ERIC Identifier: ED459971
Publication Date: 2001-12-00
Author: Jaycox, Rebecca
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Charleston WV.
Rural Home Schooling and Place-Based Education. ERIC Digest.
Place-based education, which draws from local culture, history, and geography to create a meaningful curriculum, can occur in any type of setting, but it holds particular promise for rural homeschooling. Place-based educators use local particulars to teach universal concepts, engage students in community life, and involve people and resources unique to the home community. This Digest identifies ways that place-based education can counter common concerns about homeschooling so that homeschooled students--especially those living in rural areas--receive academic, social, and individual benefits.
HOMESCHOOLING IN THE RURAL UNITED STATES
Parents who commit to homeschooling do so for a variety of reasons. Nearly half believe they can give their children a better education at home; others have religious reasons (38 percent) or consider the learning environments at their local schools to be of poor quality (Bielick, Chandler, & Broughman, 2001). A small percentage (2.7) of parents indicated "transportation convenience" as an important reason for homeschooling. A recent study did document long bus rides for rural students (about a quarter lasting more than an hour each way), often over poor or mountainous roads (Howley & Howley, 2001). Regardless of the reasons, interest and participation in homeschooling are increasing.
PLACE-BASED EDUCATION AND RURAL HOMESCHOOLING
* to join intellect with experience
* to address problems of overspecialization in the world today
* to help people learn how to live well where they are
* to strengthen understanding of the significance of relationships among different places, both local and global
Through such an approach, which can be employed in schools or at home, young people can learn more about how to live productive and meaningful lives in their home communities (Haas & Nachtigal, 1998).
Homeschooling offers opportunities to take different, more individualized approaches to instruction and curriculum in order to capitalize on students' interests and learning preferences and community learning opportunities. In other words, the flexibility inherent in homeschooling can be used to students' advantage in various ways.
Although studying homeschoolers is a difficult task (Hill, 2000), evidence reveals that homeschoolers do not always grasp the opportunity to vary from traditional classroom approaches (Webb, 1990). Some stick to traditional educational practices (such as fixed schedules, structured study environments, and standardized curricula and tests) whether or not these practices serve educational goals (Whitehead & Bird, 1984). However, a study of more than 1,600 families (Ray, 1997) showed that 71 percent of homeschooling parents design their own curricula, compared with nearly 24 percent who purchase and use a complete curriculum package.
HOMESCHOOLING'S EFFECTS ON SOCIETY
In response, supporters--also arguing from a critical perspective--contend that the current public education system is defined more by national economic interests than by local concerns and commitments (Davidson, 1996). People making this argument view homeschoolers' exit from the public school system as a withdrawal from political and business control, rather than as a withdrawal from society and the common good (Van Galen & Pitman, 1991).
For other supporters of homeschooling, withdrawal from society may indeed be one of the goals. Van Galen (1991) explains that religious conservatives who have chosen homeschooling usually want their children to learn a religious way of life and develop conservative social and political perspectives. These parents establish homeschools to teach their children that "the family is the most important institution in society" (p. 35).
Public schools may not be doing any better at creating societal cohesion than homeschoolers, however. Research has shown that graduates of large, diverse public high schools are "less" likely than homeschooled youth to express tolerant attitudes, to volunteer time and money for social causes, or to participate in community events (Hill, 2000).
HOMESCHOOLING AND SOCIALIZATION
Medlin (2000) separates the socialization issue into three goals that can guide home educators:
1. participation of homeschooled children in daily routines of their local communities
2. acquisition of rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes needed both during their education and later in life
3. ability to function effectively as contributing members of society
Attending to these socialization goals may help guide parents in planning activities that encompass a concern for others, whether they live in one's own rural community or in a distant city or nation.
ACADEMIC VALUE OF METHODS AND CURRICULUM
A growing number of educators in small schools and homeschools have discovered that place-based methodologies can be used to integrate separate disciplines and subject matter with home and community projects. Student interests combine with daily living activities and practical experience in a variety of interconnected subjects to help children gain both practical and academic knowledge (Webb, 1990).
Activities specific to place-based education might concentrate on community themes, local occupations and hobbies, local government and history, or community concerns (Knapp, 1996). The homeschooled student can be guided to collect, organize, and analyze relevant information; produce a worthwhile project or result from their study; and reflect on and self-assess progress.
A well-known example of rural place-based education is Foxfire, initiated by Eliot Wigginton in the late 1960s (Wigginton, 1985). Youth interviewed members of the local community, unearthing and publishing a multitude of stories from the residents. Foxfire has grown into a teaching and learning method used in a variety of educational settings. The method stresses 11 core ideals that include active learning; an audience beyond the teacher; and connections among the classroom work, surrounding communities, and the world beyond (Foxfire Fund, 2001).
Another example of community-based learning is the PACERS Small Schools Cooperative, initiated by the University of Alabama, in which students have become community historians, scientists, and artists (PACERS, 2001). Participating schools incorporate local needs into the curriculum, creating projects as varied as a community newspaper and a small business that builds computers for local residents (Cedar Bluff School, 2001; Gaylesville School, 2001).
One innovative program, "Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song," encourages communication between older community members and school-age children. Students interview community elders and develop songs, plays, public recitations, artwork, and publications based on their stories (Community Celebration of Place, 2001).
Although rural areas may lack such homeschooling resources as museums, Internet communications, and expansive libraries, other assets abound, as these school-based examples illustrate. The knowledge and experience of elders, the close proximity to the natural environment, and the skills and practical knowledge of rural residents who live without metropolitan conveniences can be valuable resources for homeschooling. By utilizing these unique resources, students may obtain practical experience in a variety of interconnected subjects. The community becomes not only the classroom but also the audience for the students' accomplishments (Knapp, 1996).
Bielick, S., Chandler, K., & Broughman, S. P. (2001). Homeschooling in the United States: 1999. (NCES 2001-033). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics.
Cedar Bluff School. (2001). Home page [online]. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from http://www.pacers.org/schools/cedar_bluff/index.htm
Community Celebration of Place. (2001). Elders' wisdom, children's song [online]. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from http://www.communitycelebration.org/elder/index.html
Davidson, O. G. (1996). Broken heartland: The rise of America's rural ghetto. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.
The Foxfire Fund, Inc. (2001). The Foxfire approach to teaching & learning [online]. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from http://www.foxfire.org/teachi.htm
Gaylesville School. (2001). The Gaylesville Enterprise Online. Gaylesville, AL. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from http://www.pacers.org/schools/gaylesville/enterprise.html
Haas, T., & Nachtigal, P. (1998). Place value: An educator's guide to good literature on rural lifeways, environments, and purposes of education. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. (ED 420 461)
Hill, P. T. (2000). Home schooling and the future of public education. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2), 20-31.
Howley, C., DeYoung, A., & Theobald, P. (1996). Rural blues: How middle schools threaten rural communities. American School Board Journal, 183(4), 42-44.
Howley, A., & Howley, C. (2001). Rural school busing. ERIC Digest. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
Knapp, C. E. (1996). Just beyond the classroom: Community adventures for interdisciplinary learning. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. (ED 388 485)
Lubienski, C. (2000). Whither the common good? A critique of home schooling. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2), 207-32.
Medlin, R. G. (2000). Home schooling and the question of socialization. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2), 107-23.
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PACERS Small Schools Cooperative. (2001). Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from http://www.pacers.org
Ray, B. D. (1997). Home education across the United States. Family characteristics, student achievement, & longitudinal traits. Purcellville, VA: Home School Legal Defense Association. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/ray1997/default.asp
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Whitehead, J. W., & Bird, W. R. (1984). Home education and constitutional liberties: The historical and constitutional arguments in support of home instruction. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
Wigginton, B. E. (1985). Sometimes a shining moment: The Foxfire experience. Twenty years teaching in a high school classroom. New York: Anchor Books.