I don’t think single parents can homeschool. I think it’s too scary. (There’s a good discussion about that in the comments on this post.)

According to Shane Krukowski, CEO of Project Foundry, homeschooling is increasing at the rate of 30% per year. And only 38% of homeschoolers today do it for religious reasons. The bulk of homeschoolers are moms who have a college degree and a husband and live in a school district they don’t think is acceptable for their kids.

So this means that

1.     The moms with a college degree and a husband are lying to themselves that the kid’s school is good enough and/or that they cannot homeschool. (Don’t tell me it’s about the money. It’s a bad excuse.)

2.     The school systems should cater to helping single parents and parents without college degrees, because other parents can handle schooling on their own and should stop relying on the public to support them. (A microcosm of this issue is teaching a kid to read.  My friend, Lisa Nielsen, education maven for New York City public schools, explained to me once that kids who have educated parents who read to them do not need to be taught to read — they’ll just learn. The reading programs are only necessary for kids who don’t have educated parents at home reading to them.)

Conclusion: Most moms lie to themselves about school, and then they send their kids there. Me, too, I guess, since I have a kid in public school. It’s hard to make a good decision when public schools are the best all-day babysitting program in the world, and homeschooling demands so much time and energy from the parent doing it.

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28 replies
  1. Christy
    Christy says:

    Penelope, thanks so much for instituting the email feed of the blog. Now I won’t miss stuff. :)

    I think most public schooling parents have three things holding them back from homeschooling.

    1. There is a perception that you are either a religious nut OR a leftover hippie if you homeschool your kids. Most parents don’t want to be in either of those categories. Sadly, your number (while undoubtedly true) is not convincing. This is as much emotional as rational.

    2. Educated parents in particular usually hold education in high esteem. Therefore, they fear they are not up to the task. Fear holds more people back from achieving greatness than just about anything else.

    3. There needs to be a new curriculum created to guide parents who are not in the categories from my number one. I think you and/or Seth Godin should create it. Think of it as a curriculum to develop a generation of powerfully independent thinker/doers. THAT would definitely shake things up.

  2. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    We have great school where we live..but I guess great is defined differently for everyone. Kids get into great colleges but their childhood is lost to AP courses and studying to the point that they have no social life or time to discover what they really enjoy.

    I home schooled because I wanted my kids to discover and learn how to learn, not just have things forced on them. They had some breathing room to discover who they are and what they love.

    And my older son got into college… a good college, with a full ride without taking one AP course. And his SAT’s were good but not great.

    We don’t all have to play the game the same way.

  3. karelys davis
    karelys davis says:

    I saw the breakdown for my taxes. And felt so sad that so much of that money if for public schools and I don’t even have kids that go to it. What would happen if we didn’t have to support public schools? people are going to get mad at this but I think a new market would emerge, like private schooling. When something goes down something new emerges.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      You do not have to run this experiment of not paying taxes for education. It has already been done for you: in the last few thousand years prior to the invention of public schools. Literacy rates, basic math abilities, geography, history, writing… the fact that the majority of the population is familiar with all these subjects is due to public schools. Homeschooling is fine in a world where the mum (or dad) can afford the time and money to stay home, and where the specific make-up of family life is conducive to home schooling.It is not a solution for all problems, and it is not good for all kids.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      To be clear, I think it’s really important for everyone to pay taxes to educate kids that otherwise could not get an education. One of the only things that keeps us from being a caste society is a public education system.

      My point is that parents who are capable of educating their kids at home should stop complaining about the education system and just take responsibility for their own kids so that the public schools can focus on kids who have no other option.

      I think rich kids from educated parent who have tons of after-school and summer programs need something really different from a school system than poor kids with no support system or opportunity at home. And we can’t do both. So we privileged parents — even those in the middle class — should just take their kids out. This is obviously not working and we’re not going to fix the public schools any time soon.


  4. Shane Krukowski
    Shane Krukowski says:

    Here’s the specific attribution I was referring to in terms of the 38%—more precisely 36% :


    “Donnelly says his group is not directly affiliated with a Christian church, but his website mentions staff members’ faith. He also said the homeschooling movement in the US was not just Christian – the National Center for Education Statistics says only 36 percent of homeschooled students are kept home primarily for religious reasons, although 83 percent of homeschooling families cite religious or moral education as at least one factor in the decision.”

  5. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    When you take the achievers out of a school, the school declines. We’ve seen that for decades. It’s called White Flight. So this is compounding that problem, and focusing public schools on single parents and less-educated parents sounds an awful lot like a new form of Separate but Equal, which was separate but never equal.

    There are ways to solve this problem, but they also take time and work, and people don’t want to do that.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I agree with all this, Kate. But nothing will change in the next ten years. There is just too much that is too big too change.

      So if you put your kids in school now, you are agreeing to put your kids through a system that we all know sucks.

      So I just don’t think parents who CAN homeschool their kids should be whining about the schools. I think whiners should shut up and take their kids out. Whining does not help to solve such large, systemic problems. Whining is just the public admission that your kid is not getting what he or she needs in the school situation you put them in.


      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        We went to public school and my parents made sure we had extraordinary learning experiences outside of school as well. That’s the path I’m planning to follow; I think it’s a better solution than abandoning others.

      • Claire
        Claire says:

        I’m challenging your assumption, Penelope, about the changes that will occur in education in the next ten years. I see it happening and it’s going to turn into a giant snowball of change really fast.

        My youngest will be in public school next year, so naturally I want improvements in education delivery to occur faster than they are. But am I hopeful about it because the suggestions on how to educate better are coming from everywhere; the global conversation is not lacking in ideas and solutions IMHO.

  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Is a parent who has a college degree (Mom or Dad) able to do a better job of homeschooling because of their degree? I don’t know but it seems to me there are many other factors to consider and a good high school education achieved by the parent should suffice.

  7. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Many families believe school is the right choice for their kids, and I don’t consider them liars.

    I think kids are at a disadvantage when parents don’t know how to use language properly, pass on incorrect information about the world, and don’t help their kids develop some kind of attention skills/work habit. Parents with a college education are less likely to send their kids to school already “behind.” That does not mean an uneducated parent cannot homeschool successfully. It depends on whether a family can make use of resources available.

  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I am a college educated mom and I have a husband. I have a daughter in first grade at our local public elementary and a toddler at home. I taught my daughter how to read, we challenge her every day with math problems, and we have a lot of fun talking to her about how the world works. Is it terrible, then, that I still think that she is better off at school than being taught by me at home? I will never pass responsibility for my children’s education off completely on the school (and I would not hesitate to start homeschooling her if I felt that was in her best interests). But, at least for now, she is learning how to make friends and interact with adults, and I do feel good about her learning.

  9. Karen
    Karen says:

    I don’t know. It is a mistake to assume that all college educated parents read to their kids. I know that mine didn’t. My parents had no business being parents at all; my brother and I weren’t abused, just neglected as mom and dad were too busy with their own lives to pay us much attention. My mom loved, loved, loved sending us off to school everyday so much that I frequently was sent off with a fever after she’d filled me full of tylenol. Not everyone can or should homeschool and some kids are better off in any school than stuck at home with parents who don’t like them that much. Not everyone cares about the quality of their kids education. Sad, but true.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I read a really interesting statistic once – I can’t remember where. That the tipping point for kids being raised to read is if there are 100 books in the house. The books can be anything – cookbooks, porn, whatever.

      When I read that, I thought it was crazy. But then I started counting peoples’ books. When I grew up I thought everyone in the world had 100 books in their house. But now I see it’s special to grow up in a house with books. It teaches you something different. And I see that people who do not have 100 books in the house really are different than those who do.

      I know this isn’t totally relevant to what you wrote. But your parents not reading to you reminded me of that.


  10. Felice Gerwitz
    Felice Gerwitz says:

    Let’s see, I’ve homeschooled since 1986, don’t know if that makes me an expert or not. I run several businesses, publish and now operate and own the Ultimate Homeschool Expo. I began my journey to homeschooling as a 6 month trial, if it doesn’t work; I’d put the kids back in school.

    My two oldest children went to a pre-school that charged more than most people’s mortgages at the time, and was attended by the doctor’s and lawyer’s kids of the day. I never planned to homeschool, I enjoyed playing tennis, going to lunch with my friends and all the things that a mom does when her kids are at school. However, all that changed when my son, a slow learner was labeled and stamped by a system I knew only too well. (I am a teacher with certification in Learning Disabilities.) He was all set to enter a non-verbal kindergarten class in a public school. I wouldn’t tolerate it! The private schools of the day were not equipped for “special kids,” unfortunately I had my son tested and therefore the label followed him. I tried to explain to the administration that could operate our computer better than I could, was reading simple books, and yes was a bit delayed, but not more than a few months, if that! He had been at a pre-school and preformed beautifully with able bodied children. They would not budge. He scored a 40 IQ on the non-verbal, sign language test they administered. He didn’t know sign!

    I then decided to try my hand at homeschooling. Said child, diagnosed with a form of Down’s Syndrome at 4 years old, is now an adult. He graduated from home and opted to forgo college. He owns his own truck, works a job in the construction industry, operates a smart phone (I ask for his help all the time with my iPhone) and is high functioning. He had his own place until a downturn of the economy caused him to move home temporarily.

    His success would not have happened within the system. My second child graduated from home K-12 with a love of writing, authored three books as a highschool student, ran several clubs, one of them on Shakespeare, spoke publicly at conferences, held book signings, and graduated from a university in three years, magnum sum laude with a double major. My last three currently schooling at home are ages 16, 13, and 11. I could go on with their virtues which lie in sports–travel baseball and softball for my 13 year old. No going home to homework after a tough weekend at tournaments for my kids!

    I could write more books if my children were in school, speak at more conferences on writing and publishing, ghost write more books, impact the world on a larger scale and do all the “things” the world says I deserve, such as going on a cruise I had to miss with all my college buddies last year (I was their president). I am fulfilling a much larger role, and it is much more satisfying than anything else I could imagine. I was able to teach my children to read, give my daughter a passion for writing, another daughter a passion for photography, a son a love of inventing, and another a love of reading. They are happy at home and have many friends. Several are social and two are much happier at home.

    Those who homeschool on the fringes of the movement are the only voices heard. There are a great many faithful people in the world and those stats line up pretty closely with homeschooling. I will attend a leadership conference in a week with all the heads of each of the states. These people are amazing and leaders in many ways in their specific community and on a lager and wider scale. Their impact is not only within their own families but outside as well.

    I know the hallowed halls of public and private education and will say there are great teachers there; one is my brother in law now retired. He retired early due to the lack of caring kids; he is one of those teachers who really want kids to learn! I now have him teaching homeschool students IP level American History, for credit. The quality of home-education can not be topped by any intuition, if the parents are engaged.

    It is a personal decision, one that all the statistics in the world will not convince a person one way or the other. For our family it is a lifestyle. It also is a legacy. My second child (the one that graduated with honors as a Communication major) is happily at home now with four little ones of her own. And yes, she is homeschooling them. Many of her friends and mine have degrees, doctors, lawyers and everything in between. Many, many of my friends (the majority) are authors. We homeschool our children because just as we want them to eat their veggies we want them to grow up in homes that love them no matter what their SAT scores or college entrance exams say. Research the stats and you will find that homeschoolers generally test higher. So high in fact that in Florida, if you homeschool under the “state” guidelines you must score 100-points higher on SAT and ACT tests than your peers to be admitted to the colleges at the same level as the public and private school kids. Really? Yes, really.

    Penelope, whatever you decide you will never regret the time you spend with your children. Yes, it is work to home educate, but far less work than reaping what is sowed by the public or even private system. I wish you the best.

  11. nova
    nova says:

    Penelope, you said “The moms with a college degree and a husband are lying to themselves that the kid’s school is good enough and/or that they cannot homeschool. (Don’t tell me it’s about the money. It’s a bad excuse.)”.

    What about time? It seems that at least the mom should be working from home or not working to be able to home-school. That is if we are not talking about others teaching the kids, which would need money.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah, I think the most interesting conversation is about time. Because it’s clear to me that

      1. homeschooling is better for kids than public school

      2. Moms are doing the schooling, not the dads

      3. The moms that do it (unless they have tons of money to pay for tons of help) essentially sacrifice most of their adult life in the name of raising and educating their kids.

      The discussion of women giving up this time is interesting to me. We know that most women want to be with their kids more than most men. (I have linked to like, I don’t know, 5000 studies about this on my other blog.) But we don’t know what women want. We know women don’t want full-time work when they have kids. (Pew Research shows that most women with kids would rather have a part-time job than a full-time job or full-time parenting.) But where does that leave home education? What can women handle? I worry I will go completely insane giving up everything I am looking at giving up (personally, intellectually) in order to homeschool this year.


      • Lori
        Lori says:

        “sacrifice most of their adult life”

        well, just to play devil’s advocate, a self-managed, self-directed child doesn’t need micromanaging. in the beginning, they need much more, but as the years pass, they *can* take on much of the responsibility for their own learning. so depending on how many children you have and how close in age they are, you could say just a handful of years of more intense mentoring when they are young followed by years of much-less demanding support. hardly your entire adult life.

        single parents and working parents *do* homeschool. i know of families where both mother and father work outside the home, the children are at home with a babysitter, and they still homeschool.

      • Melanie
        Melanie says:

        Send them to a Sudbury school if time is an issue. We homeschooled for 4 years and then moved to send them to Sudbury. Best decision we ever made. http://www.sudval.org

        And no, this isn’t a spam link bomb! Just a link to the original school’s website so you can read their philosophy.

  12. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I think it would be useful for parents here (since, perhaps we are all academically driven AND maximizers – lol – seeing the Venn diagrams now) to build a list of resources we find outstanding.

    Right now I work full time, but would LOVE to homeschool. I try to hit various things a few a day for a few minutes with each of my two kids (both gifted, one with ADHD). I made a schedule for one power hour after work. I copied each day’s set of items and set up google calendar alerts so I will have my list when I head home.

    So, in the spirit of sharing some resources that I have found to be high quality, here’s a list to grow on:

    We do Brain Gym and they rebound – bounce and bounce and bounce (thus the first suggestions on the list below. We got a bellicon because they are silent!)

    This was the omega supplement that was prescribed for ADHD, – Nordic-Naturals-Omega-3-Fishies – he didn’t love them, the Dr. said most kids LOVE them, we’ve switched to Carlson’s Fish Gems. Seriously, after three months of CONSISTENTLY using fish oil, vitamin D and Zinc (as was prescribed) we are seeing differences. NO KIDDING – BIG differences in his behavior. Wow.

    A rebounder with soft springs – NEEDAK:


    Here’s the one from COSTCO that has bungees, JUMPSPORT, it is a knock-off of the Bellicon – much less expensive:








    Math: (download the free program called TIMEZ):





    I just ordered Piano Academy Wizard will let you know how that goes…

    • Cheryl
      Cheryl says:

      I’ll chime in on Khan Academy. My youngest, a 2nd grader, is at home this year. We are doing Saxon Math and while it is thorough, it is so draggy! She was begging to do something different, so just yesterday I showed her Khan. She’s in love! Asked to do math, which she’s quite good at, this morning. And then she was looking through the videos and decided to watch a 12 minute banking video. Not sure how much stuck but she was interested in the whole thing.

  13. Barbara C.
    Barbara C. says:

    The studies show that successful homeschooling is less dependent on the educational level of the parents beyond a high school diploma and more on the teaching parent’s willingness to learn along with their child.

    Small children need more direction with their formal work than older children, but I homeschool my third grader in less time per day than my neighbors spend overseeing their third grader’s homework.

    I think the biggest issue is that there are a lot of parents who could homeschool but they don’t really understand what homeschooling really is. They think it is just six hours of “school-at-home” completely with a blackboard. They don’t understand that homeschoolers have a smorgasboard of educational models to choose from and adapt to fit their family needs.

    The other issue is “that’s not how I was raised”. That’s a main reason that true school reform can never happen. In Kentucky, of all places, they tried drastic school reforms 15 years ago which were more in keeping with Montessori and the best of homeschooling but the parents all freaked out because it was “too different” from when they were in school. A lot of parents just can’t imagine doing things so different.

  14. Cherri Porter
    Cherri Porter says:

    I am so exhausted from thinking about what I should do, and what I know, and what is wrong, that the only sensible thing is to send my child to school. Many parents just can’t deal with the exhaustion that would be homeschooling or the alternatives to traditional schools or a fight. It feels like everything is a fight and that takes reserves–resources, reserves. Single parents don’t have reserves. But many couples don’t either. Talking about what is wrong with schools is really talking about everything that is wrong with our culture. Somehow I feel like my well adjusted, healthy friends can homeschool, and I can barely provide enough calories to get through the day. True and unpleasant.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I just love this comment. It is so honest, and smart and true. Thank you Cherri. I feel so many of these feeling that you write about. So I wonder how I will get through the homeschooling. I don’t know.


      • Cheryl
        Cheryl says:

        I just want to encourage you. I’m new at this, too. (I have three in private school but one home with me this year.)

        I just realized that my other children are only getting me at the worst time of day for me, late afternoon. My daughter now gets me when I’m fresh, and when we have time to talk and just be together.

        There is no right answer. There’s probably not even a best answer. But you can give your child something no one else can. And maybe you’re like me, a basket case by 4:30 p.m. I am so grateful to see my relationship with this sweet girl change because our relationship isn’t crammed into a couple of hours of the day, amongst the after-school activities and homework and dinner. This is something I’ve just realized in the last couple of days.

  15. Teri S
    Teri S says:

    I’m sorry but your friend Lisa Nielson is flat-out wrong & the reason that most children like mine fail in public school. I’m and educated parent who LOVES reading and read to my son (now 20 yrs) since he was 8 months old. However, he is dyslexic & no amount of ‘reading to him’ was going to make him a reader. He can’t just ‘get’ it; he needed intense phonetic practice for that to happen but didn’t until we started to hs in 8th grade. I lied to myself for 7 yrs thinking public/private schools were somehow going to step up & help him until I realized I was going to have to take over his education. He has since graduated, attended community college (where he discovered a love for creative writing!) and is enlisting in the Marines next year. He scored high enough on his tests that he was given a better selection of careers & advancement opportunities. That’s all I ever wanted for him was to have opportunities that weren’t hampered by someone else’s misguided agenda.

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