The home as a learning community

Yolande Muschamp, Felicity Wikeley

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    This paper reports the findings of a study (funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Wikeley et al 2006, 2007) which audited and explored children’s engagement in out-of school activities and the impact of living in poverty on these actvities. The focus of the paper is an analysis of the activities in the home; the learning which takes place there; and the impact of these on the development of learning identities. The study takes place in England where the structure of the family has been changing significantly over that last two decades (Bradshaw and Meyhew, 2005; Muschamp et al, 2007; ONS, 2007). The increase in single parent families and the impact of increased longevity which has led to a multi-generational ‘beanpole’ structure for many families have created new pressures in the lives of children (Spencer-Dawe, 2005; Brannen 2004 ). The changes have brought a new level of responsibility to children in terms of domestic activities such as the childcare of siblings and well as the challenges of coping with a wider range of family relationships within the continually changing contexts of multiple homes. Through in-depth interviews with 55 children we have audited the activities they undertake in the home and community. We separate the spontaneous everyday activities from the more formally organised events such as involvement with clubs and societies (These are reported elsewhere Wikeley et al, 2006; Muschamp et al, forthcoming). In this paper we focus on the spontaneous activities which reflect the work of the home and family, helping with siblings, supporting work and business activities, cooking, shopping, and engaging in informal leisure activities such as watching television. We examine the learning that takes place from a social constructivist perspective (Lave and Wenger, 1991, 1998; Rømer, 2002; Roth, 2003; Roth and Lee, 2006; Vygotsky, 1986) and show the motivation for learning; the relationships which support it; the content of the learning and identify the process involved. Further analysis identifies the learning identities which emerge. We present the general findings from the study of 55 children and young adults and then illustrate emerging issues with 12 case studies. Six of these are eleven year old children and six are fourteen year olds. The case studies are selected and matched to explore the issues raised by the children’s involvement and their learning within six family activities: the management of relationships; child care; the family business; cooking; family breakdown; and coping with poverty. We conclude by reflecting on how the home school interface could be used to support children in challenging circumstances and to build on the positive experiences of others.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    EventThe European Conference on Educational Research 2008 - Goteborg, Sweden
    Duration: 10 Sept 200812 Sept 2008


    ConferenceThe European Conference on Educational Research 2008
    Abbreviated titleECER 2008
    OtherFrom Teaching to Learning
    Internet address


    • Home schooling
    • Education
    • Children
    • Learning
    • Family relationships


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