Becoming a Home-Educator in a Networked World: Towards the Democratisation of Education Alternatives?
The internet is assumed to play a special role in UK home-education and has apparently fuelled an increase its prevalence. This paper reports the place and purpose of the internet, online networks and offline communities in the decision to home-educate amongst parents in England, Scotland and Wales. The research formed part of a mixed-method doctoral study that included: an online survey of 242 home-educators; 52 individual and group interviews with 85 parents, children and young people and a week-long participant observation with families. The sample included a range of both ‘new’ and ‘experienced’ home-educators. The findings show that online and offline networking helped prospective parents to learn of home-education as a viable and positive alternative to schooled provision. For parents, socialising with existing home-educators was pivotal for cultivating a sense of identity, belonging and commitment to an education without school. At the same time, becoming a legitimate home-educator was a complex achievement; hinged upon social and economic resources and cultural competencies. Evidence of exclusionary practices among home-educators both online and offline, challenges the extent to which home-education is truly more ‘open’ now than it once was. In the decision to home-educate, it is concluded that the democratising potential of the internet points to ‘old wine in new bottles’.
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