WHO HOMESCHOOLS? TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING HOW HOMESCHOOLING FAMILIES IN SINGAPORE AND JAPAN CONSTRUCT THEMSELVES. TEO SIEW HUI, DAWN (B.A. (Hons.

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1 WHO HOMESCHOOLS? TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING HOW HOMESCHOOLING FAMILIES IN SINGAPORE AND JAPAN CONSTRUCT THEMSELVES TEO SIEW HUI, DAWN (B.A. (Hons.), NUS) A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN PART FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE 2012

2 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor, Dr Hiramoto Mie, for her guidance. Her knowledge, expertise and counsel greatly helped me to gather good data and stay focused during the writing of my papers. Not only do I appreciate having had the opportunity to learn from her experience and skill in research and academic thinking, but her constant encouragement and kindness made the research and writing process much lighter than it might otherwise have been. In fact, I believe that I will always remember the encouraging words spoken to me during supervision meetings. I would also like to express deep appreciatiom to the homeschooling community in Singapore and Japan who took time to welcome me into their homes and hearts, and shared their food, games, homeschooling lessons and chill time with me. I will always be thankful for their warm hospitality and kindness shown a stranger with a video camera scribbling notes and asking odd questions. Finally, I want to acknowledge my family for their love, support and patience over the years. ii

3 Chapter 1Introduction 1.1 Background of Research Question 1.2 Research Question 1.3 Significance of Research Question 1.4 Narratives and Identity TABLE OF CONTENTS SECTION Chapter 2 Literature Review 2.1 Research on homeschooling by homeschoolers 2.2 Mainstream research on homeschooling 2.3 Sociolinguistics Perspective on Narrative Self-Construction in Interviews 2.4 Conclusion Chapter 3 Methodology 3.1 Selection and recruitment of participants 3.2 Profile of participants 3.3 Type of data collected 3.4 Procedure 3.5 Interviews 3.6 Theoretical orientation towards interviews 3.7 Data analysis framework Chapter 4 Analysis 4.1. Resource 1: Engaging the Interview Frame 4.2. Resource 2: Humour 4.3. Resource 3: Authenticating Discourse Socialization Stress Tests Boredom and fun School, education and learning Family Summary of authenticating discourse 4.4 Resource 4: Bare Assertions 4.5 Conclusion Chapter 5 Discussion 5.1. Discourse as a main resource for socializing into the homeschooling community Socializes new members into their ethos and maintaining that identity Transmitting their imagined version of that identity to PAGE NUMBER iii

4 their children 5.2. Identity and Interviews Internal coherence of identity work in Nanako s interview Comparing interview responses are compared to her homeschooling talk outside the interview Chapter 6 Conclusion 6.1 Parents Self-Construction in the Interviews 6.2 The role of discourse in socializing the homeschooling identity 6.3 Insights on the use of interviews to study identity 6.4 Examining the Internal Coherence of Narrative identity 6.5 Comparing the same identity category in different interactional frames 6.6 Directions for further research: The non-verbal components of the sociolinguistic interview 6.7 Conclusion References Appendix 1: Interview Questions for homeschooling parents Appendix 2: Interview Questions for homeschooling children 119 Appendix 3: Interview Questions for non-homeschooling parents Appendix 4: Transcription Conventions 122 iv

5 SUMMARY In this thesis, using data from interviews, I explore the question Who homeschools? according to the perspective of the homeschooling community in Singapore and Japan. Discourse is apparently the main resource for maintaining and displaying membership in their homeschooling culture. Homeschoolers were observed spending much time rehearsing their homeschooling rhetoric. Children in these families performed narratives forwarding the same themes as their parents in the interviews, even the adolescents. Interview data was analysed largely in terms of positioning cues made in parents narratives of homeschooling. Parents in both countries styled themselves as being committed, caring and morally sound people investing great effort to ensure their children grew up confident, self-assured and equipped to enjoy life s challenges. Various discursive resources were used to accomplish the above. Parents in Singapore relied on humour and rhetoric reclaiming the authentic meaning of school-related words like learning and education. Their homeschooling persona portrayed a confidant authorial voice characterized by friendliness, ease and reason. A similar set of resources was used by Japanese homeschooling parents. The main difference between the two groups was namely the stronger use of religion in Japanese authenticating discourse on school- and family-related issues and a more serious tone juxtaposed with acknowledgment of parental weakness. They presented themselves mainly as the joyful, privileged recipients of a heavenly mandate to homeschool. Homeschooling parents narrated themselves as good parents despite performing a version of parenting deviating from dominant practice by relying on the following device: re-indexicalizing key concepts associated with school and parenting through vivid, emotionally involved narratives. These narratives showed that while homeschooling practices were socially divergent, its core values or emotional nature was the same as mainstream parenting practice parents loving on their children thus de-stigmatizing homeschooling. Parents also established credibility and respectability rhetorically by citing many examples of institutional school failure contrasted with homeschooling success. The narrative identity projected by parents differed between the interviews, casual conversation and other situations of production, highlighting the strong influence the interactional frame has on narratives. A key observation is that eliciting similar discourse from the same speaker while varying the interactors and interactional frame can be a technique for revealing other nuanced aspects of that identity. As identity is not just interactional and relational but also partial and reductive in nature, narrated identity can appear incoherent to the listener. Data suggested three possible reasons: distance between the speaker s and listener s ideological system, speaker withholding pertinent information for pragmatic reasons and the speaker s narrative goal differing from listener expectation. These three reasons emphasize the need for analysis to be undergirded by ethnographic knowledge. Familiarity with participants ideological systems and v

6 family matters permits unpacking of the underlying data patterns in a manner that relates as much as possible to the interviewee s organization of the experiences narrated, rather than the analyst s presumptions or expectations. Overall, interview data shed light on the various discursive devices used to establish a moral self and permitted reflexivity on the use of interviews as a mode of data production. vi

7 LIST OF FIGURES 1. Figure 1: Summary of Data Collected in Singapore and Japan (pp. 26) 2. Figure 3: Profile of Participants contributing Interview Data (pp.30) 3. Figure 3: Summary of Homeschooling parents Redefinition of key concepts (pp. 62) 4. Figure 4: Tactics of Intersubjectivity by homeschooling parents (pp. 72) vii

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