A few months ago I reviewed Joseph Murphy’s excellent book that synthesizes nearly all of the literature on homeschooling into a convenient, coherent, and literate volume titled Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement. A couple of years before Dr. Murphy’s book came out Rob Kunzman and I decided that we wanted to do the same thing. I’ve been reviewing homeschooling literature since 2008 on this blog, and Dr. Kunzman has compiled an exhaustive bibliography, which can be accessed here. Our article summarizing and synthesizing all of this literature came out a few weeks ago and I asked Dr. Murphy if he would review it for me. He graciously agreed to do so, and here are his comments:
Comments on “Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of the Research” by Robert Kunzman and Milton Gaither, published in Other Education: The Journal of Alternative Education, 2013, 2(1), 4-59.
Homeschooling is a major line of activity in the struggle to reinvent education in a post-industrial world. Equally important, it is the only strand of such activity that merits the label of “social movement.” Despite this powerful backdrop and the fact there are as many homeschooled children as there are youngsters in all the nation’s charter schools combined, home education remains a seriously understudied phenomenon. Into this gap step two cardinal figures from the community of homeschooling scholars (see especially Gaither, 2008, and Kunzman, 2009). In a wonderfully organized and beautifully composed review, Kunzman and Gaither provide exactly the type of synthetic work so essential for homeschooling reform at this point in its history.
Kunzman and Gaither carry us with great skill and intellectual guidance across the full spectrum of core issues in homeschooling—from the inputs (e.g., demographics of homeschooling families), through the processes (e.g., the work in homeschools), to the outcomes (e.g., achievement and socialization, both broadly defined). Remarkably, they offer a mostly downhill trip, one from which we depart considerably enriched but not overwhelmed. We finish this excellent scholarly analysis not with a portfolio of facts but rather a comprehensive understanding of the world of homeschooling as it has evolved to date—as well as some insights about possible developments going forward.
I want to be clear, however, that our guides do much more than assemble the pieces of the complex phenomenon of homeschooling, no small assignment in itself. They also help us see the connective tissue that holds all the dimensions and elements of homeschooling together, skillfully creating some of it themselves along the way. They provide harmony to what are generally free-standing themes in the homeschooling narrative. Additionally, they undertake the same service within each of the dimensions of homeschooling (e.g., homeschooling-public education linkages, or lack thereof). They both establish some “gravity” for a fast forming universe and provide a scientifically insightful and nuanced close up of each of the planets (e.g., parental motivation for homeschooling).
Joseph Murphy, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University
Gaither, M. (2008). Homeschool: An American History. New York, Palgrave MacMillan.
Kunzman, R. (2009). Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. Boston: Beacon Press.