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Author: Darol Hail
Editor: Fenwick W. English
Date: 2006
Encyclopedia of Educational Leadership and Administration
Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc.
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 3
Content Level: (Level 5)

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Page 474


A home school is defined as any learning situation occurring where the parent or guardian has assumed direct responsibility for the education of the child. Those who homeschool have enjoyed increased media exposure and attention, but the practice is not a new or revolutionary method. There are families who do not want the outside world to influence their children in any way contrary to the beliefs of the family or group. However, possible influence contrary to the family's belief system is not the only reason families select homeschooling. For some families, the rise of drug use, gang activity, and violence on school campuses is the reason. For still others, there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with schools and their results as measured by achievement tests. Some oppose standardized testing in any form; others oppose what they see as a lack of success on standardized tests.

For reasons as varied as how to approach curriculum to the teaching of belief systems, homeschooling is growing and affecting American school society. Some estimates of homeschoolers nationwide approach 2% of the student population. According to some home-school sources, in 1999-2000, there were between 1,300,000 and 1,700,000 home-educated students. The number of homeschoolers does vary according to different sources. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) estimated the number to fall between 709,000 and 992,000. One of the main difficulties of studying homeschool populations is that there is no definitive method for obtaining the exact number of homeschoolers, and thus sampling methods are difficult to utilize or validate.

Van Galen placed homeschoolers into two main categories: ideologues and pedagogues. Ideologues who homeschool believe that public schools do not teach the core values, beliefs, and skills that they want their children to have, or they believe that schools willPage 475  |  Top of Article teach their children values, beliefs, and skills they do not want their children to have. Often ideologues emulate the public school process by using packaged curricula, maintaining a schedule, or evaluating work in traditional methods, but the family has guided the process of choosing what they want the curriculum to be based upon, a process some refer to as "school-at-home." Ideologues tend to be strongly motivated by religion or religious beliefs. According to Basham, Christian homeschoolers tend to be the stereotypical image of those who have chosen home education and indeed make up a significant portion of the United States homeschool movement. Research suggests that other groups with differing faiths and values within the ideologues are growing as well.

The second philosophically driven group of homeschoolers are pedagogues. Pedagogues choose homeschool because of a belief that public schools do not meet the needs of the child. Pedagogues tend to believe that the problem with public school does not lie in what they teach, but rather that they do not teach well. Pedagogues hold belief patterns similar to humanist John Holt, author of many books criticizing the public school system and often credited as being a leader for pedagogues. Pedagogues believe that formalized public education does not address children's needs, but instead curbs learning. Such an approach taken by pedagogues and even some ideologues has also been referred to as "unschooling." Unschooling is often defined as allowing learning to take place in terms of when, where, and how in a manner that is directed solely by the learner.

Families who choose to homeschool, regardless of prevailing philosophy, often believe they are protecting their children and helping them to accomplish more through individualization than the children could have accomplished in public education. The academic perspective centers on the idea of fitting the education to the child and not the child to the education. The benefit of instruction between one teacher and one student, or perhaps a few students in the case of siblings, drives the idea of fitting the education to the individual.

Another implication of the increased numbers of homeschoolers is that as the movement gains more recognition, more pressure is brought upon states for further deregulation, which, in turn, adds even more to the growing number of homeschoolers. Early in the modern homeschool movement, the greatest difficulty in dealing with state regulation centered on compulsory attendance laws. State compulsory attendance laws require that children be in school; as a result, many states believed that homeschool was in violation of the law. Parents challenged the assertion that they can have no control over their children's education based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court found that compulsory school requirements conflicted with constitutional rights in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972). The court found in the Yoder case that families with a religious or educational concern, in this case Amish, had the right to offer an alternative education to protect their beliefs. Many other cases have cited Yoder as one defense of home-schooling, though other court cases have cited different rulings. All states currently allow homeschooling but do require that children ranging from 5 to 16 years of age attend either public or approved nonpublic school, which can include homeschooling.

State laws can fall into a varied continuum of regulations for homeschoolers, but generally, all states require homeschoolers to at least file a notification of homeschooling intent with local districts when first becoming a homeschooler. State laws differ sharply after the requirement of a letter of intent. Some states require student progress evaluations, most often chosen by the family, to be submitted by the parent. States can even require a submission of a curricular plan or satisfactory progress on a state-based assessment.

Darol Hail

Further Readings and References

Alex, N. K. (1994). Home school and socialization of children (Report No. EDO-CS-94-07). Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED372460)

Basham, P. (2001). Home school: From extreme to mainstream (Public policy sources No. 51). Toronto, Canada: Fraser Institute.

Bauman, K. J. (2001). Home schooling in the U.S.: Trends and characteristics (Working paper series 53). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2003, from

Gordon, W., Russo, C., & Miles, A. (1994). The law of home schooling. Topeka, KS: National Organization on Legal Problems of Education.

Griffith, M. (1999). The unschooling handbook. Rocklin, CA: Prima.

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Klicka, C. J. (1995). Home school: The right choice. Sisters, OR: Loyal Publishing.

McDowell, S. A., Sanchez, A. R., & Jones, S.S. (2000). Participation and perception: Looking at home school through a multicultural lens. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1, 2), 124-146.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2001). Home schooling in the United States: 1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. (NCES 2001–033)

Ray, B. (1999). Home schoolers on the threshold: A survey of research at the dawn of the new millennium. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute.

Rivero, L. (2002). Progressive digressions: Home schooling for self-actualization. Roeper Review, 24(4), 197.

Van Galen, J. A. (1988). Ideology, curriculum, and pedagogy in home education. Education and Urban Society, 21(1), 52–68.

Van Galen, J. A. (1991). Ideologues and pedagogues: Parents who teach their children at home. In J. A. Van Galen & M. A. Pitman (Eds.), Home school: Political, historical, and pedagogical perspectives. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3469600289