The attitudes and beliefs of home-schooling parents about mathematics

Year: 2017

Author: Raeburn, Robyn, Roberts, Janine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Currently it is estimated that there are 10 000 registered home-schooled children in Australia (Homeschooling Downunder, n.d.). However, it is also estimated there may be more than 50 000 children who are actually home-schooled as many parents choose not to register with their state education bodies (Green, 2012).
Previous research into parents of traditionally schooled children has found that few parents have a good understanding of how their child is taught mathematics (Muir, 2009). It has also been found that parents often wish to help their children but feel uninformed about the mathematics curriculum (Peressini, 1998). Parents may also feel little confidence in mathematics tasks (Civil, 2001), expressing feelings of anxiety, helplessness and dislike (Civil, 2001; Haylock, 2007). Parents may also consider mathematics to be boring and based on procedures and may pass these beliefs on to their children (Onslow, 1992).
Parental involvement is known to be an indicator for success in children's education (Epstein, as cited in Anthony & Walshaw, 2007). Cai (2003) found that parental involvement was an indicator of success in middle school mathematics. According to Cai, there are five roles that parents may play: motivator, monitor, resource provider, mathematics content advisor, and mathematics learning counsellor. He found that the roles of motivator and monitor were the most important on their children's performance. Parents of home-schooled children may play similar roles, "managers and directors", in their children's education (Carpenter & Gann, 2015). As managers and directors they select the resources and manage the home so that their children may study.
By its nature, home-schooling involves high parental involvement in their children's education. There is a risk however, that if these parents, like some of the parents of traditionally schooled children, have low confidence in mathematics and dislike mathematics, they too will pass these attitudes on to their children. To date there is very little research on home-schooling in Australia and worldwide, and little research into home-schooling in mathematics. In this study, state-based home education groups were contacted and asked to disseminate to their membership the link to an anonymous web-based survey. In this survey parents were asked about their own experiences as mathematics students, their own beliefs and attitudes to mathematics, and their experiences as parents of home-schooled mathematics learners. There were 80 responses, and this presentation describes the results of this survey.