A Preliminary Investigation of the Effectiveness of Homeschool Instructional Environments for Students with Attention-Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder

Article excerpt

Abstract. An exploratory study that involved two male and two female elementary students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was carried out in homeschools and public schools. The general purpose of the study was to determine whether parents could provide instructional environments that facilitated the acquisition of their children's basic skills over time. Students were observed using the Mainstream Version of the Code for Instructional Structure and Student Academic Response (MS-CISSAR), an eco-behavioral direct classroom observation instrument that produces information on ecological, teacher, and student behavior processes. Pre and post standardized achievement test scores and rate-based measures were analyzed to determine gains in reading and math for all students. The results indicated that homeschool students were academically engaged about two times as often as public school students and experienced more reading and math gains. The key variable appeared to involve student to teacher ratios that existed between the two settings.


Although estimates of homeschooled students in the United States range from 1,000,000 (Lines, 1998) to 1,230,000 (Ray, 1997), there is little research addressing what occurs during home instruction. Of particular interest to school psychologists is the learning of children with unique challenges in the homeschool population, including those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given estimates that 3% to 5% of all school children have this disorder (American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition [DSM-IV], 1994), there could be at least 61,500 children with ADHD being taught at home. With so many children involved, and because homeschool students often return to traditional schools after 2 years of home teaching (Ray, 1997), it is important to investigate whether parents can provide adequate instructional settings for these students without the help of professionals.

An increasing number of parents perceive conventional schools as (a) failing to promote traditional values, (b) setting academic standards that are too low, and (c) providing nominal levels of personal attention and hands-on learning for students (Toch, 1991). Because so many parents have responded by educating their children at home, officials often require families to regulate their curricula, instructional hours, and record keeping (Home School Legal Defense Association [HSLDA], 1995). Some states require homeschool families to test students periodically and register with state/local superintendents (HSLDA, 1995). Although it is legal in all 50 states for parents to teach their children at home, local education and social agencies frequently oppose homeschool efforts that involve students with special needs (T. A. Bushnell, Director, National Challenged Homeschoolers, personal communication, January 16, 1998).

Most of the arguments against teaching students at home concern socialization and teacher training. In the former, homeschooling raises concerns about social development because, to some degree, it limits children's interactions with others. However, students from homeschools and traditional schools have been found to attend extrafamilial social activities with the same frequency, belong to the same number of organizations (e.g., scouting and church youth groups), and socialize equally as often with relatives and friends (Groover & Endsley, 1988). With regard to their preparation as teachers, parents have not often been trained and certified as teachers and it has been suggested that this lack of training hinders parents' abilities to be effective, especially with those students who have special needs. However, data have consistently shown that homeschooled children typically score higher than the national average on achievement tests (HSLDA, 1994; Ray, 1997). Furthermore, Duvall, Ward, Delquadri, and Greenwood (1997) found that, to a large degree, noncertified parents engaged in the same teaching behaviors as certified special educators in public schools. …


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