Becoming a Home-Educator in a Networked World: Towards the Democratisation of Education Alternatives?


  • Amber Fensham-Smith


The internet is assumed to play a special role for Elective Home Education (EHE) in the UK and has anecdotally fuelled an increase in its prevalence. Yet little is known about the how the internet features in experiences of discovering EHE. This study reports on the ways in which a predominantly middle-class and highly educated faction have appropriated the internet to develop networks and communities to support the informational, social and emotional needs of new families. 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. In the absence of any “official “discourse for them, initiating contact with existing home-educators online socialised prospective families into a normalised “Do It Yourself” education culture. However, access was a complex achievement that predicated the demonstration of allegiances and commitment. The modalities of power mirrored online left some families on the periphery indefinitely, while others used the internet to cultivate self-selecting communities elsewhere. The conclusions paint a paradoxical picture for the illusive promise of the democratisation of education.






Peer Reviewed Articles