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.

24 replies
  1. Lisa @ Four Under Six
    Lisa @ Four Under Six says:

    We will probably be joining the Coasters next year. We’re in the East Bay Area and the Silicon Valley quote above is pretty much it. We can do better at home so why wouldn’t we? I don’t think private school will solve it (plus we can’t afford that with 4 kids) and it just makes a lot of sense for us. In spite of the fact that our district is considered high performing. Craziness!

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Penelope,

    Don’t you love that as soon as Silicon Valley does something, like homeschooling, it’s called elitist?! Sheesh!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      If you’re not wealthy then you’re the fringe, ignorant, uneducated.

      If you are wealthy then it’s because you’re privileged and out of touch with the realities of how hard life is.

      It makes sense that there’s so much push back for those who make things different. Since the beginning of time life is safe when everyone moves as a unit. The moment you start standing up to authority then big risk comes in the picture.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Hi Karelys!

        “If you’re not wealthy then you’re the fringe, ignorant, uneducated. If you are wealthy then it’s because you’re privileged and out of touch with the realities of how hard life is.”

        I would add this: If you are lower, mid, upper middle class then you are raising quirky creative kids, athletes, or geniuses.

        I guess I am baffled as to why someone’s first reaction is that there has to be some reason other than it being in the best interest of the children. Then it becomes a rush to defend public schools and how great they are.

        You want my kid in school? Get rid of the traditional mindset that everyone MUST learn from prescribed and nationalistic topics at the EXACT same time and in the EXACT same way. End testing requirements for funding. Stop giving homework. Have a more flexible part-time option for kids who don’t need a full-time place to go. Have more specialty areas so if my kid wants to work on art all day for months that counts as learning. Have mentors and facilitators and ways to explore and discover knowledge. End the current teacher-student paradigm.

        I could go on and on… but I won’t. Because it won’t happen, at least not any time soon when it matters for me.

  3. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Like the stats, significant growth – wonder what the numbers must be for 2 years where internet chatter on homeschooling has soared.

    But like any innovation, homeschooling will likely still suffer the ‘crossing the chasm’ phenomenon where there is a huge leap to be made between the early adopters and the early majority.

  4. Jenn Gold
    Jenn Gold says:

    This is sooo true to me. The type of homeschooling parent that does ths would naturally be one who looks outside the box and therefore would encourage his/her kids to do the same. And right now, what’s topical in many circles is divorcing the idea of college/university and just knowing how to make big money with your ideas. Some parents, like myself, have been able to admit, however uncomfortable. that we were scammed by the edu system. Others cant come to terms with it, way too painful to be non-conformist. And now that our eyes are wide open we dont want that rat race for our kids.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Hi Jenn,

      I totally agree with this. I think talking to people like Karelys and others here helped me see that being the best in school doesn’t prepare you for being the best in life or in your career, not even close. My spouse’s CEO sees it too and is essentially homeschooling his own children, or microschooling might be a better term, after pulling them from a private school.

  5. jessica
    jessica says:

    Upper middle class, here in NYC, have two options: great private schools and unschooling in a phenomenal city. I’ve met parents of both breeds and the kids are alright. The ones that choose private have more kid free time to earn. I’ve met a lot of great families from both sides of the table and I love living in this city while unschooling- the options are endless.

  6. mh
    mh says:

    Ssssshhhhh…

    While great news for the parents and kids opting out of compulsory school, this kind of high profile disengagement from state control in a place like California is exactly the catalyst for states to start demanding tighter controls on homeschoolers.

    The attitude is already out there, latent. Dormant. Simmering, but homeschool families tend not to be the “cool kidz”, so we can be ignored as ignorant, maldocislized possible abusers. But when wealthy, educated, and involved people pull their kids, in a high profile way, that’s a big F-U to statist control freaks.

    And here’s how it goes:

    You mean you don’t teach reading every day? Le gasp! You mean your children are playing outside 5+ hours per day? You mean there’s no… No… No… Standardized tests?!? Neglect!

    For the good of the children, in their best interests, we have to mandate that homeschoolers meet these requirements…

  7. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    We’re in our first year of homeschooling in the Bay Area. I find the community to be pretty tiny, and I’m a pretty good networker so I’ve reached out quite a bit. We had to stop going to park days because attendance was so uneven… they made us depressed.

    We’re finding our way, and we’ve made a few sweet homeschooling connections. But on the ground it doesn’t feel like the huge movement that the internet makes it out to be. At least in my neck of the woods.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I’m an introvert who is very sociable, but I hate parks and park days. I don’t go. I have had mixed results finding true peers for my oldest daughter, while my youngest two have no concept of strangers… everyone is their friend.

      My oldest has had better success in classes like art and acting with like minded children in an age “range” regardless of how they are schooled. She gravitates towards tweens who tend to be moody creative types.

    • A
      A says:

      Amy, what I would give to be where you are! In the south, progressive though reaches us 10 years after it has been accepted on either coast. That includes folks who think their children should have limited screen time, no cell phones till they are 18, etc. In many ways, the restrictions of the formal school system are replaced by new restriction of the homeschooling parents. I find that counter productive and counter intuitive.

  8. Left Shark
    Left Shark says:

    As an elasmobranch, I greet with great enthusiasm the idea of more Bay Area children set free from their junior prisons and venturing into the surf.

    Come right in, little friends, the water is fine.

  9. MYtwicebakedpotato
    MYtwicebakedpotato says:

    I have been a public school teacher for 24 years, but the system failed my highly sensitive, highly introverted and twice-exceptional son. We pulled him when his self doubt and frustration became too much. I am so glad that we did even though I never imagined being a homeschooling family. No regrets

  10. dee
    dee says:

    I have home schooled all five of my children, and I can confidently declare it builds responsibility, creativity and independence. I am now watching them home school their children.
    So- I encourage you. You will inspire out-of-the-box-thinkers for the next generation.

  11. pat
    pat says:

    Not near a big city but on the coast; stone’s throw from the Pacific in SoCal.

    Why should my kid sit all day indoors?!
    I used to cut class back in the day; now we schedule around beach time. Makes sense, no?

  12. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    The links in this post have been so interesting.

    After reading the post and and the links, I feel this is really a pro-school post. There have been some other posts too that have boosted my enthusiasm for improving public school education, but this one is over-the-top.

    All these arguments seem to say is the gap between the haves and have-nots will widen greatly in the coming decades, and this is how the top tier is making that chasm bigger at an ever faster rate.

    And funny enough all the comments just seem to endorse my feeling.

    I am not sure if that was the goal of this post or not.

    Will homeschooling trickle down, or become mainstream? I just have serious doubts it will. And from the comments here anyways, it doesn’t appear existing homeschoolers want it to be mainstream.

    And if the inventors of a revolution don’t want it to spread…then it is doubtful it will.

    Which kind of leaves schools in the same predicament, many people know what is wrong with schools, not just homeschoolers, and nobody can change it or fix it.

    • mh
      mh says:

      I would advocate for a return to the proper understanding of a family/parental role in the education of their children: 100% responsibility.

      Families now have (but should have many more) great options for choosing to outsource or retain that responsibility.

      I would advocate for an end of the established, property-tax based system of public education, where the rich have adequate resources and the poor are desperate. I deplore the situation we have, in which poor parents know that, if their child can not read, that child is likely to end up dead, poor, or in prison. These are CHILDREN. And all too often, educational gimmickry gets in the way of teaching poor children to read. It’s one of the only things we should have public schools for: to teach the children of the poor to read.

      Our education system is a national disgrace.

      Every illiterate child is a condemnation of the system we have.

      Will homeschooling “trickle down?” It doesn’t really matter. Keeping children in school is a disturbing trend.

    • Amy K.
      Amy K. says:

      Jennifa,

      People see what they want to see. There isn’t a mass exodus from public schools in the Bay Area. Berkeley public schools–which are integrated and well-funded–are bursting at the seams. There’s talk of eventually having to build an additional elementary school.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Jennifa,

      How is this post a pro-school post?

      The very first link shows that homeschooling has doubled and those statistics do not include homeschoolers who use K12 or public charter schools where you educate your child at home through supervision of the charter school. Leaving out those homeschoolers truly masks the real numbers of homeschoolers since they will always count as public school children in the statistics. I don’t take any public money and am self-funded so I statistically count as a homeschooler.

      I don’t think there is any breakdown for independent study children, public charter homeschoolers, or virtual schoolers but there should be!

      • Jenn Gold
        Jenn Gold says:

        What I inferred from Jennifa’s comment is this – since homeschooling will never become mainstream (for the variety of reasons she opined) then Traditional Schools will continue to be forefront as they are. Those seriously interested in school reform would need to step up to the plate. This post is encouraging schools and those with vested interests to helpp improve the system since homeschooling (and its merits) will never be available to the masses. Hence, all the more reason to rally around schools?

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          Ahhhhh. I see…

          I guess I would suggest that if that is indeed the premise, then it is a false one because of masked/hidden homeschoolers not counted in the stats and the doubling rate of homeschoolers counted by the NCES.

          False assumptions are limiting and are a hindrance to freeing one’s mind from a traditional mindset.

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