Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Instructional Motivations: What Can We Learn from Homeschooling Families?

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Instructional Motivations: What Can We Learn from Homeschooling Families?

Article excerpt

Some educational theorists have believed that the beneficial aspects of home education will eventually find their way into mainstream educational contexts. The purpose of this paper was to extract the motivations behind homeschooling instructional decisions. This study was built on surveys and interviews from over 1000 homeschooling parents across the United States. Participants were asked about the reason for their instructional routines. Instructional motivations reported included a child's particular learning style, a parent's personal preference, a child's interests, community resources, experience, faith, family reasons, special goals, and special needs. These motivations may also represent those of public school parents, thus providing a voice for all parents. The results provide an informational narrative that can be used by public school representatives to meet the changing needs and values of parents across the U.S. Keywords: Homeschool, Instruction, Parents, Ethnographic Research, Naturalistic Inquiry

Public school teachers are often provided an array of ideas and methods through pre-service training, in-service training, professional conferences, and personal study. However, they often feel restricted by what they are actually able to implement in the classroom (Gatto, 2009; Olivant, 2015; Rose, 2015). For example, a district may adopt a certain curriculum program that teachers must abide by, restricting their own educational motivations (Olivant, 2015). Given the opportunity, teachers might have different classroom arrangements, choose different methodologies, and follow a different curriculum guide. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that parents have the freedom to choose the curriculum and the instructional design for their academic programs. This reality may mean that homeschooling practices more closely align with new instructional ideas and methods. For example, pedagogical elements such as situated practice (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), critical framing (New London Group, 1996), community of practice (Lave & Wegner, 1991), and transformed practice (Lohrey, 1995) are embraced by homeschoolers (Murphy, 2012; Ray, 2009; Sheehan, 2002).

Unlike public school teachers who are often limited by certain factors such as end of course examinations, homeschooling parents can educate their children with their own personal motivations. For example, a public school teacher may be asked to follow a certain curriculum program because it corresponds to the concepts that will be expected to appear on the state's standardized test. In contrast, homeschooling parents may cover a similar unit as their public school counterparts, but choose the educational design based on a number of different possible motivations--their own preferences for how the unit should proceed, a suggestion from a curriculum package, an educational theorist, empirical research, a child's unique learning style, or a child's interests, among other factors (Hannah, 2012; Lips & Feinberg, 2008; Ray, 2005).

Whereas a public school teacher's educational motivation may be overshadowed by a mandatory educational regimen (Rose, 2015), a parent has the freedom to draw from a number of resources (Hill, 2000). In addition, the practices of a public school teacher may remain constant since they are derived from a standardized curriculum guide, but a parent's motivation can change from unit to unit, thus providing a natural rhythm to the educational experience which is based on a student's understanding and progress. Because of this flexibility and freedom in teaching (Cai, Reeve, & Robinson, 2002), parents have the choice to utilize the latest teaching strategies that are being endorsed by educational theorists.

What is unfortunate is that public schools often do not have the flexibility to implement these new types of methodologies. In a paper titled Life as Education and the Irony of School Reform, Kunzman (2012) expressed that our efforts to reform education are not working. …

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