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.