According to the most recent statistics, the share of school-age kids who were homeschooled doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 1.7 to 3.4 percent.
If you want to know where those kids are coming from, it’s big cities on the coasts. I understand. When we were in Seattle I had the feeling that the city was built just for my kids to run around exploring. And unlike our regular, midwestern haunts, there were kids in Seattle all day – not just after school.
New York magazine says it’s upper middle class New Yorkers who can’t afford private school. And Wired magazine says it’s techies who have a do-it-yourself attitude and don’t want to wait around for government to fix the education problem.
A mother from Silicon Valley explains her choice to homeschool:
“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha says. “So how do you do that? Well if the system won’t allow it, as the saying goes: If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Progressive education is another leitmotif that runs through tech history—Larry Page and Sergey Brin have attributed much of their success to their time as a student at a Montessori school. Peter Thiel recently launched a broadside against higher education, and Sir Ken Robinson’s lecture, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” has become the most popular TED Talk of all-time, with 31 million views. Now, all those strands are coming together to create a new phenomenon: the techie homeschooler.
Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr, has homeschooled three kids, and she is representative of the trend that parents with high-powered tech jobs are not shying away from keeping their kids at home. It makes sense because parents who have earned money in Silicon Valley did it as entrepreneurs, and the new idea of school is entrepreneurial: you build it yourself, from scratch, one question at a time.
The school revolution is mimicking the startup revolution. The cost of starting a company has gone down because there are online tools you can use for free. So lots of people are becoming entrepreneurs. The same is happening with school—the tools are there, the problems to solve are obvious, so making the switch to homeschooling is a risk less daunting.