Exploring Identity Change and Communities of Practice among Long Term Home Educating Parents

Safran, Leslie (2008). Exploring Identity Change and Communities of Practice among Long Term Home Educating Parents. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000eb09


Home education, defined in this study as the full-time education of children in and around the home by their committed parents or guardians, is a growing educational option in both the US and the UK. It is a tremendous challenge for parents because it is a constantly lived intellectual and emotionally absorbing experience concerning the future of their children. Most research into home education focuses on children: this project explores it from the perspective of parents. Data was collected through fifty preliminary questionnaires and thirty-four in-depth interviews. Surprisingly, financial concerns, career curtailment and 'time for one's self' did not emerge as significant. However, parents had an enormous task to face, to think about styles and approaches to education. Being in a small minority group, moreover one that challenged established educational practice, also left parents feeling marginalised. The research describes how parents adapt to their new role and how this changes them as individuals. A theoretical framework which deals with changes both with regard to learning and identity is Wenger's (1998) Community of Practice which analyses learning through practice in a social setting and connects these practices to identity formation. The community of practice is defined according to its joint enterprise (common goal), mutual engagement (meeting up with others to pursue the common goal) and shared repertoire (memories, stories and jokes of the community). The theory was modified in order to apply it not only to the paradigmatic neighbourhood home education groups but also to virtual home education networks and even to the exceptional cases where parents relate through the home education constellation alone. It is further proposed that, without realising it, the experience of home educating is interwoven with broader self-development; parents do not only educate their children but themselves as well, including becoming more politically aware. They become different people, not only with regard to a radical change in their educational views but also experiencing a profound change of identity.

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