There exists today an institutional crisis in America, and this crisis is nowhere more evident than when examining attitudes toward schools. Students, parents and community leaders are increasingly calling for reform and questioning whether institutions of education truly serve the public’s best interest. Questions of relevancy, safety and cost place incredible pressure on professional educators and school administrators. But these challenges to institutions of learning are not sudden or even new. They follow on the heels of an educational movement now nearly 30 years old: modern homeschooling.
Citing a variety of reasons, including a desire to give their child more opportunity for self-directed learning in a safe, unhurried, stress-free environment and include in the curriculum the lessons of their cultural, moral and religious heritage which have guided them through life, parents are increasingly electing to forgo conventional schools and instead direct their child’s education in the home.
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is not a singular movement (Gaither, 2008; Murphy, 2012; Stevens, 2001). Within the homeschooling community there is a wide range of practices and attitudes toward education and the institution known as school. Homeschoolers attribute their educational practices to an array of religious, epistemic, and sociopolitical theories. What unifies homeschoolers is a decision to forgo the conventional school experience and instead become more directly involved in their child’s learning. Murphy (2012) presents two major definitions of homeschooling. The one summarizes homeschooling deftly: “the rejection of public (and private) schooling and the use of the home as the center of educational gravity,” while the second provides a more complex framework comprised of several dimensions:
a student is homeschooled when (1) funding for the student education comes from the family, not the government; (2) the services is provided by the parents, not state-funded (or privately financed) employees; and (3) regulation of the enterprise is internal to the family, not the responsibility of the government (or another entity such as a religious body). The closer one is to the family/parent end of the continuum on each of these three dimensions, the more robust is homeschooling. (Murphy, 2012, pg. 6-7)
Both definitions stress a lack of reliance on the state for educational services and the active role of the family, especially the parent.
For a definition that reduces the critical aspect, and instead stresses the positive aspects, we offer simply:
Homeschooling is the view that education is best when teaching and learning are integrated into the relationships and activities of the family.
Originally frowned upon and even charged with educational neglect by some, homeschoolers have persisted in their educational lifestyle. Increasingly, educational researchers who study homeschoolers find well adjusted children and socially-engaged families. Reports of academic success have caused many universities and colleges to recruit homeschoolers.
The transformation in the attitude in American culture toward school and homeschoolers is significant. Once a place that celebrated the one room schoolhouse, American is now a place which acknowledges the legitimacy of, and even often admires, the homeschool.