This post briefly reviews Lisa Rivero’s The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It’s Right for Your Family(New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008).
Rivero, author of two previous books on home-based education, Gifted Education Comes Home : A Case for Self-Directed Homeschoolingand Creative Home Schooling: A Resource Guide for Smart Familieshere provides the latest in a long line of introductory books aimed at parents thinking about homeschooling and looking for advice. Much of the book is similar to other books of this genre, but there are a few features that make it worth a brief notice in this blog on homeschool research.
First, Rivero offers a chapter on the history and demography of homeschooling that, while cursory, is pretty good. She rightly notes that while many Americans were taught at home from the 18th century on, the modern movement really only began in the 1960s. Her movement history covers John Holt, Raymond Moore, the rise of HSLDA, and the growing diversification of the movement in more recent years. She notes that the number of homeschoolers has plateaued, offering figures from Wisconsin as illustrative of national trends. In Wisconsin, homeschoolers increased from .57 percent of the school-age population in 1989-1990 to 1.90 percent ten years later. The peak came in 2002-2003 when 2.04 % of Wisconsin children were being homeschooled. Since then the figure has held steady and even declined a bit, to 1.97% in 2005-2006. (p.26)
Rivero’s most interesting chapter in my view is the one she devotes to homeschooling special needs children. This is a specialty for her and a subject not usually given such robust treatment in orientations like this one. With great sensitivity she describes how parents of children with special needs often turn to homeschooling only as a last resort. Some of them do so only temporarily, others for the long-term. Homeschooling allows children with a diagnosed disability to forget the label that hangs over their heads at school and relax at home. Her chapter brings together advice and stories from many books on children with disabilities of various kinds, from Asperger’s Syndrom to ADD to dyslexia. She also describes the potential benefits of homeschooling for children tagged as “gifted.” The chapter ends with two pages of suggestions for further reading on this topic.
Other chapters in Rivero’s book are more typical of the genre. Her chapter on homeschooling teens says nothing that hasn’t been said before by many others. Her chapter on homeschool law is disappointingly thin. Much of the book reads more like a self-help pep talk than anything else. There’s no doubt a place for books like that, but for the purpose of homeschooling research, only her chapters on history (ch. 2) and special needs (ch. 5) are worth noting.