Why is homeschooling on Penelope’s site?

Before Gen Y was old news,  I earned $15, 000 per speech to tell companies how Generation Y would change the workplace.  Now we don’t need any predictions. We can all see for ourselves.

But now people ask me about Generation Z. “How will they change work?” I’ve been investigating this question for about four years, and at this point I’m pretty certain that Generation Z will make their imprint at work by being incredibly prepared for work.

Gen Z will have an education that is practical. College is widely seen as worth far less than its price tag in most cases.  Graduate school is an anachronism, now seen by many (including the Chronicle of Higher Education) as a babysitting service for adults.

So I started thinking, if Gen X ers – the parents of Gen Z – are not buying into the education system, then what will happen?

The answer is that Gen Z will be homeschooled much more frequently than any generation before them, and Generation Z will understand how to synthesize data, self-direct learning, and ask the kinds of questions that make or break companies.

The portion of Generation Z that gets the old-fashioned, classroom-based education, will end up being unprepared to compete.

I looked around me to check this conclusion and I was shocked by three people in my life.

Lisa Nielsen. She is head of NYC public school teaching training and technology.  She is at the forefront of public school reform yet she is a huge, huge supporter of the homeschool movement. And she has been sending me data points, and research for the last three years trying to get me to homeschool my kids. Her blog is The Innovative Educator and I can’t recommend it enough.

Brad Hoffman. I met him at Time Inc, when he was in charge of the education programs and I was educating people on how to deal with Gen Y. We became friends and I’ve watched him launch his own education company, My Learning Springboard.

As soon as I heard him talking about the courses they offer, and the parents who were buying them, I panicked. Education was becoming more innovative, customized, and intensive than anything I had ever imagined. Kids were taking Japanese after school and Spanish in school. (You can hire Brad’s company to do the whole Japanese program, in your house. Or Hebrew. Or Russian. Or Arabic.)

Anything you can imagine, Brad can get someone who is amazing to teach it. But here’s what really got me: All the stuff I couldn’t imagine. He offers a class to teach ten-year-olds math through investing. He offers architecture history by wandering around New York City. I want that kind of education for my kids.

Kate Fridkis. She writes a blog called Eat the Damn Cake, and she was homeschooled. I have asked her a million questions about her mom. Because I like Kate. She is fun and quirky and she is doing well navigating the transition to adulthood. I ask her how her mom did it, and what was it like?

Kate told me her mom was fantastic as a homeschooling mom, but Kate wishes her mom had had more self-confidence. Kate saw that her mom was worried the whole time – worried she wasn’t doing everything right.

So this blog is about me, figuring out what to do with my kids’ schooling. I want to be brave and homeschool. But I’m afraid I’m like Kate’s mom. Probably very confident but totally terrified.

And maybe I’m not like Kate’s mom. Because I’m not sure I’m going to take the leap. I’m scared it’s the wrong decision. I thought we could discuss it as a community, though. Because if you have kids, you should be as worried as I am. And if you don’t have kids, you should realize that Generation Z is the next group to be biting at your heels – all of our heels – at work.

72 replies
  1. Jayne
    Jayne says:

    I home school one of my kids, and I worry that I’m not doing it right, but I also think it is the wave of the immediate future. The child I’m home-schooling happens to be musically and artistically gifted, and public schools just don’t offer music and art any more. Plus I don’t really think it’s practical to stick with the bricks & mortar, 8:30-3:00, 9 months on and 3 months off model any more. I’m glad you’re doing this and look forward to reading what you have to say about it.

  2. Auriel
    Auriel says:

    I was homeschooled from 4th grade through HS graduation and my mom worried sometimes as well, but I think if you have the confidence to make the decision to homeschool you also have to have the confidence that you aren’t ‘screwing up your kids’ and then you put together a plan to make that happen.

  3. Kari
    Kari says:

    Homeschooling has been a trend in the Christian community for many years now. I first heard about it more than 20 years ago. For that reason, because I work at a Christian organization, I work with adults that were homeschooled & to be honest, they’re indistinguishable from everyone else. Some are focused overachievers, others can’t spell to save their life & just do enough to get by…just like the people who attended traditional school. Personally, I love the idea of homeschooling. It makes sense for a lot of kids (but not for every kid). But I don’t really see it as a magic bullet to success.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      Ah, well my daughter did just that- avoided math to read or do something else. Now she’s learning organic farming and having no trouble learning what needs to be done first and next.

      It could be that she would not do well in a corporate environment, but she chooses not to place herself there. She is not alone among the general population in that.

      I don’t agree that children have to be forced to do things to get used to having to do things. Life presents enough natural occasions to learn patience, discipline and hard work. Take advantage of them and it will be well.

    • Dave H
      Dave H says:

      I’d venture to suggest that the ones who did badly were taught the way their parents considered to be the ‘right way’ without looking to see if it was the best way for the child. The big advantage of educating your child yourself is that you are free to adapt your methods to ones that work for your child, rather than the methods based on crowd-control that schools need to use.

      A rigid curriculum may not be best for some children, because we all learn a lot easier if we’re interested in the subject matter, or at least appreciate that it’s necessary to get to what we really want. Similarly, some children may need the discipline of a set timetable, and others may be in between where they need a timetable to define ‘lesson’ periods but are free to choose the subjects.

      With modern schooling often teaching to the test, prospective university students may be good at answering those tests but lack a proper understanding of the subject. Those educated at home are more likely to adapt to life where it is necessary to go find the answers and work things out.

      A last thought – the best thing you can teach your child is how to learn and have fun doing it. If you can get that one over with early then the rest is easy, and if you forget something, your child will be well-equipped to make up the lack when it becomes apparent.

  4. EngineerChic
    EngineerChic says:

    My concern with homeschool programs that are too student-directed is that sometimes in work you don’t do the tasks you want to do. It seems like every job or career involves some grunt work or administrative tasks that very few people enjoy. I think some of how we learn that discipline to complete these tasks is learned in school – like finishing your math exercises before recess. Even if you’d rather read another chapter or learn some more Spanish instead of doing math.

    I’m concerned that the next wave of employees may struggle with having to do X before Y if the workplace is the first time they face it (first time they face it outside of natural consequences like “you have to till the ground before you put in your seedlings” b/c some of the X before Y requirements in corporate culture aren’t as obviously necessary).

    • karelys davis
      karelys davis says:

      I hear what you are saying. Except that I strongly believe the grunt work will look different for most people in 10 years. Everything (almost) is computarized which frees up time to do other things. Some people prefer administrative work because of the social/individual nature of it. My coworker (office manager) is a grand example of this. I don’t mind it if I have to do it but if you give me the chance to sell vs. administrative work I’d choose sales. I did school online and it taught me how to handle time in accordance to everything going on in life.

      • EngineerChic
        EngineerChic says:

        A lot of the “grunt work” I was thinking of was actually on the computer ;) For example: I often go to Asia for a couple weeks or Europe for 7-10 days for work. I try to visit as many customers as I can, while taking into account lower priced airfares & stuff. It can take me 3-5 hours to get all the flights/trains & hotels figured out for one of these “10 cities in 10 days” kinds of trips. I hate doing it.

        Recently we hired a couple new people so I’ve taken them with me on a couple of these trips. They have no idea what awaits them in terms of orchestrating this. My rule is that I’ll handle the arrangements for the first trip (since I was introducing them to everyone) but after that, they are on their own to figure out the travel logistics. I get the feeling they are going to hate it more than I do – at least when I’m emailing folks in distant sales offices it’s people I know & like, so I have a positive association with them. And I’ve been doing it for years so 3-5 hours is actually a relatively short time to do it all. It might take them 2-3x that.

        That’s the kind of grunt work that falls into everyone’s job (until you reach director level) and it’s really unpleasant because it feels so damned unproductive. But we aren’t about to hire a bunch of travel agents to do this. And video conferencing just isn’t a viable solution for a good portion of customer interaction (not all meetings happen in a conference room, they could happen on the production floor).

        That’s the sort of grunt work I was referring to (or even typing up trip notes, another joyous thing that is related to travel). The customer meeting is the fun part – all the other stuff around it is the grunt work (or so it seems).

        • karelys davis
          karelys davis says:

          sounds like you are spot on. Maybe if you want to hire someone who will do a grand job then hire people on basis of personality. But if it’s yourself that has to deal with that ouch! maybe bribe a coworker to trade for a task you dislike less? some people don’t mind filing but I hate it. So I do other tasks they hate or don’t even mind. Or bring them lunch :)

    • Krista
      Krista says:

      I think that’s a myth that one can’t follow their interests and learn how to do the hard work or “grunt work” that comes in life. There is grunt work with anything we do – even the stuff we’re interested in – it’s just that with the stuff we’re interested in, we’re willing to do it. Stuff we’re not interested in and are not willing to do we delegate, usually by hiring someone to do it (i.e. house cleaners, oil changes, etc.) So if we’re talking about learning, why would we force information in that won’t stick because there is either no interest or it’s not presented in an interesting way? Sometimes interest is developed when presented in an interesting way. Learning doesn’t have to hurt just like it shouldn’t hurt when we stretch – if there is pain involved we’re doing it wrong. Learning can be enjoyable, pleasant and even fun.

    • Scott
      Scott says:

      It’s interesting. It used to be that pointless busy work with no pedagogical value was considered a waste of the students time and a sign of a poor teacher. But now pointless busy work is specifically heralded as valuable because it teaches children how they will be expected to comply with dull and pointless activities in a corporate factory job. Educator Alfie Kohn addresses the issue in his books. He discusses the argument that children’s time should be wasted in school on pointless tasks so they can learn to deal with the drudgery of life. He rebuts it soundly by saying that’s just plain nuts and people who assert that range from extremely misguided to actively wicked.

  5. Twister
    Twister says:

    @ EngineerChic – Classic homeschoolers will have to do lots of stuff they don’t want to do, UNschoolers are student-driven.

    A friend of mine and her two siblings were all homeschooled right up til high school graduation. When I went backpacking in New Zealand they were living there, and I volunteered to help her older with Shakespeare (which she hated) because they were following the standard grade 11 curriculum from the Ontario government.

    The only difference is that we got to read shakespeare in a park, standing on a rock, acting out the different bits.

  6. Tristan
    Tristan says:

    I was homeschooled for 9th, 10th, and 12th grade because our family was moving around overseas a lot. But my parents didn’t do any of the teaching. I essentially just read lots of books and wandered around the streets of Beijing and Almaty (Kazakhstan). It was fantastic.

    It also made me the person I am today that hates having any sort of organizational structure in my life or anyone telling me what to do. Because of that I hated college and thought it was worthless. And because of that I was driven to start my own online business that I could run on my own terms.

    I wish I had liked regular school more. I wish I had liked college more. I wish I liked having a regular job more. But I don’t. Life is better this way, but I sure think it would be easier the other way.

    • karelys davis
      karelys davis says:

      I was telling my husband that homeschool breeds entrepreneurs and the school system tries to raise employees. This is a major generalization but it makes my point for self starters. What do you think?

      • mary kathryn
        mary kathryn says:

        That is a large generalization. I don’t know about the part about homeschoolers being entrepreneurs. But I do know that the public system was formed in order to create good citizens for the nation, period. That was the noble goal. The good of the child, per se, was not the goal, but the good of the country. So: making good employees, yeah, I think you could argue that one.

    • Scott
      Scott says:

      Tristan, I had the same experience. My family was traveling a lot growing up and I was not in school at all, I wandered the streets of foreign cities, bought books, haggled purchases, and on occasion adopted myself out to families I met where I learned their culture and parts of whatever the local language was. College was boring and I graduated with highest possible honors. I now run my own company and homeschool my kids.

  7. karelys davis
    karelys davis says:

    I love this post because I want my kids to be homeschooled. Actually I would love some sort of hybrid between “natural schooling” and homeschool. My husband prefers public school for a variety of reasons. I think public school offers valuable learning opportunities other than academics. At least I would like to give my kids the opportunity to choose either public school or home school depending on their personality. We don’t have kids yet. But I did online college for my bachelors and it was way more than a signed up for! I love it.

  8. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of homeschooling, but could never imagine actually doing it, given the combination of my personality and my daughter’s. Would it still be home schooling if I hired someone to do it for me?

  9. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy says:

    I am shocked but thrilled to find a homeschooling section on your site!

    Your take on the coming homeschooling boom really resonated with me–I straddle Gen X/Y, we have 4 kids, we just finished our first year homeschooling our two grade school kids. The private school choices aren’t terrible around here but tuition for 4 will be killer when they’re all in school, and we are over-achieving nerds and want our kids to have a stellar education. So we’re giving homeschooling a try.

    I’m looking forward to the coming conversation around here!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I am now certain that it was right to start a homeschool section here because I am absolutely entranced with the comments. I am learning so much.

      Anne, I think so much of the homeschooling trend comes from the thriftiness of Gen X/Y — it’s just too scary and limiting to commit to private school tuition for fifteen years, and then the only way to get that type of high quality education is to homeschool.

      It’s a nod to the fact that Gen X has radically shifted family into the high-priority spot, way above work. Which means Gen X is willing to give up a huge salary to stay home for schooling.

      It’s fascinating to me, to see the wide range of people who are making this type of decision with such certainty. I am excited for that moment when I feel certain…


  10. Dave
    Dave says:

    As a GenX parent of 3 who will be in the public schools, I have a different perspective. I am still trying to figure out this crazy system here, but I start from some very different assumptions, I think.

    The greatest value of an education is the ability to understand how to get along with other people, most of whom do not share your way of thinking. So I don’t see the point in home schooling. IF my kids are smart, they will do well anywhere, and I think learning to do well in urban public schools is much more valuable than whatever substance you cram into a homeschool course or whether they can race to the top of a suburban achievement pile.

    Another thing we should be teaching is the ability to be resourceful and make do with what you have instead of thinking you can always buy better. It is a fine line between telling people to “settle” vs making it better, but I think too many people are teaching their kids this idea that they can always do better–you just need to pay for it. The public schools are not “good enough” for us, so I will teach you myself. How about the idea that “you get what you get and you don’t get upset?” Again, I can see that sounds a bit lame, but I actually think it is lamer to keep reaching for the elusive, perfect thing. Make it better, don’t spend all your time trying to get to something better. Reality always disappoints unless you make it yourself. I want to model behavior for my kids that demonstrates creativity and resourcefulness, not entitlement, arrogance, elitism, etc.

    What if they are bored to death? Who knows, maybe I will be furiously backpedaling in a year or two when the full reality of Boston Public sets in. People will be free to tell us “I told you so.” But as someone who was a high-achiever, I think one of the keys to my kids’ happiness will be learning how to work within the system, not stand apart from it.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Dave, I think you speak for a lot of people. I mean, I hear over and over again that parents with kids in school want their kids to deal with a wide range of people.

      Something I hear over and over again from homeschooled kids who have grown up is that they don’t know how to be bored. It just doesn’t happen to them – they leave boring situations. I think kids who go through school are more apt, for better or worse, to ride out a boring situation.


      • Catherine
        Catherine says:

        Perhaps the ability to stomach being bored is more of a personality thing – I was private schooled two years, homeschooled four years, and public schooled the rest of the time, and I abhor being bored. I always tell my kids “smart people don’t get bored” to remind them that there is almost always something you can learn or do to be productive no matter what situation you’re in.

        Come to think of it though, I probably picked up that skill in public school, where I was officially bored nearly 100% of the time. And perhaps being homeschooled is where I picked up the tendency to seek out life and work situations where the risk of boredom is minimized. Interesting thought, Penelope!

        • Kevin
          Kevin says:

          The reason you were bored in public school (as I was) is:

          1) Teachers have to teach to the middle or the Lowest common denominator, so if you are an above average student for the class, you are bored.

          2) You aren’t allowed to do anything but sit there “Paying attention”. Can’t read a book. Can’t doodle. Can’t write. What? You have an A in the class? Doesn’t matter, put whatever you are working on away. Public school teaches the need to be subversive. And it’s boring

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      i also hear the “i want my kids to be able to deal with all kinds of people” comment – as though all kinds of kids don’t exist except in public school. they’re out there in the regular world, too. you can’t avoid them.

      also “you are abandoning the public schools – you should get in there and fight for better education within the system”. that’s a nice, naive point of view – you CANNOT change your local school system .. at least not in time to help your kids.

      and you only get one chance to educate your children. better make the most of it. sacrificing them on the altar of public education is one way to go. but even our most liberal presidents send their kids to private school.

    • Catherine
      Catherine says:

      I think your comment, “The greatest value of an education is the ability to understand how to get along with other people, most of whom do not share your way of thinking” is interesting. To my way of thinking, public school is a group of 30 or so kids from the same part of town, who are the same age, possibly learning a few things mixed in with a lot of crowd control. Whereas homeschooling is all about interacting with the community on all sorts of levels, and seeing education as the act of learning knowledge and interacting with the ideas of history, philosophy, art, math, science, and literature as they have accumulated over the span of time.

      I do see your point about the potential fallout of concerned parents fleeing the public school system and leaving behind the underprivileged and kids whose parents don’t care, but I’m not willing to throw my own children under that bus. As another commenter said, we only have one shot at educating our children, and my responsibility for my own child’s education is greater than my responsibility for the education of the society at large.

      I’m not trying to be antagonistic, nor do I think public school is always the wrong answer, but I think it depends on your point of view.

      • Latha
        Latha says:

        As a unschooling of a 9 year old boy, I can categorically say that the age old socialization argument for formal schooling is completely humbug. My son’s interactions are not limited to his peer-age group, facilitated or supported by one or two adults. He lives in the world that I do. That means he interacts with people of all ages through the day. What I love most is the flexibility that freedom from school offers us as a family. We live part of the year abroad and he is home in both cultures.

        • Dave H
          Dave H says:

          Turn it around – why restrict your social circle to one adult and thirty children of the same age? Sometimes you get lucky, at least as children get older and opt for different subjects, and you might get to occupy rooms with more than thirty different children of the same age and have ten different adults standing up front telling you to shut up and pay attention (but what about the important socialisation that school provides?)

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      It’s a great noble idea that going to public school, and public urban school will help your kids learn to relate to all types of people. Maybe in your district that is true.

      The first school I finished that I started was college, because my parents moved around (Corporate transfers) all throughout my life. I always went to the best suburban public schools available. And I was always in the Gifted or eventually AP classes. All of my classes had the same kids, and I didn’t know any of the kids who weren’t in those classes (except through sports).

      Required electives (Driver’s ED, PE, Health, Art, etc) gave me some diversity, and you want the truth? It was a crazy group of kids. Very distracting, lots of shenanigans going on (of course, the material wasn’t worth paying attention to).

      Then I went to University. Yeah, one of those fancy ones with the $40k annual price tag and a top 15 USNAWR ranking. And all my classmates were the same kids I had been in AP classes with in high school. Everyone got Wall Street jobs or Ivy league grad school.

      There was no diversity. Oh, sure, we had lots of different races and backgrounds. Black, Asian, International, a few Latino, but EVERYONE spoke white. EVERYONE had the ability to blend in when needed, put on the suit, and land that Goldman job.

      The reality is that our country is polarized and segregated, by ambition, class, and education.

      What ‘America’ do you want your kids to navigate? Because if they don’t have the vocabulary and skills to operate at the higher levels, they never will, but they can always ‘slum it’ down when needed.

      I’m not saying that everyone’s goal should be to operate in that arena. I think there are many dangerous things about it, but for many parents, that is the goal for their kids: great college, great job, great family, great house, etc.

      Now google Brazen Careerist for ‘Social IQ’ or whatever it is that speaks to social skills as being more important to career success than IQ. Problem is, does traditional schooling really aid in the development of those skills?

    • mary kathryn
      mary kathryn says:

      Your reply shows that there are (at least) 2 very different types of parents, with different goals for their children. I’m probably the absolute opposite of you — I don’t have much interest in training my children for 12+ years on how to get along with people they dislike (ugh), nor in how to settle with being bored (double ugh). Frankly, those are things that I (almost) actively don’t train into my kids. My m-i-l says to kids who complain of boredom, “There’s no such thing as being bored, just being boring.” But to institutionalize boredom, and make it the educational standard? That sends me screaming from the room. I don’t see life that way, and I don’t want my kids to either. But I do understand what you’re saying, and it’s certainly a valid position, just not one I want.

  11. Stef
    Stef says:

    Like Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy, I am a thrifty, nerdy, X/Y cusp-er who is interested in homeschooling, but unlike her, I have no children yet! Since the time that I began realistically thinking of having children in the future, I have been researching homeschooling, so I am completely enthralled with this new section. I look forward to hearing your perspective on this subject!

  12. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    I’m interested in homeschooling any future children my husband and I have, not so much because I want to give them a great education (which I do) but because public schools in Philadelphia (and so many other places) are completely scary and awful and I do not want to go bankrupt sending them to private school.

    I’d love for you to discuss the socioeconomics of homeschooling. If those students left behind, as you say, in the school system will be at a disadvantage, what does that mean for poor or working class or some students of color or immigrants whose parents have to work? Is homeschooling just privileged private school at home? Is it any different from the inequities already in place in the educational system? Can you be working/middle class and homeschool? Because, my husband and I don’t have much money and will probably not be rich. But I can’t send our kids to school here.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah, I am pretty worried about the fact that I have to work whether or not I homeschool. I don’t read a lot about moms who both homeschool and have a full-time job. I am worried about going nuts trying to do both.

      I think homeschooling is not so much a privilege of rich people but a privilege of self-confident, disciplined people, who, I’m afraid to say, tend to be from more cushy backgrounds.

      But this is a big reason I want to homeschool — I think public schools are going to end up being a place for poor kids and kids whose parents couldn’t pull it together to homeschool.


      • Lori
        Lori says:

        The key here is to have your kids direct and manage their own learning. Self-directed learners don’t need much supervision. They need mentoring, they need support, but they are busy all day between their work and their hobbies. We have always worked and homeschooled and we’re not the only ones.

      • Catherine
        Catherine says:

        I would love for you to post about people who balance work and homeschooling. I homeschooled my kids for preschool while I was not working (at great financial cost to the family, but it was worth it to take out a few years while they were really small) and this year I am trying to juggle a full-time but partly from home job with homeschooling. I mapped it out and I think it will work on paper, but I’d love to hear about other parents who have made that work.

        • Latha
          Latha says:


          If there is a work-from-home component in your job, then it is much more easier to homeschool younger children. They do need more attention and time. I also separate work into stuff that I can do with my son around and that I need alone time and space. I am an academic and so most of my teaching stuff (class prep, grading etc.) and some data analysis is doable as I am actually sitting next to my son. Whereas with my heavy lifting reading/thinking/writing, I need quiet time. When my son was smaller, I used to work mostly at nights on those.

          But it is certainly doable. It takes a combination of creativity and doggedness.

        • Cathy
          Cathy says:

          I am no longer homeschooling my three daughters, as they are all grown, but I homeschooled them from pre-K up (two out of three have now graduated with honors from colleges, and my 19yo is a professional dancer with quite a few college credits under her belt). I only worked part-time during the homeschooling years, but I was in a large homeschool group, and I know quite a few families that combined homeschooling with full-time work.

          Some parents were able to do their work from home. Some two-parent families were able to stagger work schedules so that one parent was (almost always) available. I took on a friend’s daughter three days a week, and she had my kids over one of her days off in return. One family at least utilized a nearby grandparent several hours a day–and Grandma read aloud to the kids, an easy enough task that can be highly beneficial. Some families had a few super-lean years when the kids were little but were able to go back to full-time work when the kids were a bit older and more independent. There were as many solutions as there were families…

          Whether we were in 2-parent or 1-parent families, whether we were in situations in which parents didn’t work, worked part time, or worked full time, most of us were a bit poorer than the average family in our communities–but I don’t think any of us, looking back now with the clarity of hindsight, have any regrets on that score. My own family has since clawed its way back up to a fairly comfortable middle class status, and my grown kids are pretty darned wonderful (if I do say so myself).

      • Latha
        Latha says:

        I am a full time professional sole mom to an unschooled 9 year old boy. However, I am fortunate that my career (academia – not lab driven) allows me a lot of flexibility and I have the resources to hire a part time companion (@ 9 he doesn’t want a babysitter) and a fantastic social network. If one didn’t have these elements, I agree that it will not be easy to homeschool and work full time. There are yahoo groups for parents who work full time and homeschool. Each family comes up with their own configuration of arrangements to manage it. In my case, my son is 9 and he is a lot more independent than he was even a couple of years ago. A couple of years ago, I was a lot more sleep deprived than I am now! Even on hindsight, I would make the same choice.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Latha, it’s great to hear from someone who is working full-time and operating outside the school system. I think there are very few people talking about this — I have read very few, at least. But in order for a broad range of people to be able to consider alternative education plans, a broad range of people need to be models for us. So thanks for your comment.


          • Latha
            Latha says:


            There are at least two reasons why full time employed homeschooling parents are kind of invisible. One is the obvious lack of time. I would love to have maintained or maintain a blog of our everyday adventures in living and learning. But I really don’t have the time. It is much easier for me to just document some stuff in an ongoing portfolio form (which needs no edits lol).

            Two, we are also worried about how our coworkers and bosses interpret our decision. For example, I am an in the closet homeschooler at work. I don’t lie, but I don’t volunteer any information. So a few people know, a lot don’t. As a tenure track professor, I wouldn’t my colleagues (people with power over my tenure decision) misinterpret my homeschooling decision as a lack of interest in my career. I love my job and am very, very good at it. If I am ever forced to make a choice between homeschooling and my job, it will be a tough decision but an easy one too – I will always pick my son over myself and my job. Part of it is as a scholar, a job does not make me a scholar or not, it just provides the right context, space, opportunity, and resources to be one.

    • mary kathryn
      mary kathryn says:

      I run in a large homeschooling circle — probably a hundred families, and they’re all middle class. This is NOT a “rich” trend. Usually it just involved sacrifices for the whole family. Homeschooling itself is very inexpensive, usually just books and some supplies. You have to find a way to live on one salary. But since most h.s. families are already into “family” time and doing what it takes for the family, these sacrifices are normal. Smaller house. No vacations. Resale shops. From-scratch meals. Fewer extra-curriculars. The kids work in high school. The moms work from home. A friend of mine is a single mom of 4 sons, whom she’s homeschooled all the way through, beautifully. She’s articulate, talented, hard-working. She has her own editing business, and has made it all work.

  13. Maria
    Maria says:

    For our family, homeschooling isn’t about keeping up or worrying about a generation biting at our heels. It’s not about the fact we think we can educate better than anyone else. It’s about public school not working in the way we want it to, it’s about having time to be a family and experiencing life instead of sitting in an institution for 12 years. Its about learning together instead of apart.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I love this, too. I would like to think that when I am a homeschooler, I will talk about it like this, instead of bitching about public school. Thanks, Maria.


      • Latha
        Latha says:

        Yes, every choice that involves substantial commitment needs to be framed as an affirmative one for our energy to be sustainable:) Bitching can only get one so far! It might be a great trigger to action and a source of short term energy, but to run a marathon, one needs positive energy.

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      “students who’d been pulled out of class and given individual instruction. What Bloom found is that students given one-on-one attention reliably perform two standard deviations better than their peers who stay in a regular classroom. How much of an improvement is that? Enough that a student in the middle of the pack will vault into the 98th percentile.”


      I mean, how piss poor do you have to be to do worse with individualized private instruction by passionate, commited teachers (parents) than with watered down, group teaching by instructors who may or may not be as passionate, or interested in your kid as you’d like. And we’re not exactly talking about the best and the brightest. That’s a statistical fact. Our best and brightest are figuring out how to perfect coupon websites.

      Meaning: You can screw the pooch pretty good and I think your kid will come out ahead intellectually of where they would have been,and the learning should go much quicker.

  14. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    I homeschooled my daughter–now 18–and worked the whole time. I think one crucial point is that there are myriad different ways to homeschool–that’s why it’s so tricky to generalize about “home-schooling parents” or “home-schooled kids.” Each family has to find a way to make it work for the particular individuals involved. There’s no single right way.

    One thing I know, from many friends who had children in school prior to homeschooling, is that homeschooling doesn’t take much more time than the homework battles parents of schooled children face. And in many cases, private schools have just as many problems and issues as public ones–they may be different problems, but no less concerning for all that.

    Before starting to homeschool, I think a parent needs to ask him/herself some hard questions about goals for the child, the child’s personality, the relationship between parent and child, and whether you are willing to take this on as a serious, time-consuming, long-term commitment. If the answers to those questions are positive, then the rest will work itself out.

    • Latha
      Latha says:

      Absolutely, Kerry!

      I think I spend less time on homeschooling than what my sister spends on schooling her children. Getting them up on time to putting them to bed on time, chasing homework etc. My son is unschooled, so we are never really off school ever, but even among my homeschooling friends, they spend far less time on ‘actual’ schooling and much more in living their lives as a family.

      • Cathy
        Cathy says:

        Yes, Kerry and Latha–That’s it, exactly! The parent of a schooled kid may have to do more hours with all the drop-off-and-pick-up, the special requirements and requested participation for the school, and especially the homework. Many a time I had to point out to a crabby, tired mom who was teaching the math needed for that day’s homework to her crabby, tired kid (because he hadn’t understood whatever it was that the teacher had “taught”)– I would say, “Hey, I guess you are homeschooling your kid, too, but in the most INCONVENIENT way possible!”

  15. p
    p says:

    My sister homeschools her four children and loves it, but she’s also a Christian who’s a part of a huge Christian homeschooling network. I live in a different city, one with a small Christian homeschooling community and a few Waldorf wingnuts (note that I understand those words are not synonymous; just trust me on this). I want to homeschool, but not in isolation; I need a peer group. We can’t afford private school. I’m at a loss.

    Oh, and my son is four and I’ve been working from home with no childcare since he was six months old. I now have a four-month-old as well and am pretty terrified of what that’s going to do to my work once my husband’s parental leave is over. I have no idea how I’d homeschool and work longterm.

    So, any suggestions on making public school work? Probably not in this section…

  16. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    I think we miss the boat when we think of homeschooling as replicating traditional modes of education at home.

    It is much more like what PT has described with her son’s involvement with 4H and buying and raising pigs.

    Having the time and flexibility to put your kids in situations that are not feasible outside of normal school hours. Exposure, apprenticeships, operating in the adult world. Real world responsibilities and consequences.

    You know why everyone says they want to be a teacher, cop, doctor, lawyer, or fireman when they grow up? Those are the occupations they have first hand exposure to, or are on every single hour long drama on tv.

    Who says ‘I want to be a career counselor in house at Google’ when I grow up? No one, because it is an invisible position.

    But if you have your kids out of school, you can take the opportunity to develop your network of colleagues and get your kids some exposure to the types of work that are:

    A) invisible
    B) may be a better fit for your kids personality and abilities
    C) internally motivating to get your kids to learn otherwise boring material because it will get them to a goal they have set for themselves (I want to find Blackbeard’s treasure. And I need this information and skill set to help me pursue that. Or whatever).

    Homeschoolers should think outside the box, but you need to exist within a supportive community to do so. Most people don’t want kids running around the workplace, but you need to find work they can do, or some way to get that exposure.

    That flexibility, and individualized tailored learning is the key advantage to ‘home schooling’ in my view.

    See: Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks

  17. le @thirdontheright
    le @thirdontheright says:

    we home schooled by necessity not choice. It’s a hard slog – often over romanticised and over sold by the converted. Homeschooling success depends on lots of variables – the skill of the parent, the attitude of the teacher, the child, the provider, the support systems, the available funds, the space in the home where lesssons are done, the siblings, partner support etc etc … it’s a journey :) le

    • Cathy
      Cathy says:

      ThirdOnTheRight: The hardest parts of being a homeschooling parent aren’t the homeschooling parts, in my opinion–they’re the parenting parts! It’s not easy to know what to say or do, when and how, in order to raise your kid to be considerate of others but to think on their own, for example, to be kind yet not a yes-man/woman, to be honest and forthright with us (not lying and sneaky) and yet independent of us and brave enough to make mistakes…

      Reading, multiplying, our state’s history, cell biology and evolution–that’s relatively easy compared to most parenting concerns. We unschooled, and the kids managed to learn tons and tons without assignments or textbooks or any of that school “stuff”…but I’m much prouder of how they behave, what kind of people they have become, than of their knowledge…

  18. mary kathryn
    mary kathryn says:

    We have 4 kids and I’ve homeschooled 7 years now, in 2 stints. We’ve also done private Christian ed, and a little public. B/c so many Christian schools really try to pattern themselves after the public system, they don’t usually offer anything significantly better, for the mind of the child, IMO. A creative homeschool parent can do amazing things, if you’re willing to take risks, get your child out of a laborious, boring curriculum, and discover what makes his wheels grind. Don’t doubt yourself, b/c your hesitation will rob your child. Keep records, allow yourself to cover things on a different schedule from a “normal school,” and take trips. Take advantage esp. of all the things that a classroom can’t do. I do think homeschool kids generally know that they’re supposed to enjoy learning, and it’s to be a permanent part of life. They’re not all “self-starters” b/c that’s more a result of personality, I think. But they definitely won’t settle for some status quo institution when they enter the workforce; their parents taught them not to, long ago.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I really like this part of your comment: “Don’t doubt yourself, b/c your hesitation will rob your child.”

      This really speaks to me. I want to have faith in me and the kids that we’ll figure things out. I feel like maybe that’s what I’m trying to do here — find that faith.


      • rv
        rv says:

        Penelope, I was terrified the day the big yellow bus went past my house and my kids weren’t on it because I decided to home educate them. Fast forward 10 years…. I am so thankful that I have had this time to pour into them, get to really know them, and create memories that we will treasure forever. The excellent education has been great, the ability to pursue the extras and have the time to excel at them has been great, the efficiency has been great. But nothing compares to the time that we have spent *together*. I will never regret spending this time with my children.

  19. alejandra
    alejandra says:

    I’m a Gen Y (22 YO) and I think these ideas have reached me in the middle of college, cause I’m not happy at all with what college has offered me and I dropped it, I study home every single day and desperately applying to several colleges to see which could ever fit what I am looking for.

    I’m example number one that in a work environment, skills and experience are more valuable than a degree.

    Also I don’t have any children but with this educational system (I live and work in México) I was heavily considering homeschooling them whenever I do decide to have them. And I thought I was crazy for thinking that but thanks to you I don’t think that’s a terrible idea anymore.


  20. Brandy Brown
    Brandy Brown says:

    This is the #1 reason I am not enthusiastic about having children or fostering or adopting – I have known for years that I would not be able to live with myself if I put them in most public schools. For me, it really is a barrier to having children – because I take that responsibility very seriously. I’m super interested in reading about your journey with this here – congratulations on taking the leap and bringing a new level of honesty to the process. I can’t wait to read about it.

  21. Amy Lynn Andrews
    Amy Lynn Andrews says:

    I’m right there with ya on the terror of it all. My husband just quit his job as a public high school math teacher (let’s just say it was a frustrating job). He’s taking time to pursue his true passion and I’m working nearly full-time from home. He has taken on most of the homeschooling responsibilities and I pick up the rest. We’ve been at it for 4 weeks now and so far so good.

    Of course I obsess about our 4 kids having “gaps” in their education. But we’ve tried it all—public school, private school, homeschool and University-Model school—and they all have gaps!

    I finally got sick of worrying about it so I sat down and made a “What I Want Them to Know” list. It includes everything I hope they know by the time they are ready to set out on their own. A lot of it is “academic” but there’s a whole bunch more on there that has to do with functioning as a productive and relatively well-adjusted person in real life. Because after all, that’s the goal right?

  22. Alison
    Alison says:

    The choice to me is between worrying I’m not doing it right/enough/the right things (home-education) and knowing it’s not being done right (Current education system).
    Makes it so much simpler.

  23. -Kris Costello
    -Kris Costello says:

    I spent several months trying to help my bright and ‘quirky’ 8 yr old ‘adjust’ to our local public school. Believe me, spend a few months in a public school classroom and you won’t worry much about homeschooling. My kid has made it fairly easy for us, as he learns best when he’s totally engaged in something. So I’ve been forced to chill out and have faith in his brilliant mind and ability to learn. His pokemon interest taught him to read. Now he wants to learn algebra. lol, how I hated that in school! Yep, we’ll need a tutor for that. And luckily a local parent started a charter school for homeschool kids that meets 2x a week with a teacher. They’ve grown from 25 kids to over 300 in 2 yrs. Only problem now is he wants to go everyday. A big first for a kid that had to be dragged to public school. It is such a joy to have a happy kid after so many years of ‘school struggles!’

  24. Woody Quinones
    Woody Quinones says:

    Wife and I homeschooled our 5 children over the course of 15 years. They are all grown and raising their own children now. We worried the first year. Then after having them take the State’s required testing to stay eligible we learned our children did learn more and retained most of what they learned.

    We found that repetition and keeping them on a consistent schedule their learning skills seemed to enhance themselves along the way.

    They all were involved in sports and 4H. These activities taught them team work.

    For those of you who worry, I say don’t. Just be consistent with your child but remember during school time you’re the teacher not mommy or daddy.

    Peace and Success to you

  25. Erica
    Erica says:

    Penelope you are my new favorite human.
    I homeschool 6 kids. I dress up and wear make-up every day. I have graduated one daughter, one started college at 16 and is thriving. You will figure it out and soar.

  26. KJ
    KJ says:

    Interesting information here. We live in a suburb with 5 star public schools. This makes me wonder if sending them there is a mistake. We have discussed homeschooling but decided it was mostly for kooks and oddballs (ducking my head in shame). Homeschooling in our area (republic of Texas) seems to be done for religious reasons only because the public schools are “corrupting out children and doing away with Christmas”. Probably a large part of reaching our “kooks” conclusion.

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