Inside the musical world of homeschoolers in southern Wisconsin: a collective case study
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Homeschooling is a growing phenomenon. Estimates are that 1.7 million children are homeschooled each year in the United States. Although a number of studies have explored various aspects of this phenomenon, little has been written concerning the musical experiences and practices of homeschoolers. I interviewed three families consisting of six parents and a total of 10 children three times each using semi-structured questions. I also observed each family’s school day a minimum of four times, and explored the motivations for homeschooling and musical instruction, the kinds of educational and musical activities each family evidenced, and then solicited opinions regarding musical style preferences, musical experience, and the use of music in everyday life. I analyzed and interpreted the data through a framework of concepts formulated by Bourdieu (habitus, cultural and symbolic capital, exchange, and economism). My findings suggest that each family’s decision to homeschool was an outgrowth of their Christian habitus, but with nuanced considerations that included ideology, pedagogy, and family. The parents’ decision to support musical learning and experience (each of the 10 children played at least one musical instrument, most of them two, and a few three) centered on a desire to learn music as an aid to worship. However, both parents and children noted non-musical benefits including self- discipline, time management, character formation, training in focus, and life-long usefulness. Parents and children approached educational and musical studies conscientiously. They also reported preferring classical and church music to music associated with youth culture. The families used music as a concentration aid, a mood regulator, and a teaching tool.