Back in June I reviewed the previous incarnation of this book in four blog posts (number 1, number 2, number 3, and number 4). There’s a lot of interesting stuff in those posts, so if you haven’t read them I recommend doing so.
Myra Immel is the editor this time around of Homeschooling (Current Controversies). The 2009 edition has been completely revised with all new material and a more manageable organization. As with the previous incarnation, all of the articles it contains appeared previously elsewhere, but they are collected here in one convenient package, capably edited and introduced. The selections provide various views on four questions:
1. Why do parents choose homeschooling?
2. Is homeschooling is a good or bad option?
3. Should homeschooling be regulated?
4. Should homeschooled children have access to public school resources?
In this post I’ll summarize the entries on the first question. Subsequent posts will deal with the others.
There are six articles covering reasons why parents homeschool. They are preceded by an orientation that summarizes the 2003 NCES data on parental motivation. The survey found that the most frequently cited reason for homeschooling was dissatisfaction with the public school environment. Next came religious motives and dissatisfaction with academics at other schools. Less frequently cited but still significant were concerns about the special needs of students and flexible scheduling. Readers of this blog know that more recent data on this question has just been released by NCES, but it appeared too late to make it into this book. The subsequent articles taken together put a human face on these motivation statistics.
The first, by Jennifer James, without question the leading spokesperson for African American homeschooling, was originally published in 2007 in Mothering magazine. James explains how she and her husband came to homeschooling and then speaks to the unique challenges and opportunities African American homeschoolers encounter. Her basic answer to the question is that homeschooling provides a way out of the persistent achievement deficit that has afflicted African Americans for decades in the public school system.
The second article by Sally Thomas originally appeared in First Things in 2007. Thomas, a conservative Catholic, describes how homeschooling allows families and their children to break down the dualism between “school” and “life,” between “learning and everything else.” It also allows her family to integrate their affinity for Latin rite Catholicism into their academic curriculum.
The third entry comes from Mark and Christine Field, conservative protestants from Wheaton, IL. This excerpt is taken from their popular how-to book Homeschooling 101: The Essential Handbook. The Fields speak to the religious motives inspiring the majority of homeschoolers: “the goal of our homeschooling is to prepare our children for a life dedicated to God…in contrast to a culture drowning in secular humanism that says to glorify ourselves.” (p.35)
Next comes W.A Pannapacker’s article originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Pannapacker is an English professor at Hope College, a Christian school in Michigan. His article, written for a secular periodical whose readership consists of higher education professionals, is an articulate and measured defense of homeschooling carefully attuned to the sensibilities of academics. Pannapacker explains why many professor types are opting for homeschooling. They often chafe against the narrow dogmatism of private Christian schools, especially on the evolution question. They often can’t afford elite private education. They love to teach and learn and are confident in their abilities. They have flexible schedules. They value unstructured learning. Finally, they are not happy with the anti-intellectualism and bullying that so often exist in public schools. Pannapacker notes that most professors he has talked to were the sort of bright, quiet children who were picked on in school. They want to spare their own children from such traumatic experiences.
Next comes reporter Christina Rosales’ article that appeared originally in 2007 in the Laredo Morning Times, a Texas daily. Rosales profiles a conservative Protestant Texas family who conform perfectly to the dominant homeschooling stereotype. The Vallone family infuses religion and morality into every lesson. Evolution, for example, is taught only as a false ideology that must be defeated by sound creationist arguments. As mom Nicole summarizes, “we want them to be educated. But above all we want them to grow up to be godly men and women.”
Finally there is Meg Grooms’ entry appearing originally in 2008 on the popular women’s website BellaOnline.com (though I couldn’t find it there now). Grooms offers advice for parents of children with special needs about how to homeschool and still receive special education services from public schools or private sources.
While these articles don’t really delve into any sort of controversy, they do at least provide a fairly wide range of voices explaining why some parents choose homeschooling.