My friend Lisa Nielsen just put a post on her blog full of resources directed at me: a to do list to start homeschooling. Except she calls it home education. She says I should use that word on my blog but not in the titles, because homeschooling is better SEO. It comforts me that she shows this practicality in the midst of presenting material for the homeschooling idealist.

I scrolled through the list and I can tell there is no way I’m going to avoid reading everything on it. I compulsively read everything when I teach myself something totally new.

I have a son who shows aptitude for programming but I need to learn more to show him more. And, can I teach my kids history by doing it through literature? And have you read this book, Molly Bannaky? It’s lovely, and my boys asked questions about the slave in the book for a week. I cried when I read it. Maybe I had PMS but I think I would have cried anyway.

So I have to read Lisa’s list. And it’s a test, really. Because if I really believe in lifelong learning, and I really believe in self-directed learning, then I believe I can do this. I can become an expert on educational theories. I have to be. How else can I reject them?

I love the elementary school principal. I wonder if she will continue to have monthly lunches with me after I tell her I’m taking my kids out of school.

During an interview with The Washington Post, Vivek Kundra, the federal government’s chief information officer, was explaining how outdated the government is when it comes to technology. He said that people are assigned PDAs based on a how long they have worked for the government and the square footage of their office. He said that most school kids are carrying better technology in their backpacks than government officials have on their desks.

I live in a school district where kids do not get assigned homework that requires a computer at home because so few kids have home computers. At first I was shocked but then I told myself that my idea of school is messed up because I only have personal experience with rich districts.

I’m sure that most government officials are the same, but they cannot talk about most districts and kids like they are rich. It would not be politically correct.

And then it scares me that I just normalized the problems and the consequent behavior of one of the poorest school districts in the country.  I start to doubt my judgment.

Check this out: I am in a Title I school district, but the parents I have spoken to have no idea what Title I means, let alone whether or not they are part of that.

Title I means that my district — the Darlington, WI district – is estimated to be performing in the lowest 20% of the country. Why is there no serious discussion of this in the community? Why aren’t parents scared? How can we send kids into the world to compete with the other 80% for jobs?

There is no way that people in my community are going to accept me because I am not going to be able to shut up about this. The best way to make a community better is to talk about what needs improving. What are people talking about improving in Darlington? I’m not really sure.

Whenever someone says, “He was homeschooled.” I ask, “What are they doing now?” I need to know how homeschooled kids turn out.

Now, after asking this question about 100 times it’s clear to me that there’s no rule of thumb. The results vary widely because the types of people who homeschool vary widely. After all, what else do the far right wing and far left wing have in common besides being scared to send their kids to public school? And, famous child actors and famous chess champions have totally different types of minds, but what do they have in common? They both need to be homeschooled in order to do what they do best.

So the question, “What are they doing now?” yields useless results.

But then I realized that homeschooling is not about the end result. It’s about the process. Kids should learn what is meaningful and important for them to learn, in an environment that caters to them.

It’s scary. Sure. But it’s more scary to send them to a school that seeks outcome over process.

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.

This is a guest post by Antonio Buehler. He works with homeschoolers to identify individual learning styles so parents can better tailor their homeschooling approach to their children’s capabilities and needs. He also helps students who want to gain admission to a highly competitive college or university. Buehler’s blog is

Homeschooling is by far the best alternative for most black children. There are problems in public school for all children, but the institutional racism of traditional schools means that black children have the most to gain from homeschooling.

Today 15% of homeschoolers are minorities, but that percentage should escalate rapidly as parents begin to realize the benefits of homeschooling compared to the tremendous harm of public schooling. Here’s why:

1. Politicians sacrifice the black community over and over again.
The black community is worse off than most other racial groups in America in a variety of sobering ways – from HIV rates to incarceration rates to poverty rates. This situation is driven directly and indirectly by flawed or deliberately destructive government policies that disproportionately harm Black America. For example, the drug war, our foreign policy, minimum wage, public housing and gun control all have a deleterious effect on the liberty, prosperity and security of those in the black community. It’s hard to put a finger on which government policy is the most destructive to the black community, but if I had to choose just one it would be the public education system.

2. Public schools are still segregated.
Non-white students are disproportionately located in the worst schools in the country. There are 1,700 high schools (out of 27,000) that produce over 50% of the total dropouts in the nation. More than one third all black students attend these schools, which helps explain why the graduation rate for black students is only 51%. Kids who attend these 1,7000 schools are more likely to find themselves in economic poverty and/or prison than graduating from college.

3. Public schools expect less from black students.
A culture of low expectations surrounds black students on a daily basis. Whether or not they are made aware of the tremendous achievement gaps between blacks and whites, they tend to recognize that the idealized American vision of being able to achieve whatever they put their minds to does not apply to them. Instead they learn that the academic struggles they may face are merely a symptom of their stupidity and that ANY transgressions are punished harshly in a criminalized classroom. While they are reminded that society has been extremely unkind to the black community, at the same time they are reminded that they must know their place in society, and that demanding equal treatment is disruptive, uncouth and unacceptable.

4. Private schools are not a solution.
Private schooling is a much better option for black students, however, stereotypes and biases exist in private schools as well. Moreover, if a family is socioeconomically depressed they will go to private school through a scholarship or voucher program, and throwing a poor kid into a rich school often has its own problems.

5. Homeschooling solves a huge number of educational problems for black kids.
Homeschooling allows black children to develop in a manner which emphasizes their worth as individuals and not their lack of worth as members of an unfavored racial group. When they learn to read they can do so in a way that is relevant to them, and not in a way that is prescribed by bureaucrats and special interest lobbyists. When they learn math they don’t have to deal with a teacher who assumes the least of them. When they study history, black children can learn about all the inspirational men and women who aren’t prioritized in the Euro-centric curriculum of public schools. Instead of being told how stupid they are or how little is expected of them, they can be free to develop their unique talents to the best of their abilities.

And it is through developing those unique talents, in conjunction with the real education that homeschooling provides that black children will be able to overcome many of the hurdles that government has placed in their way.

This is a guest post by Lisa Nielsen. She’s in charge of technology and teacher training for the New York City public schools, and she is the author of  the book Teaching Generation Text. None of the opinions in this post reflect the views, opinions, or endorsement of her employer. 

I’ve been a public school educator for more than a decade, but when parents ask for my advice, I sometimes suggest they leave school. (In fact I published a guide to help teens opt out of school.)

Education reform is happening today, but it’s slow. Parents need to do what is in the best interest of their children, right now.  For some this means working hard with a school to adapt to meet a child’s needs. (I outline a plan for this in Fix the School, Not the Child.)  But many schools are rigid and don’t believe students are entitled to a customized learning experience. It is at this point I suggest parents consider leaving school behind and empowering their children with the freedom to learn what they want in the way that is best for them.

Here are ten reasons why leaving school behind may be the best way for children to find success and happiness.

1. Learning is customized not standardized

  • In school learning is standardized to what someone else says is best.
  • At home learning is customized to what the child and parent feel is best.

2. Associate with those you enjoy rather than those who share your birth year

3. Freedom to learn with their tools

  • In school students are often banned from using they tools they love to learn with — such as a cell phone.
  • At home children can learn with the tools they choose.  For many children technology open doors that schools slam shut.

4. Socialize with those who share your passions not just your zip code

  • In school students have little opportunity to socialize and even when they do it is generally confined to those with whom they’ve been grouped with by year and geography.
  • At home children have the opportunity to socialize and make global connections with others of any age who share their talents, passions, and interests.

5. Do work you value

6. Don’t just read about doing stuff.  Do it!

  • In school students are forced to sit at desks all day reading and answering questions about stuff other people do.
  • At home children don’t need to spend their time reading and writing about what other people do.  They can go do stuff.

7. Travel when you want

  • In school they tell you when to go on vacation and families hop off to crowded destinations together.
  • At home families can decide when travelling works best for them and also get better rates.

8. You are more than a number

9. Real life measures are better than bubble tests

  • In school we measure students success with bubble tests and response to prompts.
  • At home we measure success by what children accomplish that matters to them.  Some teens like Leah Miller have developed their own personal success plan (see hers here).  She sets her goals and then assesses her success in meeting them.

10. Independence is valued over dependence

  • In school students are dependent on others to tell them what to do and when.  They spend their time as compliant workers and are discouraged from questioning authority.
  • At home children are encouraged to explore, discover, and develop their own passions and talents and given the freedom to work deeply in these areas. They know how to learn independently because they are interested, not because they are told to do something.

I am passionate about helping children learn innovatively.  Home education is a great option to consider for many parents.  For more ideas about learning innovatively you can visit The Innovative Educator blog.