Advice to new homeschoolers

A few months back Katherine Williams asked me to send a photo of myself holding a sign that gives advice to parents about homeschooling. What advice would I have wanted to hear as a new homeschooler? She said she was going to make a video, and look, here it is.

The photo up top is from the video, and I can’t actually tell which advice was from this mom, but I’m thinking it was this, which I like a lot: Deschool yourself first.

It’s sort of ironic that someone would ask me for advice for new homeschoolers since I am a relatively new homeschooler (a year and a half). Also, I have to say that the advice I gave is the most uninspired on the video: Don’t rely on schools, rely on yourself.

But of course I’d give that advice. I’m great at work. I’ve started three companies, I’m used to being in charge. So it doesn’t make sense that I would let schools be in charge of my kids. But the other thing is that it doesn’t make sense that I’d want to be home with my kids all day, worrying that they are playing too many  video games and screaming at them to stop fighting.

But you know what? I do love being home with them. And when I watch this video, I can see that the universal advice (except mine) is to relax, trust your kids to learn what they need to learn, and enjoy being with them. It’s such basic, non-controversial advice, and it says something huge about the world that this is the bleeding edge of education reform.

16 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The video was good. However, I thought the sound track was a distraction.
    More importantly, I think a follow-up video or slideshow of signs from the homeschool kids giving advice/relaying their experience or feelings about homeschooling would be interesting and instructive.

  2. Sacha
    Sacha says:

    Were there any non-white mothers in that video? I don’t remember seeing any. Not sure if that speaks to the video-maker’s network, the demographics of homeschoolers, a combination of those things, and or something else.

    • NR
      NR says:

      I noticed the same thing. Black folk represented, but not holding signs. Also no men holding signs. Says something about the privilege of white women I think.

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        When I hear “privileged,” I think of upper middle class people. We are not.

        Sure not feeling privileged as I drive a 14 year-old car that’s rusting around me. Not feeling privileged as I clean other people’s houses (for ten years now) so I can raise my own kids. My last vacation was my honeymoon, in 1999.

        I don’t call this privileged. I call it working-class ingenuity and humility. Do what you have to do; fit in some things you want to do.

      • Zellie
        Zellie says:

        “White privilege” is used as though we all accept a general meaning. I’ve heard what it means right here on this blog: My parents did not divorce, they earned enough that we never went hungry, we had a reliable work ethic and were good learners to acquire jobs that we could be trained at out of high school. All five were able to work our way through at least some college.

        I feel blessed.

        The privilege I feel hasn’t to do with homeschooling. It is that white people don’t think of me in terms of my color. I gather from reading blogs that people of color are supposed to.

  3. P Flooers
    P Flooers says:

    There are five children holding their own signs which reflect their own thoughts in the video. Black, Jewish, Gay, Secular, and Christian families are all represented, which reflects my homeschooling community. And while First Deschool Yourself actually happens to be a quote from me, the picture up there is of Lisa McBride who is married to Geoff McBride, a musician everyone should definitely check out!
    Penelope, thanks for participating and for helping spread the word! Homeschooling is awesome!

  4. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I was going to also respond that my 3 children are multiracial and have been homeschooled both in North Carolina and Northwest Florida. We miss the large, diverse homeschooling community in the Research Triangle area of NC. I am very glad to still be in touch with the groups but miss the day-to-day support & connection of such an amazing group of families.

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      If I was holding a sign in our photo, it would say, “Relax. Enjoy. Love. Laugh. Cherish.”

      At the end of the day, no matter how chaotic it might or might not be, we are very grateful to have time with our children.

      As for the “privilege of white women” comment and knowing most of the women in the video, homeschooling is not a privilege. Those are some of the most grounded women than I know. Homeschooling is a conscious choice made by a family. I know families of a number of different races who are choosing to homeschool over other options such as public or private schools.

      Regarding our personal circumstances, we are not “privileged.” We are hard-working and self-employed in the music industry. Having a close relationship with our children while moving forward with my husband’s career is something that we can do best through homeschooling… BUT even if he worked in another, more traditional, industry, we would still homeschool them. It is something as natural to us as choosing to breastfeed, attachment parent, etc.

      • P Flooers
        P Flooers says:

        Lisa, I’m laughing. Do you love the irony of this conversation? I think the video speaks for itself on the issue of race well enough. Though I’m happy to report that black families are the fastest rising demographic in the homeschooling community. And rightly so, given the racism endemic to institutional education. Anyway, this video is not about demographics.

        What you can’t see in the video is poverty, single parenting, the family who lost everything but each other in a fire, the families held together by determination and love and not much more. I love that you can’t see any of that, nor the Christianity, nor the atheism, nor the other religions, nor who is gay and who is straight, nor a million other human details. You can only see a bunch of individuals gathered around this one thing we believe is so important: homeschooling our children.

        We are the bleeding edge of innovation in education. We are anti-institutionalization. We are diverse. We are loving. And we are changing the world one family at a time.

        • Lisa
          Lisa says:

          The irony is amazing. The video doesn’t show any of these things. Nor does it show the consciousness of the people who took part in the video, including deep conversations about institutional racism and how it affects the demographics of homeschoolers.

          And, no, this video isn’t about demographics, anyway. It’s about a choice of families to choose another education path rather than the one automatically laid out for us. Even in this, there are different choices.

          We have been in public schools, virtual school, unschooled, followed a curriculum and now are going back to virtual school for as long as it works for our family. My children want more structure right now and with a new addition on the way, virtual school will help us with that. I am grateful for our various paths of educating the children because we know what works for us.

          That is one of the wonderful parts of homeschooling, being able to be fluid in the education of your children.

  5. Maria
    Maria says:


    K: MUAH! Well done, cowgirl!

    P: I really wish you would have held a sign that said “Hoop first, school later.”


  6. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    “…it says something huge about the world that this is the bleeding edge of education reform.”

    It really does.

    Insisting on making things complicated is a great way to lose sight of the simplest truths.

  7. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    To all the commenters complaining about the whiteness of the video: Race is not diversity.

    A black kid at Harvard is way more similar to a white kid at Harvard than a black kid in jail, right? So it’s about socioeconomic advantages, not race advantages. And it’s pretty much a no-brainer that homeschoolers have a socioeconomic advantage – it’s parents who feel empowered enough to control their kids schooling, and it’s families who feel financially secure enough to give up free, public-school babysitting.

    So the fact that everyone is up in arms about that people are all white in this video seems a little disingenuous.

    Another thing: I’m a white mom and I have Latino kids. So it seems to me that I count as a Latino homeschooler more than I count as a white homeschooler, according to these comments. But you can’t even judge that level of “diversity” from looking at the video.


    • P Flooers
      P Flooers says:

      Of all the homeschoolers represented in this clip, several of them live in poverty. I don’t mean, “we didn’t get new ipads this year” poverty. I mean, “I hope we continue to have enough to eat and they don’t shut off our power” poverty. Its a myth that only rich people homeschool. Some people value raising their children more than money.

  8. Val
    Val says:

    Yeah, and some of us homeschool and also work full time and work other jobs besides.

    The idea that homeschool can only happen when there’s an unemployed parent to do it is nonsense.

    If you want to homeschool, make it happen. It might not look how you expected it to, but get over that.

    And let it happen.

    A lot of life is scruffy and improvised and weird. This is not a problem.

    Faith and love probably float the whole boat anyway, might as well give them credit.

    love, Val

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  1. Homeschooling is awesome video: What would you write? | Happy Home Ed. says:

    […] found this video via Penelope Trunk (who appears in it), whose home ed blog posts are always […]

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