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The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice


The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice

In Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice, James G. Dwyer and Shawn F. Peters examine homeschooling’s history, its methods, and the fundamental questions at the root of the heated debate over whether and how the state should oversee and regulate it. The authors trace the evolution of homeschooling and the law relating to it from before America’s founding to the present day. In the process they analyze the many arguments made for and against it, and set them in the context of larger questions about school and education. They then tackle the question of regulation, and they do so within a rigorous moral framework, one that is constructed from a clear-eyed assessment of what rights and duties children, parents, and the state each possess. Viewing the question through that lens allows Dwyer and Peters to even-handedly evaluate the competing arguments and ultimately generate policy prescriptions. Homeschooling is the definitive study of a vexed question, one that ultimately affects all citizens, regardless of their educational background.


"This is an essential read for anyone working in or conducting research on education policy."


"Breaks new ground . . . . Excellent on the legal history of homeschooling." 

International Center for Home Education Research

"In compelling, readable prose, Dwyer and Peters trace the political, legal, and religious history of the U.S. homeschooling movement to offer a comprehensive understanding of its roots. They then take a philosophical deep-dive into the legitimacy of contemporary homeschooling, considering the rights and responsibilities of its major stakeholders: children, parents, and the state. The result is a carefully balanced analysis that is essential reading for those interested in homeschooling policy."

Jennifer Lois, author of Home Is Where the School Is

"Beautifully done. Dwyer and Peters interweave historical, legal, and normative precedent to consider home education in all of its distinctively American complexity. But their book is also eminently readable, its tone measured and generous even in portrayals of beliefs and behaviors the authors disavow. Highly recommended for anyone who wants or needs to understand homeschooling today."

Mitchell Stevens, Stanford University

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Early Homeschooling

Chapter Two: The Birth of Modern Homeschooling

Chapter Three: Homeschooling Comes into Its Own

Chapter Four: Common Themes and Disparate Concerns
I. Ruling Out Extreme Views
II. From Practice to Policy

Chapter Five: The State’s Role and Individuals’ Rights
I. Dispelling the Illusion of State Nonintervention
II. Beginning Right
A. Where to Find General Principles Relevant to Children’s Schooling?
B. Foundational Assumptions

Chapter Six: Getting Facts Straight
I. Schooling and Basic Human Goods
A. Cognitive/Intellectual Development
B. Knowledge and Beliefs
C. Social Interaction
D. Identity Formation
E. Family Relationships
F. Physical, Psychological, and Emotional Security
G. Equality
II. Exceptional Children

Chapter Seven: The Regulation Question
I. Where to Begin?
II. Interests That Could Justify Forcing Children to Leave Home
III. Is Regular School Attendance Necessary to Protect Those Interests of Children?
A. Prohibition or Permission?
B. On What Conditions?
C. Remediation

Conclusion: Past, Present, and Future in the Real World



Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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