Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Melissa Sherfinski

Committee Co-Chair

Adriane Williams


The purpose of this study is to explore why and how two low-income families practice homeschooling. A qualitative case study of low-income homeschooling mothers' experiences was conducted over the course of four months in Tennessee and West Virginia. The major research question was: How and why working class families decide to homeschool their children? Specifically, I believed that a qualitative examination of this topic would allow me to answer a number of attendant questions:;1. How and why do local contexts of "choice" shape low-income homeschoolers' experiences? a. How do local public school experiences shape homeschooling experiences, motivations, and practices? b. How do low-income homeschooling families experiences confirm, discredit, and complicate established theories of families' educational experiences, motivations, and practices? 2. How do low-income, homeschooling families manage homeschooling? a. How do families network and negotiate homeschooling in local contexts?;Based on the nature of the questions, a case study methodology was selected. In order to find answers to these questions, I used a case study method using layered data sources (questionnaires, interviews, observation, and document analysis) and wrote up the findings as portraits of the two participants.;The findings indicated that the two participants were motivated to homeschool for various reasons that were more pragmatic in one case and more instrumental in the other. Interestingly, although both participants were low-income, their child-rearing styles and homeschooling practices were similar to those of middle class families, and in line with their education levels.;Identity, pedagogy, and agency were central themes in both cases. Both mothers were determined to fit their cultural identities into their children's education and carefully considered pedagogical strategies for productive learning. The two mothers supported parents' right to choice in education and orchestrated their own rights to home school, demonstrating that low-income mothers can and do demonstrate significant agency regarding educational choices and practices. I argue that homeschooling, with its capacity for mothers and children to engage educational agency, is a form of self-determination that has the potential to become a space in local communities from which democratic education may develop in the future. This is a democratic education that promotes deliberation and the inclusion of groups historically excluded, while building relationships among the state, parents, and children. This is democratic education that unfortunately for many families and children is not currently a reality.