BOOK REVIEW: Rothermel, P. (Ed)(2015) International Perspectives on Home Education.

Wendy Charles-Warner from the Centre for Personalised Education has reviewed the latest offering from Paula Rothermel on Home Education. It is a impressive (and currently very expensive resource) but if you’re hovering on whether to purchase perhaps Wendy’s review will help you make your mind.

International Perspectives on Home Education
By Paula Rothermel

Rothermel, P. (Ed)(2015) International Perspectives on Home Education. Available from: Palgrave Macmillan.

When you pick up a work on home education with Paula Rothermel’s name on it you expect excellence, attention to detail and a very interesting read. International Perspectives on Home Education does not disappoint.

The work consists of a collection of short articles by respected researchers in the field of education, specifically home education. These are grouped into sections that make it easy to dip into if your interest is specific.

Part 1: The learning process has contributions from Leslie Safran Barson founder of ‘The Otherwise Club’, who focusses on the experience of home educating parents; Glenda Jackson the director of ‘Australian Home Education Advisory Service, who examines links between Vygotskian learning theory and home education; Noraisha Yusof, who was home educated, examines mathematics learning; Andrew McAvoy, an education professional, looks at the impact of technology on home educators’ learning and Alan Thomas, visiting fellow at the Institute of Education University of London, with Harriet Pattison, research associate at the University of London Institute of Education, provide an insightful and compelling argument for informal methods of acquisition of reading skills. This section sets the tone for the work, drawing in the academic reader as much as the interested enquirer, to look further,

Part 11: Tensions and criticisms examines perceptions that those of us work in the field recognise well. Christian Beck, associate professor at the Educational Research Institute, University of Oslo, examines social integration of home educated children in Norway; Samantha Eddis, of Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy, urges understanding between home educators and Authorities of each other’s community focus; Nicky Hardenbergh, author of ‘Homeschooling in Full View’, argues that ‘high stake’ testing is not suitable for home educated children and Christopher Lubienski, Professor of Education Policy at the University of Illinois, with T. Jameson Brewer, a PhD student at the University, challenges home education as having unaddressed problems and being anti institution. This section certainly challenges the reader to consider these tensions and adds to the overall feel of completeness of the work.

Part 111: Political conflict, is perhaps the most controversial subject to tackle and Paula Rothermel does not shirk in tackling it. Thomas Spiegler, Researcher in Sociology of Education, presents a thorough and useful overview of the sensitive subject home education in Germany; Daniel Monk, Reader in Law at Birkbeck, University of London, discusses human rights aspects of home education; Joke Sperling, Professor of Education Law at the Juridische Hogeschool Avans-ontys in Tilburg, argues eloquently and convincingly that parents should not be prevented from home educating their children if they are in fact providing an education to those children, and Paula Rothermel’s article on what can and does go wrong, where Local Authority staff and other Professionals involved with home educating families, misunderstand the very nature of home education, cannot fail to effect the reader. This sometimes shocking piece opens eyes to the plight of these families and the sometimes destructive involvement of those professionals in a forthright and informative way.

Part IV: In lifestyle and choice, sees Ari Neuman, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education at the Western Galilee College in Israel and Aharon Aviram, Chair of the Center for Futurism in Education at Ben-Gurion University, demonstrate home education to be a rational choice in view of the ‘disparity between what is available and what is desirable, in education’, and do it well. This is followed by Erwin Fabián García López, from the Education Research Institute Universidad Nacional de Colombia, examining family dynamics in home education in Colombia.

Part V: Models: War, Poverty and Necessity could equally sit well in a piece on gender studies, as it highlights the challenges faced by women and girls in war worn Afghanistan. Ulrike Hanemann, Senior Programme Specialist and Manager of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, portrays home based education as essential for ensuring access to females, rather than a choice of the few. This article does not make comfortable reading, but it does make a necessary contribution to our understanding of home education in extreme circumstances. Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, shows us the future of education in a self-directed world, updating our knowledge of the ‘hole in the wall’ experiment as doing so; Cheryl Fields-Smith, Associate Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Georgia in Athens, examines the rise of home educating black families, in which collaboration leads to black children succeeding where their peers fail in schools, and Michael Apple, Jon Bascom Professor of Curriculm and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, looks at ‘Godly’ education. Perhaps an approach that sits less comfortably with UK readers than it does with readers in the USA.

Part V1: Cultural and Intercultural relations, brings the work to a slightly disappointing finale with Madelen Goiria, Lecturer in Civil Law at the University of the Basque Country examining her ‘carnival of blogs’. This article felt less relevant to the UK reader than the work does in general. and Carlo Ricci, Professor at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University, takes a personal look at intercultural relationships and home education which fails to pull the last section up to the high standard of the majority of the articles.

Overall, Paula Rothermel presents a collection of pertinent, valuable and thought provoking articles in an accessible way. Her work has already proven valuable in expert witness testimony and is certain to find its way on to the shelves of home education specialists.

Wendy Charles-Warner, Centre for Personalised Education

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