Deanna Peterschick Gilmore, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Literacy Education
Department of Teaching and Learning
Washington State University, Tri-Cities
Richland, WA 99352-1671
Keywords: Homeschooling, home schooling, home education, reading.
One of the biggest challenges today is to prepare children to understand the nature of the world in which they are living, to find solutions to the personal and social problems they face, and to lead rich and satisfying lives. Some of the solutions to these challenges can be found in education, through programs adults have formulated for the child (e.g., home schools, public schools, private schools, charter schools, and through personalized learning experiences).
One of the most important ways anyone can help children is to teach them how to read. It is through the act of reading that children can enjoy literature, to discover what other people and cultures believe, and to develop ideas and beliefs of their own. Success in reading is also the key to understanding all other curriculum areas (Harrison, 1994). Research has also shown that a positive attitude and motivation toward reading has a direct impact on literacy learning and success (Haverty, 1996; McKenna & Kear, 1990; Winograd & Paris, 1989).
This article focuses on the act of reading aloud in two home schools. First, the researcher will describe the problem and significance of the study. Then the researcher will examine the literature in the field regarding home schooling, attitudes toward reading, and the importance of reading aloud to children. Next, the researcher will describe the methods used for the study, and include descriptions of the home schools settings and structures. Finally, the researcher will discuss the findings of the study, and make recommendations for practice and future research.
Since the beginning of the 1980s there has been a steady increase in the number of home schools in the United States (Farris, 1997; Ray, 1997; Stevens, 2001). Recent studies place the current home school population in the United States at approximately 1.5 million students (Ishizuka, 2000; McCusker, 2002; Paul, 2002).
One important part of the curriculum that is covered in home schools is literacy education, which would include reading, writing, speaking, and listening (Moore & Moore, 1994). Since so many children are now being educated in home schools, the problem this researcher wanted to address was the following: How do home schools manage literacy education, and in particular, reading aloud to students?
There are many books written on the subject of home schooling, but there is still a dearth of literature in some areas of home school research. Although there have been many quantitative and qualitative research projects regarding public and private school settings, there have been very few research projects conducted in home school settings over a long period of time. Treat (1990) states,
Much more qualitative, in-depth research needs to be directed toward understanding the nature of teaching happening in individual home schools. Reading and writing processes are the very elements of educational growth, and yet thus far, home school research has given minimal attention to these areas. Literacy acquisition through parental teaching represents a new, important dimension of home school research. (p.11)
Review of the Literature
Differences in Home Schools
The term “home schooling” is often given to describe the process by which children learn about the world without going to schools (Holt, 1981). Home schools come in several varieties. Some are more like the traditional “school at home” model. The “school at home” model attempts to duplicate classroom education in the home and uses some of the same techniques as a classroom teacher. In the “school at home” concept, the teachers might use a commercial curriculum or build a curriculum of their own. Other types of home schools include classical education, theme studies, and unschooling. Unschooling is an alternative to the school-at-home approach, promoted and popularized by the late John Holt (Rivero, 2002). Unschooling in its purest form means learning what one wants, when and where one wants to, and for one’s own reasons (Griffith, 1997). Many home-school parents (who may call themselves unschoolers), combine child-led learning with more traditional educational approaches (Rivero, 2002).
Governance of Home Schools
All 50 states in the United States have different degrees of regulation regarding home schools. For example, home education practices are regulated to a high degree in the states of New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina; whereas, home schools in California and Texas are basically unregulated (Rudner, 1999). Some states such as Arkansas, Washington, Oregon, and Tennessee collect the standardized test scores of home-schooled students on an annual basis (Ray & Wartes, 1987).
Reasons for Home Schooling
People who home school come from various backgrounds. Ray (2002) states that they “come from high- and low-income families; parents with doctorates and parents with general equivalency diplomas; two and single-parent families; people from different ethnic groups and various religious and secular persuasions” (p.1). People have various reasons for home schooling their children. Some of the reasons people home school include the following: to “protect their children from violence, drugs, alcohol, psychological abuse, and ill-timed sexuality; help their children accomplish more academically and to individualize each child’s curriculum” (Ray, 2002, p.2). Mayberry (1989) placed home schoolers into four general categories: religious, academic, socio-relational, and New Age. Howell (1989) conducted a survey of home school parents in Tennessee and determined that parents wanted to “develop their children in all the different aspects of life, including the mental, social, spiritual, and physical” (p.11). Rakestraw (1988) identified two major reasons parents home school their children: (a) parents considered it their responsibility to educate their children, and (b) they wanted to help their children develop social skills without negative peer influences.
Achievement of Home Schoolers
In 1998, Rudner conducted the largest study of home education to date. It involved seven times as many home schooling families as any previous study of its kind. It was quantitative research that included the achievement test results of 23, 415 homeschooled K-12 students in the United States. Students in Grades K-8 took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and students in grades 9-12 took the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP). Rudner (1999) concluded the following: “Home school students do exceptionally well when compared with the nationwide average. In every subject and at every grade level of the ITBS and TAP batteries, home school students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts” (p. 3). Rudner also found that home school students in grades 1-4 perform one grade level higher than their public or private school counterparts. Rudner (1999) stated that “the achievement gap begins to widen in grade 5; by 8th grade the average home school student performs four grade levels above the national average” (p.5). Another fact uncovered by this study is that “ home school achievement tends to improve the longer a child has been taught at home” (p.11). Rudner also discovered that home schoolers watched less television than their counterparts in public and private schools. This is important due to the fact that television has had a major impact on the number of people who choose reading as a recreational pastime. According to a 1986 Gallop Poll, 14% of U.S. adults indicated reading as one of their recreational pastimes; whereas in the pre-television year of 1938, 21% of the adult population preferred reading as a recreational activity (Cramer & Castle, 1994).
In an earlier research study conducted by Ray (1997) that included results from 5,402 home school students for the 1994-1995 and 1995-1996 school years, the results were much the same. Ray found that home school children tested at least 30 points higher (80th percentile) than the national averages on standardized achievement tests. That level of performance was true in every subject tested. Ray also discovered that there was very little difference in achievement between those children home schooled by certified teachers and those who were not.
One essential component of any home schooling program is reading. It has been shown that there is a direct connection between attitudes toward reading and success in reading (Haverty, 1996; McKenna & Kear, 1990; Winograd & Paris, 1989). “Attitudes toward reading” can be defined as a system of feelings related to reading which causes the learner to approach or avoid a reading situation. In younger students, their attitude toward reading affects their reading performance. This conclusion is based on a long history of research that demonstrates that attitudes and achievement are closely linked (Purves & Beach, 1972; Walberg & Tsai, 1985). Attitudes are also the result of self-concept, parental influences, age, sex, socio-economic status and children’s interests. It is also known that children who have had positive experiences learning to read enjoy it more, and those who have had negative experiences will not perceive the benefits as readily (Haverty, 1996; McKenna & Kear, 1990; Winograd & Paris, 1989).
Strategies to Improve Attitudes Toward Reading
The following are some of the strategies that are known to improve attitudes toward reading in all educational settings:
Read often (Smith, 1988).
Read aloud to children (Cullinan & Galda, 1994; Herrold, Stanchfield, & Serabian, 1989).
Use high quality literature (Morrow, 1985).
Avoid reading group placement, which is denigrating (Wallbrown, Brown, & Engin, 1978).
Provide metacognitive training (Payne & Manning, 1992).
Openly discuss students’ beliefs (Hudley, 1992).
Stress links between literature and students’ lives (Guzzetti, 1990).
Use peer tutoring (Haverty, 1996).
Create reading centers (Haverty, 1996).
Use of reading incentives (Haverty, 1996.)
Choose appropriate reading material (Mickulecky & Jeffries, 1986).
Use cooperative reading teams (Haverty, 1996).
Provide a recreational reading program (Haverty, 1996).
Create a positive classroom climate (Halpin & Croft, 1963).
Of all the strategies that exist for improving attitudes toward reading, the most important strategy is to read aloud to children (Cullinan & Galda, 1994; Herrold et al., 1989). Trelease (1985) asserted that reading aloud to children is the most nurturing activity next to “hugging” and that when children hear stories being read aloud, it stimulates their interest, improves their emotional development, and enhances their imagination. Parents and teachers who read to their children and discuss books with them help create positive attitudes toward reading (Reutzel & Cooter, 1992; Smith, 1990; Trelease, 1985).
Parents as Reading Teachers
The students in home schools are in a unique position because they are usually taught by one or more of the parents in the home. According to William Bennett (1986), “Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. What parents do to help their children learn is more important to academic success than how well-off the family is” (p. 7). Bennett goes on to say, “Children learn to read, reason, and understand things better when their parents read, talk and listen to them” (p.7). Morrow (1985) also discovered that adults who worked with their children at home reinforced the interests of their children by interacting with them in literary activities. Thomas (1998) stated that “even in large families where learning was formally organized and highly structured, there was still enough individual attention to allow teaching to be interactive” (p. 109). Taylor (1983) offered a theory on the transmission of literacy style within the family, stating that the “interplay of the individual biographies and educative styles of the parents becomes the dominant factor in shaping literate experiences of the children within the home” (p.23).
According to Carl B. Smith (1990), parents are their children’s most powerful guide to reading and learning because they help to create interests and positive attitudes toward reading. The parents also help the children improve their comprehension skills. Clary (1990) also advocates that if parents want their children to read, they must read in their presence. Hendrickson (1994) maintains that one method that should always be used to teach reading in the home schools or in any school is to simply “read.” He says to read to your child, read with your child, listen to your child’s taped readings, listen to your child read, and model independent reading–every day. Hendrickson (1994) also says that nothing will help your child develop a life-long love for literature better than loads of daily reading.
Siblings as Reading Teachers
If there are siblings in the home, they often become active purveyors of knowledge to the younger children in the family. Treat (1990) stated that “the ‘home school’ setting is a specialized social context for the teaching of literacy because it involves family members shifting roles as readers, writers, speakers, listeners, and teachers” (p.10). Williamson (1989) maintains that older children who read to the younger children in the family develop greater oral reading skills. As fellow teachers of their younger siblings, they also feel a sense of being needed and necessary to the family. Hahn and Hasson (1996) suggest that homeschool parents include toddlers in the daily plans as much as possible, and that “even if your child cannot understand what you are reading to another child, cuddling on your lap can satisfy his need to be with you” (p.193). This type of interaction occurs on a regular basis in home schools where the younger children are listening to a story that is being read to by a parent or an older sibling. The younger child learns the vocabulary from the higher level story and gleans what he or she wants from the text that is being read.
Developing Higher Level Thinking Skills Through Reading
Parents must also discuss what the children are reading and ask higher-level questions. According to William Bennett (1986),
The conversation that goes with reading aloud to children is as important as the reading itself. When parents ask children only superficial questions about stories, or don’t discuss the stories at all, their children do not achieve as well in reading as the children of parents who ask questions that require thinking and who relate the stories to everyday events. (p.9)
Bell (2001) suggests that parents train their children to read critically and to analyze literature to improve comprehension. Perry and Perry (2000) maintain that “if you encourage children to ask questions and voice their opinions when they’re small, they’ll be able to convey their feelings on paper in the middle school years that follow” (p. 134).
Chomsky (1972) also indicated that small children learn languages by exposure to the more complex language available from reading. Chomsky also contended that a child should be read to at a level higher than his/her own. That way the child would be permitted to derive what he/she wanted from the text and put it to use in his or her own way.
This study employed an ethno-methodological approach in two home schools in rural settings. Ethno-methodologists try to understand how people go about seeing, explaining, and describing order in the world in which they live and in the research setting (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992).
The primary participants were the following: (a) A 9-year-old boy in a home school setting, and (b) a 9-year-old girl in a home school setting. The secondary participants were the mothers (the teachers in the home schools), the siblings, and the fathers who worked outside the home. The researcher spent one day a week in each setting for 6 hours a day, over a 7-month period. The constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987) was used to understand the connections between the dialogues that took place in the home schools and to develop a formal grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). Grounded theory is formal theory that is derived from the analysis of accumulated evidence from in-depth participant observation, formal and informal interviews, and by reviewing documents (Corbin & Strauss, 1990; Denzin & Lincoln, 1994).
Description of the Two Home School Settings
Elizabeth’s home school. This home school is located in Century, a rural town of 2,800 in a Pacific Northwest state. The 9-year-old daughter in Elizabeth’s home school has three younger siblings who are also present in the home school. The younger 7-year-old boy is home schooled at the same time as his older sister.
Jane’s home School. This home school that is also located in Century, 5 miles outside of the town. The 9-year-old son has two older sisters that are also home schooled at the same time that he is home schooled.
The researcher observed the actions and interactions in Elizabeth’s and Jane’s home schools for a total of 220 hours. This report concentrates on the effects of reading aloud to children in the home school settings.
Elizabeth’s Home School Setting
Elizabeth’s Home School takes place in a tall, white clapboard house that is an older classic. The front of the home includes a large picture window framed with mahogany. The home is over 100 years old and appears to be one of the earlier homes built in the city of Century.
To the left of the front entry, is a large living room with a fireplace insert under an older, cream colored painted mantle. In the dining room, adjacent to the living room, there is an oval table surrounded by large, avocado green upholstered chairs. Most of the formal education takes place at this table in the dining room. Next to the dining room is an extra room that contains a chalkboard, a desk and a mahogany, upright piano. The kitchen is right next to the dining room and has higher ceilings than the living room and the dining room.
Primary Participant: Teresa (Nine-year-old Girl)
Teresa is Stan and Elizabeth’s oldest child and is 9 years old. She is slightly built with short blonde hair, and hazel eyes. Teresa appears to be more shy and introspective than her siblings. Like many oldest children, she is more responsible and serious than the other children in the family. She is a very caring, sensitive, and compassionate child.
Elizabeth, age 36, is an attractive woman with dark hair, and deep-set black eyes. Elizabeth has a broad smile that frames her shiny, white teeth. Her voice is soothing, and she has “command of the scene” in the home school. Elizabeth is definitely in charge and the children follow her lead.
Stan is the father of the family and works outside the home as a manager of a grocery store. He is 36 years old, and is around 6 feet tall. He is animated when he talks about his convictions regarding values and what he wants for his family.
Kevin: Seven-year-old boy
Kevin is a 7-year-old boy with bright red hair and freckles. He quickly captures attention because he is very animated and converses easily with anyone. He is in his mother’s first grade program.
Brian: Five-year-old boy
Brian is a thin 5-year-old boy with light red hair. Unlike his brother, he is not freckled. He is very independent and will do whatever he wants to do unless his mother tells him to stop. He is an intriguing youngster because he uses big words to express himself when he does have something to say.
Lily: Three-year-old girl
Lily is a beautiful 3-year-old girl. She has bright red hair that hangs down in a short haircut, and she has big, round blue eyes. She sparkles as she talks with adult guests in the home. She can be shy at first, but will eventually warm up to strangers. She is actually pre-reading now and can quote some of the sentences from the books that are read to her. She gets along well with her brothers and sisters, and they treat her with gentleness and care.
Structure of Elizabeth’s Home School
At first glance, it appears that there is not much structure at Elizabeth’s home school. The activities that take place seem a little unorganized. Looking deeper, it is clear that Elizabeth has spent years organizing the events that occur in her home school.
As a home school teacher and mother, Elizabeth teaches two different children and takes care of the daily needs of her two pre-school children. The younger children take care of themselves while their mother is working with the other two children. From the tubs of toys near the stairwell, Lily and Brian bring playthings into the living room and Lily often grabs a book from a small bookcase to read. They play by themselves throughout the day and listen to their mother read stories aloud to their older siblings. Elizabeth also takes breaks from the older students and reads stories aloud to the younger children in the home. The television is not on during the day unless Elizabeth wants the children to watch a special program from videotape.
Sometimes Elizabeth has to stop and settle arguments between the two boys or between Brian and Lily, but generally they all get along during the home school day. It appears that all the children know their place in the home, much as a tide ebbs and flows throughout the day. Asking Elizabeth how she managed her two preschool children, aged 3 and 7, while she was trying to teach her older two, she reflected:
They’re very good. They have learned that when we’re doing school, they’re doing something. They’re playing, and many times they have come to sit on my lap and watch, and sometimes they color.
You’ve seen that Brian (5 year-old) is very good about playing by himself. He is really good at being creative. He can take two toys with them for a whole day. And Lily, she’s big on reading.
Reading Aloud in Elizabeth’s Home School
Many days during the study, the researcher observed Elizabeth holding her 9-year-old daughter in her lap as she read to her from her fifth grade novels. Teresa was not embarrassed or shy to sit on her mother’s lap or by her mom’s side in the researcher’s presence. While she was reading, her mother would discuss particular vocabulary words with her. When the researcher asked Elizabeth if she helped her daughter with the vocabulary and word pronunciation, the following conversation took place between Elizabeth, Teresa, and the researcher: [RC represents Researcher Comment]:
RC: If she can’t pronounce a word, can you help her?
Elizabeth: Oh, sure!
Teresa: I’m really glad that mom helped me this week because I had the word vinegar and I pronounced it vine-gar.
Elizabeth: And what about the time you pronounced sirloin, like a knight, Sir Loin?
I also noticed that Teresa often read aloud to her younger brothers and sisters when there was a break between one of her subjects and another content area. She would do this on her own and the younger children would sit on her lap when she was reading aloud to them. The younger boys would also gather around Teresa and her mother when Teresa was reading from one of her fifth grade novels. Since there was no television on in the home, this seemed to come quite natural to all the children. At times, Elizabeth would choose to read a book to all the children at once, so there was a fight to see who could get closest to her when she was going to read. The books she read were high quality literature with wonderful illustrations. They were books that the children were not quite capable of reading on their own. Reading aloud seemed to occur two or three times throughout the day with and among the various participants at Elizabeth’s home school.
Jane’s Home School Setting
Jane’s home school is located 5 miles out of the town of Century. Several acres surround the home and much of the property is fenced. There are many goats, cows and a small donkey on the small farm. The house is an attractive natural wood home, with a deck in the back.
The combination kitchen/dining room of the house is where school takes place. The oval table has six chairs around it. Next to the dining room, there is a very large, carpeted living room with a picture window. A large cart is placed in the living room containing such school supplies as paper, scissors, colored paper, markers, paints, counters, cotton balls and colored pencils.
Primary Participant: Dan (Nine-Year-Old Boy)
Dan, the only boy in the family, is 9 years old and has a small frame. He is tall and has round brown eyes and long eyelashes. Dan has a lovely wide smile that shows off his bright, white teeth. Dan laughs easily, yet is always thinking. Dan reads well above his own grade level.
Jane, age 43, is an attractive brunette with short hair and large brown eyes. She is 5 feet 5 inches tall, wears glasses, and has an engaging smile. Jane likes to talk and she laughs easily. She graduated from college with a degree in nursing and practiced her profession for eleven years at the local hospital in Century. She quit nursing to home school her children and is quite serious about giving the best education possible to her children. She restricts the use of television in the home to certain programs and videotapes.
Bob is 47 years old and was raised in the small town of Parma, Washington. He is the Fire Chief in Century, but is getting ready to retire in a few years. He says that his job is stressful at times. Bob is very supportive of Jane and her role as the home school teacher. He said that he decided to home school his children when his wife wanted to do that.
Amy: Fourteen-year-old girl
Amy is 14 and has large, round, dark eyes that are almost black. She is very animated and enjoys talking to people. Amy has a slight learning disability that has not been diagnosed. She will readily tell you that she was adopted when she was a few months old, and that she is the only adopted child in the family. Amy struggles in school, but is doing very well for her disability. She is a caring, interesting, and delightful teenager.
Tara: Eleven-year-old girl
Tara is 11 and is a tall, lanky girl with light brown hair. Although she wears dark glasses, they do not hide her sparkling brown eyes. Tara likes to wear jeans and t-shirts and her favorite thing to do is to read books about horses. Tara is somewhat reserved and likes her privacy. She is also very compassionate and well mannered.
Structure of Jane’s Home School
There is a fair amount of structure in Jane’s home school. This has not always been the case, as Jane explained:
I have to tell you, we just started a new schedule. I wanted, to keep a good schedule with the children and we weren’t organized and things were just kind of falling apart and so last week, at the end of last week, we sat down together, the children and I just made this schedule, and said, actually we’re going to set our alarm. We’re going to get up at this time, we’re going to do the chores and have breakfast and make our beds, and we’re going to start school at 8 o’clock. For months we have just been kind of really dragging along, but now, we’ve actually kept to it.
We’re done with chores and breakfast and everything and we start school at 8 o’clock and then we have lunch at 11:30 because they’re hungry by then. I usually give them 45 minutes for lunch and cleanup and to relax and everything. Then we don’t have much left to do after lunch. When they really get going at 8 o’clock, you know, then they don’t have quite so much left to do. We try to get finished by 1:00 P.M. or 2:00 P.M.
Reading Aloud in Jane’s Home School
The two older girls do not read aloud anymore to their mother. They prefer to read on their own in the privacy of their bedrooms. They have no problem reading independently at this stage in their schooling. At times, their mother wants to work directly with them with their reading and will ask the girls to work with her one at a time. Dan, on the other hand, enjoys climbing in the recliner next to his mother and working on his reading and English. He also reads aloud to her at various times throughout the day. Dan is not at all embarrassed as he sits by his mother in front of me. One day, the following conversation took place between the mother and son after she explained how to diagram sentences:
Jane: O.K. and then the action, the verb, entered and then harbor.
Dan: Right, so you go ahead and say all three words. So you would say ship entered harbor or man shoveled snow.
Jane: Very good!
Dan: Cat caught mouse; Matthew carried banner.
Jane: O.K. Now wait a minute! One word for the subject.
Dan: Men toured the country.
Jane: Right, you’ll learn later what all those other words are, you’re just concerned with three words, so say number 5 again.
Dan: Men explored country.
Jane: Very good!
Dan: Teacher told story; John cut cinders.
Jane: Very good! Now, you go one working on those on your own while I help Sara with her reading lesson.
Tara, the 11-year-old girl then arrives at the dining room table with a reading book. Jane gives Tara all of her attention and asks questions to promote discussion of the text:
Jane: What did Willie’s mother call the dark?
Tara: A shadow.
Jane: O.K. Now, about the cat and the kittens, where does that start? Twist and her kittens. O.K. How did she get her kittens up the stairs?
Tara: She carried them.
Jane: How’d she carry them?
Tara: In her arms.
Jane: All at the same time?
Tara: No, one at a time.
Tara: A stranger helped!
Jane: That’s great! Now go in and answer the questions about the story. Dan come here!
Dan: What are we going to do?
Jane: Come sit by me in the living room and I’ll listen to you read your History book.
With the end of this dialogue, Dan started to read from his History book about the different states in the United States. After Jane listened to him read for some time, she told him to go on alone. She went into the kitchen and started lunch for the children.
During the 220 hours of research I conducted, examples of reading aloud similar to those just described occurred many times in both of the home schools. Oral reading was the primary method the home school teachers used for all subjects. Both of the 9-year-old children (primary participants) sat on their mother’s lap or beside their mother when they read their books aloud. Although not mentioned in the dialogue, the researcher noticed that the older daughter read to the younger children several times during the day in Elizabeth’s home school.
I also realized that the preschool children in Elizabeth’s home school were learning many things by listening to the lessons of their older brother and sister. In Jane’s home school I noticed that the older sisters listened to Dan read some of his stories aloud. Jane encouraged the older children to act out scenes from the stories Dan was reading aloud to his mother.
Children in both of the home schools were free to read their books wherever they wanted to throughout the house. The preschool children knew that they should be quiet while their mother was reading aloud to them or their siblings. They also crawled up into their mother’s lap while she was reading to the other children in the family.
The mothers in both home schools had selected high-quality literature from suggested reading lists they had discovered in their commercial home school programs or at the local public library. Both mothers restricted the use of television throughout the day and only used it for educational programs. Both mothers asked high-level questions that pertained to the stories the children were
reading. The children in both of the home schools appeared to love reading. When I went out to lunch with one family, all three children brought their books to the restaurant and read them while they waited for their food to arrive. Both mothers took their children to the local public library to check out books and they each had their own small reading library in their home.
The findings I reported can only be generalized to the two home schools I visited, but there may be some similarities between these home schools and the general home school population. More research is needed in this regard. The findings also revealed the following benefits related to reading aloud in home.
First, students who are in supportive home school environments receive the maximum benefit of being read aloud to by their parents. The parents are able to hold the child on their laps and read aloud to them. This is not usually possible to do in a public or private school setting. Treat (1990) asserted, “Parents who actively read and write with their children engage in unique interactions that nurture a specialized kind of family learning process” ( p. 9).
Second, children in home schools have many opportunities to have someone read aloud to them.
This happens when the parent reads aloud to them, or they read aloud to the parent. It also occurs when the older sibling reads to the younger children in the home school and when a younger sibling reads aloud to an older sibling.
Third, younger siblings of older home school students receive the benefits of hearing stories read aloud to their older brothers and sisters. The stories often have higher vocabularies and the younger children learn the meanings of words in context from the older students and their parents.
Fourth, students in nurturing home schools possibly have better attitudes toward reading as they are not placed in reading groups, which can be denigrating (Wallbrown et al., 1978). The children in home schools are allowed to proceed at their own pace.
Fifth and finally, the children in the two home schools I studied are achieving at a very high percentile rate in the area of reading, as compared to students across the nation. Since their home schools are in a state that requires standardized achievement tests, both of the 9-year-olds took the California Achievement Test for the Fourth Grade. The girl’s composite reading score was 92% for the nation, and the boy’s composite reading score was 93%. The findings for these two children corroborate the national trend of the Rudner (1999) and Ray (1997) studies that show that home school students score consistently higher than their public or private school counterparts in the nation.
Recommendations for Practice
Comparing my results with others in the field of reading and homeschooling, I have formulated the following recommendations for practice:
Parents and teachers should often read aloud to children during their preschool and school years. They should hold the children on their laps or seat them “snuggled” next to them.
Parents should ask high-level questions about the texts while they are reading aloud to their children.
Children should be allowed to read books often and wherever they want to throughout the house.
Home school teachers should select high quality literature for their children to read.
Television viewing should be limited so reading becomes more important as a means
Siblings should be encouraged to read aloud to their older and younger brothers and sisters.
Recommendations for Further Research
Based on the research I conducted as well as that already reported, I recommend the following ideas for further research:
1. Conduct a mixed design of both qualitative and quantitative research that investigates attitudes toward reading of home school students and students in public or private school settings.
2. Conduct qualitative research in home schools for students who are 12 years and older.
3. Conduct longevity studies to follow the academic careers of home schooled students.
Research has shown that attitudes toward reading affect achievement in reading (Haverty, 1996; McKenna & Kear, 1990; Winograd & Paris, 1989). Studies have also shown that a positive environment affects attitudes toward reading (Halpin & Croft, 1963). Those classrooms that exist in nurturing home schools provide a positive atmosphere where there is intellectual and social collaboration between the parents and the children (Treat, 1990). Parents and teachers who read to their children and discuss books with them help create positive attitudes toward reading (Reutzel & Cooter, 1992; Smith, 1990; Trelease, 1985).
Of all the strategies that exist for improving attitudes toward reading, the most important strategy is to read aloud to children (Cullinan & Galda, 1994; Curry, 1999; Herrold et al., 1989; Trelease, 1985). Curry (1999) maintains that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children” (p.45). One of the optimal settings for reading aloud is in a home school environment where the parents as teachers, and siblings as teachers actually hold younger children in their laps while they read to them. Siblings also develop special feelings of “family togetherness” when they read to their brothers and sisters. As Trelease (1985) reminds us, next to “hugging,” reading aloud is the next best thing you can do for your child. The ideal place to do this is in a nurturing home school where you can actually read aloud and “hug” your child at the same time. The benefits from this activity could be everlasting!
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