I am a doctoral student in the Social Foundations of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For several years I have been casually following developments in home education. Expanding on this interest, I wrote several papers on home schooling during my graduate program course studies – one on the legality of home instruction and another on past and current political action toward the introduction of favorable home schooling legislation in the state of North Carolina (home instruction is still technically illegal here).
Just as I was beginning to seriously search for a dissertation topic, I received a letter from a group of home educators in North Carolina who were organizing a state coalition of home schoolers and supporters. After several meetings with this group, and after being continually frustrated by the lack of information about home education in the professional literature, I decided to “dive in head first” and study the status of home schooling in North Carolina for my dissertation.
My plans are still in the formative stage, but I have begun to solidify my proposal. I will be conducting a qualitative study of home schoolers and those that they encounter as they attempt to clarify their legal status in the legislature. I am primarily interested in the reasons that parents choose home education, the kinds of procedures parents use to teach their children, and the extent to which legislators and educators take into account the parent’ concerns and capabilities when making decisions about home education.
More specifically, I am doing “participant observation” and informal interviewing with home schoolers during state and local meetings and other group activities. I have also begun to interview state officials who are involved in either litigation or regulation of home education. I am compiling information from newspapers, national and state home schooling newsletters, books, and other literature about home schooling here and in other states; and I will analyze this written material for clues as to the meaning that the term education has for all those involved and the ways that these values are translated into practice. I expect that this theme of the meaning of education will played out throughout the study. The study will be framed in a literature review that will analyze the changing relationships between schools and families throughout American history.
This summer I will begin extensive interviews with home schooling families (both those affiliated with and those outside of the state home schooling organization) and with involved legislative and education officials. I will also work toward tracing the influence of the parties and coalitions who become involved in the issue, either directly or through “behind the scenes” activity.
I am fascinated with home education because in this single issue, many of the fundamental questions about education are raised: the questions of parental choice, children’s rights, religious freedom, the extent of government involvement in schooling, and the pursuit of quality learning. I feel that this study will help clarify the role of home education in addressing some of these issues, and hopefully, my findings will help to provide evidence that is needed to extinguish the emotional fires that surround much of the debate about home education.
I would appreciated hearing from others engaged in similar work or those who might be able to offer suggestions or criticisms. I would also be glad to provide more information to anyone interested as my work progresses. I am available at:
Jane Van Galen
121 Peabody Hall 037A
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill NC 27514 phone: (919) 962—9165
or (919) 966-1354 (leave message)