The conventional wisdom about the homeschooling community is that it’s all crazy right‑wing Christian fundamentalists. The truth is that lots of homeschool parents are just like you.  They’re smart, curious, concerned about their kids, but also concerned that they don’t want their life to go to hell while they’re focusing on their kids.

Here are five trends among homeschooling parents that tell me I’m in the right place.

1.  Homeschool parents are doctors and lawyers.
Here’s an incredible post by Kathleen Berchelmann, a full‑time doctor, explaining why doctors and lawyers homeschool.  There are 18 reasons, and the reasons apply to almost anyone who has a big job that they care about a lot. But the bottom line for why this particular doctor is homeschooling is because homeschooling enables a family to accommodate so many other things besides the kids’ education.

School requires everything in the house to revolve around school, which makes it very difficult to be a parent with a big career and a parent who is taking care of school needs.  Once you’re homeschooling, the family can accommodate lots of different interests.  For example, the parents need to be engaged and the children need to be engaged.

2.  Homeschool parents are the top one percent.
Let’s be honest: the One Percenters are not sending their kids to public school, so they’re not struggling over how to teach algebra.

The One Percenters do know that antiquated tropes for well‑rounded knowledge are not serving their kids well in their futures as One Percenters. (I think it’s true that “trope” is an antiquated word, so that if you say “antiquated tropes” it’s almost redundant.)

So they homeschool in one of two ways.  They’re either hiring a company like My Learning Springboard to manage their child’s customized education, or they’re sending their kid to a school like The Avenues, which is basically a homeschool co‑op that costs $60,000 a year.

3. Homeschool parents are self-confident.
We know that most homeschool families have a parent at home, and it’s usually the mom. And women who choose to stay home with kids are more educated and emotionally stable. This makes sense to me, because you don’t get any gold stars for staying home with kids. So if you have a great job, and you’re willing to give it up for kids, then you have a lot of internal validation that dampens your need for the external validation people get from work.

Schools systematically tell parents they are incapable of raising their own kids. So it takes a confident parent to see our whole society organized around school and decide to trust themselves instead.

Also, unschoolers fundamentally trust that their kids are smart and their kids will succeed, so they don’t need to give their kids any academic boost or test their kids to prove the kids are smart.

4.  Homeschool parents are the highly creative types.
The people who are the most creative are not people who think outside the box.  They’re the people who don’t know where the box is.  They’re so far outside of where everyone else is that they are constantly unable to fit in and sometimes don’t even know why they’re not fitting in.

Research on personality type shows that this is reliably the population of ENFP’s who can make a living.

The highly creative parents who have made their way in the world have little understanding of the value of school.  It was not valuable to them, and they’re unlikely to put their kids through the same thing.  So it makes sense that a large percentage of parents who take their kids out of school are also extremely creative.

You can splice and dice the homeschooling population a bazillion different ways to show how smart, educated and innovative the parents are, but a simple way to see this is that doctors, lawyers, accountants, professors, and entrepreneurs make up less than five percent of the population, but 25 percent of the homeschooling population.

So next time you think that you don’t fit in with the homeschooling community, understand how that’s just a way for you to tell yourself that you don’t have to consider something that seems difficult on the face of it.

In the meantime, statistics like this make me feel like I finally found a place where I belong.

31 replies
  1. Leah
    Leah says:

    I’m 25, married, work in finance, and planning to have children in the upcoming years. Your blog has got me thinking a LOT about how I’ll eventually raise my children. I see all the benefits of unschooling/homeschooling, and I’d love that life for myself and my family, but I’ve wondered if I’d be “the type” to do it. This article pushes me a little closer to that edge.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Leah that makes me so happy to hear! It’s a big goal of this blog — to bring everyone along with me.

      Penelope

  2. Sheela
    Sheela says:

    4 of these ring true to me, but #2 sounds both false and unappealing. The qualities that propel people into the top 1% are not those that I see in homeschoolers. The 1 per centers I know, and I know plenty, since I live in a bucolic New England town that’s a mecca for second/third/fourth home owners from NYC and Boston, would not contemplate anything other than private school, plus private tutors, plus test preparation, plus, plus, plus.

    I recently told a 1% neighbor about my intention to homeschool my daughter. She looked confused and quickly changed the subject. She was way more threatened by the idea than the bulk of my 99% friends and acquaintances, who invariably ask me if I will open a school in my house and teach their kids.

    • Lizarino
      Lizarino says:

      Hey Sheela,

      I know plenty of 1 %ers that homeschool, but I’m in CA so maybe that’s the difference? Some 1%ers out here even choose public schools because they are as exclusive as private schools, since noone can afford to buy houses in their area.

    • victoria
      victoria says:

      This rings true to me too. I only know a few 1%ers with kids, but they all send their kids to one of the private schools ranked among “the best” (i.e., most academically rigorous) in their areas and their kids do lots and lots of organized activities.

      One family we know with a child my kiddo’s age had her daughter in gymnastics, ballet, French lessons, violin, horseback riding, and Kumon tutoring — at the age of three, plus full-day preschool five days per week. She was shocked that I would send my kid to a progressive constructionist school with lots of playtime — I can’t imagine her reaction if I’d chosen to homeschool.

    • Lizarino
      Lizarino says:

      Being in CA it’s a lot easier to find yourself around 1%ers… I would agree that for the .01%ers all send their kids to those prestigious schools and do all the extra extra extra stuff…

    • Crimson Wife
      Crimson Wife says:

      My DH works in finance and while he’s far too low down on the totem pole to be in the 1%, plenty of the folks he works with are. ZERO of them homeschool. They either pay for prep school or live in an exclusive neighborhood where the “public” schools are essentially taxpayer-funded private schools.

  3. Lizarino
    Lizarino says:

    I love the first paragraph of #4… so true.

    You could be on to something….so far I’ve found that my homeschool friend’s spouses are either an executive, director, engineer, lawyer, doctor, nurse, professor, real estate mogul or teacher.

    But to be honest I’ve been pretty sheltered. I recently joined an online group of unschoolers and they were talking about how they can by stuff for their gardens with food stamp money, breastfeeding their children until 4 years old, and doing homebirths with no assistance… I felt out of place even reading the posts.

    • Kate
      Kate says:

      Hi Lizarino,

      You might not find there is such a separation as it seems between the people in the online group and those you know in person … my husband is a finance executive but I’m still breastfeeding my 4 year old home educated daughter and had a midwife attended home birth. Kx

      • Lizarino
        Lizarino says:

        Hi Kate,

        You are very right, I am always out of place. 3 c-sections, only breastfed for 8 weeks. Out of 200 moms I have met so far(in homeschooling environments), myself and one other person have the same story. I’m always in the minority.

  4. Joy
    Joy says:

    I’m one of those “right-wing Christian fundamentalists,” but I’m also an unschooler at heart. (I am making my kids learn basic consumer math even though they are creative types and dislike math, it’s important to be a good steward of the money God gives you.) Being able to spend more time in God’s Word instead of homework is just the icing on the cake. The fact is that homeschooling is a superior way of educating your children, regardless of your religious beliefs. School of any kind just crushes kids. I appreciate the way you call things and don’t back down from controversy. “The Emperor has no clothes!”

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      One of the most amazing things about this blog to me is that I’ve become part of a community of Christian fundamentalists and I’m happy about it; it makes sense to me. So thank you for the comment. You remind me of how much I am learning from being in this grand discussion with with you.

      Penelope

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        really?

        this is nuts!

        write about it! I am interested in knowing what you’ve learned.

        • Karen
          Karen says:

          I think that it means that she’s learned that “Christian fundamentalist” and “whackjob” are not synonyms.

          • Liz
            Liz says:

            haha thanks Karen. I had a giggle when I read the crazy Christian fundamentalist part of the post.

            I’m 29 and a bible believing Christian SAHM who quit a high paying job to be “Just a homemaker”.

            My son is almost 2 and I’m starting him on a phonics program as he’s starting to sound out letters. It’s so cute.

            This blog is awesome. Thanks Penelope.

            PS. I’m not crazy.

            Despite my love for Jesus.

            haha

      • mh
        mh says:

        “I’ve become part of a community of Christian fundamentalists and I’m happy about it; it makes sense to me.” Oh, talk more about this, please.

  5. Kristi Lucero
    Kristi Lucero says:

    Thanks for your posts Penelope! We just started homeschooling in Dec 2012 and your blog has been a place of refuge and strength for me. I have two boys and relate to so much of what you write about. Our older son is five and we decided to homeschool after trying a charter school and a “regular” public school – where it was suggested that my son wear a weighted vest at school to help him sit still!
    Thanks!
    Kristi

  6. mh
    mh says:

    Hi Penelope, I like this post, and I like the picture a lot. Please tell me — you are READING that comic book to your child. You rock.

    I’m noticing a trend this year — the “Getting Your Feet Wet” homeschooler. This is the parent who isn’t QUITE sure about homeschooling, but school is not going well for one of her children. So she’s going to just try homeschooling ONE child — the rest stay in school.

    • Julie
      Julie says:

      That is how we started. As the schools become more dysfunctional this is going to happen more and more.

      It makes it easier to make the leap if you know a few people who are doing it. We didn’t know anyone who was hsing when we decided to try it. But as it grows people are more likely to know someone who is. Last night at a party a neighbor asked me about it because she is thinking she wants to homeschool her son.

  7. Helen
    Helen says:

    Great post. I am an attorney in a big law firm in a large city, my husband also has a job outside the home, and we homeschool. It’s hard sometimes, but overall it’s the best way for us.

  8. Fatcat
    Fatcat says:

    “crazy right‑wing Christian fundamentalists”

    I’m so tired of Christians being categorized as ‘crazy”. Why is it okay to say Christians are crazy not other religious groups? Islamics, Jews, Buddhists?

    My husband and I are both working professionals who happen to homeschool 3 bright, wonderful, intelligent children. We are nerds. We are doing the best we can for our children. One of us is a Christian. Neither of us is “crazy”. Our mothers had us tested.*

    * (This is a nod to one of our favorite TV shows – Big Bang Theory)

    Also, believe it or not, both of us believe in the actual big bang theory.

    Please think about stereotypes.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      What? You are defending Christians from discrimination in the US?!!?! We are basically a Christian country here. We treat Christmas as a national holiday. I really think that if we are complaining about poor treatment of religious groups in the US, Christians are doing just fine.

      The reason “crazy right-wing Christian fundamentalist” works on a homeschool blog is because for a long time, this was the type of person who homescooled. I don’t think it’s a stereotype so much as the truth.

      Penelope

      • David Holmes
        David Holmes says:

        It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth–it is a widely held belief still, supported by much of mainstream media. You are only giving visibility to what the rest of the country thinks by default.

  9. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    I needed to chew on this post a bit before deciding what to swallow and what to spit out. This post’s hook was off-putting because it comes across as “lazy” stereotyping. Obviously there are crazy right-wing Christian fundamentalist who are smart, curious, and concerned about their kids. So, I spit that part out.

    What I can swallow is that “School requires everything in the house to revolve around the school” and that those who continue to homeschool must be confident enough to trust themselves. This is the biggest transition I see from those who homeschool short-term and those who continue to do so through “graduation.”

    Maybe #4 is better applied to those who choose to Unschool? The homeschooling parents I meet are often smart, curious and concerned, but not always creative.

  10. DHM
    DHM says:

    Welcome to the club.=)
    We’ve been hsing since 1988 and our last child has four years to go before he finishes. Your #1 and 2 do not fit us, but 3 and 4 certainly do.

    My family likely fits the easy and, yes, lazy, stereotype of “crazy right‑wing Christian fundamentalists ,” at least for those who like to substitute labels for thought. It’s an easy mistake to make. I am the matriarch of my clan and wear a head-covering and skirts (and sensible shoes). But I haven’t voted R. in years, and have successfully managed to convince my four hsed graduates as well, so that most of us are Libertarian rather than ‘right-wing.’ Maybe that’s where the crazy comes in.

    It might interest some to know that the 20th century hsing movement didn’t begin among Christian rightwing fundamentalists, it began on the left back when ‘left’ was not yet synonymous with ‘trust the government.’ Ivan Illich (deschooling society), John Holt are two early names. In 1980 Holt had a fascinating interview in Mother Earth News, a crunchy leftist/progressive publication. Holt was a subscriber and frequently sent the editors letters with ideas, suggestions, and criticisms. In that interview he appealed to his fellow Mother Earth readers thus:

    “Many of you folks who read this magazine believe–and with good reason–that government interferes too much in our lives. Well, I think that there is no place where this interference is less justified, more harmful, and more easily resisted than in the education of children. So it would seem to me that those who want to minimize the power the government has over their lives would find the area of their youngsters’ learning to be the first place where they’d want to work toward that goal.”

    • Joy
      Joy says:

      We have major Libertarian leanings as well, which I would argue is the true “right-wing” label. No or very little government, and leave us alone!

  11. Thursday Took
    Thursday Took says:

    For my daughter and I, homeschooling has been like “coming home”. Your last sentence sums up our experience of homeschooling. Thank you Penelope. You rock!

  12. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    Penelope,
    You list four. So what is the fifth trend?

    “Here are five trends among homeschooling parents that tell me I’m in the right place.”

  13. tonya
    tonya says:

    I had to look at that several times before I realized your meaning. Being that there are all kinds of homeschooling families. Yes very slow of me. However I do have to say…That there are somethings I disagree with. As a highly creative person I do value education. I did extremely well in school in some ways. The strain of being different, and trying to fit in that box was where I struggled. That is one reason why I homeschool. Both of my children are ADHD, and both did fairly well in public school, however they had very little freedom of expression. I can not speak for the 1% as I am not one. I am a Christian, but I do not shove religion down my children’s throats. At their current ages I am teaching them morals period. As they grow I will get into Christianity with them. As for self confidence I never had it. Not until this past year when I started my homeschool journey. I have had a lot of doubts, but seeing my 5 year old doing math that my 9 year old was supposed to be doing, and my 9 year old dropping her curriculum and moving way ahead has built my confidence in myself as a mother. I understand your idea, and apparent point that wherever a person’s lifestyle or personality may be they can homeschool too. I think that the way you presented it is more off-putting than it is encouraging. Just my opinion, and it doesn’t count for much beyond myself. It was an interesting read though. Oh I do agree with the having to schedule life around the school system. That part in my experience was dead on.

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