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Homeschooling is a form of education for children and youth that is based mainly in the home and is clearly directed by their parents. Parents retain the main responsibility for and authority over their children's education and training, rather than sending them away to classroom institutions where their education would be controlled and conducted largely by nonfamily state or private teachers.

Homeschool students typically study and learn most of their subjects (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, geography, art, music) in their homes using a variety of curriculum materials, such as classic literature, textbooks, periodicals, newspapers, computer software, Internet resources, and common household materials (e.g., kitchen equipment; cooking supplies; and tools for carpentry, gardening, and farming). Research has consistently shown that children who are home educated score fifteen to thirty percentile points higher on standardized academic achievement tests than do public-school students (Ray 2000b; Rudner 1999). They also commonly participate in educational cooperatives with a few other families and in a wide variety of community activities, such as Boy and Girl Scouting organizations, 4-H, political associations, as well as activities associated with churches, synagogues, and temples. A growing body of research shows that homeschool children do well socially, emotionally, and psychologically (Medlin 2000).

Although home-based and parent-led education was the norm throughout many centuries of history in most nations, it waned to near extinction in most countries by the mid-nineteenth century. Homeschooling has experienced a remarkable renewal, however, in several Western nations such as Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. It is also beginning to increase in such other nations as Japan, South Africa, Russia, and Germany (Ray 1997). It was estimated, for example, that about 1.8 million primary and secondary students were homeschooled in the United States and 78,000 in Canada during the spring of 2002 (Ray 2002).

Many scholars and social commentators think that homeschooling is one of the most notable familial, social, and educational phenomena of the late twentieth century. For example, Patricia M. Lines wrote in The Public Interest (2000, pp. 74, 85):

The rise of homeschooling is one of the most significant social trends of the past half century. . . . It is too early to tell whether homeschooling will establish itself as a major alternative to the modern school. But some things are clear: Home-schooling is becoming more common and more widely accepted. American families from diverse backgrounds resort to home-schooling because they are dissatisfied with the philosophy, the content, or the quality of American schools. The great majority of homeschooling families are not separatists and isolationists but active members of civil society. They seek to improve this nation, but they want to raise and educate their children in the meantime. Ultimately, they may help to inspire a great renewal of American education, or at least preserve values and ideas that are out of fashion within the education establishment.

Although Lines specifically mentioned home-schooling in the United States, research and popular writings make it apparent that her observations apply internationally to the parents, children, and youth involved in homeschooling.

Family Connectedness and Relationships

Homeschooling clearly puts fathers and mothers in a position of being connected to, responsible for, and having authority over their children. This is because homeschooling returns a critical social function—the education of children—to the family. A long and gradual history of social events and accepted conventions over the past 150 years, however, placed specially trained persons into the role of teachers of children. These events also drew many crucial educational functions out of the home environment, away from parents and into institutions, most state-controlled but some private. Allan C. Carlson, historian and organizer of the international World Congress of Families held in Switzerland, explains much of this in From Cottage to Work Station (1993) as he describes ". . . the steady dismantling of the home-centered economy . . ." (p. 17). Institutional schooling places institutionally trained teachers in authority over children and puts these teachers in loco parentis (i.e., in place of the parents). Children and youth in schools, therefore, ascribe to these teachers great prestige and influence in their own lives regarding matters of knowledge, values, beliefs, and worldview (Good and Brophy 1987; Blizek 2000; Brophy 1996).

Whereas historically children once accepted their parents as the primary authorities in their lives, increased institutional schooling shifted the locus of authority and control to state and private schools and personnel. Modern home-based and parent-led education reverses this trend because parents continue the education of their children under their own direction (or retrieve them from institutional schools where they had sent them). The parents, therefore, are able to select learning activities, curriculum materials, and community and social activities that are consistent with their own family's values and beliefs and what they think is best for the upbringing of their children. Research shows that institutional school children are more peer-dependent than are homeschooled children; that is, institutional school children exhibit a ". . . significantly greater focus on peers and nonfamily individuals than do the home educated" (Delahooke 1986, p. xiv). Research also indicates ". . . that there are stabilizing forces within home school family systems which allow most of these families to accommodate higher levels of both adaptability and cohesion than the population of families whose children are more conventionally schooled" (Allie-Carson 1990, p. 17).

Many professionals and laypersons today assume, without research evidence, that for normal social and psychological development, children need day-long interaction with same-age peers for five to six days per week. Modern homeschoolers, however, are providing evidence to the contrary and supporting centuries of social history. Research is revealing that due to the increased time together and sharing of experiences between parents and their home-educated children, their social capital (i.e., social relations such as trust and love) is increasing (Coleman and Hoffer 1987; Ray 1990). Their daily increased time, adult-child interaction, and opportunities to reach common goals allow them to establish stronger familial bonds, more trust, and enhanced communication into and through the years of young adulthood than would be possible if the children and youth spent less time with their parents and more with their peers (Allie-Carson 1990; Delahooke 1986; Wartes 1992).

In a similar manner, home-educated children spend more time with their siblings and therefore have more opportunity to develop close ties with them. Rather than focusing large amounts of attention on their nonfamily same-age peers, home-schoolers are able to learn with their brothers and sisters, teach and care for their younger siblings, model after their older siblings, and share in daily real-life experiences with one another. There is evidence that this is leading to stronger life-long bonds among siblings than is likely among siblings who spend about forty hours per week with non-sibling same-age peers (Ray 2002).

Many homeschool families are also integrating multiple generations into the education of the children. Education based at home and in the family increases the likelihood that grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other older community members will participate in the education of the children. The more organic and flexible time schedule and the inviting nature of the home environment are welcoming to extended family members to participate in the educational enterprise. The children and youth then learn from a wider variety of ages of family and local community members. Simultaneously the grandparents and others have an important role to play in the family and society during their senior years of life (Lowe and Thomas 2002; Sheffer 1995).

Finally, research indicates that the overall effect of homeschooling on children and youth is to prepare them for healthy and virtuous relationships within and outside of their families. The psychologist Richard G. Medlin stated in "Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization" (2000), a review of research to date, that several conclusions could be made about homeschooling and socialization, although many unanswered questions remain. The conclusions were, first, that homeschool children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. Second, they are not socially isolated and, in fact, associate with—and feel close to—many kinds of people. Third, home-school parents are concerned about their children's long-term social development and actively encourage their children to participate in social opportunities outside the family. Fourth, home-school children acquire the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes that they need for successful living. Fifth, they have healthy self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do those in institutional schools. Sixth, they may have better leadership skills and be more socially mature than others. Finally, they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society.

Effects on Marriage

Homeschooling affects marriage in several ways. First, homeschooling provides an opportunity for husband and wife to have much greater authority over the historically most intimate and significant gift and asset in their lives, their children. Modern society, especially in the more developed nations, puts great emphasis on specialization of labor roles. This specialization has removed many roles from the husband/wife unity and the sphere of the family. Husbands/fathers daily go off to the workplace and perhaps a majority of wives/mothers do the same, while their children go off to be taught by specialists over whom the man and woman generally have minimal influence. The married couple has little control over the role models their children will have, the information that they will be taught, and the values and beliefs with which they will be indoctrinated for twelve years, two hundred days per year. Communicating in general, formulating personal philosophical and religious beliefs, and working together to fashion the education of their offspring gives new life to one of the historically most significant functions of marriage—procreation and the nurturing and upbringing of children. In turn, this strengthens the marriage by providing a common goal that the couple has increased potential to achieve. They are empowered as a marriage unity. The shared task of the education of their children brings them together as a duo that is working toward a noble end (Carlson 1995; McDowell 1998).

Second, homeschooling one's children gives adults—parents—something significant to do. This is especially important because many adults in industrialized and technological societies have little they do in life that they consider important in terms of communal, national, or international significance (Carlson 1993, 1995; McElroy 2002; Sheffer 1995). That every society thinks that schooling is a crucial issue and the colloquialism "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world" together under-score the consequential nature of education. Doing something important together increases the self-confidence and sense of personal value of these adults and therefore enhances the marriage bond.

Third, the homeschooling of children keeps with or returns to the couple a time- and energy-consuming task. Rather than depending on others to teach their children, they must cooperate and develop an effective plan for doing it themselves. Homeschooling may yield long-term benefits (e.g., fewer learning difficulties, fewer social problems with peer pressure) that will save time and energy, but in the short term it is hard work. It is especially hard work for the one parent, usually the mother, who does most of the daily formal teaching. If not maturely approached, this may present stress, imbalance, or tension that will lead to degeneration of the marriage relationship. On the other hand, the husband and wife may use it as an opportunity to work well together and strengthen the marriage bond and reap the long-term benefits of an academically successful and emotionally and socially well-adjusted adolescent (Allie-Carson 1990; Mc-Dowell 1998; Page 1997).

Fourth, home-based education generally requires either the husband or the wife to be at home most of the time. Therefore, only one will probably work outside the home, which may reduce the family's income potential. In turn, this may reduce their standard of living by some physical measures. Many homeschool couples argue, however, that the intangible benefits of improved marriage unity, family cohesiveness, and children's academic and social successes actually increase their holistically viewed standard of living (Lyster-Mensh 2000; McElroy 2002; Ray 2002; Lyman 2001).

Edification of the Natural Family

Carlson directly addresses homeschooling in an essay subtitled "Family Lessons from the New Agrarians" (2001). He explains that although the Agrarians—those writers and thinkers who, grappling with modernity, moved ideas toward decentralization during the twentieth century— understood that the weakness of families largely derived from surrendering key family functions, none of them saw the possibility of restoring home-based education as a first step toward family reconstruction. Several scholars and social, religious, and political leaders, internationally, present parent-led education and upbringing as a key function of the natural family to be protected, if not encouraged, by society (Pruzan 1998; World Congress of Families 2001). Many began during the end of the twentieth century to see home-based education as a robust way to rebuild the natural family. Carlson (1995, pp. 7, 8) argued:

The education of children must be home-centered, where parents impart their visions, values, virtues, and skills to the new generation. These statements reinforce the historical significance of home schooling, rising throughout the globe . . . , as the necessary and powerful step in family reconstruction. Households, in turn, adhere to kin groups—extended or "stem" families—that give focus to ambition and talent, and grant protection to individuals from the grand ambitions of ideologues. These kin groups, in turn, form communities: villages, towns, or neighborhoods. . . . This sense of close community also offers the only effective protection of individuals from pathologies within households, . . . without threatening the normative pattern of family living.

State Versus Family

The majority of children worldwide, the future citizens and leaders of the nations, are taught, trained, and indoctrinated in state-controlled schools (World Bank Group 2002). The trend over the past 150 years has been for ever-increasing state education of children. In the United States about 88 percent of all citizens are educated in public schools for their primary and secondary school years. Homeschooling is the antithesis to this arrangement. Home-based education moves the locus of control over academic education, skill training, and indoctrination to the parents and the family system, both nuclear and extended.

Many people who consider themselves advocates of children's rights and of the protection of children from the limitations or abuses of their parents argue that children should regularly be under the supervision of and in contact with agents of the state or otherwise qualified professionals. For example, in some nations, professionals (e.g., teachers, school counselors, school nurses) are required to report to the government any suspected physical or sexual abuse of children. Portions of the state school community and the public think of this reporting capability as an integral and increasingly important function of state-run schools (Fantuzzo et al. 1997; Berkan and Kadushin 1993; Klicka 1995; National Education Association 2000; Skillen 1998). As another example, some scholars argue that state institutional schools provide a forum that frees children from the regressive, selfish, or antipublic influences of their parents and gives the population at large a way to evolve into a more benevolent or broad-minded societal state (Apple 2000). In other words, it is argued that one of the chief functions of state schools is to protect children from the behaviors, beliefs, and world-views of their parents (Richman 1994).

Most homeschool parents, on the other hand, think it is better for children to remain under their guidance and supervision and be protected from the state (Klicka 1995; Mayberry et al. 1995). The family, they explain, is the natural and nurturing buffer between the child himself and the state and the wider world. They think that they, rather than the state, should be training their offspring, the future citizens and leaders of the nation. These parents would agree with the political scientist James W. Skillen (1998, p. 3; see also Carlson 1993) that free societies should have a high view of the relationship between parents and their children as opposed to the state's intervention in families' and children's lives (Adams, Stein, and Wheeler 1989; Arons 1983; Klicka 1995; Mayberry et al. 1995). He writes that the public should not misidentify the family as a totalitarian place in which parents may do whatever they want to their children. At the same time, however, it is ". . . true that every public-legal attempt to 'liberate' minor children from parents makes the minors subject to whatever legal, medical or other authority is then authorized to direct or influence their actions."

Homeschool parents and advocates argue that parent-led, family-based education retains parental authority and primary influence over a child's education, protects the child from the state, and increases the familial bond between children and their parents, siblings, and kin groups. In contrast, when the state takes power and authority over education for itself and away from parents in the form of state-run schools, children are not only not liberated from all external authorities but one of the most important nongovernmental institutions of society—the family—is weakened by the ample power of the state (Adams, Stein, and Wheeler 1989; Klicka 1995; Apple 2000). Home-based education is consistent with the concept of the natural and strong family with human beings identified, as Skillen explained, ". . . as persons-in-community and the family as the foremost community for children. . ." (p. 5). Home-school parents are reclaiming for the family at large in society, and for their families in particular, the powerful and influential political, social, philosophical, and generational role they once had by reclaiming the education of children (Farris and Woodruff 2000; Lines 1994; Ray 2000a).

Advocates of institutional schooling, state-controlled in particular, continue to promote these schools as the key opportunity of advancement for disadvantaged persons and families (i.e., lower class, poor, minorities). In fact, the largest teachers' union in America, the National Education Association (2001), believes that state-controlled schooling is the cornerstone of social, economic, and political structure, and homeschooling cannot provide students with a comprehensive education experience. Now, however, an increasing number of scholars (Carlson 1995; Loberfeld 2001; Ray 2000a) and parents (Aizenman 2000; National Black Home Educators Resource Association 2001) are considering the proposition that keeping education under the direct authority and control of parents may better ensure an offering of intellectual, social, political, and spiritual freedom to individual children and youth—regardless of class, minority status, or advantage—who will eventually be the political citizens of any nation. For example, although state (public) schools had been desegregated in the United States since 1954, black (African American) students are still far below their white peers in terms of academic achievement in public (state) schools a half-century later. During the early 2000s, a new wave of parents, internationally (Large 2000), are expecting homeschooling to raise their children's academic achievement, improve their social success, increase their thinking skills, and enhance their potential for personal and national freedom.

See also:Academic Achievement; Family Literacy; School


adams, b.; stein, j.; and wheeler, h. (1989). who owns the children? compulsory education and the dilemma of ultimate authority. austin, tx: truth forum.

allie-carson, j. (1990). "structure and interaction patterns of home school families." home school researcher 6(3):11–18.

apple, m. w. (2000). "the cultural politics of home schooling." peabody journal of education 75(1–2):256–271.

arons, s. (1983). compelling belief: the culture of american schooling. new york: mcgraw-hill book co.

berkan, w. a., and kadushin, a. (1993). child abuse andneglect prevention: a resource and planning guide. eric reproduction service no. ed368990.

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carlson, a. c. (1993). from cottage to work station: thefamily's search for social harmony in the industrial age. san francisco: ignatius press.

carlson, a. (1995). "preserving the family for the newmillennium: a policy agenda." the family in america 9(3):1–8.

carlson, a. (2001). "the task for conservatism: familylessons from the new agrarians." the family in america 15(3):1–6.

coleman, j. s., and hoffer, t. (1987). public and privatehigh schools: the impact of communities. new york: basic books.

delahooke, m. m. (1986). "home educated children'ssocial/emotional adjustment and academic achievement: a comparative study." ph.d. dissertation. los angeles: california school of professional psychology. (see also dissertation abstracts international 47(2):475a.)

fantuzzo, j. w.; stevenson, h. c.; weiss, a. d.; hampton,v. r.; and noone, m. j. (1997). "a partnership-directed school-based intervention for child physical abuse and neglect: beyond mandatory reporting." school psychology review 26(2):298–313.

farris, m. p., and woodruff, s. a. (2000). "the future ofhome schooling." peabody journal of education 75(1-2):233–55.

good, t. l., and brophy, j. e. (1987). looking in classrooms, 4th edition. new york: harper and row.

klicka, c. j. (1995). the right to home school: a guide to the law on parents' rights in education. durham, nc: carolina academic press.

large, t. (2000). "stay-at-home kids shunning the system."the daily yomiuri, september 2, p. 7, tokyo, japan.

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lines, p. m. (2000). "homeschooling comes of age." thepublic interest 140:74–85.

loberfeld, b. (2001). "freedom of education: a civil liberty." ideas on liberty 51(8):26–32.

lowe, j., and thomas, a. (2002). educating your child athome. london: continuum.

lyman, i. (2001). "motherhood gets a face-lift." the newamerican 17(9).

mayberry, m.; knowles, j. g.; ray, b. d.; and marlow, s.(1995). home schooling: parents as educators. newbury park, ca: corwin press.

mcdowell, o. s. a. (1998). home sweet school: the perceived impact of home schooling on the family in general and the mother-teacher in particular. doctoral dissertation, peabody college of vanderbilt university, nashville, tn.

mcelroy, w. (2002). "can a feminist homeschool herchildren?" ideas on liberty 52(2):8–11.

medlin, r. g. (2000). "homeschooling and the question of socialization." peabody journal of education 75 (1-2):107–23.

page, r. e. (1997). families growing together: a study of the effects of home schooling on the development of the family. master's thesis, maryvale institute, birmingham, united kingdom.

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ray, b. d. (1990). "social capital, value consistency, and the achievement outcomes of home education." a paper presented at the annual meeting of the american educational research association, april 16–20, boston, ma. (available from the national home education research institute, salem, oregon.)

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ray, b. d. (2002). worldwide guide to homeschooling.nashville, tn: broadman and holman.

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wartes, j. (1992). effects of homeschooling upon theeducation of the parents: comments from the field. woodinville, wa: washington homeschool research project.

other resources

aizenman, n. c. (2000). "blacks in prince george's joinhome-schooling trend." the washington post, october 19, a01. available from

lyster-mensh, l. (2000). "is homeschooling sexist?" home education magazine. available from

"national black home educators resource association offers services and information on." (2001). "who we are." in the national black home educators resource association web site. baker, louisiana, usa. available from

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ray, b. d. (1999). home schooling on the threshold: asurvey of research at the dawn of the new millennium. salem, oregon, usa. available from

rudner, l. m. (1999). "scholastic achievement anddemographic characteristics of home school students in 1998." educational policy analysis archives 7(8). available from

world bank group. (2002). private and public initiatives:working together in health and education. available from

world congress of families. (2001). rockford, illinois.available from

brian d. ray

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Schooling has historically often occurred both formally and informally at home. Most colonial children in the United States were homeschooled in what were called Dame schools. The children in each rural area would gather at a neighbor's kitchen table to read and reread the hornbook, a catechism, passages from the bible, The Pilgrim's Progress, and other improving material. This family-centered learning, along with apprenticeship, continued to be the primary mode of education until well into the nineteenth century.

For most of human history schools were exclusionary rather than inclusive. Latin grammar schools were only for boys from wealthy families. Harvard was founded in 1634 for the young male graduates of the grammar schools. It was nearly two hundred years later, in 1827, that the first institution of higher education for girls opened. In most southern states, it was illegal to teach African-American slaves to read. Some of those who could not go to school were occasionally schooled at home.

In the early nineteenth century, common schools were opened to educate all, but many children did not attend. The growing industrial revolution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw thousands of European immigrants coming to the industrial cities of the North. By the twentieth century, they were joined by a migration of blacks from the South. The children often did not attend school. They worked in the factories alongside their parents and other relatives. Together with child labor laws, compulsory attendance laws began to remove children from the factories. The state needed a safe place to warehouse children. School became a place you could goif your family could spare you. In reality most children attended school only through the fourth to the sixth grades, after which they were needed to help support the family.

Access to schooling increased steadily from the middle of the twentieth century. High school attendance burgeoned following World War I and again after World War II. In 1954, the Supreme Court decided that African-American children should be allowed to attend local public schools instead of the separate schools they had been attending since the end of the Civil War. Desegregation of public schools was finally enforced in the 1960s by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Thus, by the end of the 1970s the United States saw high school graduation occurring for the largest percentage of its population ever beforeor since. In response to this and other issues, the decade of the 1980s ushered in the era of school reform. One of those reforms was homeschooling. It has always been available to the privileged, some of whom were tutored at home. But when large numbers began to homeschool, district officials began to arrest parents, saying they were encouraging truancy. This led early homeschoolers to band together, to litigate, and to lobby.

Who was homeschooling at the turn of the twenty-first century, and why? The demographics are elusive. Detractors say only two hundred and fifty to three hundred thousand children are homeschooled. Supporters claim the number is closer to one and one-half million. A 1999 report from the Center for Educational Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education estimated that eight hundred and fifty thousand students nationwide were being homeschooled. Families choose homeschooling for a variety of reasons, but most are concerned either with ideology or with academic achievement. Ideologues, from fundamental Christians to New Agers, prefer the moral climate of their own homes and communities to that of school. Pedagogues are more concerned that their children will be academically handicapped if they are required to learn at the pace of classroom instruction.

Homeschooled children excel academically, despite the early concerns of educators and truant officers. Research shows that their test scores are at or above the norm, and the longer children are homeschooled the wider the gap between their test scores and those of conventionally schooled youngsters. The household income of homeschoolers in 1999 was no different from their conventionally schooled peers, but the homeschooling parents had higher levels of educational attainment. Another early concern, the socialization of homeschoolers, eventually dissipated as well. Homeschoolers form networks. They issue newsletters, have play groups, organize soccer teams, share resources, and interact in multiage social groups.

State statutes that regulate homeschooling come in three different categories. The most restrictive recognizes no exception to public school attendance except qualified private schools, but these statutes are rarely enforced. A second category gives implicit approval of homeschooling through language that allows "equivalent education elsewhere." A third is an explicit statute providing for home instruction and specifying some criteria and procedures. This last category allows superintendents to count the homeschoolers in their districts for the purpose of receiving state subsidies. Homeschooling remains controversial but has also become a much more ordinary choice and is now seen as one alternative among many in a society deeply concerned about educational achievement.

See also: Education, United States.


Cremin, Lawrence A. 1970. American Education: The Colonial Experience 16071783. New York: Harper & Row.

Marrou, Henri I. 1982 [1956]. A History of Education in Antiquity. Trans. George Lamb. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

National Center for Education Statistics. 2001. Homeschooling in the United States: 1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

Simon, Joan. 1966. Education and Society in Tudor England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Stevens, Mitchell L. 2001. Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Van Galen, Jane, and Mary Anne Pitman. 1991. Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Mary Anne Pitman

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