Record: Kate D’Arcy, “Home Education, School, Travellers and Educational Inclusion” in British Journal of Sociology of Education 35, no. 5 (2014): 818-835. [Preview Here]
Summary: D’Arcy, a Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire, here offers a rare look into the motivations of Roma and other Traveller populations in England for choosing home education for their children.
D’Arcy begins by noting that the few previous scholarly treatments of Travellers (she includes Romany Gypsies, members of the Fairground or Showman communities, and Irish Travellers within this term) and home education have claimed that Travellers choose home education because it fits easily with their migratory patterns. D’Arcy, however, after speaking with 11 home educating families (nine Romany Gypsies and two Showmen) with a total of 42 children, has come to a different conclusion.
Travellers make up a significant percentage of English home educators, perhaps as many as 1/3 of all home educated children. And yet very little is known about them. Given the laxity of English law and the inconsistent application of the laws that do exist, it is hard to get a clear picture of Traveller home education. Traveller experience in schools is better understood: they frequently face discrimination due to race or culture, leading to high drop-out rates.
In D’Arcy’s book she provides full treatment of all 11 families she interviewed. Seven of them employed a tutor, and in the other four the parent was the educator. Here she focuses on two of these families, one using a tutor and the other a parent. In the first family the mother, who is the primary educator, appreciates the opportunity home education provides to maintain traveller culture, to accommodate the children’s special needs, and to foster child initiative. But she also fears that she is underqualified and lacks proper resources. She is doing the best she can but worries that her children are not getting all they could from their education. In the second family tutoring was selected after the children experienced bullying incidents in their local schools. This mother would like to take advantage of formal schooling but feels that doing so would harm her children. D’Arcy concludes that both stories show that Travellers care about their children’s educations, but that discrimination in the schools force them into home education.
D’Arcy spends the final portion of her article arguing that Travellers are not the only population for whom home education is a reluctant choice made only after schooling situations seem hopeless. So-called “elective home education” is thus not all that elective for some who feel forced into it because of negative school experiences. D’Arcy hopes that policymakers and educators can continue to work to make schools more welcoming for all.
Appraisal: This is the first article I’ve seen on the topic, and as such it is very welcome. I am not sure the degree to which its insights about Travellers in England would apply to migrant commnities in other countries. In the United States there are no doubt many thousands of children whose families live migrant lives due to their jobs in agriculture or in traveling entertainments like circuses or arcades. What of homeschooling in these situations? It would be a wonderful contribution to have such families studied with the same care D’Arcy takes here.
Milton Gaither, Messiah College