My interest in home schooling dates back to childhood days. My parents decided to home school their children as a matter of conviction. They believed that the home was the most ideal environment for fostering creativity, inquiry, and practical learning.
Hence, I began home school at the age of eight. My mother, who was my teacher for the first eight grades, professionally was a secretary. During this time, we were living in Latin America and consequently did not have to fight any legal battles. Nor did we have any support groups, which I am sure would have been helpful, in the educational area.
From grade nine through the twelfth grade, I continued to study at home on my own through Home Study International. There was always so much more time to study music at the conservatory, farm, carry on projects in the community, engage in carpentry and construction endeavors, and in general learn about life and people.
At eighteen, the pattern was broken and I entered a “formal” college program. There I became much involved in campus and academic activities, and completed science, religion, and education programs. Since then, among other pursuits, I have become more deeply interested in education itself, completeing a master’s degree in Educational Administration. Presently, I am finalizing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at Andrews University, where I serve as faculty.
In regard to educational research, I began to perceive that a national home schooling movement was in an upward trend. The phenomenon has arisen to the notice of parents, educators, judicial systems, and legislative assemblies. The resurgence of interest is evidenced, for example, by the proliferation of home school support organizations and a dramatic surge in home school litigation. Home schooling has become both a national and an international concern; and as such deserves more than casual attention.
Legitimate questions have been raised regarding the viability of home schooling and its impact upon children and society. While praised for its flexibility and individualization, the home school has also been criticized as being narrow, impractical, and potentially deleterious to the child’s social development. A specific allegation, mentioned by critics of the home schooling movement, is that home schooled children suffer adversely from social deprivation which, in turn, negatively impacts upon their self-concept. Home school advocates, on the other hand, contend that the development of positive, intimate relationships with teacher-parents, the opportunity for intellectual exploration and individualized learning, and the demise of negative peer pressure enhance the child’s self-image and encourage superior academic achievement.
In view of the dramatic renaissance of the home schooling movement and the confrontations which are multiplying in educational, legislative, and judicial circles, it is ironic that there is a serious lack of research which deals directly with the subject. Until objective research is conducted, educators and public authorities may continue to rely upon hearsay or intuition. Perhaps the fact that laws regarding home instruction vary considerably from state to state, and that various courts have at times taken opposing views, underscores the need for additional evidence upon which to base legislative and judicial decisions.
My study seeks to answer the most frequently raised issue regarding the home school: Are home schooled children socially deprived? In essence, educational theory and related research (viz, that involving individualized instruction and independent study behaviors) indicate that there may be a difference in the social self-concept of home schooled children as compared to those schooled in the conventional classroom. The specific home schooling effect is as yet largely unknown.
The investigation examines home schooling children in grades four through twelve, utilizing the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and a demographic form. The randomized sample was drawn from the mailing lists of the two largest national home schooling agencies – Hewitt Research and Holt Associates (with a combined total of approximately 45,000 addresses). The resulting data will be statistically analyzed.
As a result of this study, to be finalized during 1986, I foresee the realistic formation of an empirical base from which to assess one of the most significant educational trends of the decade, thus contributing toward a better understanding of educational theory and practice. It is possible that the home school movement could provide a viable avenue for the learner, not adequately served in the conventional classroom, to experience challenge and growth. Opportunities could be opened for extended educational research in an area where children develop in a natural environment, surrounded by high levels of parental attention and support.
Editor’s note: Wesley Taylor expects to be able to officially release the findings of his study sometime during May of 1986. I look forward to it.