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Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement (Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology)

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-10: 0691114684
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Home-schooling has become an elaborate social movement, with its own celebrities, rituals and networks, which now encompasses more than a million American children, observes Hamilton College sociologist Mitchell L. Stevens in Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Moving from why parents opt for home-schooling to the long-term effects on their children, he draws on interviews with a mix of parents from fundamentalist Christians to pagans and educational radicals and persuasively contextualizes the movement within the "organizational strategies of the progressive left and the religious right" in their attempt to preserve their core set of values: "the sanctity of childhood and the primacy of family in the face of an increasingly competitive and bureaucratized society."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Stevens spent ten years interviewing home-schooling families, watching them teach, pitching tents at their summer camps, hanging out at their conferences, and reading their publications. He has written a careful, intelligent book (Margaret Talbot Atlantic Monthly )

In the press and on television, home-schoolers are portrayed mainly as white Americans of strong Christian background, most of whom are right-wing fundamentalists. Stevens's study confirms this generic picture, yet his study helps us go beyond it. . . [T]he intellectual origins of home-schooling are surprisingly nonsectarian. (Howard Gardner New York Review of Books )

Kingdom of Children is about the grown-ups behind the not-so peaceful movement. . . . As Stevens makes clear, those drawn to home schooling tend to be a stronger-willed, contentious lot, and removing them from the public school system doesn't make them less so. (Rebecca Jones American School Board Journal )

For anyone interested in home schooling, this is the book to read. (Choice )

This book is extremely well written and thought provoking.... Kingdom of Children will no doubt play an important role in the much-needed sociological dialogue surrounding home schooling. (Ed Collom American Journal of Sociology )

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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691114684
  • ASIN: B00BV2O7K0
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,102,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott W. Somerville on September 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Home education is such a remarkable modern movement that it has long deserved close scrutiny by serious social scientists. Mitchell Stevens has given the American home school movement a long and careful look. For almost a decade (from 1990 to 1989), this dedicated sociologist met with home schoolers singly and in groups. This book will be "must" reading for home school leaders of every persuausion, including those who are openly uncomfortable with the concept of "home school leaders."
As a sociologist, Dr. Stevens is interested in how home schoolers went about constructing an entirely new set of organizational structures. He delves deeply into the differing "schema" of the differing wings of the home school movement, and explores how different paradigms affect developing institutions. He notes the details ("inclusive" home school groups arrange chairs in circles for highly democratic meetings, while "Christian" home school groups routinely sit in pews while their "leaders" address them from pulpits), and then draws broad but credible conclusions from them.
As a home schooler who has been in "leadership" in Christian home schooling since 1986, I was impressed at the depth and thoughtfulness of this book. While I may disagree with him on certain points, this is a book that no thoughtful home schooler will be able to ignore. Although I am deeply committed to a united home school movement, Dr. Stevens has spelled out the specifics of how that movement is divided at present, and the deeper reasons of why it has grown apart. The challenge to home schoolers who want to bridge those divisions is now clear. The solutions are not.
Opponents of home schooling will find little to love in this book.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Stevens' book is a fascinating look at the contrasts between conservative Protestants who homeschool for religious reasons and secular "unschoolers". He does an excellent job discussing how these differing motivations affect how individual families educate their children and also how they affect organizations providing support to and advocacy for homeschoolers.

The major criticism I have of Dr. Stevens' work is that he completely missed the third type of homeschoolers: those who homeschool for academic reasons. Folks like me who aren't looking to Mary Pride or John Holt for inspiration but to authors like Susan Wise Bauer and Mortimer J. Adler. Our problem with traditional schools isn't that we think they're "ungodly" or not crunchy enough but rather that they've been "dumbed down" in recent years. We want rigorous math; explicit teaching of phonics, spelling rules, and grammar; classical languages like Latin and/or Greek; studying the history and literature of our Western Civilization heritage; and so on. There are lots of us out there in the homeschool community- why are we nowhere to be seen in Dr. Stevens' book?
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Format: Hardcover
Mitchell Stevens provides the first in depth study of the American home schooling movement. Instead of assuming that home schoolers are right wing fanatics or left wing bohemians, he takes the time to attend their meetings, visit their homes and read their literature. From his in depth study, he concludes that home schooling is an activity that grows out of long traditions in American politics and is an honest, and possibly successful, attempt at reconstructing education so that it meets the needs of children.
The focus of Mitchell's book is the division between home schoolers who view home schooling as a form of Christian education and those who view home schooling as a secular activity. Mitchell's thesis is that this division defines much of the discourse, organization and politics of home schooling. It also reflects concepts of womanhood, childhood and family.
From a sociological perspective, I think that this book's biggest contributions is an implicit critique of some themes in the sociology of education, where schools are seen as propagators of the status quo. Here, we have an example of how an institution, public education, is relaxing its grip and new forms of education are being created. This is not to say that public education is on the path to extinction, but this book shows how viables alternatives to dominant institutions emerge.
To summarize: first in depth sociological work on home schooling, takes home schoolers seriously as people, clear
writing and very little jargon and furthers our understanding of educational institutions and social change. A sure winner!
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Format: Hardcover
Rather than tell you what the book says (see other reviews) let me just say that having read this just as we are beginning homeschooling with our children, I have a much deeper understanding of the people we are going to be relating to in the future. Many of his insights have already been borne out in my observations. I appreciated the fact that this book is fairly up-to-date (written in the late 90's). I think I will be able to relate to other homeschooling families in an understanding way after reading this book.
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