Date of Graduation

Summer 2014


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer


Since the 1990s, homeschooling has generated considerable attention for its rapid growth, especially among conservative Christians. Critics of the movement have argued that when parents choose to remove their children from public education, valuable resources are lost, which negatively impacts not only the affected schools, but also civil society. This thesis summarizes the findings of a 2012 survey of 188 Ozarks homeschoolers in which respondents were asked to report how connected they were to their family, friends, neighbors, and civic institutions. The goal was to produce measures of social capital among area homeschoolers and to determine the extent to which they differ from their neighbors. The survey focused on homeschoolers' attitudes toward the institutions that scholars have deemedto be vital in a well-functioning civil society. Qualitative interviews and ethnographic observations focused on the bridging and bonding roles of religion in the Ozarks homeschooling community, social networking, points of conflict, and responses to these tensions. This thesis demonstrates that the Ozarks homeschooling community is endowed with higher levels of social capital than their non-homeschooling Greene County (MO) peers.Despite the rhetoric of individualism and distrust of institutions, these homeschooling families exhibit a greater interest in voluntary organizations, are politically active, and are concerned for the welfare of the community at large. Contrary to homeschooling's critics, home education is not anathema to the common good and a flourishing civil society.


homeschooling, social capital, religiously based social capital, bonding, bridging, civic engagement, volunteerism

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© Michael William Bohlen

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