Sam Houston State University
The impact of home schooling on students who return to public school was investigated through perceptions of public school counselors. Prior research indicated that most home school students were not only successful academically but socially as well. However, the perceptions of the counselors did not support academic or social success for the home-schooled students with whom they dealt. The data collected for this research suggested that the differences from previous studies may have resulted from the home-schooled students not fitting in the typical profile of home schoolers in terms of motivation for home schooling.
School Counselors’ Perceptions of Home-Schooled Students
Who Return to the Public Education Setting
Concerns over dropping test scores, violence, and overcrowding, to name only a few, have caused some families to reconsider their position on home schooling (Schaffley, 1996). At one time, home schooling carried the concept of children who could not adapt to the main-stream environment of society (Reed, 1984). Thus, images conjured up involved students who stayed indoors all the time and knew only the companionship of their immediate family (Reed, 1984). In addition, many in the scholastic world questioned whether a child could be properly educated at home without the benefit of a professional teacher (Klicka, 1993).
Nonetheless, current trends in education
indicate that alternatives to the traditional public-school system are growing
in popularity each year (Fast Facts, 2001). The increase of home-schooled
students impacts the educational leader in many ways. If the home- schooling
method fosters both social and academic success, then its popularity will continue
to increase (Lang & Liu, 1999). Financially, districts and schools will
lose money for students who home school since financial assistance is typically
provided by the state based on average daily attendance. For example, in
History of and Reasons for Home Schooling
For reasons as varied as how to approach curriculum to the teaching of belief systems, home schooling is on the rise (Homeschooling in the United States, 2001). Home schooling is defined as any learning situation where the parent or guardian has assumed direct responsibility for the education of the child (Homeschooling in the United States, 2001). Home schooling has a long history in this country. It was the only method of education available to many settlers (Wells, 1995). Distance, remoteness, and lack of schools contributed to the early history of home schooling. Another factor, both in the past and today, is the desire to prevent the outside world from unduly influencing children in ways contrary to the beliefs of the family or group (Lines, 1995). However, in today’s world it is not only belief systems that cause families to select home schooling; for some families the rise of drug use, gang activity, and violence on school campuses is the reason (Schaffley, 1996). For still others, there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with schools and their results as measured by achievement tests (Alex, 1994). Of course, not every state offers achievement level tests, so the dissatisfaction tends to be measured in other ways, such as attitudes.
Regardless of the reasons, home schooling is a growing
trend. In 1999-2000 there were between 1,300,000 and 1,700,000 home educated
students (Fast Facts, 2001). However, a recent study conducted by the
Academic Success Through Home Schooling
Proponents of home schooling point out that if a learning environment and individualized instruction are important for success, then it is difficult to criticize home schooling (Sutton & de Oliveira, 1995). Even teachers in public school agree that class size impacts the instruction and learning in the classroom. However, how did home-school students do when compared to their public school peers on standardized tests? Ray (1994) compared the scores of 16,000 home-schooled students on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to the scores of public-school students. The data showed that the average score of the home-schooled student was 77% compared to the average score of 50% for public school children (Ray, 1994).
Calvert (1992) conducted a study localized
to children in
Beyond the public education system of
K-12, there is the area of concern as to whether or not a student who has been
home schooled can be successful in the college or university setting. As of
Fall 1996, 220 universities and colleges had students enrolled
that had been home schooled (Fast facts on home schooling, 2001). As
many as 50% of home school students attend college (
Social Success Through Home Schooling
In attempting to gauge social success of students, regardless of public or private backgrounds in education, there exists the problem of measurement. What constitutes social success? Chatham-Carpenter (1992) discovered that home-schooled students in their sample scored higher on the average than their public-school peers on the Piers-Harris Self Concept Scale. Alex (1994) conducted a study comparing home-schooled families to 32 families that chose conventional schooling with children of similar family backgrounds and socio-economic backgrounds between the ages of 7-14. The researchers attempted to discover if home-schooled children would rate similarly to their peers if circumstances were equal in terms of family background and economic status. Half of home-schooled children scored at or above the 91st percentile on the sociability scales test. Research supported the concept that home schooling did not adversely affect its participants (Stough, 1992). However, one of the difficulties with assessing self-concept lies in the environment in which one is tested. Public school children who are successful in their environment might not appear so in the home schooled environment and the same is true for home schooled children. The area of social success will doubtlessly continue to be an area of debate as a result.
Another way of examining social success is to determine the opportunities available to the home-schooled child (Klicka, 1993). One criticism of home schooling has been that there is little opportunity for interaction outside of the immediate family (Klicka, 1993). However, there are now home-school sports leagues, 4-H clubs, and even music and art lessons designed exclusively for home-schooled students (Klicka, 1993). Though the existence of opportunity does not insure that it will be used, the same is true of public education. These social clubs have given many more opportunities for students who are home schooled to interact with peers their own age, which has been a criticism of home-schooled children (Romaine, 1984).
According to a study by Chatham-Carpenter (1992), home-schooled children have fewer contacts with peers their own age than their public-schooled counterparts. Her research showed, however, that they had far more contacts with people older and younger than themselves. Some argue that such contact is better preparation for the real world, based on the concept that in the real world a person deals consistently with all types of individuals of various ages (Klicka, 1993). Which type of socialization, peer vs. adult, is better for children as the primary way of developing their social skills is a key issue in the home school model.
The purpose of this study was to determine public school counselor perceptions of home schoolers who enrolled in public education. While information about students who completed their education via home schooling and then went to college exists, research does not sufficiently address students who returned to main-streamed education before the college age.
In the practice of home schooling, several theories are involved. Academically, the perspective centers on the idea of fitting the education to the child and not the child to the education (Koslowski, 1999). The benefit of instruction between one teacher and one student, or perhaps a few students in the case of siblings, drives this idea. In such cases not only the child who would be classified as “average” benefits, but the child who might possess special needs likewise gains advantage (Koslowski, 1999). The child with attention problems can have individualized instruction in a way no school setting can match, while a child who is gifted could explore and enrich his/her experiences to new levels as well. There is also a theory driving many home schoolers that involves religious or value beliefs (Lines, 1996; Taylor, 1997; Van Galen, 1991). The curriculum and instruction are often chosen or influenced for reasons of values belief.
Academic pursuits are not the only area
with a theoretical basis in home schooling. In terms of social development,
home schooling follows the path of the single-process model of development
(Hartup, 1979), whereby peer socialization is often
viewed as negative or bad.
Children who are less with their parents than with peers, become peer dependent. This in turn brings loss of self worth, optimism, respect for parents and even trust in peers. They become age-segregated, comfortable only with their age mates, developing essentially a negative, me-first kind of sociability. (p. 3-4)
In short, the view of socialization from a home schooler’s perspective espouses that parental socialization is superior to peer socialization.
In contrast, a multi-process system of socialization is supported by those who believe that more than just one type of relationship is needed (Romaine, 1984). In this case, proponents of the multi-process system believe peer relations offer mutual reciprocity versus the unilateral relations that occurs with parents (Hunter & Youniss, 1982). In these instances the child has a chance to explore relationships as an equal instead of being only the receiver of information.
Regardless of the reasons for home schooling, little research exists on students who attend public school at the middle school/junior high school level after the home educational setting. Since the trend of home schooling continues to grow, it is likely that the impact on public education will increase as well. The exodus of more students from public education is the most obvious impact and was discussed earlier in this article. This study examined another impact: the effect of home schooling on students who enter public education as seen through the perceptions of counselors.
This study examined how counselors perceived home-schooled students who enrolled in a public-education setting. If the home-school model promoted social and academic success, then perhaps elements that home schooling utilizes can be adopted and used in public schools. If home schooling does not foster success, then the educational leader in the public school should prepare for the eventual integration of students with home-schooling backgrounds.
While evidence suggested that home-schooled students enjoyed success academically and socially within their own settings, there exists some questions as to how home-schooled students would integrate within the public school setting. To determine the success of home-schooled students, the perceptions of counselors were recorded and examined. The research questions explored were:
1. What are the academic perceptions of counselors toward home-schooled students in the public school environment?
2. What are the social perceptions of counselors toward home-schooled students in the public school environment?
3. What are the characteristics of the local home schoolers that created the perceptions of the counselors?
The qualitative research conducted involved interviewing public-school counselors in order to determine their perceptions of home-schooled students who integrated into a public educational setting. The participants for this study were four counselors from two public school campuses: two from an intermediate school and two from a junior high school. The campuses were chosen to compare counselor perceptions of children who were at different ages but at approximately the same place in public education: the middle school/junior high age. Counselors were chosen because of their dual role in education: the facilitator of academic adjustment and social adjustment. Academically, the role of the counselor is in aiding in course selection, analyzing testing data and grades, and in program placement. Additionally, the counselor played the role of mediator in social conflicts, regardless of whether the conflict occurred between student and peers, student and teacher, or student and family members. The participants were in the unique position of having expertise and experience in both scholarly and social situations for students.
Background Profile of Respondents
The counselors interviewed came from
a mid-sized school district in east
None of the respondents were able to tell exactly how many home schooled students they had encountered over the years, though they did not believe the number to be very high.. They described the various experiences in general terms. However, R2 did mention that one reason for not having many home schooled students return might be influenced by the fact that the community had several private schools as well.
A series of interview questions was developed and administered to the counselors. The instrument itself was created by the researcher. Face validity of the instrument was achieved by having a review of the questions by a panel of professors and professionals within the field of education. The interview questions were the primary source of data and were open ended to ensure validity. The interview protocols can be viewed in Table1.
Table 1 Interview Protocols
1. How long have you been involved in public education? How long as a counselor?
2. Please give an overview of your experiences as an educator, including any other forms of education (i.e. private schools, charter schools, home schools, university-college)
3. What similarities do you see among students who enroll in public education after home schooling?
· Reasons for enrolling
4. In regard to students who enroll on your campus after experiencing a home school environment, how would you characterize their academic level and what are the adjustments they must make?
5. In regard to students who enroll on your campus after experiencing a home school environment, how would you characterize their social level and what are the adjustments they must make?
6. How would you describe the parental involvement of students who were formerly home schooled?
7. To what extent do the parents affect success or failure of the student to the public school setting?
8. What are the experiences or traits you believe help a home schooled student have success in public school?
9. If you were told there existed evidence that supported home schoolers scoring higher than public school students academically and on social ability scales, what would be your reaction?
10. Is there any other information that you could add about the transition of home schooled students into the public school environment?
Research Design, Data Collection, and Analysis
The design of the research was based on the theory of symbolic interactionism (Denizan, 1992). After the participants were selected, the data were classified and categorized using the “perspectives held by subjects” technique (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). The subjects were chosen and interviewed at a time and place of their choosing. This resulted in interviews taking place on the respective campus of each participant, during the month of October 2001. The interviews were then transcribed and color coded to fit under the following predetermined themes: Academic Perceptions, Social Perceptions, Parental Involvement, Reasons for Academic Perceptions, and Reasons for Social Perceptions. Four of the themes were predetermined to coincide with the two areas of student success that education typically measures—academic and social. Parental
Involvement was chosen as well because it is a major focus of both public school and home school. A sixth theme emerged during data analysis: Profile. This became the most important topic because the profile of the home-schooled student that the counselors dealt with did not match the typical profile of home-schooled students reported in previous research. After the coding took place, trends and patterns were examined by looking for repeated words, phrases, or ideas and then by making a chart of responses according to the headings. Low inference descriptors were used in the analysis and discussion.
The purpose of the research was to discover counselors’ perceptions of home-schooled students integrating into public school; however, the researcher did have several assumptions before conducting the research. Through reflexivity, I attempted to limit any researcher bias. Though I had no personal experience with home schooling, previous research and interaction with those who had chosen the home-school method led me to believe that it would be successful. I anticipated few problems for home-schooled students adjusting to new environments in the academic realm. I suspected that there would be limited problems adjusting socially because of previous reading and research as well. Thus, I was surprised to hear the negative views of the counselors. I attempted to insure that my views would not influence the research by keeping the interviews open-ended.
I did seem to encounter some bias from the counselors as well. This was reflected in the surprise that each had when hearing of home schooling success. R1 even admitted that there was personal involvement in the issue because of family member who had chosen home schooling and had been unsuccessful. For all respondents, it appeared that the lack of success in academic and social areas was expected. The mention of students who had been successful was viewed as the exception.
Validity and Reliability Issues
The following validity and reliability issues were taken into account and addressed: Internal Validity, Interpretive Validity, and study Reliability. Internal Validity was established by means of data triangulation. Four separate interviews were transcribed and coded. In each case, the respondents were not aware of the responses of their peers; yet each counselor’s perceptions were similar. Interpretive Validity was established through the use of low-inference descriptors. The method of verbatim transcription, the exact words of the respondents, was used as much as possible. Reliability was established since this study focused on the perceptions of counselors. Other researchers using the same subjects, instrument, and procedure would arrive at the same data. The perceptions of the counselors would not be influenced by the individual researchers.
Results and Discussion
The aim of the research was to discover the perceptions of public-school counselors toward home-schooled students who entered a public educational setting. Overall, the perceptions of these counselors were not in agreement with research that supported home schooling. The respondents were unanimous in voicing the idea that the home-schooled students they encountered were not successful academically or socially, which answered research questions one and two. The third research question, discernable elements that affected the perceptions, resulted in information that suggested that education of the parent and the motivation for home schooling were the factors involved in creating the counselors perceptions. The discussion of research question one occurs in the section entitled Perceptions of Academic Success. Research question two is discussed in the section entitled Perceptions of Social Success, while research question three is discussed in the sections entitled Parental Involvement and Local Home Schooled Students’ Profile.
Perceptions of Academic Success
All of the respondents agreed that the academic level of the home-schooled students they observed who returned to the intermediate or middle level was not equal to their public school counterparts. Respondent 1 viewed home-schooled students as having “some holes in their education.” Other respondents agreed by stating that when it came to instruction, home-schooled students could be described as “90% are pretty far behind” (R2), “weaker academically in at least one area or another” (R3), or “having weaknesses particularly in math but struggling overall” (R4). The foundation for their perceptions came from testing results, as mentioned by R3 and R4 and not following a set curriculum as evidenced by little or no documentation of work completed, mentioned by R1 and R2. All of the respondents agreed in general with the idea that home schoolers have to “work hard to fill in the gaps and learn new concepts” (R1). While all agreed that the academics were weaker for the home-schooled student, the reasons for the weakness tended to focus on different areas.
R1 believed that the “holes in their education” occurred from “taking short cuts and having bad habits that were allowed to continue” while performing academic tasks. She gave examples of not having to show work on math problems as an example. R2 believed that the lack of academic success resulted from having uneducated parents attempting to teach. R2 conceded that she had seen some “that were right on level but their parents tend to be very well educated; if the parents were not well educated, then the kids fall at least a year behind.”
Two of the respondents made mention of the belief that the subject matter became too difficult for parents to teach as the children grew older. R3 and R4, the junior high counselors, mentioned several trends evident at their level of public school. Both stated that “time management and organization” were skills that affected academic progress. They saw home schoolers as being deficient in these areas and believed it contributed to the overall lack of success attained by the home schoolers they had worked with.
Perceptions of Social Success
In the area of social adjustment, the counselors’ perceptions were in agreement with the idea that the home-schooled student was not successful in public school. R1 categorized home-school children as having “social skills that don’t seem to be as well rounded as children in public education.” R2 stated that “a lot of kids who home school for the full gamut of elementary years, sometimes don’t see things in the real way.” When asked for a qualification of this statement, R2 responded that these children were used to dealing with adults and on “a higher plane” so there is difficultly in dealing with peers. The difficulty in dealing only with older individuals was also mentioned by R1 who believed “they don’t know how to deal with other children.”
R3 saw the home-schooled children as “slightly less mature” because “… they simply haven’t had the socialization processes and seem to be a little behind.” R4 also believed them to be behind, stating that “they have a tough time making friends” and “this age is tough to come in and start developing friends, and I counsel with those students more.”
The counselors perceived a lack of social success for two reasons. The first was the idea that socialization needed to take place with similarly aged children. Those who believe in the multi process of development (Romaine, 1984) take such a position. The counselors appeared to hold this perspective for social development for children, as all respondents discussed the need for peer adjustment in varying ways. For some students it is the need for socializing in a large group setting (R3), the need for activities outside the home R2, the need for opportunities and exposure to social situations (R1), or the need to be accepted because they need someone to bond with (R4).
Each of the four respondents also suggested that the majority of the home schoolers they worked with had been home schooled because the parent did not want their child in a discipline alternative education placement (DAEP). This became an important factor in both the social perceptions of the home-schooled students and in the profile of the home schoolers. Socially, if problems had existed before the home schooling, the counselors saw little improvement upon the child’s return. “If a child was a behavior problem and that is why they were in home school, the parent returns them to the school for the same reason” (R1). The same idea of returning to public school because of problems at home was echoed by all the counselors. “They were taken out because they had problems adjusting. Mom gets tired of dealing with it all day long and then decides it’s time to go back to school” (R2). The parents have some kind of dissatisfaction because they believe their child is being picked on or wasn’t getting along with a group of kids but “they take their kids out and now has no one to socialize with” (R3). If the student had been a problem at home and was attempting public education for the first time, the home-schooled student had problems with being made fun of, being an outsider, or having “no self-confidence” (R4).
The counselors were in agreement that no factor was more critical for the home-schooled student than parental involvement. When asked about parental involvement, comments centered on their importance: “Powerful Impact” (R1); “Parental involvement is critical in adjustment” (R2); “Parental Involvement is always real critical” (R3); “100%…” it (involvement) determines success or failure (R4). In the discussion of parental involvement and its importance, however, the group did not see many positives from the parents of the home-schooled students who enrolled in public education. R1 saw “bad habits (studying or in terms of beliefs) as being reinforced because they allowed them in the first place.” She did add that if the parent is supportive of the school then the child would have success. R2 saw parents falling into two areas: a) ones who were educated and involved and b) ones who were dissatisfied with something about school and had little involvement. Perhaps of some interest was R2’s belief that often it was the highly involved parents who had a tougher time adjusting than the student. R3 also saw the parents as being in the two groups of high involvement or little involvement, but she felt that the students who did have involved parents often had a sense of initiative that was lacking in public school students. R4 had the least amount of parental involvement, mentioning that the parents were not involved even when given phone calls to attend open houses or parent-teacher conferences.
Local Home-Schooled Students’ Profile
The profile of the home-schooled student
seen by counselors in this research seemed to be different from the typical
home-schooled student as reported in research in at least two areas. In the
U.S Department of Education’s Homeschooling in the
The factors of parent education and reason for home schooling were different in the local community when compared to the national profile. As stated in the Perceptions of Academic Success, the home-schooled children that the respondents in this project came across did not come from parents with a higher level of education. Each of the respondents claimed that well-educated parents were the exception to the home-schooled children with whom they dealt. R2 suggested that those who had previously home schooled came from families whose parents had extremely high or, more often, extremely low educational backgrounds in terms of years of formal education. R3 stated that the reason for academic struggle was often “parents being unable to teach a subject.” R4 believed that “successful home-schooled students had very educated parents…” but she had not encountered many in the community who fit that description.
The counselors were in even greater agreement about the main reason for home-schooling within their community: students facing DAEP placement. Either “Parents do not want to face chronic discipline problems at school,” or the parents were having trouble getting the child to school (R4). R4 also related that most of her experiences with parents who chose home schooling resulted from parents who were angry about some aspect of the school’s discipline policy. A lot of the parents home school because “they are usually upset with the school for discipline reasons” (R2). R2 also saw the problem of adjustment for home-school children as being connected to the reason for home-schooling in the first place, “If they were taken out of school for problems getting along, the problems are still there when they return.” R1 also believed that the main reason for home-schooling was the “child having problems at school.”
The motivation for the home schooling seemed to be an avoidance of school rules, not dissatisfaction with some element of the instruction. While all of the respondents directly or indirectly mentioned a negative view of home schooling, all of them expressed the belief that the home-schooling process could be successful. R3 stated, “One-on-one instruction from a highly educated person that you love and live with is probably going to be very effective.” R2 also emphasized the positive effects of one-on-one teaching. R4 conversely stated “Home-schooling to me would be very difficult and as a person with a Master’s degree…I cannot be affirmative of home schooling.” However, she did state that students who had well-educated parents had done well.
Conclusions and Implications
The research examined the perceptions of four middle school and junior high school counselors about home schooling. I found that the counselors’ perceptions did not match prior research. From a social perspective, some of the negative perceptions might be explained by all the counselors believing in the need for peer socialization for children. Yet, there seemed to be little positive comment made about home schooling either socially or academically. The reason for such comments became evident during the first interview. The majority of students who had home-schooled within this particular community and then enrolled in the public schools were not from the typical home-schooled families as described in the literature. The level of education of the parents was below that of the parents of the typical home-schooled student. However, the educational level of the parent may not have been the telling factor. Ray’s (1994) research supported the idea that the educational level of the parent did not play a role in the education of the student. One other critical factor emerged from their responses, however. Over and over again, the respondents made mention that most of their experience with home-schooled children resulted from parents who did not want their children to be placed in discipline settings within the school.
The counselors did not encounter parents who chose home schooling to better their children or for any of the stronger reasons for home schooling such as: providing a better education at home; promoting religious beliefs; or getting away from a poor learning environment (Homeschooling in the United States, 2001). These counselors dealt with students and families that were having problems in the educational setting and chose home schooling to avoid the school’s rules. This suggests that the motivation for home schooling may be the key to the success or failure of the home-school model.
R3 made an interesting statement that fit both public and home school. “The learning is going to be as good as the instruction is.” The instruction and motivation within home schooling is an area that requires more investigation. The certification of the parents and the quality of the curriculum are issues that have been and are still being researched. However, the success or failure of the model could lie in the motivation of the teacher, so to speak. Public schools have their share of successes and failures, even given strong curriculums and certified teachers. Home schooling, too, has its successes and failures. The research conducted here suggests that the key for home-schooling, academic and social success, may lie in the motivations and attitudes of the teacher. I believe more research needs to be focused on parent’s motivation for home-schooling their children. If motivation for home schooling does indeed turn out to be a major factor involved in student success, such information will give proponents and critics alike areas to concentrate efforts to assist these students and their families.
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