This post reviews Bonnie F. Boschee and Floyd Boschee, “A Profile of Homeschooling in South Dakota” in Journal of School Choice: Research, Theory, and Reform 5, no. 3 (2011): 281-299.
Floyd Boschee, emeritus professor of education at University of South Dakota, and Bonnie Boschee, assistant professor of education at Northern State University, here present the results of a survey of South Dakota homeschooling parents concerning their motivations for doing so.
The article begins with an unfortunate literature review that strikes an advocacy tone and reports the results of Ray’s studies of academic achievement uncritically, going beyond even Ray himself to make very explicit claims about the superiority of homeschooling to public education, without Ray’s customary cautionary statements about inferring direct causality and without any discussion of the biased nature of Ray’s samples, consisting as they do of recruits who are promised that their participation in the studies will be used to further the political goals of HSLDA. For much more on this see my review of Ray’s work here and here. The authors provide similarly weak treatments of socialization and the history of homeschooling.
Next the authors give us their methodology. They got the names of 217 South Dakota homeschoolers from “selected South Dakota homeschool associations,” (p. 285) and sent out a survey. They got 69 surveys back, and that’s the evidentiary basis for their conclusions. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised when I say that I was extremely disappointed when I read this part of the paper. We really don’t need any more convenience samples of parental motivation. They tell us nothing important or interesting. Even what they do tell us can’t be generalized at all, for the sample isn’t representative of any population. It’s really no better than anecdote. Homeschoolers who for whatever reason don’t belong to the preferred homeschool organizations aren’t included in the tally, nor are the 68% of parents who decided not to return the form.
Regardless, what do the authors learn from their sample? That the parents in this sample were motivated first by a desire to strengthen family bonds, second to provide religious instruction, third to protect children from negative peer pressure, and forth out of frustration with various aspects of public schools (lack of good character education, too large class sizes, lack of “American values” being taught, not enough academics, hypercompetitiveness, concerns about safety and discipline, etc.).
Reasons not deemed important by most parents included special education needs and racial reasons. Racism was at the very bottom of the list.
Demographically, almost every one of the parents who returned surveys report attending religious services at least weekly, use prepackaged curriculum, use libraries, own a computer, and take advantage of homeschooling groups and religious social experiences. Many other attributes and preferences are reported on in the study to which relatively fewer families ascribe.
And that’s about it. Disappointing.