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Hostility or Indifference? The Marginalization of Homeschooling in the Education Profession

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 3

Charles Howell, Youngstown State University


Reasons for neglect of homeschooling in educational research literature are explored. The ideological hostility that occasionally surfaces in policy debates is unlikely to have a major influence on mainstream researchers. An alternative explanation based on Kuhn's concept of normal science is proposed. The dominant paradigm of educational research emphasizes quantitative analyses, standardized settings, and large randomized samples. Unlike homeschooling, public schools, with their state-mandated curricula, age-graded classrooms, and tight regulation of facilities and personnel, provide an ideal setting for this paradigm. The congruence between setting and method is reinforced by universities. The training of licensed public school teachers generates most of the revenue that supports faculty positions in colleges of education. Consequently there is little incentive to study homeschooling. The article concludes that a scientific revolution in educational research is not in prospect. Moving beyond the current neglect will require a change in approach in investigating homeschooling. Rather than focusing on holistic comparisons, aimed at demonstrating the superiority of one educational mode over another, homeschool researchers can gain mainstream attention by investigating factors that affect motivation and learning across educational contexts, thereby generating results that would be useful to both public school teachers and home educators.


Charles Howell, Ph.D., is a philosopher of education whose interests lie in the areas of ethics, education policy, and how educational practices affect children's development into autonomous adults. His work has dealt with school structure, discipline practices in families and schools, and intergenerational transmission of values. His professional experience as an educator spans four decades. He currently serves as Dean of the Beeghly College of Education at Youngstown State University.