This post briefly reviews Sherry Early, “Don’t Tell the Children: Homeschoolers’ Best-Kept Secret” in Horn Book (Sept/Oct 2008) [Available here]
Early, a homeschooling mother of eight, former elementary school librarian, and blogger, here describes the culture of reading among homeschoolers, especially her own family.
Though what she writes is not really research, I bring attention to it because it is publised in Horn Book, a venerable and still very popular periodical about children’s literature. It has struck me lately how homeschooling is increasingly being featured in the storylines of many children’s books, and I wonder if the editors of Horn Book might have noticed the trend as well.
Early’s main point is that for many homeschoolers, schoolwork and leisure blend seamlessly into one another, with reading as the most obvious example of this. Homeschoolers on the whole, claims Early, are voracious readers, and their parents tend to read to them a lot too. The only evidence for such claims she offers outside of her own family’s experience comes from Brian D. Ray’s 2003 Home Educated and Now Adults, which found that 98.5% of the homeschooled adults he surveyed had read at least one book in the past six months and 100% regularly read at least one magazine. This contrasts dramatically with national trends such as those reported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Early doesn’t delve into Ray’s methodology for this study (it was based on volunteer survey data compiled from young adults with ties to one or more of the many organizations connected to HSLDA, and it does not control for variables like parental education level, number of parents living in the home, family income, and other variables that make any comparison of this selective group to national averages spurious), but it does help her make the point that, at least for homeschoolers who respond to surveys when asked by HSLDA, reading is a way of life, as it clearly is for her family.
What sort of books do they read? If Early’s family is at all representative, lots of children’s literature. This observation perhaps explains to some degree why we’re seeing more homeschooled protagonists in children’s books and why Horn Book would publish an article like this. Publishers may just be following the market. Perhaps in future posts I can look more closely at some recent children’s books that feature homeschooling.