Child Prodigies Exploring the World: How Homeschooled Students Narrate their Literacy in the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives

  • Alicia A McCartney Baylor University
Keywords: homeschooling, child prodigy narrative, literacy narrative, Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN), active double-voiced discourse


Approximately 1.8 million students in the United States are homeschooled, according to 2012 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (Redford et al.). However, researchers have only begun to examine how these homeschooled students reflect on their own literacy development, especially once they have entered college. Using the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN), I gather and analyze eighteen literacy narratives of currently and formerly homeschooled students, exploring how these students reflect on their own developing literacies, especially as they contrast their experiences with those of their traditionally-schooled classmates. The results of this study reveal, first, that these homeschoolers participate in a wide variety of literacy practices that both respond to and redefine those of the “traditional” classroom. Second, many of the narratives tend to embrace the “child prodigy” literacy structure, as identified and defined by Kara Alexander (2011) and Stephanie Paterson (2001). Third, four narratives reveal problems that can occur in homeschooling: namely, a parent-educator’s perceived lack of authority, and, in two cases, a tendency to trap students in unhealthy family environments. Despite these exceptions, most narratives reveal their family network as a place of vibrant literary sponsorship; and a few students narrate the “pedagogic violence” that may occur when they transition from this warm family environment into traditional secondary schools (Worsham 121). Overall, I argue that as participants in a non-dominant mode of education, these homeschoolers feel the need either to justify or to repudiate their literacy acquisition process against the dominant group. More quantitative research is needed to understand whether these experiences represent trends across the homeschooling movement.

Author Biography

Alicia A McCartney, Baylor University

Alicia A. McCartney is a doctoral candidate at Baylor University.