Thursday, April 21, 2011

'If homeschooling is so good, why don't more educators promote it?'

Earlier this month some 13,000 professors, researchers, policymakers, and others descended upon New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. One of the sessions was entitled "If Homeschooling Is So Good, Why Don't More Educators Promote It?"

Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute made a presentation entitled "Homeschooling: Beneficial Learner and Societal Outcomes But Educators Do Not Promote It." From the abstract:
Twenty-five years of research link homeschooling (i.e., parent-led home-based education) with notably and generally positive learner outcomes (e.g., academic achievement; performance in college; social, emotional, and psychological development) and implications for local communities and societies at large. Furthermore, home-based education, de facto, is an expression of educational, societal, and worldview diversity. This point is emphasized by the fact that parents and families from a broad swath of backgrounds homeschool (e.g., atheists, Christians, Jew, and New Age adherents; low- and high-income families; rightists and leftists; and parents both being high-school dropouts and both with advanced degrees). ... On average, homeschool students significantly outperform students in institutional public schools in terms of academic achievement. This holds true even if homeschool parents have a relatively low formal educational attainment, are not certified teachers, or have a relatively low household income and if the state in which the home educated live exerts low regulation or control over homeschooling. The extant body of evidence shows the home educated to be at least as healthy as other students in their social, emotional, and psychological development. There is evidence that the home educated and their parents are relatively highly active in terms of community involvement and civic engagement. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find professional education-related groups or systems that promote homeschooling but it is relatively easy to find individuals and groups that oppose home-based education or want governments to more stringently regulate or control homeschooling. ... Publicly asks the professional educational community why, if they are interested in what is best for children/students and local communities, they do not promote an educational form that appears to have consistent positive effects on children, families, communities, and society.

Another presenter, Charles L. Howell of Northern Illinois University, asked the question "Who, if Anyone, Should Promote Homeschooling?" From the abstract:

Many studies have shown a correlation between homeschooling and academic achievement. Scholars have also suggested that homeschooling leads to stronger families (Wyatt, 2008) and protects against loss of family intimacy (author, forthcoming). Why, then, are educators not more active in promoting homeschooling? This presentation will draw on agency theory, a set of concepts and relationships employed in organizational research, to explain educators’ quiescence on the advantages of home education. Conceptual analysis is employed to connect organizational goals and incentives to educators’ behavior. Empirical evidence related to organizational aims and funding mechanisms supports this account. The following points emerge from this analysis:
  • • Schools are funded in proportion to numbers of students; each child educated at home reduces their income.

    • School officials have difficulty distinguishing between genuine homeschooling, parent-condoned truancy, and (particularly in Europe) attempts to hide abusive child-rearing practices (Conroy, 2009).

    • Current policy dictates that schools should meet the needs of all students; home education conflicts with this aim.

    • Many teachers are privately supportive of homeschooling. Indeed, a significant proportion of homeschooling families include a current or former teacher, and some teachers provide support and encouragement to friends or neighbors engaged in homeschooling. In both cases, teachers’ personal beliefs and commitments (to their friends and neighbors and their own children) diverge from the aims of their organization. Agency theory predicts this divergence, and also predicts that divergent behavior will be discreet so as not to incur sanctions.

    • At the university level, most professors of education work in programs that train future teachers and administrators. They establish partnerships with school districts to support student teaching and teacher professional development. They seek grants aimed at improving public schools. Consequently, their professional expertise, research interests, and public pronouncements are ordinarily directed toward institutional schooling, not homeschooling.

    • Homeschooling conflicts with dominant educational theories, including identity development theory, Kohlberg’s model of moral development, multiculturalism, democratic education, and equality of educational opportunity. Where university education departments are aligned with these theories, dissent invites sanction, particularly through the tenure and promotion process. Given these disincentives, educators' lack of interest in the advantages of homeschooling isn't surprising.
Who, then, would be in a position to promote homeschooling? Agency theory predicts that incentives for the following groups and individuals encourage support for homeschooling:
  • • churches and other voluntary institutions

    • non-school educational institutions (museums, libraries, local recreation programs)

    • university professors in fields other than education (psychology, sociology)

    • tenured university education professors (because they are freer to dissent)

    • homeschooling families and support organizations

    • private or community-based psychologists, doctors, and other service providers

    • smaller publishing companies who supply curriculum materials
Empirical evidence supports this prediction. Recognizing the role of these groups helps to expand conventional views of influences shaping families' educational choices and practices, particularly influences outside public schools.

James C. Carper of the University of South Carolina made a presentation entitled "The Public School as Established Church and Homeschoolers as Dissenters." The abstract:

State establishment of religion or state preference for a particular orthodoxy has always bred dissent. Consider, for example, the Baptist experience in colonial Connecticut with its Congregational establishment. One way to understand many of the controversies that have swirled around public schooling since its genesis in the mid-1800s is to view public education with its messianic orientation as the functional equivalent of a traditional established church from which groups and individuals have dissented. One can plausibly argue that public school officials, high clergy if you will, view radical dissenters, such as homeschoolers, as a threat to the welfare of their "church" and, consequently, the well-being of the public. How the older establishments responded to dissenters is instructive for understanding the present relationship between public education and parent-directed education.

Blane Després of the University of British Columbia made a presentation entitled "Resistance to Home Education and the Culture of School-Based Education." The abstract:

Public educator resistance to home education is part of the culture of school-based education. It is not a definitive or deliberate offense, but part of the culture of teaching, schooling and the grand culture in which schooling functions. Such resistance, especially at higher bureaucratic levels, stems from a faith stance that is misinformed, misguided and perhaps even blindly biased. A critical reading of the roles of teachers and resistance to change from a systemic thinking framework (Després, 2008a, 2008b, 2007a, 2007b) illuminates this work. The main purpose of this project is to present findings from a review of the literature in an effort to expose the factors that inhibit home education growth, acceptance -- especially by educators -- and greater inclusion as a mainstream education practice. Systemic thinking application in combination with the topic of home education offers multiple strands of understanding home education, systemic thinking, resistance, and the role of education in culture. The anticipated outcome of this session is that educators and researchers alike will want to reconsider the purpose of education, including home education, for the 21st century not as a utilitarian function for local and global economics but as the best opportunity to achieve the highest common good for children as persons.


Michael R Shipma said...

I'm surprised by the NIU guy. I went there, and it tends to be quite to the left. Quite refreshing if he was saying these things out of conviction.

Anonymous said...

Having sent 2 4.0 students to this educational institution and having been told homeschooling would hinder them in the admissions process, I am not impressed with the comments here. Both students are in academically rigorous programs, one receiving his MS and receiving the Outstanding Graduate Student Award, in highly technical fields.Both are highly respected by both their professors and peers. It is high time for all institutions to understand homeschooling creates intelligent, socially integrated and socially aware students. There is still substantial initial bias against homeschooling, which is why my kids always proved themselves in new academic environments before revealing their schooling background--and only did so when they were asked if they did homeschool.