Home Is Where the School Is

The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering

239 pages

3 tables

December, 2012

ISBN: 9780814752524



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Jennifer Lois is Associate Professor of Sociology at Western Washington University.

All books by Jennifer Lois

Mothers who homeschool their children constantly face judgmental questions about their choices, and yet the homeschooling movement continues to grow with an estimated 1.5 million American children now schooled at home. These children are largely taught by stay-at-home mothers who find that they must tightly manage their daily schedules to avoid burnout and maximize their relationships with their children, and that they must sustain a desire to sacrifice their independent selves for many years in order to savor the experience of motherhood. Home Is Where the School Is is the first comprehensive look into the lives of homeschooling mothers. Drawing on rich data collected through eight years of fieldwork and dozens of in-depth interviews, Jennifer Lois examines the intense effects of the emotional and temporal demands that homeschooling places on mothers’ lives, raising profound questions about the expectations of modern motherhood and the limits of parenting.


  • “Jennifer Lois’s compelling and informative ethnography about parents who decide to homeschool their children comes at a propitious time in American education. A fascinating read into these parents’ motivations, rationales, choices, time allocation, and philosophies.”

    —Peter Adler, co-author of The Tender Cut

  • “Lois’s patient ethnography at once sensitively reveals the complicated emotional and time-bound processes that forge the maternal self and motherhood as gendered social institution par excellence. This is an honest story of self-sacrifice and entitlement that not only tells the complicated truth of homeschooling, but more broadly highlights what’s at stake for mothers everywhere.”

    —Chris Bobel, author of The Paradox of Natural Mothering

  • "A welcome addition to a growing literature on emotion work, culture, and parenting across social class and in other child-care arrangements. Terrific for sociology, culture, or women's studies collections."


  • "On the ICHER blog, the organization's co-founder Milton Gaither, an academic and a homeschooling father, describes Home is Where the School Is as 'the most extensive look at the mothers who homeschool ever published.' It may do little to alter readers' perceptions of homeschooling, whatever they may be, but in studying the mothers behind this growing trend, it is an invaluable addition to the sociological record."

    Political Research Associates

  • "[H]er book opens a wide window onto the lives of homeschooling mothers."

    —Rachel Tabachnick, Intensive Mothering

  • "One of the most significant analyses of homeschooling and the role homeschooling mothers play in this practice to date...this book is excellent; it is necessary reading for scholars interested in understanding both homeschooling and the sociology of mothering. If there is a problem with the book, it is that it wasn't written sooner."

    —Gary Wyatt, American Journal of Sociology

  • "Theoretically rich and empirically fascinating."

    Sociology of Religion

  • "Using in-depth longitudinal interviews, Lois sheds light on the emotional lives of homeschoolers and elucidates a number of core social psychological processes related to stigma, identity, social roles, and emotion management.”

    Sociology of Religion

  • “[…] Home Is Where the School Is is a terrific read.  Not only will it interest those in the fields of work and family and sociology of emotions, Lois writes good sociology for a public beyond the academy.”

    Social Forces