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date: 18 November 2018

Home Schooling and Home Education

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Home schooling (often referred to as “home education” in the United Kingdom) is a decision made by many types of families to take direct responsibility for their children’s education rather than sending them to school. Home schooling is an increasingly popular choice for parents in Europe and North America. In many respects the ubiquity of schooling is a relatively recent innovation reflecting the increasing management of educational practices by the state. Traditionally, home schooling may have been the only option available to many families until the 20th century.

In the United States the return toward home schooling became an identifiable trend among disparate types of families in the late 1960s. On the one hand it appealed to conservative, Christian evangelical families who have argued that education is the responsibility of the family and who also wanted schooling to reflect their personal religious values. On the other hand, home schooling was the choice of radical and liberal parents who challenged both the pedagogical practices of schools and the types of knowledge prevalent in the curriculum.

More recently, however, a more heterogeneous and diverse range of families have increasingly turned toward home schooling. These include families from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, those whose children have special educational needs, and those who are dissatisfied with the education that schools offer their children. In tandem with the growth in numbers there has been widespread concern that parents who choose to home school are putting their children at risk of physical abuse, neglect, lack of interaction with others, and poor educational outcomes.

The identification of the risks of home schooling is often a controversial subject, not least because many home schoolers specifically choose this route in response to the risks they associate with sending their children to school. For many families, their decisions to home educate are often entangled within contested discourses shaped by ethnicity, religious, cultural affiliations, or a dissatisfaction with the education mainstream schools offer. For black and minority ethnic families, home schooling is often a strategy adopted to counter the racism, oppression or inequity their children experience in schools. For other families, such as those with children who have special educational needs, schools are simply unable to cater to their children’s needs. How parents manage the different risks associated with making this decision is key to understanding the complexities of home education and why some families chose to do it, while others do not.