Home school literacy: An ethnographic study of parents teaching reading and writing

Elizabeth Baurle Treat, University of Pennsylvania


This qualitative research on the acquisition of literacy within a home school setting is a case study of one home school family. The term home school literacy was devised to describe the phenomenon of home schooling as a unique process of literacy acquisition and development. Each home school is considered a specialized context for literacy growth, where family members interact as a distinct system of learners. This study explores how two parents teach reading and writing to their child during the last three months of her third-grade year by focusing on how they envision themselves as teachers of reading and writing, and how they enact this self-concept in their teaching. The oral and written language of family members provided the primary data to investigate and identify interactions involving literacy teaching. Data were collected through interviewing, audio-recording, video-recording, documents, writing samples, protocol analysis, questionnaires, home visitations, and field notes. The qualitative nature of these data collection procedures involved the researcher and family members relating as co-researchers throughout the study. Results suggest that collaborative learning is likely to happen in a home school setting as parents become actively engaged in designing their own literacy development program and become acquainted with their children's individual learning styles. They will probably create their curriculum according to both their own and their children's needs and interests. Oral reading was found to be an effective means of sharing prior knowledge and experience while teaching. Also, parents could be models as readers, writers, and learners while teaching in a home school setting. Holistic, natural learning is possible in such a context where the child is the center of teaching interactions and parents discover their ability to teach in both a formal and informal manner at the same time, without time constraints. Evaluation is ongoing and negotiable between parents and children. Such a learning environment nurtures self-inspired knowledge seeking in all home school family members.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Education|Literacy|Reading instruction|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Treat, Elizabeth Baurle, "Home school literacy: An ethnographic study of parents teaching reading and writing" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026662.