Record: Jennifer L. Jolly and Michael S. Matthews, “Why We Blog: Homeschooling Mothers of Gifted Children” Roeper Review, 39, No. 2 (2017): 112-120. [Abstract]
Summary: Jennifer L. Jolly is a senior lecturer in gifted education at the University of New South Wales, and Michael S. Matthews is an associate professor and graduate program coordinator in the Department of Special Education and Child Development at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The two collaborated in 2012 on one of the most important articles yet published on motivations for homeschooling among families with gifted children. In this article they discuss the motivations that four homeschooling mothers of gifted children had for opening blogs on their homeschooling experiences.
This study deals with a very specific sub-population of Mommybloggers who write about the homeschooling of gifted children. Mommyblogging is a popular subcategory of blogging about people whose identities revolve greatly around being a parent. Despite an average of 5-100 readers, Mommybloggers have developed a sub-culture of their own writing style, range of acceptable content, and norms regarding the quality and quantity of posts. Research has found that the average Mommyblogger is 37, White, well-educated and has a mean household income of $84,000 (in comparison to the U.S. national average of $53,000). Blogging in general is a socially-powerful way of transmitting information, especially in the homeschooling community.
To be included in the study, mothers had to (1) live in the U.S. (2) blog about the homeschooling of a gifted child, and (3) have maintained the blog for at least a year and on an on-going basis. While 15 bloggers were originally contacted, only four responded to Jolly and Matthews. Three of these mothers were White, and one mother was Asian. Their children ranged in age from 10 to 17, and all of the mothers had at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition to their child’s giftedness, two of the four mothers noted that their child had a learning exceptionality such as dyslexia or Asperger’s syndrome. Jolly and Matthews collected data about these mothers through individual phone interviews at an average length of 75 minutes.
Through the interviews, the authors determined that blogging was primarily gratifying to the mothers in five areas: self-expression, social interaction, information exchange, maintaining community, and recording life events. The initial motivator that led the mothers to blogging was self-expression. They felt that the act of writing allowed them to express thoughts and feelings that had previously lacked an outlet. Having a sense of purpose in their blogging motivated them to continue despite competing demands on their time and energy.
Social interaction and community were also important motivating factors. Because homeschooling (particularly with gifted children) can be isolating, blogging allowed the mothers to connect beyond their immediate circles. Although the interactions were primarily online, the mothers seemed very satisfied by the support of these digital communities.
Blogs are often an important place for homeschoolers to gain information about curriculum materials and content activities. Therefore, information exchange is included as one of the motivating factors for blogging. One of the mothers noted with irony that while homeschoolers attempt to escape the rigidity of traditional schools, many families soon turn to the internet to cope with the lack of structure. Beyond materials, blogs are also used to share the family’s and children’s activities and accomplishments.
Finally, blogging helped the mothers to document life events and their homeschooling practices. Because homeschooling often lacks the pre-determined scope and sequence of a curriculum, it can be more difficult for families to explain what their children have accomplished. A blog gives a family an avenue for recording their children’s progress.
Appraisal: Don’t mind the gifted part of this article. While blogging mothers of gifted homeschoolers may seem like a niche population, this article actually speaks to the larger topics of blogging’s connection to homeschooling and the importance of blogging in today’s society. For example, Jolly and Matthews share interesting pieces of information such as, “Blogs rank as the top five most ‘trustworthy’ sources on the Internet and are considered more influential than Twitter” (p. 114). Given the importance of blogs to the spread of homeschooling, it is surprising that there has not been more attention given to the phenomenon of homeschooling Mommyblogs. Although this article’s findings are limited in scope, it does open the conversation about the intersection of homeschooling and blogging, which I suspect would look similar among other sub-populations of homeschoolers.
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