19 SES 03 B, Parenting, Diversity and Religion
The relationship between homeschooling and religion/spirituality was suggested in more researches, showing that holding certain religious and spiritual beliefs is among the important motivations to homeschool one’s children (English 2016; Isenberg 2007; Vigilant – Trefethren - Anderson 2013; Bobel 2002; Kostelecká 2010; Vieux 2014). In 1991, Jane Van Galen distinguished roughly pedagogical and ideological motivations to homeschooling in the USA (Van Galen 1991; 1987). Van Galen linked the ideological motivations mostly to fundamentalist Christian families guarding their values and protecting the morale of the children in the controlled environment (Van Galen 1991: 67).
Current American numbers show that about 80% of families in the USA decided for homeschooling for religious reasons and do not hesitate to state this motivation in a survey or politics (Vieux 2014; Bates 1991). Accordingly, homeschooling is viewed as protective surroundings for the families who consider themselves different from the mainstream (Vigilant – Trefethren - Anderson 2013; Lois 2009; Bobel 2002). However, the situation in the Czech Republic seems rather different. This post-communistic country of Central Eastern Europe is known to have very low measures of religiosity, taking in account belief in personal God or involvement in religious rituals (Hamplová – Nešpor 2009). According to the last census in 2011, only 14% of Czechs claimed affiliation to some church or religious organization, 30% of Czechs expressed to have no belief at all and 45% refused to answer the question about faith and religion (Czech Statistical Office, www.czso.cz).
At the same time, sociologists of religion proved a significantly high level of interest in commercialized and individualized forms of religiosity that could be labeled as New Age or alternative spirituality (for definitions see Woodhead - Heelas 2005; Davie 2005). The concept includes such ideas as believing in “Higher Power”, reincarnation or angels, regularly visiting healers and/or fortune-tellers, purchasing literature aimed on personal spiritual development or using healing stones and talismans. To summarize, an indifferent approach towards traditional churches is observed, rather than a strict form of atheism (Vido – Václavík - Paleček 2016). Religion is considered a highly private issue and expressing faith publicly might be viewed as conspicuous by the mainstream society.
Simultaneously, homeschooling is still a marginal practice in the Czech Republic and the state’s approach is ambiguous. Despite some politicians suggesting that homeschooling should be banned as “hatchery of extremism” (Kašparová - Láníková 2016), it is official education option. However, it is not constituted as a parental right of choice, but as a specific option that requires professional approval. In such context, we examine how do the homeschooling families deal with their possible religiosity or spirituality. The ongoing research led us to question: Is the religious motivation to homeschool relevant in the Czech Republic and how do the families negotiate it?
The data for our conference paper come from a qualitative part of the 3-year research project. We conducted semi-structured interviews with homeschooling parents and formerly homeschooled young adults. We also participated in informal meetings homeschooling families organized for themselves and conducted long-term observations of the educational process in different households. We recruited the first families through personal contacts and later enlarged the sample using the snowball technique (Biernacki – Waldrof 1981). The sample of interviewees consisted of a total of fifty families whereby thirty of them actively homeschooled their children at the time of the interviews. The families’ experience with homeschooling ranged from several months to sixteen years per family. The interviews were usually about one hour long and were conducted in public spaces or in the households of the homeschooling families. To analyze the interviews, we have obtained verbatim transcriptions and applied thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006). Our analysis was supported via use of the MAXQDA software which helped to perform the coding process while repeatedly reading the transcripts and field notes, and identifying parts that contain important statements. We coded the parts of the transcripts in which informants emphasized their own beliefs, religious/spiritual practices, and tactics of socialization and transmission of values to their children, as well as motivations for homeschooling and pedagogical concerns. In our conference paper, we closely describe two case studies: rigorous Baptist family educating children inside a religious community and a free-minded nature-loving family following alternative spirituality and living in isolation. We compared their motivations to homeschool, attitudes to bringing up the children, ideas about childhood, educational practices and strategies used to transmit the religious or spiritual worldview. Also, we focused on the ways the religiosity or spirituality was communicated towards the index school and researchers.
In the presentation, we summarize the two case studies documenting the significant difference in lifestyles, beliefs, and pedagogical preferences the followed homeschooling families hold. However, they both share a strong tendency to individualize the educational process but they also prefer to influence their children worldview, beliefs, and morality, out of the standardized school system. However, the knowledge of the family’s religious or spiritual activities was often not revealed to the researcher, or even to the index school where the homeschoolers registered. Uncovering the family’s spiritual or religious affiliation was in some cases gradual or even incidental. Some families would not refer to their spiritual identity unless asked directly in the course of longer cooperation allowing for development of trust towards the researcher. During the long-term observation, religion proved to be an important motivation to start homeschooling but this motivation was only rarely declared explicitly. Hereby, we conclude that the two Czech homeschooling families both are motivated pedagogically and ideologically (compare Van Galen 1991; 1987). These two motivations cannot be easily separated in the Czech milieu but the families find a reason to hide the religious or spiritual motivation. It seems challenging enough to be different as a homeschooling family. Being a religious and homeschooling family at once would only intensify the “otherness” of the family. Therefore, the families in our case study try not to publicly express their religious or spiritual affiliation and prevent communicating it towards the index school and other strangers. We suggest that the tendency to hide the religious or spiritual identity is affected by some skeptical approaches to the homeschooling from state and the specific role of the religion in the post-communistic Czech Republic. The relationship of religiosity and homeschooling in the Czech Republic is shaped by the fact that both are marginal and challenged practices.
Bates, Vernon L. 1991. Lobbying for the Lord: The New Christian Right Home-Schooling Movement and Grassroots Lobbying. Review of Religious Research 33 (1): 3–17. Biernacki, Patrick – Waldorf, Dan. 1981. Snowball Sampling: Problems and Techniques of Chain Referral Sampling. Sociological Research and Methods 10 (2): 141–163. Bobel, Chris. 2002. The Paradox of Natural Mothering. Philadelphia: Temple University. Braun, Virginia – Clarke Victoria. 2006. Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3 (2): 77–101. English, Rebecca. 2016. Aaishah’s choice: Muslims choosing home education for the management of risk. Other education: The journal of Educational Alternatives 5 (1): 55–72. Davie, Grace. 2002. Europe, the Exceptional Case: Parameters of Faith in the Modern World. Darton: Longman and Todd. Hamplová, Dana – Nešpor, Zdeněk R. 2009. Invisible Religion in a “Non-Believing” Country: The Case of the Czech Republic. Social Compass 6 (4): 581–597. Isenberg, Eric. 2007. What Have We Learned About Homeschooling? Peabody Journal of Education 82 (2-3): 387–409. Kašparová, Irena – Láníková, Maria. 2016. Centralizovat nebo rozvolnit? Analýza diskuse o individuálním vzdělávání na půdě poslanecké sněmovny ČR optikou teorie modernity Petera Wagnera. Studia paedagogica 21 (3): 41–61. Kostelecká, Yvona. 2010. Home Education in the Post-communist Countries: Case Study of the Czech Republic. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education 3 (1): 29–44. Lois, Jennifer. 2009. Emotionally Layered Accounts: Homeschoolers’ Justifications for Maternal Deviance. Deviant Behavior 30: 201–234. Van Galen, Jane. 1987. Explaining Home Education: Parents’ Accounts of Their Decisions to Teach Their Own Children. The Urban Review 19 (3): 161–177. Van Galen, Jane. 1991. Ideologues and Pedagogues: Parents Who Teach Their Children at Home. In: Van Galen, Jane – Pitman, Mary Anne (eds.). Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Norwood: Ablex Pub.: 63–76. Váně, Jan – Štípková, Martina. 2013. The National Religious Environment and the Orthodoxy of Christian Beliefs: A Comparison of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Sociologický časopis 49 (3): 375–403. Vieux, Andrea. 2014. The Politics of Homeschools: Religious Conservatives and Regulation Requirements. The Social Science Journal 51: 556–563. Vigilant, Lee Garth – Trefethren, Lauren Wold – Anderson, Tyler C. 2013. “You Can’t Rely on Somebody Else to Teach Them Something They Don’t Believe”: Impressions of Legitimation Crisis and Socialization Control in the Narratives of Christian Homeschooling Fathers. Humanity & Society 37 (3): 201–224. Woodhead, Linda – Heelas, Paul. 2005. The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Up to Spirituality. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
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