Ref: Beck, C. W. (2006): Hjemmeundervisningens motiver, utbredelse og integrasjon i samfunnet – et utdanningspolitisk speil. Norsk pedagogisk tidsskrift no 3 2006 s. 191 – 204:

 

Home education: motives, numbers and social integration: a mirror image of educational politics?

                                                 Christian W. Beck

                                                Institute of Educational Research

                                                University of Oslo, Norway

                                                c.w.beck@ped.uio.no

 

Abstract

 

Home education in Norway and other European countries: is more marginal and less closely linked to rightist-populism than in the USA. Its implementation in the Norwegian provinces of Østlandet and Trøndelag is chiefly dominated by religious factors. Whereas home education in Western and Northern Norway is based more on pragmatism. Home education represents a postmodern, grassroots alternative to the traditional school. Home education provides an innovative and critical approach to pedagogy and is contributing educational politics with new elements.

 

1. Introduction

 

Home education is now being implemented in most modern countries. Some parents are choosing to take responsibility for their children’s education once the children reach the age of compulsory education. This phenomenon is on the upswing. There exists much variation among approaches to home education on both the international and intra-national level.

  

Legislation varies. In some countries, such as Sweden: home education represents an exemption from required school attendance. Other countries have similar systems to that of Norway where home education is obligated primary and lower secondary education as otherwise, in an alternative context to that of the traditional school. Home education is forbidden in Germany, and yet there are approximately 500 home education families there, Spiegler (2004b). In the USA there are over 1 million home-educated children.

   

There is documentation indicating that home-educated pupils achieve good exam and test results, Bauman (2002). As of late the situation has become more nuanced. Home-educated pupils who receive satisfactory home education appear to score at least equally as well as school-educated pupils. However, there are home-educated pupils about whom the authorities have limited information, Opplinger and Willard (2004). Most of the registered  home-educated pupils who have been observed by researchers seem to be adequately socialized into society, Langlo (2004) and Medin (2000). Still there is concern in several countries for some of the more isolated home education families and their children.

    

In most countries other than the USA home education is quantitatively a marginal phenomenon. Its practice has had a certain bearing on the politics of education and school-related debates in numerous countries.

   

Variations pertaining to the degree of prevalence, legislation as well as historical factors and political and cultural influences all contribute in creating local variants of home education in different geographical areas. As a result of these variations, the pertaining societies are also affected in differing manners by home education. Such differences are the topic of this article.

   

In this article, grounded in empirical studies, the aim is to clarify the numbers of home educated children in Norway, motives for home education and problems of social integration related to home education. Such aspects give political arguments in favour of home education and against home education. Home education can be seen as a mirror image for educational politics.

   

The article is based upon analysis of data from two studies about home education in Norway. As the number of home educators is somewhat low in Norway and this is a delicate topic, it must be emphasized that this research provides an indication about tendencies and average values. It does not make reference to specific individuals and their families.

   

In the first of the two studies during the 2001-02 school year, the number of home educated pupils in Norway was estimated to 386, Beck (2003a). A survey was conducted the same year among home educators across the country. A  questionnaire was sent out to as many home educators as possible. 128 responses were received. Results for the entire country are presented, Beck (2003b) and Beck (2004).

   

As in other countries, the modern variant of home education in Norway has experienced a high rate of growth. In 1996 there were approximately 40 home educated pupils, OTH (2004). This number has thus increased tenfold over the course of eight years. Are there distinct characteristics among the various regions of the country? I will make observations about:

 

 Østlandet (Southeastern Norway:). In this instance, inner Østlandet, represented by the counties of Østfold, Hedemark, Buskerud and Vestfold. Central Østlandet the  capital Oslo and the sourronding areas (Akershus), are not included here. The data pertaining obtained from Central Østlandet is both the statistical survey and the questionnaire-based survey somewhat poor. Home education in these areas is linked to immigrants and families who frequently travel abroad. In Oslo in 2002, 230 children were found to be not registered at any school, Oslospeilet, (2002).

 

Sørlandet (Southern Norway). The counties of Telemark, Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder.

Vestlandet (Western Norway). This includes the counties of Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal. None of the home-educated pupils who were involved in the questionnaire survey were from the county of Rogaland:

Trøndelag (Central Norway). Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag counties.

 

Nord Norge (Northern Norway:) Nordland, Troms and Finnmark counties.

 

 The regions in which home education is most prevalent are Northern and Southern Norway. On a per capita basis, these regions feature three times the number of home educators as Eastern Norway, twice as many as Central Norway: (Trøndelag) and almost five times as many as Western Norway (Vestlandet).

   

As part of the questionnaire survey, a factor analysis of home educators has been done for the entire country, Beck (2003b). The most distinct and largest group of home educators consists of “Christian, more ordinary rural dwellers”. However, the “reflected members of the middle-class” and the “(pragmatics” are also numerous and clearly definable groups.

   

In Eastern and Southern Norway, Christian, ordinary rural dwellers and reflected members of the middle-class are most dominant groups. In Western Norway, we mostly observe pragmatic home educators, often in the form of reflected members of the middle-class. In Central Norway, the majority of home educators are Christian, ordinary rural dwellers while home education in Northern Norway is dominated by pragmatic factors.

 

 

2. Motives for home education

 

Parents are motivated by various factors to provide their children with home education. The same motives are observed in different countries. When Norway is considered as a whole, there is a fairly even distribution of motivating influences: religion/lifestyle, ideology/philosophy, pedagogical reasons, conflicts related to school district issues, other conflicts with the traditional school system, and a preference to not send one’s six year-old to school. Among other motivating factors is a prohibitively long distance to the nearest school, etc. Over half of the surveyed families specify at least two key factors, Beck (2004).

   

Families who have engaged in home education for a relatively short period often specify circumstance-related factors such as bullying or conflicts with the school. Families with longer experience with home education tend to specify matters of principle as their main motivation. Circumstance-related home education appears to either be abandoned completely or gradually become more based on principles over the course of time.

  

The American sociologist, Mitchell Stevens, Stevens (2001) distinguishes between heaven-based and earth-based motives for engaging in home education. Heaven-based motives are more related to the family’s specific set of principles, religion and lifestyle whereas earth-based motives tend to be more circumstance-related and encompass specific pedagogical motives.

    :

Thomas Spiegler (2004a and b), proposes that the rate of growth pertaining to home education in Germany is greatest among families with heaven-based motives. These families are more likely to come into a conflict with the schools due to their religious beliefs and lifestyles, and therefore stand to enjoy greater benefits than the earth-based by removing their children from school and providing them with home education. Factors such as these are often present in addition to other earth-based motives.

   

There are certain social costs families must potentially pay when choosing in home education. They risk coming into conflicts with their local communities, schools and public authorities. Home educators are more or less considered as being outsiders. They are often stigmatized. The heaven-based home educators are generally more able to minimize the effects of these social costs than the earth-based families through their faiths and because of their connection to social networks consisting of other people who share their beliefs and value system.

   

Is it correct to conclude that the general rate of growth in home education, which we observe across the entire modern world is greatest among the heaven-based families? In the USA, where contemporary home education has been actively practiced since the end of the 1960s, there are signs that the dominant role of the white, conservative, Christian middle-class is diminishing, Bauman (2002). It would seem that the motives for implementing home education in the USA:are beginning to represent a broader spectrum of values and political beliefs, Welner and Welner (1999), Mayberry (1988) and Van Galen (1988). In Canada, 72 % of home educators report their motives for doing so as being chiefly related to pedagogical factors, Priesnitz (2003).

    :

The distinction between earth-based and heaven-based home educators is also valid in Norway. However, the line of demarcation between the two categories is somewhat diffuse. Both earth-based and heaven-based groups can claim to have principle-related motives of an ideological and philosophical nature. Earth-based motives can develop into heaven-based motives. It is perhaps also possible for heaven-based motives to transform in the direction of earth-based motives, such as may be currently observed in Norwegian schools where Krl (i.e. a subject involving the study of various religions) has become more of a secular forum for discussion of religion, identity and culture and to a lesser degree education about Christianity.   

 

 

Table 1(1)    Regional differences relating to motives for providing home education to a pupil.

 

District / Motive

Religion and lifestyle motives

(%)(2)   (N)(3)

Pedagogical

motives

 

 

(%)(2)  (N)(3)

Closing of local school/establishing of private school motives

(%)(2)      (N)(3)

Number of motives given (mean)

Eastern Norway:

43         (12)

35          (9)

0              (0)

2.09

Southern Norway:

30         (6)

50          (10)

30            (6)

1,81

Western Norway:

20         (8)        

38          (18)

40            (18)

1,39

Central Norway:

83         (10)

33          (4)

18            (2)

2,15

Northern Norway(4)

0           (0)

11          (2)

0              (0)

1,26

(1) Data from a national survey on home education in Norway:

(2) % = The percent of home educated pupils in the district with this specific motive.

(3) N = The  number of home educated pupils in the district with this specific motive

(4) In Northern Norway:other motives then those in the table are most common. (More practical motives).

 

In Table 1, we notice that home educators in Eastern Norway: have principle-related motives for providing home education, evenly divided among religion/lifestyle motives and pedagogical motives. An orientation based on various principles is emphasized by the fact that home educators in Eastern Norway: specify several motives for home educating.

  

Although there is generally a stronger presence of Christian groups in Southern Norway: than is the case in Eastern Norway, fewer home educators in Southern Norway: specify religion/lifestyle among their motives for home educating. The majority specify pedagogical and circumstance-related motives. This particularly applies to conflicts related to the closing of local schools and the establishing of private schools. The density of private elementary schools is greater in Southern Norway than in Eastern Norway: Home education must be considered in light of this fact. There are larger groups in Southern Norway who are recruiting families to select an alternative to the public elementary schools. Such alternatives are generally more accepted in Southern Norway than in Eastern Norway:

  

Some home educators have had some affiliation to Christian school groups. It is worth noting that recruitment from private school groups over to home education has increased in recent years – both in Eastern and Southern Norway. Home educators in Southern Norway: specify several motives, as do those in Eastern Norway. This is an indication that they are also making their choice based on thorough reflections. 

  

Home education in Western Norway distinguishes itself from that of both Southern and Eastern Norway. As is the case in Southern Norway, pedagogical and circumstance-related motives tend to dominate. However, circumstance-related motives dominate to a greater degree here than in Southern Norway: In Western Norway this often involves families who elect to home educate their children more or less collectively following the closing of their local school, Beck (2001). They provide their children with home education until such time as their local school is re-opened, either as a public school or as a private school. In Western Norway this single motive is often the only one behind choosing home education.

    

In spite of the strong presence of Christian groups in Western Norway, this would appear to be resulting in families choosing home education to a lesser degree than in Eastern Norway:. This pertains to both Western and Southern Norway. The reason for this situation may be that the orientation for the parents’ religious/lifestyle views in these two regions tends to have more influence on policies in both public and private schools than is the case in Eastern Norway:

   

In Central Norway, religion and lifestyle are dominant motives for home education. This can sometimes involve a combination with other motives.

  

Home education in Northern Norway:p distinguishes itself from home education in the rest of the country. There are more home educators who choose this solution to avoid sending their six year-olds to school. Home educators in Northern Norway: more frequently specify practical reasons such as distance to the nearest school as a key factor. They also distinguish themselves from the rest of the country, in the company of Western Norway, by seldom specifying more than one (if any) motive for practicing home education.

   

Although some of the home educators in Northern Norway: are affiliated with Christian groups, this would not appear to be sufficient motivation for choosing home education. This is a characteristic shared by home educators in Southern, Western and Northern Norway, in direct contrast to Eastern and Central Norway:

   

Home education in Norway has its roots in traditional subcultures to a certain degree. Such connections are more generally based in affiliations with rural, Christian groups than any specifically observable differences between the various regions.

                          

 

3. Home educated pupils: integration into society

 

The question has been debated as to whether home education not only removes pupils from the school environment but isolates them from the wider society. There is widespread doubt as to whether home educators are sufficiently socialized into society. Apple (2000) proposes that home educators in the USA isolate themselves in their own clans, which in turn weakens school-related and societal communities on local and national level.. Considering the relatively low number of home educators in Norway as compared with the USA, one must point out that the problem of isolation is more relevant here than that of a potential weakening of school-related and/or societal communities.. It is possible, based on the data from these two surveys, to make any observations about the integration of Norwegian home educators into society.

   

The Norwegian socio-anthropologist Fredrik Barth defines cultural integration as the phenomenon by which a system is constructed in which people display determination and agreement with one another, Barth (1971). One might well pose the question as to whether home educators, through their withdraw from schools, and the authorities, through their negative attitude towards the home educators, make home education a disintegrating factor for society? On the other hand, home education can function as a form of social differentiation, which is important for innovation and diversity among the common knowledge base of a society. Home educators are themselves capable of establishing new social networks.

   

Asle Høgmo points out that integration is of both normative and analytical significance, Høgmo (1990). It is of analytical interest to determine how groups are integrated into a social and cultural network. In normative terms, integration consists of the vital strategies through which individuals or groups are incorporated into such networks. The opposite of integration can be either segregation or exclusion.

  

It is possible to divide the matter of social integration into two main areas. Firstly, one might focus on the more culture-related value aspects. However, in addition to such value aspects, integration also include elements that are of interest in more instrumental terms, as Anton Hoëm points out, Hoëm (1978).

   

Hoëm distinguishes between subordinate and superior units in the socialization process. These can be represented by the home and the school. A successful socialization and integration requires there to be sufficient co-operation in values and interests between the subordinate and superior social units. If there is a small degree of value and interest fellowship shared by the home and school, the result will be greater socio-cultural distance between these units, according to Hoëm.

   

When one attempts to evaluate the integration of home-educated pupils into society, it is necessary to consider integration in multiple contexts including the school, local/regional society as well as the wider society, where these all represent superior social units. It is perhaps more important to consider the effects upon the wider society rather than upon the local school.

  

 Although the majority of pupils receive their education in the schools, the determining factor is still the integration of education as a whole into the wider society. In a global age, it is striking how local, national and global values and interests evolve in the same universalizing direction, U. Beck (2001).

     

Home educators are observably more or less in a conflict of interests with the schools. However, it does not automatically follow that they must therefore be in conflict – in terms of values or interests – with the wider society. Marianne Gullestad emphasizes that self-sufficiency and focus on the home are main Norwegian values, Gullestad (1985). These same values comprise the fundamental value set for home educators, Beck (2003b).

     

Home educators often – if not always – have the same views on the acquisition of knowledge as is otherwise observed in wider society. Their chief concern is that the children learn the necessary basic skills. They are often especially interested in general academic skills and an academic career.

   

The conflicts encountered by home educators are first and foremost conflicts of interest with the schools concerning the matter of who will educate the children. The schools will educate them at the established facilities and parents wish to educate them at home. This situation may arise when there is a conflict of values between the home and school. This is only the case sometimes. If the school considers school attendance in and of itself – beyond the academic aspect – to be of essential value, a conflict originally arising due to differing interests between the school and home concerning who has the right to provide an education, can evolve into a more principle-based conflict of values between the two parties.

  

 The considerable socio-cultural distance between secular and post-modern values in the schools relative to a conservative, Christian value base of a given family can at times create a larger conflict than would appear to be necessary. A conflict concerning a dance at a school in Central Norway (Trøndelag), ended up as a principle-based case about home education in the Supreme Court, Straume (2004).

   

One of the main concerns about home-educated children, is the possibility that the child is being isolated in a deviant and perhaps religiously fundamentalist home environment. In the worst-case scenario, there may be suspicion that the isolation is concealing an instance of basic child abuse. There exists minimal research or documentation, which could provide clarity about such suspicions. Here in Norway, it may be possible to find some basis for these concerns in some instances, however, the majority of home educators appear to be extremely concerned with their children’s welfare. It is therefore they choose home education. A law requiring municipal supervision of home education serves to minimize the likelihood of detrimental situations being allowed to arise.

   

So, is it possible to identify regional variations among the existing data for Norway concerning the integration of home-educated pupils and their families into society?

       

 

Table 2   Number of home educated pupils in Norway based on various regions. A comparison of the statistical survey and the questionnaire-based survey.

 

Districts

Number of responses to questionnaire, as a percent of the number of home educated pupils counted (1) : (N)         %

 

Eastern Norway:

(29)       40, 3

 

Southern Norway:

(20)       18,2

 

Western Norway:

(48)      114,3 (2)

 

Central Norway:

(12)       21,6

 

Northern Norway:

(18)       17.0

 

(1)  The number of counted home educated pupils for each region is calculated taking the number of pupils actually counted in the pertinent counties of a region, divided by the number of pupils actually counted in the nationwide group who participated in the statistical survey (91) multiplied by the best estimate for the number of home educated pupils for the entire country (386).

 (2)  The figure is over 100 % here because home educated pupils connected to a local school conflict prior to survey year 2001-02 have been included.

 

A home-educated pupil who is included in the statistical survey, and whose parents have responded to the questionnaire-based survey is considered to be more visible and more accessible to local society and then more integrated in society, than a pupil about whom no questionnaire was submitted. Visible and accessible pupils are more easily observed/supervised by the authorities (Table 2).

 

Home educators different social integration in different Norwegian regions will then be discussed related to value-orientation in the region, home educators social class background and to degree of community among home educators (table 3).

 

Table 3  Political orientation(1), social backgrounds and degree of regular contact betweenHE-families (from the national Survey).

 

District

I-Political orientation. A+Sv (left-side political parties) representation in regional Parliament (%) (1)

II-Mothers having no more than partially or fully completed secondary school ( %)

 

III-Have regular contact with other home educators (%)

Eastern Norway:

43

44

 

65

Southern Norway:

39

7

 

45

Western Norway:

32

0

 

36

Central Norway:

49

50

 

42

Northern Norway:

49

11

 

29

(1) Statistics obtained from SSB`s overview for Parliamentary elections in 2003.

I) Political orientatiion the region - a measure of the value-orientation in the region.

II) Mothers education - a measure of social class.

III) Degree of regular contact with other home educators - a measure of  of community in home education.

 

Western Norway: stands out as being the Norwegian region in which the majority of home educators are visible and accessible to local society. Western Norway is currently dominated by a rightist/centrist political orientation. Christian groups in this region are both numerous and powerful. Home educators in this area have a high level of education. This would tend to result in there being a high degree of common interests and values among the region’s inhabitants as a whole and the home educators. In many ways, home education in Western Norway can be said to serve as a reaffirmation of local values and a revitalization of traditional, national, sub-cultural values in this region (table 3)..

    

In Eastern Norway, there are many home educators who are not visible or accessible to local society or to the local authorities. This region features a political environment, which is more leftist-oriented in which Christian groups are not as influential as their counterparts in Western Norway. Many of the home educators here chose to become so due to their Christian faith or because of lifestyle-related reasons. This is the region in which home educators maintain the closest contact with one another. Many of the region’s parents have a low level of formal education. A new sub-culture can be seen taking form in which home education is the driving force. The degree of values disparity relative to the region’s norm is considerable although this does not seem to affect the likelihood of conflict with local school authorities.  

   

In Southern Norway, political disparity between home educators and the region as a whole is minimal and this applies to general views on life, as in Western Norway. Nonetheless, home educators are not very visible or accessible to local society. The Southern region display less signs of a sub-culture based on a family’s involvement in home education than  Eastern Norway.. Parents engaged in home education in this area generally have a high level of formal education. There appears to be a number of families in Southern Norway who are conducting home education on their own, while still being involved in other social networks and without this situation necessarily leading to value conflicts with the wider society.

   

Central Norway: is quite similar to the inner areas of Eastern Norway. There is much variation in terms of values held by the numerous home educators with religion/views on life being key factors in a region where leftist political parties have much influence on public policy. The formal level of education among home-educator parents in this region is low on average. They have some contact with other home educators, but to a lesser degree than in Eastern Norway. Home educators in Central Norway are also much less visible or accessible to public authorities than those in Eastern Norway:. One possible explanation for this might be that Central Norway is a region, which is vulnerable to conflicts concerning home education. It is perhaps not mere coincidence that two of the three court cases tried in Norway during the 1990s were held in Central Norway (Trøndelag). 

   

In Northern Norway, it is difficult to identify any specific value conflicts between home educators and wider society in the region, in spite of the fact that this is the region with the greatest number of home educators who are not “visible” to wider society. Home educators in Northern Norway have the least amount of contact with other home educators. Parents in these families have a relatively high level of education. As is the case in Western Norway, home educators in Northern Norway appear to share the values, which are typical for this region. Home educations occurs more on an ad hoc basis. Similar to the region’s other inhabitants – such as the indigenous Sámi people – home educators residing here are accustomed to finding self-sufficient solutions, far away from the local authorities. The low population density and the nature conditions can explain such solutions. Views on giving their children home education are in no way an exception to this situation. Home education in North Norway has it historical roots back to 1800 century, Tveit (2004).

      

 

4. Home education and politics of education

 

In modern societies, there exists a certain tension between parental rights and the role of the wider society relating to the responsibility for a child’s education. In Norway, there is documentation about how the new approaches to education implemented during the 1990s inspired new debate concerning the matter of parental rights and education. A lawsuit concerning home education had an impact on the role of parental rights in the new law on education, Straume, (2004). Home education contributes to the debate on educational politics in the form of new ideas and perspectives. Home education give a new basis on which to evaluate educational thinking  which can be formulated on three main levels:

   

Level 1. This is a pedagogical and philosophical basis for evaluation. The concepts of unschooling and natural learning are used by a number of home educators as a way of expressing the specific pedagogical and educational aims of home education, Fredriksen (2000). These ideas have parallels within the school-based concepts of pupil-centered learning and reform pedagogy, Østerud (2004). Home education puts more emphasis on the pupil’s learning than instruction per se, and stress is put on the importance of an education, which is based on practical activities and work.

   

Level 2. This is home education as criticism of the institution. A family breaks ties with the school as an institution. Parents take responsibility for their child’s education. Some families make connections with other home educators and various other groups and individuals. Home education thus serves as the focal point of these new networks and their structures. Here one can observe clear ties to deschooling tendencies of the 1970s, Illich (1872) and Christie (1971), but also to the contemporary concept of situated learning, Lave og Wenger, (1999).  

    

The connection between situated learning, informal learning and home education are dealt with by A. Thomas, Thomas (2002) and by Barson, Barson (2004). A mutual principle here is the view that learning and education are socializing processes for participation in society, and that these supersede and transgress school attendance. Such processes must occur where social activity is actually taking place. Therefore, education must often break loose from the constraints of a closed educational institution and be free to move about in the wider society.

 

Level 3. This involves educational politics on a general level. Home education provides a critique of our contemporary educational politics in which there is an increasing focus on schools and governmental control. In its most extreme form, this is formulated as resistance to the statism of our time, Gabb (2004). Here one is protesting against government intervention and state-sponsored socialization strategies. Such critique is especially aimed at the public schools as these represent the key institution behind statism. Public schools are viewed as a threat to individuality, parental rights, the family and to quality in education.

   

These three levels are representative of dissimilar and sometimes contradictory aspects of the critique of educational politics, which are at the core of home education.

   

On the other hand, there also exists a socio-educational basis for critique of the practice of home education. This critique is most clearly articulated in the USA where home education is most widely practiced. In general terms, the criticism consists of the view of home education as a threat to social unity, both in the context of the schools and in the wider society as a whole, Lubienski (2000) and Apple (2000).

   

Lubienski views education as a zero-sum game. If resources are dedicated to home education, there are negative consequences in the public schools in terms of material and human resources.

   

Apple brings this critique up to an socio-ideological level. He sees home educators as playing key roles in populist, neo-liberal and neo-conservative movements, which now have considerable influence in the USA. He points out that these groups consider themselves as being stateless because of the secular humanism, which is now so prevalent in public schools. They are involved in a serious conflict of values due to the prevailing educational ideology of the public schools.

  

 Apple views the home educators as an important component within rightist political base with emphasis on individualism, fundamentalism and freedom. He considers theses as cultural necessities for globalized capitalism. Apple places the government and public schools on the opposite side of this scenario as the protectors of equality and community.

   

There is an interesting difference between Apple’s critique of home education in the USA and the prevailing education-based, political critique of home education in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia. Alfred Telhaug and Apple both view populist, neo-conservative and neo-liberal tendencies as fundamental for the current educational policies. Whereas Apple is critical of home educators because of their anti-government views on education, Telhaug views these same fundamental ideas as the basis for a pervasive government-implemented educational policy, Telhaug (2004). This viewpoint is further expounded by Hovdenak. She points out how the neo-conservative ideology is manifested through heavy governmental controls in the form of core curriculums and centrally formulated content. Whereas neo-liberal ideology serves more as education’s anchor to a market-oriented, economic policy, Hovdenak (2003).

    

The difference between Telhaug’s and Hovdenak’s analysis on the one hand and Apple’s on the other, are representative of basic differences in educational practices in the public schools and educational policy in Norway (Scandinavia) and the USA. In the USA, there is a clearer distinction between the government’s policy for public education and independent, individual educational interests. Over the course of time, home education in the US has mostly become a movement involving white, Christian members of the middle-class. Although recent developments have modified the situation somewhat, this still holds true in general terms. American home-educating parents are situated above the average in terms of income and level of education when compared with their contemporaries in the rest of the population, Bauman (2002). In Norway, home educators are situated below the average in terms of both income and education relative to the rest of the population, Beck (2004).

  

 

5. Conclusions

 

Home educators in most countries generally represent a form of protest against public schools as an institution, against pedagogical methods, against the degradation of family values, and they are fighting for individual and local freedom. This emphasizes the populist aspects of home education. Populist being understood as a movement with its origins among the common folk and ultimately forming a sub-culture in the modern sense of the term, which in both Norway and in the USA can be traced back to more traditional sub-cultures and their evolution from movements in rural areas.

   

Home education in the USA currently appears to have adopted a more clearly anti-government / pro-market leaning and is neo-conservative in terms of its ideological orientation, Apple (2ooo, p. 216-217). Although the general situation is not quite so unambiguous.

   

The situation in Norway is different. Firstly, home education here compared with the USA is a small-scale phenomenon, which is still in its start phase. Additionally, the political situation as concerns education in Norway: is quite different. Here criticism of educational policy is almost by necessity a critique of both government and market since these chief institutions are so closely intertwined in forming the educational policies, and in a way that is unlike the situation in the USA.

   

Home education in Norway and also in other European countries like England and Sweden, appear to have different social and political characteristics than in the USA. This is not only expressed through recruitment to home education from another social class. In Norway, we also observe ideological differences, such as a reference by home educators to the leftist, educational ideologists from the 1970s Paulo Freire (1971) in a project in local history, Beck (2000, p 38).

   

Norwegian home education clearly has a firm foundation both in religious motives and in local-society based, political ideology from the 1970s. In concrete terms, this type of communitarian, ideological origins are visible when some local communities implement home education in an effort to keep local schools that have been closed. One observes similar indicators, in another form, in terms of the tight, internal integration we find in new home education sub-cultures.

 

Modern education in a globalized world is being forced towards a greater degree of formal institutionalization. This pressure is being given upon the schools by both the market and the government. One resulting problem appears to be that education has a shortage of individual freedom and a firm foundation among the people. One might say that converting this to a surplus, is the political ideal of home education.

 :

When modern home education came to Norway: 1991-94 it gave conflicts and debates. Home education have given impulses to arguments for personalized education and populistic perspectives in education. In Canada there is a development in direction of home education as a more normalized form of education and home education has effect on a more personalized education in school, Davies and Aurini (2003). May be we now will see such a trend in Norway?

 :

                                   

 References:

 

APPLE, M. W. (2000): The Cultural Politics of Home Schooling. Peabody Journal of Educational research. Volume 75, numbers 1 & 2, 2000. s. 256-271.

 

BARSON, L. (2004): Communities of practice and Home education (HE) Support Groups.

A paper for the BERA conference in Manchester, 15 – 18 September 2004.

 

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