Understanding Parental Motivation To Home School: A Qualitative Case Study

Nolen Ben Olsen, The University of Montana


Comparatively little educational research has focused on home schooling. Since most students are educated in public schools, parents' choice of other educational alternatives is often perceived as a deviation from the societal norm. Friends and neighbors of parents who home school rarely understand their motivation for doing so. This study addresses the following question: why do parents remove their children from traditional, public school programs to initiate home schooling, and how well do public school personnel understand this motivation? Using qualitative case study methodology, the researcher confined the study to a specific concentrated population of home schooling families. Phenomenological data analysis procedures were used to refine the volume of data and to construct a narrative containing the essence of parents' lived experience concerning the decision to home school their children. A total of 31 parents from 20 home schooling families participated in semi-structured face-to-face interviews with the researcher. Six public school administrators and 12 teachers from schools directly impacted by home schooling were also interviewed. Parents explained their motives for initiating home school programs and elaborated by telling their stories. Educators described their experiences with children being removed from their schools and with home school children returning to the classroom. They shared their experiences and perceptions of the value of home school and issues relating to student learning. Educators were included in order to determine how well they understand parents' reasons for choosing to home school a child. Data analysis revealed eight primary factors that initially motivated parents in this study to choose home schooling for their children: (1) negative effects of peer socialization; (2) religion; (3) a child's special learning needs and disabilities; (4) negative personal experiences of a parent as a student in school; (5) lack of administrative support; (6) an incident at school involving the child; (7) unique environmental needs of the family; and (8) recruitment. Data analysis also revealed that educators' understanding of these motivations was limited. Although educators' views of home schooling were primarily negative, they are clearly keenly interested in and concerned about the learning of all children, in and out of school.


© Copyright 2008 Nolen Ben Olsen