A question on our HEM Networking list over the weekend brought up the issue of research and homeschooling families, and I thought my response, which was simply a selection of excerpts from a column by Larry and Susan Kaseman, might be worth sharing with this broader audience. I wrote:
Just for perspective, and a little food for thought:
Does Homeschooling Research Help Homeschooling?
– Larry & Susan Kaseman
When homeschoolers agree to participate in research, they are also agreeing that homeschooling can and should be measured by the categories and terms that researchers choose. In other words, homeschoolers who participate in research are agreeing that the important parts of homeschooling, or at least the criteria by which it should be judged, are things like number of hours spent “teaching” or “studying,” standardized test scores, etc.
The most insidious outcome from this condition is that people no longer trust their own knowledge, experience, and judgment about themselves and their children. Homeschoolers become an illustration of some research study rather than the richer reality they really are.
The rights of parents to educate their own children have a solid foundation. By agreeing to research that will evaluate the “success” of homeschooling, homeschoolers are implicitly agreeing that they need to be judged and assessed. They are thereby surrendering important rights that do not need to be justified.
…research categorizes and labels homeschoolers and seeks out the differences among them. It divides them into lots of little subsets instead of emphasizing their common commitment to securing the best education for their children. It even divides homeschoolers by raising the question of whether to participate in research.
A grassroots organization is strong because a group of people realize that they can take responsibility for some aspect of their own lives, such as the education of their children, and carry it out. In opposition to this, research encourages people to turn over private thoughts and personal details to “experts” who will then put them into some form (which the people could not do themselves, according to the researchers) and present them to others, such as school officials and legislators who will then decide what is best for the people to do and require them to do it. This weakens people and encourages them to become dependent, to surrender their strengths and accept the requirements of others.
There’s one more excerpt I meant to include, and will post there now:
Many important parts of homeschooling (the look of joy on a child’s face as he or she discovers something, the recovered self-confidence of a child who had been labeled “learning disabled” by a conventional school) cannot be captured and recorded in quantitative or “scientific” studies. Therefore research gives a misleading picture of homeschooling when it claims to show the strengths of homeschooling but fails to study or report the most important ones.