. Future research concepts, including particular attention to age groups, homeschooling groups and technology are recommended.
Keywords: homeschooling, parental reasons for homeschooling, homeschooling approaches, technology integration, school environments, religion
Academic research on homeschooling is becoming more prevalent in recent studies. However, due to homeschooling’s anomalies, motivations and reasons are becoming interchangeable yet distinct. The following article provides a review of literature that includes an overview of homeschooling motivators embedded with ideological theory of John Holt, reasons for homeschooling, curriculum and instructional approaches, experiences and services, and analysis of data found in the study. The review of the literature gives wide examples and explanations as to how and why this movement has become such a driving force in the American education system. While homeschooling is rooted in colonial history, parents are now considering the possibility of teaching their children at home at a rate higher than any time in America’s past due to academic achievements (Chang et al., 2011, Romanowski, 2001).
Several factors contribute to the exodus from organized schools; some justifiable, others not. Among the justified factors includes the issue of school violence. The ten-year span between 1997 and 2006 proved to be the deadliest decade for violent acts that result in death in our schools. During that decade the news media was filled with horror stories of children walking onto their campuses and killing or attempting to kill their friends and teachers. There seemed to have no solution to the social problem we are facing. We started screaming for “Safer Schools,” and more accountability on the part of teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards. We built fences, and even put up metal detectors in a feeble effort to make our schools a safe place. Even with all these drastic measures, we somehow knew that the problem was not solved. The issue of violence alone caused homeschool education enrollment to increase 74 percent from 1999 to 2007 (Bielick, 2008), and an additional 17 percent from 2007 to 2012 (Ray, 2013; Noel, Stark & Redford, 2013).
While school safety caused the spotlight to be turned on other glaring problems faced in America’s public schools, overcrowding and limited funding contribute to the perception of the general public that schools are not fulfilling their mission (Biddle & Berliner, 2014). Lack luster performance on standardized state and national tests pointed to ineffective teaching initiating parent autonomy in management and instructional techniques. More recently, the confusion created by Common Core is causing parents to seek alternative classroom experience (McDermott-McNulty, 2014). Suddenly, the idea of homeschooling was not reserved for those with affluent positions, deep religious convictions, or those who wanted more control of the curriculum and activities during their children’s school day.
In addition to school setting issues, pedagogy and ideology has also been a continuous driving force and motivator for homeschooling. Anthony and Burroughs (2010) examined the pedagogical and ideological reasons for homeschooling, and found the curriculum chosen and the teaching strategies used at home varied greatly. One participant’s motivations for homeschooling were strictly based on the educational and ideological differences found in the instructional materials used at home, while another family valued the practice of using secular television shows as an educational tool. Both participants declared their approaches to homeschooling were decided upon what was best for their family which is parental autonomy (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010). Yet, Collom and Mitchell (2005) found parents held mixed beliefs with an individualistic approach towards homeschooling by putting their child and the needs of the child first. Hence, John Holt’s theory of individualization for the child still holds strong today.
Homeschoolers were identified and individualized by the parental reasons for choosing to homeschool according to homeschooling categories, ideologues or pedagogues (Valery, 2011). according to Knowles (1992), the preferred motivator for homeschooling was parental independence with paradigms of personal and practical choices. Collom and Mitchum (2005) examined the impact of John Holt’s theory of freedom and individualized education for parental autonomy and how that has served as the foundation for the choice to homeschool.
Research examining homeschooling approaches and instructional methods vary greatly because the delivery of the materials can easily be personalized and customized to the learner and/or parents’ interests (Murphy, 2012). Stevens (2001) determined parents choose a curriculum based on its structure, while Hanna (2012) claimed homeschoolers use an assortment of options with a chosen eclectic program plan.
Pedagogy and ideology has also been a continuous driving force and motivator for homeschooling. Anthony and Burroughs (2010) examined the pedagogical and ideological reasons for homeschooling, and found the curriculum chosen and the teaching strategies used at home varied greatly. One participant’s motivations for homeschooling were strictly based on the educational and ideological differences found in the instructional materials used at home, while another family valued the practice of using secular television shows as an educational tool. Both participants declared their approaches to homeschooling were decided upon what was best for their family (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010).
Another critical decision faced by parents who choose to homeschool is determining what instructional approach will be used. McKeon (2007) developed a progression of homeschooling teaching approaches and expanded the structures into four categories: (1) traditional, (2) unschooling, (3) eclectic, and (4) classical. The traditional approach encompasses program instruction or the “boxed curriculum” ready made to ship to the homeschooler. This approach is the most common type chosen for homeschooling. Unschooling is another path chosen and is described as the learner’s preferred choice of education according to preference and personality type. The eclectic approach combines boxed curricula, individualized, and/or personally created curricula. Lastly, the classical approach includes grammar, dialectic and rhetorical phases of knowledge development (McKeon, 2007).
More recently, Taylor-Hough (2010) examined the equality of homeschooling approaches based on the parental reasons for their children’s individualized learning. Levinson (as cited in Taylor-Hough, 2010) provided another expansion of homeschooling methods with an increase that included specific venues for technological integration and individualization. Technological expansions, for example, development of the World Wide Web have proven to be very helpful, but at the same time add additional layers of confusion and overwhelming amount of new methods of homeschool education. Technology combined with homeschooling promotes limitless possibilities of growth and ease to obtain available homeschooling materials, programs and virtual learning (Isenberg, 2007).
Because of the varied approaches, data were collected and examined regarding homeschooling approaches and parental reasons for choosing that approach. The following seven categories of homeschooling approaches were included in this study:
- Classical Education – The Classical education model was designed with three stages of core cognitive development – grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010; McKeon, 2007). The first stage of this Trivium (Courtney, 2012) is grammar that includes memorization and concrete thinking of factual knowledge in the elementary school years. The dialectic stage leads to understanding and analytical thinking, and is typically demonstrated in spoken and written communication in the middle school years. Finally, in the high school years, the rhetoric stage integrates abstract thinking and articulation was emphasized (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010; McKeon, 2007).
- Cooperative Education – eclectic method that parents work together to create classes or lessons using homemade curricula, pre-packaged curricula and/or individualized curricula.
- Computer-based – schooling methods utilized in either organized virtual correspondence programs or purchased virtually packaged products (Murphy, 2012; Taylor-Hough, 2010).
- Traditional school at home – method that is a replica of conventional schooling utilizing pre-packaged curricula including both public and private systems.
- Charlotte Mason – Christian method that is pre-packaged materials and teacher directed with short schedules for academics and personal interests.
- Unschooling – individual learner-led method using any activity with parent-teacher assistance when asked by the learner.
- Correspondence schools and school-related umbrella organizations outside of the home – conventional school related affiliations of groups or classes in which the students are enrolled as homeschoolers with partial enrollment in other school opportunities, usually paper, and pencil.
Murphy (2012) defined the curriculum approaches as packaging systems that included curriculum materials, organizational arrangements, instructional delivery options, and pedagogy methods. The packaging systems were one faction of homeschooling methodology. The type of schooling varied from the individual in charge of the student’s education approach, parent/educational manager and/or parent-teacher (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010; Duval, Delquadri, Joseph, & Ward, 2004). In addition to the curriculum materials and how it is packaged and arranged, Murphy (2012) examined the teaching structures and determined that extended curricula and families play a vital role in homeschool teaching strategies. According to Murphy, extended curricula included participating in family managed businesses, household managing, apprenticeships, personal mentoring, community volunteering, special events and field trips. Gaither (2008) expanded the idea of extended curricula to include affiliations with public and private school extra curricula activities, weekly enrichment classes, sports activities, college dual enrollment programs and other public services that would be covered by extended curriculum. Lips and Feinberg (2008) found 20 states that declared acceptance policies of homeschool student enrollment in some public school extracurricular activities and athletics.
Scholarly research clearly indicates academic and religious beliefs and values, finance, location, time, and parental professional relationships are the primary factors in parental selection of teaching approaches and choosing to homeschool. Additionally, learning structures of homeschooling are vital considerations for parents and students in making this decision. While the needs of the individual families, parents, and learners have been examined in regard to the homeschooling approaches process selection (Lee & McMahon, 2011; Sherfinski, 2014), to date, there is limited literature on the ideological and pedagogical paradigms generated by alternative and interchangeable options such as homeschooling.
Over the past 25 years, available support groups and associations have provided valued assistance to families for homeschoolers. Regardless of the demographics of an area, homeschooling organizations are quickly formed and are welcomed resources to parents (Lines, 1991). In addition to the local support groups, politically and educationally powerful national support groups such as National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) and Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) are available at the parents’ request (Cooper & Sureau, 2007).
Many services are provided through private and not-for-profit agencies that have contributed to the homeschooling movement. Services such as courses for diplomas and advanced learning, virtual online learning opportunities, and testing and tutoring centers are offered and individualized to the common needs and concerns of the involved families (Bauman, 2001; Collom & Mitchell, 2005; Lips & Feinberg, 2008). Growth in society’s technology and changes has economically and socially affected education. Hence, different knowledge of public and governmental information has modified and transformed parental reasons for choosing homeschooling and homeschooling approaches. (Apple, 2007; Anthony & Burroughs, 2010).
Scholarly research clearly indicates academic and religious beliefs and values, finance, location, time, and parental professional relationships are the primary factors in parental selection of teaching approaches and choosing to homeschool. Additionally, learning structures of homeschooling are vital considerations for parents and students in making this decision. While the needs of the individual families, parents, and learners have been examined in regard to the homeschooling approaches process selection (Lee & McMahon, 2011; Sherfinski, 2014), to date, there is limited literature on the ideological and pedagogical paradigms generated by alternative and interchangeable options. Furthermore, technology aspects of usage and integration research studies are narrow for homeschooling.
Analysis of Data
The analysis of data contains information regarding the study’s demographics, descriptive statistics of two factors of homeschooling. The two factors included the chosen homeschooling approach and parental reason for choosing homeschooling. The demographics of this study include respondent qualification, state of residence, average household income, location of home and religious preference. The analysis of data is described using bivariate correlations of the chosen homeschooling approach with parental reason for choosing homeschooling.
A total of 228 respondents across the nation met eligibility requirements and voluntarily agreed to be in the study. The respondents all have at least one year of experience homeschooling. Louisiana recorded the highest number of participants at 96 (42.1%) followed by Mississippi with 63 (27.6%) respondents, and Kentucky was the third highest with 48. Alabama, Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Utah were the lowest with one participant (.4%). The Preschool Selection Questionnaire (Glenn-Applegate, Pentimonti, & Justice, 2011) and the Special Education Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in Rural America survey (National Assessment of Education, 2014) gave permission and allowed for adaptation and usage by the researcher. Table 1 identifies the information regarding the number and percentage of participants from each of the 12 states.
Participants’ State of Residence (N = 228)
Participants self-reported their approximate average annual household income. The majority of the participants (28.3%) indicated an average of $70,001 – $100,000 and three participants (1.3%) were showing the lowest amount of income at $10,001-$20,000. Table 2 contains information about participants’ approximate average household income.
Participants’ Average Household Income (N = 228)
|$150,000 and up||27||11.9|
Participants also responded to the location of the home. Three areas, city (23.8%), town (17.6%), and rural (22.0%) were close in range with the majority of the participants live in the suburban area (36.6%). Table 3, Participants’ Home Location, encompasses the evidence regarding the location of the home.
Participants’ Home Location (N = 228)
Participants were asked to indicate their highest level of education. The majority of participants reported obtaining a bachelor’s degree with (39.9%) respondents. Vocational/Technical or some college was indicated with (33.3%) of the participants. Those having a graduate degree were reported at (18.9%) while the minority of participants claimed a high school diploma or equivalent (7.9%). Table 4 contains information about participants’ level of education obtained.
Participants’ Level of Education (N = 228)
|High school graduate or equivalent||18||7.9|
|Vocational/technical or some college||76||33.3|
|Graduate or professional school||43||18.9|
Participants indicated their religious preference. Christian religious preference was reported the highest with (64.3%) respondents. Other noted religious preferences were Protestants (23.3%) and Catholics (5.7%) and Buddhists (.4%). Table 5 includes the description of parent’s preferred religion including the number of participants and percentages.
Participants’ Religious Preference (N = 228)
The descriptive statistics for parental reasons for choosing to homeschool are reported in Table 6. The reported mean for religion and moral instruction provision (M = 3.40) was the highest using a Likert scale of one to four, with four designated as extremely important. The match between personal values and the approaches’ values (M = 3.32) and school environment concerns (M = 3.30) had a difference of two-tenths of a point, yet still in the three range. The lowest indicated reason for homeschooling was physical or mental health problems of the learner (M = 1.41).
Participants’ Reason for Choosing Homeschooling (n = 228)
|Reason for Choosing Homeschooling||
|Provide religious and moral instruction||3.40||.81||225|
|The match between my values and the approaches’ values||3.32||.78||226|
|Concerns of school environment||3.30||.86||226|
|Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools||3.18||.88||225|
|The approach matched your family’s religious beliefs||3.15||.86||226|
|The amount I would have to pay, or if I would have to pay||2.24||.99||226|
|If the location was convenient to my home or work||1.98||.92||226|
|Learner has other special needs||1.58||.92||225|
|Learner has physical or mental health problems||1.41||.79||226|
Likert Scale: 1(not at all important) – 4 (extremely important)
Significant relationships are noted in previous literature among the reasons why people homeschool and why particular homeschooling approaches are chosen (Hanna, 2010). Concern of school environment, providing moral instruction, and dissatisfaction with academic instruction are the majority three reasons why parent’s reason for choosing to homeschool (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). Small percentages of other grounds for choosing homeschooling were family issues, distance, finance and travel (Ray, 2013; Noel, Stark & Redford, 2013).
The researcher investigated the parent’s selection of homeschooling approach(es) and parental reasons for choosing to homeschool and conducted a Pearson correlation. Based on the survey data, religion and moral instruction was the leading reason for homeschooling. The next highest reasons were the match between personal values and the values expressed in different approaches and school environment. Learners with physical or mental health issues were the lowest indicated reason for homeschooling.
While the aforementioned seven approaches were expressed as an idea of current available homeschooling methods, there is limited qualitative information found in literature. Hence, the researcher included the seven homeschooling approaches listed in the instrument. The most frequently used approach was classical education with cooperative schooling second. The third-ranked approach was computer-based homeschooling while traditional school at home – public and private school style was the fourth-ranked program. Lastly, the least identified plan was correspondence schools and school-related umbrella organizations outside of the home.
The Pearson correlation indicated a significant association between four independent parental reasons for homeschooling and three distinct homeschooling approaches. First, location to home and work was significantly, positively correlated with correspondence schools and school-related umbrella organizations outside of the home. Next, a learner’s physical or mental health problems were significantly, positively associated with computer-based homeschooling. Dissatisfaction with academic instruction was significantly, positively related to traditional school at home – public and private school style. Finally, a learner with other exceptional needs was significant, negatively related to traditional school at home.
In summary of the two factors examined in this study, parental reasons for choosing to homeschooling and parental reasons for selecting homeschooling approaches, data was collected from the sample size of n = 228. Religion and moral instruction was found having the highest mean (3.40) of parent’s reason for choosing to homeschool. The second highest mean (3.32) was the match between personal values and the values expressed in different approaches, which explains previous literature about the concept of parental autonomy (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010). Lastly, the third highest parental reason for homeschooling was concerns of school environment with a mean of 3.30. These results affirm the National Household Education Survey the majority three reasons why parent’s reason for choosing to homeschool, 1) school environment, 2) providing moral instruction, and 3) dissatisfaction with academic instruction (National Center of Education Statistics, 2014).
Parental motivators for selecting homeschooling approaches were the second factor explored. The approaches are ranked in order from first to third with one having the highest mean and four having the lowest: 1) classical approach, 2) cooperative schooling, 3) computer-based homeschooling, and 4) traditional homeschooling. While these four rated high in this study, previous literature noted approaches to include: parent-teacher created materials, cooperative learning, ready-made curricula, purchased books, homeschooling public school partners, distance learning, Internet-based instruction, and unschooling (McReynolds, 2007; Murphy, 2012; Ray, 2013).
Pearson correlation was performed to show if a relationship exists between parent’s selection of homeschooling approach(es) and parental reasons for choosing to homeschool. Significant, positive correlations were found between location to home and work with correspondence schools, learners with physical or mental health problems and computer-based learning, and dissatisfaction with academic instruction and the traditional school at home – public and private school style approach.
A significant, positive relationship was found with the location of home and work in and correspondence schools. This is an understandable example of homeschoolers considering the geographical area of the correspondence school and the location of the home or labor and the location. Next, dissatisfaction with academic instruction and the traditional school at home approach was found to have a significant, positive relationship. The idea of traditional schooling happens, maybe because of parental comfort and/or self-efficacy, religious, or values. Furthermore, the Christian religion was the highest religious preference indicated in this particular study. Therefore, this research implied supports the distinct group of homeschoolers, ideologues and pedagogues (Van Galen, 1987) and a reductive group of homeschoolers (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010; Valery, 2011).
Current and future homeschoolers who want support groups, and organizations would benefit from a diverse or segregated collaborative standpoint as well as those who wish an individuality basis for homeschooling. In addition, a question is created if an impact of emerging technology on the homeschooling approaches. Hence, further research is needed for the expansion of homeschooling methods, parental reasons for choosing homeschooling, the extent of technology device usage by the children and instructional technology integration (Anthony & Burroughs, 2010; Murphy, 2012).
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