CLASH OF TWO WORLD VIEWS: Homeschoolers’ Perceptions of Education

Record: Ari Neuman and Oz Guterman, “The clash of two world views – a constructivist analysis of home educating families’ perceptions of education.” Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 24, No. 3 (2016): 359-369. [Abstract]

SummaryNeuman is senior lecturer of education at Western Galilee College, in Akko, Israel, and Guterman is senior lecturer in the Department of Human Resources at the same university. In this article, they discuss the results of a study in which they interviewed 30 homeschooling mothers to discover the impact of homeschooling on the women’s children and families.

The authors give away their results at the beginning. In the study they conducted, the homeschooling mothers shared outcomes that were largely in line with a constructivist world view. Here are some of the principles of constructivism:

  1. Learning should be authentic and life-related.
  2. Students should be in charge of the learning process.
  3. Students are not perceived as “empty vessels” but rather as developers of knowledge that are capable of forming their own schematics through life experiences.
  4. Self-evaluation and self-regulation are crucial to the learning process and to personal development.

In this qualitative research study, 30 mothers who homeschooled at least 1 elementary-school-aged child were interviewed. The mothers were found through a variety of channels such as internet forums and homeschooling communities. 27 of the 30 mothers were married, and 29 of the 30 mothers were secular. The average number of children in a family was 3.38. Here is what they found about these mothers’ perceived outcomes from homeschooling for their children:

  1. Personality-related outcomes.
    1. The children developed independence due to the shifting of responsibilities.
    2. The children felt increased self-confidence.
    3. The children asked more questions and were more motivated to search for answers.
    4. The children displayed flexible thinking and creativity.
    5. The children were more self-aware.
    6. The children were less afraid of being “different.”
    7. The children were more inquisitive.
    8. The children were more connected to real world issues.
  2. Socially-related outcomes.
    1. The children lacked prejudices towards people of other ages.
    2. The children displayed a high level of communication.
    3. The children formed mature relationships with others.

For each of these outcomes, Neuman and Guterman give small excerpts from the interviews. Especially in regards to the personal characteristics, it is possible to see a close relationship to the characteristics of constructivism noted above. In the social outcomes, there is a close relation to the social constructivist theories popularized by Vygotsky and Bakhtin. It is important to note that of all the outcomes mentioned by the mothers, none were related to traditional learning outcomes such as reading, writing, or math skills.

Appraisal: Neuman and Guterman left some critical information out of the article. They didn’t give any clue as to what country these mothers come from. However, through a personal correspondence with Neuman, I was able to confirm that the sample does in fact come from Israel. Given the paucity of research about homeschooling in Israel, it makes this study more useful than it would be otherwise. For example, a large difference between these families and homeschooling families in the US is that 29 of the 30 families homeschooled for secular reasons. There was no mention of religious outcomes from homeschooling as one would expect to hear in the US. Clearly we need a larger and more randomized sample to confirm the idea that Israeli homeschoolers aren’t very motivated by religion, but based on this study alone, it looks like that might be the case.

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