8 minute read


State Versus Family

The majority of children worldwide, the future citizens and leaders of the nations, are taught, trained, and indoctrinated in state-controlled schools (World Bank Group 2002). The trend over the past 150 years has been for ever-increasing state education of children. In the United States about 88 percent of all citizens are educated in public schools for their primary and secondary school years. Homeschooling is the antithesis to this arrangement. Home-based education moves the locus of control over academic education, skill training, and indoctrination to the parents and the family system, both nuclear and extended.

Many people who consider themselves advocates of children's rights and of the protection of children from the limitations or abuses of their parents argue that children should regularly be under the supervision of and in contact with agents of the state or otherwise qualified professionals. For example, in some nations, professionals (e.g., teachers, school counselors, school nurses) are required to report to the government any suspected physical or sexual abuse of children. Portions of the state school community and the public think of this reporting capability as an integral and increasingly important function of state-run schools (Fantuzzo et al. 1997; Berkan and Kadushin 1993; Klicka 1995; National Education Association 2000; Skillen 1998). As another example, some scholars argue that state institutional schools provide a forum that frees children from the regressive, selfish, or antipublic influences of their parents and gives the population at large a way to evolve into a more benevolent or broad-minded societal state (Apple 2000). In other words, it is argued that one of the chief functions of state schools is to protect children from the behaviors, beliefs, and world-views of their parents (Richman 1994).

Most homeschool parents, on the other hand, think it is better for children to remain under their guidance and supervision and be protected from the state (Klicka 1995; Mayberry et al. 1995). The family, they explain, is the natural and nurturing buffer between the child himself and the state and the wider world. They think that they, rather than the state, should be training their offspring, the future citizens and leaders of the nation. These parents would agree with the political scientist James W. Skillen (1998, p. 3; see also Carlson 1993) that free societies should have a high view of the relationship between parents and their children as opposed to the state's intervention in families' and children's lives (Adams, Stein, and Wheeler 1989; Arons 1983; Klicka 1995; Mayberry et al. 1995). He writes that the public should not misidentify the family as a totalitarian place in which parents may do whatever they want to their children. At the same time, however, it is ". . . true that every public-legal attempt to 'liberate' minor children from parents makes the minors subject to whatever legal, medical or other authority is then authorized to direct or influence their actions."

Homeschool parents and advocates argue that parent-led, family-based education retains parental authority and primary influence over a child's education, protects the child from the state, and increases the familial bond between children and their parents, siblings, and kin groups. In contrast, when the state takes power and authority over education for itself and away from parents in the form of state-run schools, children are not only not liberated from all external authorities but one of the most important nongovernmental institutions of society—the family—is weakened by the ample power of the state (Adams, Stein, and Wheeler 1989; Klicka 1995; Apple 2000). Home-based education is consistent with the concept of the natural and strong family with human beings identified, as Skillen explained, ". . . as persons-in-community and the family as the foremost community for children. . ." (p. 5). Home-school parents are reclaiming for the family at large in society, and for their families in particular, the powerful and influential political, social, philosophical, and generational role they once had by reclaiming the education of children (Farris and Woodruff 2000; Lines 1994; Ray 2000a).

Advocates of institutional schooling, state-controlled in particular, continue to promote these schools as the key opportunity of advancement for disadvantaged persons and families (i.e., lower class, poor, minorities). In fact, the largest teachers' union in America, the National Education Association (2001), believes that state-controlled schooling is the cornerstone of social, economic, and political structure, and homeschooling cannot provide students with a comprehensive education experience. Now, however, an increasing number of scholars (Carlson 1995; Loberfeld 2001; Ray 2000a) and parents (Aizenman 2000; National Black Home Educators Resource Association 2001) are considering the proposition that keeping education under the direct authority and control of parents may better ensure an offering of intellectual, social, political, and spiritual freedom to individual children and youth—regardless of class, minority status, or advantage—who will eventually be the political citizens of any nation. For example, although state (public) schools had been desegregated in the United States since 1954, black (African American) students are still far below their white peers in terms of academic achievement in public (state) schools a half-century later. During the early 2000s, a new wave of parents, internationally (Large 2000), are expecting homeschooling to raise their children's academic achievement, improve their social success, increase their thinking skills, and enhance their potential for personal and national freedom.


Adams, B.; Stein, J.; and Wheeler, H. (1989). Who Owns the Children? Compulsory Education and the Dilemma of Ultimate Authority. Austin, TX: Truth Forum.

Allie-Carson, J. (1990). "Structure and Interaction Patterns of Home School Families." Home School Researcher 6(3):11–18.

Apple, M. W. (2000). "The Cultural Politics of Home Schooling." Peabody Journal of Education 75(1–2):256–271.

Arons, S. (1983). Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co.

Berkan, W. A., and Kadushin, A. (1993). Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention: A Resource and Planning Guide. ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED368990.

Blizek, W. L. (2000). "Ethics and the Educational Community." Studies in Philosophy and Education 19(3):241–51.

Brophy, J. (1996). Enhancing Students' Socialization. ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED395713.

Carlson, A. C. (1993). From Cottage to Work Station: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Carlson, A. (1995). "Preserving the Family for the New Millennium: A Policy Agenda." The Family in America 9(3):1–8.

Carlson, A. (2001). "The Task for Conservatism: Family Lessons from the New Agrarians." The Family in America 15(3):1–6.

Coleman, J. S., and Hoffer, T. (1987). Public and Private High Schools: The Impact of Communities. New York: Basic Books.

Delahooke, M. M. (1986). "Home Educated Children's Social/Emotional Adjustment and Academic Achievement: A Comparative Study." Ph.D. dissertation. Los Angeles: California School of Professional Psychology. (See also Dissertation Abstracts International 47(2):475A.)

Fantuzzo, J. W.; Stevenson, H. C.; Weiss, A. D.; Hampton, V. R.; and Noone, M. J. (1997). "A Partnership-Directed School-Based Intervention for Child Physical Abuse and Neglect: Beyond Mandatory Reporting." School Psychology Review 26(2):298–313.

Farris, M. P., and Woodruff, S. A. (2000). "The Future of Home Schooling." Peabody Journal of Education 75(1-2):233–55.

Good, T. L., and Brophy, J. E. (1987). Looking in Classrooms, 4th edition. New York: Harper and Row.

Klicka, C. J. (1995). The Right to Home School: A Guide to the Law on Parents' Rights in Education. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Large, T. (2000). "Stay-at-Home Kids Shunning the System." The Daily Yomiuri, September 2, p. 7, Tokyo, Japan.

Lines, P. M. (1994). "Homeschooling: Private Choices and Public Obligations." Home School Researcher 10(3):9–26.

Lines, P. M. (2000). "Homeschooling Comes of Age." The Public Interest 140:74–85.

Loberfeld, B. (2001). "Freedom of Education: A Civil Liberty." Ideas on Liberty 51(8):26–32.

Lowe, J., and Thomas, A. (2002). Educating Your Child at Home. London: Continuum.

Lyman, I. (2001). "Motherhood Gets a Face-lift." The New American 17(9).

Mayberry, M.; Knowles, J. G.; Ray, B. D.; and Marlow, S. (1995). Home Schooling: Parents as Educators. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press.

McDowell, O. S. A. (1998). Home Sweet School: The Perceived Impact of Home Schooling on the Family in General and the Mother-Teacher in Particular. Doctoral dissertation, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.

McElroy, W. (2002). "Can a Feminist Homeschool Her Children?" Ideas on Liberty 52(2):8–11.

Medlin, R. G. (2000). "Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization." Peabody Journal of Education 75 (1-2):107–23.

Page, R. E. (1997). Families Growing Together: A Study of the Effects of Home Schooling on the Development of the Family. Master's thesis, Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Pruzan, A. (1998). Toward Tradition on Educational Vouchers/School Choice. Mercer Island, WA: Toward Tradition.

Ray, B. D. (1990). "Social Capital, Value Consistency, and the Achievement Outcomes of Home Education." A paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 16–20, Boston, MA. (Available from the National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, Oregon.)

Ray, B. D. (2000a). "Home Schooling for Individuals' Gain and Society's Common Good." Peabody Journal of Education 75(1-2):272–93.

Ray, B. D. (2000b). "Home Schooling: The Ameliorator of Negative Influences on Learning?" Peabody Journal of Education 75(1-2):71–106.

Ray, B. D. (2002). Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman.

Richman, S. (1994). Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families. Fairfax, VA: The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Sheffer, S. (1995). A Sense of Self: Listening to Home-schooled Adolescent Girls. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Heinemann.

Skillen, J. W. (1998). "Justice and Civil Society." The Civil Society Project 98(2):1–6.

Wartes, J. (1992). Effects of Homeschooling upon the Education of the Parents: Comments from the Field. Woodinville, WA: Washington Homeschool Research Project.

Other Resources

Aizenman, N. C. (2000). "Blacks in Prince George's Join Home-Schooling Trend." The Washington Post, October 19, A01. Available from http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36262-2000Oct18.html.

Lyster-Mensh, L. (2000). "Is Homeschooling Sexist?" Home Education Magazine. Available from http://www.home-ed-magazine.com/HEM/176/ndsexist.html.

"National Black Home Educators Resource Association Offers Services and Information On." (2001). "Who We Are." In the National Black Home Educators Resource Association web site. Baker, Louisiana, USA. Available from http://www.christianity.com/nbhera.

National Education Association. (2000). NEA 2000-2001 resolutions [C-10]: Child abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Available from http://www.nea.org/resolutions/00/00c-10.html.

National Education Association. (2001). NEA 2000-2001 Resolutions. Washington, DC: Author. Available from http://www.nea.org/resolutions/.

Ray, B. D. (1999). Home Schooling on the Threshold: A Survey of Research at the Dawn of the New Millennium. Salem, Oregon, USA. Available from http://www.nheri.org/.

Rudner, L. M. (1999). "Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998." Educational Policy Analysis Archives 7(8). Available from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/.

World Bank Group. (2002). Private and Public Initiatives: Working Together in Health and Education. Available from http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/hnp/health/ppi/p1curren.htm.

World Congress of Families. (2001). Rockford, Illinois. Available from http://www.worldcongress.org/WCF/wcf_purpose.htm.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodHomeschooling - Family Connectedness And Relationships, Effects On Marriage, Edification Of The Natural Family, State Versus Family