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An ethnographic study of home schooling Gilgoff, Betty L.


The study is an ethnographic study of home schooling in the lower mainland of British Columbia. It was conducted to increase understanding of the growing home schooling movement in the province. The information gained is valuable in assessing recent legislative changes in the new British Columbia School Act (1989) and the resulting policy changes with regard to home schooling. The purpose of the study was primarily exploratory. The design was based on two propositions: (1) that it may be possible to build characterizations of home schooling families and, (2) that these characterizations, or portraits, may include certain reactions to the policy changes. To examine these propositions the study focused on the following four main questions: 1. Why are some families in urban areas in British Columbia choosing to home school their children? 2. What does home schooling mean to these families? 3. How are these home schooling families reacting to the new legislation on home schooling? 4. What alternatives, if any, would the home schoolers prefer? The analysis of the study presents the finding from two different perspectives. It first provides three portraits based on stories of "committed home schoolers", those who have reached a level of certainty and comfort with home schooling as an alternative to a school system. From the characterizations developed three ideal styles are determined and diagramed. A second perspective examines the stories of "situational home schoolers", those who have moved into home schooling because of dissatisfaction with the public school system. The conclusion of the research uses the division of home schoolers into committed and situational groups to examine recent legislative and policy changes relevant to home schooling. Although the research is limited in its design as it is based on replication logic rather than sampling logic, it has developed theories about patterns which may exist amongst home schoolers. These theories strongly suggest that government policies with regard to home schooling need to be developed with an understanding of the individualistic nature of each home schooling situation.

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