Christa L. Green and Kathleen V. Hoover-Dempsey, “Why Do Parents Homeschool? A Systematic Examination of Parental Involvement,” in Education and Urban Society 39, no. 2 (2007): 264-285.
They begin by placing homeschooling in the context of scholarly literature on parental involvement in the lives of their children. Typically, parents who take an active interest in their children’s futures, believe they are good at helping their kids, and have a positive outlook on education tend to be the most involved, and parents without these traits don’t.
Previous studies on the motivations of homeschooled parents have found results consistent with the literature on parental involvement with two exceptions. First, many homeschooling parents have had quite negative experiences with traditional schools, and second, homeschooled parents seem to have a more robust emphasis on imparting particular moral values to their children than do other highly motivated parents.
To test the hypothesis that homeschooled parents are motivated by many of the same psychological variables that motivate other highly involved parents but with the distinction that they have a negative view of traditional schools and wish to impart key moral values that they feel schools do not, Green sent out a survey to 250 homeschooling parents she recruited from “curriculum fairs, umbrella schools, Christian and eclectic homeschool groups, and national home education advocacy groups.” (267) 136 people responded, over 95% being mothers, 95% being white, over half with college degrees, and an average family income of over $50,000 a year. The public-school family sample to which these results were compared differed markedly in terms of demographics.
The results of the survey were put through statistical analysis and compared to the results of the public schooling parent group. The study found, not surprisingly, that the homeschooling group were more likely to see their role as that of primary educator and less likely to see themselves as playing a cooperative role in their child’s education. It found that while many homeschooling parents themselves had positive educational experiences (though some did not) in school, most of them had a negative view of schools today, especially of their ability to impart values and meet the special needs of individual children.
So far the study is basically a sophisticated way of saying the obvious. But the authors do conclude with some more interesting observations. About 20% of their sample did not have as high a view of their own abilities to teach their kids, and these parents tended to rely on umbrella schools to help them. These parents saw themselves more as co-operators and less as primary educators, and, interestingly, they were MORE likely than self-confident “parent-focused” homeschoolers to have negative views of public schools. One gets the sense that parents who are very confident in their abilities to teach their kids do so whether or not they have a gripe with public education, while “partnership-focused” parents, less confident in their abilities, only resort to homeschooling because their animus against public education outweighs their own reticence to teach their own.
The authors conclude with admission that their sample is nonrepresentative and likely tainted with the “favorable self-report bias” so common in these types of studies. My own conclusion is that most of the results obtained in this study are over-wrought efforts to state the obvious, but I am intrigued by the claim that it is too simple to split parental motivations into separate categories like religious values, pedagogical aims, and so forth. The claim that more confident homescholing mothers are less influenced by the values issues than less confident mothers is intriguing, and it coheres nicely with other studies that have found that homeschooling parents rely less and less on formal, pre-packaged curriculum as the years go by.