A qualitative collective case study examining the decision-making factors and theory behind the steady growth of homeschooling in America.

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Despite homeschooling experiencing steady growth in recent decades, research is lacking to explain or theorize the complex interconnected network of factors and experiences behind parents choosing homeschooling in lieu of public or private school. According to the last twenty years of government surveys, the top reasons for homeschooling remain unchanged: (1) concern over the quality of academic instruction, (2) concern over the poor learning environment at school, and (3) religious and faith-based values. These reasons remain prevalent today; however, quantitative data alone is too broad and limiting, undermining the full scope of a family’s decision to homeschool. In addition, existing research neglects to address the ways other factors such as curriculum, finances, health and safety, employment, school choice, and more impact parents’ decision to homeschool or not. The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to understand the processes a family with young children goes through when deciding to homeschool. By examining the parents’ behavioral processes, motivations, and decision-making factors, this study discovered how lived experiences explain their decision to homeschool and constructed multiple theories related to their decision-making processes. This study followed 13 families across the United States through the real-time decision-making process, using a conceptual framework consisting of three decision-making theories: dual-system, cognitive reflection, and rational choice. The participants had varying demographics, age, race, education status, and location. Studying the lived experiences of families during their decision-making process required families not have children formally enrolled in school that could cause their responses to be retrospective and be undecided on their child’s educational path but lean towards homeschooling. This study’s findings unpack the reasons for homeschooling and provide an opportunity for stakeholders such as curriculum developers, public and private school teachers, administrators, higher education professionals, policymakers, and more to challenge stereotypes or misconceptions about homeschooling. Results revealed a theoretical framework called the family academic selection theory (F.A.S.T.) to explain the robust, five-step process parents go through in the decision-making process to homeschool. The study’s key findings and theories provided implications for policy and regulation changes, ways to collaborate with traditional education systems, and future research opportunities.

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Homeschooling. Decision-making. School choice. Parental authority.

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