Answering Some Questions About Our Survey
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
On Monday we released the first-ever survey created by alumni of Christian homeschooling for alumni of Christian homeschooling. The 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement, facilitated by HA’s parent non-profit organization Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) in consultation with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), aims to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni have not.
The response thus far has been amazing. In just four days over 2,200 individuals have completed the survey. Individuals from every single one of the United States have taken it, as well as individuals from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. We have also received international responses, including individuals from Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
The survey remains open until Monday, September 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm Pacific time. To qualify to take it, you must be 18 years or older and have been homeschooled for at least 7 years in an environment classifiable as Christian. If you haven’t taken it yet, please do! And share with anyone you know who qualifies!
As the survey has picked up steam, a number of questions seem to be commonly popping up. So I wanted to answer the most common questions here.
Q: Why are you doing the survey?
The most significant alumni survey was from over a decade ago, commissioned by HSLDA and conducted by Brian Ray in 2003. As CRHE has pointed out, it involved a highly selective sample population and has been repeatedly presented in a disingenuous and inaccurate manner. Our goal is to (hopefully) get a more diverse, nuanced, and current look at the Christian homeschool alumni population. We also are interested in data points that previous surveys have never researched.
Q: Why is the survey limited to Christian homeschool alumni with 7 or more years of homeschooling?
The survey is limited in a number of ways simply because we need some basic parameters. We in no way believe that you must be homeschooled for at least 7 years to be an “alumni,” or to be impacted significantly (whether positively or negatively) by homeschooling. The last large survey of homeschool alumni (the aforementioned 2003 survey) was limited to alumni with at least 7 years’ experiences. Since we want our survey to provide a more up-to-date counter-balance to the 2003 survey, we decided to limit ourselves to the same experiential time length.
Q: Why is the survey limited to alumni of Christian homeschooling?
Only because it’s our area of experiential expertise as individuals and our focus as an organization! As the author of the survey, I was homeschooled K-12 in the Christian homeschool movement and I have limited firsthand knowledge of non-religious homeschool subcultures. I wanted to keep the survey as focused and accurate as possible — and to do that, I had to limit the survey to experiences and groups I know. That said, HARO would be 100% interested in doing a survey for alumni of non-religious homeschooling. So if you are such an alum, and would be interested in consulting with us and sharing your experiential expertise, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to pursue the possibility of such a project.
Q: THIS SURVEY IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE.
So this isn’t a question, really. It’s more just a statement that a number of people seem to throw at the survey in an attempt to “discredit” it.
My response is: The very first page of the survey says, “As we are not randomly sampling the population, our results will be descriptive rather than representative.” So we state this fact upfront. For any survey to be representative of any given population, you need to have a random sample of that population. That is nearly impossible to obtain with the homeschooling population. Every survey conducted by Brian Ray’s NHERI and HSLDA are just as non-representative as ours. The difference is that, unlike Ray and HSLDA (usually), we will not pretend our data is representative. Hence our being upfront on the very first page that our survey’s results will be descriptive.
Q: Why do you ask “what gender were you assigned at birth?” rather than “what is your gender?” Or to put this in the remarkable language of one respondent, “F*ckin’ seriously? Why phrase it like that, p*ssies? I’m a male.”
Numerous individuals do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. You can take that as some sort of ideology and/or you can take it as the simple recognition that intersex and transgender individuals exist. We are not interested in erasing either of those populations — both because we object to such erasure inherently and because erasure will lead to less accurate data.
Intersex individuals, according to the Intersex Society of North America, are “born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Thus some are literally assigned a gender that does not necessarily correlate to stereotypes about physical anatomy. And yes, there are intersex homeschool alumni. Several of them have taken our survey. There might even be intersex students in your homeschool community right now. (Does your community daily erase their existence? Have ever you thought about that?)
Transgender individuals are, according to GLAAD, “people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” Now, we desire to respect individuals’ gender identities. You might not. But the statistical reason why we ask the question the way we do is because simply asking a transgender person, “What is your gender?” (or as one respondent suggested, “the gender God created me as”) will not give us the data we are looking for. A transgender individual will answer that question with the gender they identify with, and not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth. Our survey has a number of goals, and one of those goals is to analyze homeschool alumni experiences based on gender roles placed on children growing up. So regardless of what gender people now identify with, we need to ask this particular question in a way that (1) respects the existence of intersex and transgender individuals and (2) gives us the specific answers we need to do our analysis accurately.
Q: Aren’t the creators of the survey just angry ex-homeschoolers?
Well, I am the author of the survey. Let me introduce myself: My name is Ryan Stollar. I was homeschooled my entire life. I had a generally positive experience. I was a national award-winning high school debater. I got to tour the United States throughout high school and make friends all over the country. I have a B.A. and an M.A. I love my family. They have shown me that unconditional love is a reality. My family is also very supportive of HA and HARO: my dad is proud of what I do, my mom has contributed a post to HA, my older brother has contributed a post to HA, and my younger sister has promoted this survey. So no, the creator of the survey is not an angry ex-homeschooler. Get your facts right.
Q: What’s with the question about BDSM/kink?
Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the answer to this question is quite simple: In some of our homeschool alumni communities, numerous conversations about BDSM/kink have arisen. A decent number of people seem attracted to or interested in such lifestyles and activities. I was merely curious to get data about it and see if there are any trends. Plus, it is a question that is never on surveys like these. Questions about frequency of porn use are rather popular on surveys of evangelicals, for example. Those questions have been done so many times and in so many ways. We would not be examining anything new. But I have never seen a survey address BDSM/kink. So that’s what’s up.
Q: What are you going to do with the data?
HARO as an organization is interested in using the data for educational purposes. For example: There are questions about if you struggle with mental health issues. What we are not going to do is make arguments like, “Homeschooling leads to _____.” Rather, we are interested in using the data to help educate and improve homeschooling communities. The data gives us information to say things like, “Out of this group of x many alumni who responded to the survey, z many have dealt with mental illness in their lives. One of the most common mental health conditions was q.” Such statistics can help tailor what sort of resources we focus on for HARO’s website, focus our efforts on educating homeschooling communities about the most common mental illnesses homeschool alumni deal with, etc.
Or take the abuse section, as another example: We’re not trying to — and honestly, we can’t without a representative sample — say how common abuse is in homeschooling. But we can say, “Out of this group, x many people have dealt with abuse in their homes, or even outside their homes, or knew people who were abused.” This data can help us communicate the importance of homeschooling communities creating homeschool co-op child abuse policies, educating people about the fact that abuse happens to homeschoolers (regardless of if it’s related to homeschooling), etc.
Q: Are you going to cast evil spells on the data so that it says things it doesn’t say?
Q: ARE YOU TRYING TO BAN HOMESCHOOLING?