Book of the Month:

Back to April 2013 Ed Reporter

Book of the Month

Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement, Joseph Murphy, Corwin Publishers, 2012, $34.95


As America stands on the brink of nationalized, federally controlled education under Common Core Standards, it is instructive to review the phenomenon of education at home.

Homeschooling in America, a scholarly work by Joseph Murphy, an associate Dean of the Vanderbilt University Peabody School of Education, is an in-depth analysis, not a how-to-homeschool resource.

Homeschooling is both a social and an educational movement. Homeschooling in America claims that acceptance and growth in homeschooling correlates to fundamental changes in society and the movement away from trusting the government to run society.

Reasons for the “discontent and skepticism about the public sector” that “can be characterized as a response to the nearly unbroken growth of government over the last three-quarters of the 20th century” have contributed to the “widespread perception that the state is overinvolved in the life of the citizenry.” The author points to stories of incompetence, scandal, and inefficiency, as well as the growing cost of government, as reasons many parents and citizens are discontented.

Referring to the bureaucracy that runs schools, including teachers unions, one expert states, “the current governance of public education makes effective action at the school level almost impossible.” The author says that, “in the bureaucracy students can be taken for granted because it is adult concerns that matter.”

While researchers try to graph whether “students can answer two or three more questions correctly on standardized tests than their public school peers,” no one notices the broader “core outcomes” of homeschooling such as building strong families, avoiding social problems, and the teaching of values, because they simply aren’t on most researchers’ radar.

Homeschooling parents are on the whole somewhat better educated than public school parents. Murphy theorizes that parents can overcome any lack of pedagogical training through more engaged learning time, individualized learning approaches, and meaningful feedback. Evidence shows that homeschoolers are not suffering from isolation or social skill deficits, and colleges report they do as well or better than other enrolled students.

Homeschooling is simply another privatization initiative, not unlike charter schools, online schools, and voucher systems. Traditional public schools are broken and often pose risks of spiritual, social, emotional, and physical danger. Concerned parents are doing what they can to better educate their children.

As Common Core is washing over the nations’ schools, this book gives evidence that citizens are less enthralled with government as a solution than ever before.