Why your homeschooler will rebel against you

The generation we are homeschooling right now is Generation Z. To understand Generation Z, you have to understand Generation Y.

One of the most notable traits of Generation Y is that they hate conflict. They are peacekeepers, rule followers, look-at-the-brightside type people. You can trust me on this. I get paid to give speeches on the topic. But for those of you who don’t trust money as a harbinger of accuracy, here’s a post with tons of links to research about why Generation Y is conservative.

See the photo up there? That stuff on the wall is part of the moss graffiti movement. It’s a great example of art from Generation Y. Generation X does cocaine inspired art, of course, like Basquait. Generation Y does beautification projects, like putting moss on a wall to make things more peaceful and to show a love for the environment. Protest to Baby Boomers is Kent State. Protest to Generation Y is Guerrilla Gardening:  making something more beautiful to remind people to protect nature.

William Strauss and Neil Howe have a cyclical generational theory which says that there are four types of generations and they come predictably, in cycles: The cycle is prophet, nomad, hero, artist. Each type of generation comes in response to the type that came before them, which is why the cycle is so predictable.

The book they wrote on this topic is fascinating. It’s called, Generations: The History of America’s Future 1584-2069. If you want to know what your kid’s life will be like, this is a great book to read.

To give you a sense of how things roll out:

The prophet generation is concerned about large social causes and instigating social change. The Baby Boomers.

The nomad generations passionately attacks the established social order. They are alienated as young adults and extremely pragmatic as mid-life leaders. Generation X.

The hero generation is community oriented. They are peaceful, team-oriented, energetic and overly confident. Generation Y.

The artist generation is what your kids are. This generation ends up coming of age during crisis and uncertainty when public institutions demand great personal sacrifice. These kids come of age during a time when conformity and socialization are emphasized and they become process-oriented mid-life leaders. In history this generation is remembered for it’s consensus building. (As a reference point, the last artist generation was the Silent Generation, born during the Depression and World War II.)

What does this mean for homeschoolers?

Well, the first thing is that people are most comfortable when they understand where they fit in history. It’s why we like family trees, for instance. And it’s why we are drawn to study our own history rather than someone else’s. People like to fit in. You might think people like to be different, but actually, people who are truly different try pretty hard to fit in. Being counter-culture is a luxury of those who already fit (think F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton).

As a generation takes shape, there are common threads for example, Generation Y is non-combative and focused on creating stability. If you are a Gen Y revolutionary, you are probably alone, feeling out of step. The same is true for Generation X. There is a cynicism and disregard for “how it’s always been done” that permeates the generation. If you are a conservative, don’t-rock-the-boat Gen Xer, you’ll feel out of step. (Irony: to feel alienated as a Gen-Xer actually makes you part of a larger community.)

So, the artist generation that we are raising—as homeschoolers—are actually out of step with their generation. We are teaching kids in a non-conformist way. Learning for these kids puts their individual interests front and center. And we are more focused on the results than the process—which is probably why we dumped mainstream school to begin with. Homeschooling does not have a proscribed process, only the goal of creating a happy, fulfilling childhood.

It’s likely that, as a generation, our kids will start rebelling against their counter-culture parents. It’s likely that our kids will hate standing out and making a fuss. We are raising a generation of conformists whether we like it or not: History is destiny, according to Strauss and Howe, and it’s a hard analysis to swallow, but there are not a lot of people saying it’s bunk.

So what can we do? Not a lot. Except console ourselves that rebellious kids are healthy kids, even if it’s hard for parents to stomach.


17 replies
  1. CJ
    CJ says:

    I agree that we should accept our rebels-in-the making: rage against the machine little spirits!! and I can see the cyclical-ness is real.

    I just also think each generation is ever responsible for the *conditioning* of the next. Think of Nurture Shock and the work of Ostrov and Sheibe where the findings by a landslide demonstrated that educational TV watching regularly by preschoolers yielded relationally aggressive behaviors in most of the children. The edu tv programming was made with the exact opposite intent of course, which was/is kindness and peaceful and much by and for the peaceful generation in the entertainment industry… and the outcome is zillions of children being conditioned by the mutli zillion hour viewing on aggressive ways to handle conflict. Of course it is explained that the children don’t understand the nuances at the end of the shows on resolution, but rather the main length of the shows building the conflict meticulously. So the little children learn how to build a conflict, cause devisive and mean spirited upset, and copy quoted insults masterfully and perfectly from their senior generation of self defined educators.

  2. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Gen X here, but never felt like I understood the fuss. Breakfast Club? Not my life. Reality Bites? Not my life, either. Cocaine? Never touched it. Two glasses of wine is my indulgence (and PBS Masterpiece).

    I’ve been out of step with my own generation. My kids may as well join me!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The idea that Gen Y’s political action is managing personal finance is so so interesting to me. I get it right away, without even clicking the article. But it’s a great link. And a great way of thinking about protest.


    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      My younger sis and her hub. just on the edge of Gen X/Y. They are out of debt and pointedly budget NOT to accrue more. She took ten years to finish a degree, but the company paid for it. He is self taught in IT.

      Friends of ours–also on the edge between X and Y–cashed out their 401K to buy out the mortgage.

      Based just on those and my subjective experience, I feel more akin to my pre-Depression and Depression-era grandparents than Boomers or Xers.

  3. Bird
    Bird says:

    I wonder. I’m a pretty typical X and so are my adult friends, and our homeschooled kids seem to attack us from the left, not the right. We are The Man. Perhaps this will change as they age?

  4. toastedtofu
    toastedtofu says:

    My parents are quite old, so if I were following a parent lead cycle I would be generation x, while my peers are all generation Y. So socializing is probably a huge factor to this cycle.

  5. Vicious cycle
    Vicious cycle says:

    I don’t quite buy it. I don’t believe that rebellion against one’s parents is either a natural or necessary part of life. I think it’s more likely indicative of a failure in parenting or education or both.

    The majority of inter-generational angst comes from the age segregation of the forced school system. Schooled kids start out just not knowing how to relate to or interact with adults. The justification for that inability develops as there being something wrong with adults. Then adolescent excesses of emotion get channeled into the worn groove of intergenerational resentment and kids hate their parents. Parents who are needlessly rigid or don’t understand or find ways to communicate with their children fit easily into the role that has been constructed for them.

    I, for one, never rebelled against my parents. I am Gen X and my parents are both from the Greatest/Silent/Artist/Beatnik generation (born 1939). When I was fifteen, I was a young punk rocker, full of angst and anger against the status quo. I got my ears pierced, sported a bright orange mohawk, refused to go to school anymore, hitchhiked across states, and did other things I shouldn’t mention.

    My mother’s response was to find a better place for me to go to school (college, actually), buy me humorous and sporty earrings (such as antique rabies tags) at yard sales, discuss hair color choices with me, send me bus fare, etc. My mother was my best friend through thick and thin, and although I didn’t always listen to her (I continued hitchhiking, because it was fun and cheap) and continued to dislike the status quo in the Reagan Years, I never rebelled against her or my father.

    This lack of confusion about the real sources of my alienation from society helped me address those problems and find a life that suits me (currently, stay-at-home homeschooling dad in Boston). I never wasted time imagining that alienation was something my parents had caused me or that they were my enemies. I hope and expect my children will have the same experience.

  6. Cassie Boorn
    Cassie Boorn says:

    Love this! Hipsters are a great example of Gen Y being conservative too. They want to do all of the cool stuff hippies did but they want to do them after they take a shower and put on overpriced shoes to show how much they don’t care.

  7. Crimson Wife
    Crimson Wife says:

    It’s been my observation that the Millennials are the conformist generation, not whatever generation our kids will be. Millennials are way more tribal than Gen Xers- I seriously don’t think my youngest brother is able to make up his own mind for himself without first checking the consensus of the crowd via Facebook/Twitter/etc.

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