Why Gen Y doesn’t homeschool

This is a guest post from Erin Wetzel. She is a painter and a poet who lives in Tacoma, WA with her husband and daughter. You can connect with her on instagram @ekwetzel.

I am a Gen Y-er. I have a 3-year-old and I plan to homeschool/unschool.

Whenever I discuss homeschooling with my peers, the #1 concern is socialization. Or, at least, that’s what my peers say.

But I’ve been thinking: what my generation is really concerned about is that our homeschooled kids will be different from us. Because we are obsessed with being part of a group. We find our identity primarily from the group(s) we are a part of. We are not an individualistic generation (Point #2  http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/07/15/what-gen-y-doesnt-know-about-itself/ )

We don’t honestly believe we learned anything in school. We all hated school. But too many of us defend school; like you wrote, it’s as if we have Stockholm syndrome (https://education.penelopetrunk.com/2014/03/17/3-reasons-your-kids-should-not-have-school-teachers/).

Too many of us Gen Y-ers don’t have the guts to make a change for our children. We agree about all the tiny little things wrong with public schools. But too many of us want our kids to go through a 13-year hazing, anyway. Because the alternative of becoming a strong individual is unfathomable to us.

42 replies
  1. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I don’t know.

    I’m Gen Y and I homeschool. This, of course, was after trying out school and witnessing the failings first hand.

    I have cousins who homeschool and at first I thought they were crazy. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I get it.

    I think our generation, for the most part, hasn’t reached the level of having a large population of kids that are school age yet.

    I predict a lot of Gen Y will homeschool/unschool based on my conversations with strangers at parks and the fact that most parents want their children to succeed far beyond what they did (I think this part of the post: wanting children to stay the same as the parents is an emotional issue/power struggle).

    Everyone knows things are terrible wrong with schooling and people are coming out of the woodwork to start admitting it.

    I think it will help give Gen Y more of an identity by being the ones that finally got to choose their own path and benefit others (next gen) in the process.

    • Pirate Jo
      Pirate Jo says:

      I think a lot of people in your generation will probably not have kids at all.

      It’s one thing to live with your parents because you can’t find a job, or at least a job that pays well enough for you to get a place of your own. Raising a family while living with your parents, though? Most Americans won’t do that.

      If you are staring down 30 and your balance sheet consists of two thousand dollars, an old car, and twenty grand in student loan debt, you should probably forget about having kids. Unless, of course, you’re part of the growing demographic – the same one creating an enormous problem in public schools – that makes a lifestyle out of raising them on welfare, and that option is being overloaded and is therefore not sustainable, so you shouldn’t count on it being available in the future.

      Am I the only person who sees this obvious truth staring me in the face? That a huge percentage of our population should not be having kids at all?

      If I’m going to make everyone mad, I might as well just finish my thought while I’m at it. I think people who grow up in screwed-up, dysfunctional families should not have families of their own. Only you can be the judge of whether your family was screwed-up and dysfunctional when you were growing up, or not. But if the answer is yes, then you shouldn’t have a family. The only way you know how to be a good spouse and parent is if your parents had a happy marriage and were good parents. If you didn’t learn that from them, then you have missed the boat. You can’t learn how to be a good spouse or parent by watching Oprah, or by going to church, or by reading books about it. You ONLY learn that from your own parents, if they themselves were capable of modeling it.

      You could decide, say, that you aren’t going to be abusive like your own parent(s) was/were, and you MIGHT be successful at that, if you work very hard at it. But just because you don’t repeat something they did wrong, doesn’t mean you know anything about how to do it right. You’re just going to add more people to a world already crammed full of over seven billion who are all competing over the same jobs and resources, you’re going to screw it up, and your offspring won’t stand a chance.

      If you disagree, check back in when the population hits ten billion and let me know how that’s working out.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        Jo, I’d have to agree with you that some folks who would do better not to have kids or to have fewer kids seem to me to be having too many, but you jump the shark both morally and logically with this:

        “I think people who grow up in screwed-up, dysfunctional families should not have families of their own. Only you can be the judge of whether your family was screwed-up and dysfunctional when you were growing up, or not. But if the answer is yes, then you shouldn’t have a family. The only way you know how to be a good spouse and parent is if your parents had a happy marriage and were good parents. ”

        Logically, this argument fails because people from happy families are capable of making their own children miserable. The argument would therefore reduce with each generation the proportion of the population qualified to have children.

        Morally, this argument fails because it assumes people are incapable of learning or growth. Removing this agency from people is compatible with neither humanism nor Christianity.

        My parents were divorced when I was a baby. Yet I am still married and expect I shall never part from my wife. I have improved on the family that brought me up. So has our host, you might want to note. If she had not flaunted your dictum, we would not be having this conversation.

        • Pirate Jo
          Pirate Jo says:

          Some people grow up to have happy families of their own in spite of the miserable ones they grew up in. They represent a very small minority, and more power to ’em, but I’m not interested in the statistical outliers.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Since you like claiming things without evidence I will just state that I think perfectly normal happy marriages with absolutely no dysfunction at all are the outliers. Steve Jobs? Dysfunctional family history. Barack Obama? Dysfunctional family history. Most of the very successful people that I know grew up in dysfunctional families. These are the people that contribute the most, these are the people who have grit, these are successful people. You have a very narrow-minded view in this regard.

          • Pirate Jo
            Pirate Jo says:

            Steve Jobs and Obama ARE statistical outliers. Bill Gates grew up in a stable family. Most of the super-rich went to Ivy League schools, since that’s where their parents went. For every Steve Jobs, there are a million inner city kids with crackhead parents, and they will grow up to be dysfunctional, too, because that’s all they have been taught, and it takes a lot of Steve Jobses to pay for their food. I am not saying there aren’t exceptions, just that what’s true 90% of the time is true 90% of the time. That’s not narrow-minded or negative, it’s just true.

        • Amy
          Amy says:

          I appreciate the risk you took to post this. So thanks for that.

          I would rather read an argument, any day, about why people should NOT have kids than why they should.

          That said, I think it’s dangerous territory to think some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids, or have a limit in how many children they have, based on economic status or emotional health. Why? Reference Hitler and Nazism.

          Still…I, personally, feel like the only legitimate reasons for having kids are both of these simultaneously:
          1. For parents to heal and grow.
          2. For the parents to use their knowledge, wisdom and growth towards the contribution of raising their own healthy, wise children. Who will then go out in the world as healthy, unique beings; thus, making the world a more enjoyable place for all to live in.

          But to have (more) kids for the following reasons is ridiculous (not that my unpopular opinion will stop anyone, thankfully):
          just because of accidentally getting knocked-up (including this avoidance-of-personal-responsibility excuse: “God must have wanted this”), or because the mom thinks the baby stage is so cute, or because the mom is attempting to finally have an empowering childbirth or physically-healthier child (i.e. a ‘do over’), or because the parents just want a lot of busy-ness/distraction in their home (so they can avoid deeply dealing with themselves and their loved ones?), or out of some sort of made-up rule about having kids as an obligation of being a human, or thinking it will improve their partnership, or using it to manipulate someone, or because they think it’d be cute to have a mini-me with their *new* partner, or to carry on their family name and legacy, or to avoid other responsibilities, or to have people to take care of them when they are old, or for more tax breaks (or other government assistance), or just because that’s what people do.

          People who came from dysfunction *AND* are consciously-living, self-reflective and sensitive can be the most empowering, inspiring, life-changing parents you could know. I think I am one of those.

          • Pirate Jo
            Pirate Jo says:

            It’s such a huge responsibility. I can’t imagine doing it if I didn’t feel I had the resources to do it properly, or if I wasn’t bringing them into a world where they had opportunities to succeed. Gen X and Gen Y have already experienced fewer opportunities and a lower standard of living than the generations that came before them, so it’s worth considering. You see this all over the world, though – people having kids who have no chance whatsoever at having a decent life.

            Just to clarify, I would never suggest that some people “not be allowed” to have kids. I think a lot of people should choose not to, because I think having kids is a big responsibility that goes way, WAY beyond “I feel like it.” The world is bursting at the seams with us. But if people can’t figure this out on their own, without the heavy hand of Big Brother making the decision for them, then screw it. We’ll just overload the planet with people who don’t have a chance, and that’ll be the way things are. People will either have to make wise choices on their own or be screwed. I would never advocate an authoritarian solution to it. But as I said in my earlier post, I think Gen Y is going to figure this out and be smarter about it than past generations have been. The deeply-ingrained idea that “having kids is just what you do” will be rejected by the younger, more environmentally-conscious – not to mention, financially broke – generation.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Just curious if you are at all familiar with PT’s childhood since you are passing judgement on people and saying they shouldn’t have families if they come from dysfunction. Like, did you just start reading the blog? Or have you skipped the parts where she describes the horrors she went through? Or are you specifically judging her for having a family anyway?

        You seem like a rather judgmental person that I probably wouldn’t want to know or be friends with. I’m not mad or angry just slightly confused where that rant came from.

        • Pirate Jo
          Pirate Jo says:

          Imagine two bacterium sitting in a jar. Every minute they reproduce, doubling in number, until the jar is full in exactly an hour. At what point is the jar half full? The answer is that it’s half full at the beginning of the 59th minute, since it is during that last minute when the jar goes from half full to all the way full by doubling the final time. At 55 minutes, the bacteria had no idea they’d be running out of room in five more minutes.

          I simply think that most people should not have kids. My comment was not directed at anyone in particular – I suspected it would probably offend most people. People tend to have kids just because they feel like having them, without any regard for their ability to raise them properly, yet it’s always “someone else” who shouldn’t have kids. Then we focus on the screwed-up public schools, or whatever, and completely miss the underlying problem.

          We’re going to have to be smarter than those bacteria if we want life for people to be good.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    A few thoughts that I’d like to make about socialization…

    1) How did kids socialize before mass public education (only the last 150 years or so)? From their families, right? This whole socialization through mass public education is still a relatively new phenomenon!

    2) Kids primarily learn how to socialize by watching their parents, not by being grouped with other kids all day although that is one way.

    People always seem surprised and sometimes shocked when I say I homeschool, because my kids are very sociable and will find a way to start a conversation with just about anybody. They see that my spouse and I are very loud conversationalists with others. They see us telling jokes, being sarcastic and laughing loudly, exchanging hugs and making pleasant conversation. They try to mimic that behavior and they learn from us and they are very social so I think that’s where the initial shock comes from others, because there is that misconception about socialization.

    On the other hand I have relatives from different sides of the family whose kids go to public school and they are very anti-social or shy, and their parents are very quiet and shy. Is it their schooling environment or parenting or a little of both? If you are anti-social because of parenting I think school can exacerbate the situation, if you are just shy then making the right friends in school can help you come out of your shell, but friends can be found globally now on the internet through shared interests, so we no longer need to use school as a place to socialize. The world is our school! :)

    Erin, I think the way to get Gen Y to homeschool is to start discussing it with young parents so the idea savors for a few years, sometimes its more difficult to leave a system once you are in it.

    Oh, and next time show us photos of your art!!

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      These are terrific observations! ^_^ And thanks for asking to see my art. You can check it out on my site: ekwetzel.com. If you stop by, say “hello”!


    • Kim
      Kim says:

      This is such a good point! It’s really difficult because I am shy (I attribute it to being in daycare then public school) and my child is so outgoing. My child has been able to model proper behavior because she has been around someone who has heavily influenced that.
      Majority rules and 30 kids can not be influenced by one teacher. Kids aren’t learning from teachers, they are learning from peers.

    • Lindsay
      Lindsay says:

      a) In those days, kids had access to other kids in places that weren’t school. So that’s how they socialised before mass public education. They weren’t confined to their families.

      b) Once kids get past a certain age, they will orient themselves towards their peers over their parents, given half a chance. And then the peers play a bigger role in socialisation than the parents do. There’s research on this.

      • Laura in Montana
        Laura in Montana says:

        I have never meet a homeschooled child who has been “confined to their families.” I don’t know how a parent could do that unless they live in a remote area and I don’t think the result would be an “unsocialized” child.

  3. DB
    DB says:

    This makes so much sense. I’m cusp of Gen X/Gen Y (don’t really feel like I belong to either group…hahaha, oh wait, or maybe I am more of a young Gen X after all since I like being an individual and don’t ever strongly identify with groups?)

    Anyway – everyone keeps demanding to know why my 3-year-old isn’t in pre-school. I tell them because I don’t feel like we need to bother with it, she’s happy and having fun. Then everyone panics that she won’t be “socialized” properly. I respond that she has a great time playing with her friends in the neighborhood. Then sometimes they drop it, or sometimes they STILL can’t stop talking to me about it.

    This entire exchange has always mystified me – thanks for providing some clarity with this post.

    • Nina
      Nina says:

      Wow, 3???
      When I was little (I’m 22, it’s not THAT long ago is it?) I remember people being just a little concerned that I never did actual pre-school, only a more structured day-care when I was 4-5. That was only because I was refused to go to school yet by the system because I was too young, even though I would have turned 5 a month in.

      But have a 3 year old in pre-school? That seems really early to me!

  4. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    He’s a pretty unconventional dude, but my Gen Y husband said the same thing about our unborn, unschooled kids: “but they won’t be socialized!”

    I brought up some points showing how unschooling is the ultimate “life hack, because internet” and he came around without a fuss.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


      You know what made my spouse evolve on this issue… $25k private school tuition bill per kid. haha!!… he quickly evolved on this once Kindergarten started and is pro-unschooling all the way. He even plays minecraft with the kids instead of WoW now.

  5. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    These are great points, and I agree with your conclusion, but I disagree with your first point.

    Gen Y loves groups (Seth Godin’s tribes), but groups have leaders. The strongest, most charasmatic leaders in education today are homeschool advocates. The crowdsource generation would gladly back the homeschool cause, but we are missing one key ingredient. Money.

    Broke people have to work, and broke people won’t pass up free childcare, and broke people tend to be desperate enough to let Stockholm syndrome override good ideas.

    I’ve committed to not letting this happen, but I don’t know that very many of my friends are living lifestyles that would allow them to adjust down to one or zero employed by someone else incomes.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hannah, I have this idea that at some point, being poor will not cause people to make terrible decisions for their family. Gen X got a terrible start in life, but instead of lamenting it, Gen X just focused on family and didn’t worry about money. (Okay, so now Gen X has no money, but they are great parents. )

      So I think at some point Gen Y needs to say forget it, we are never going to have any money, so we may as well have a lot of time with our kids.


      • Kim
        Kim says:

        Good point, Penelope. I think Gen Y thought that something changed, in society, to believe that wealth was more easily obtainable so they decided to chase it. Education became more accessible and technology was increasing so they believed things were different.
        However, many are realizing that things are the same and that money is really just as hard to obtain then it’s ever been.

      • Nicole
        Nicole says:

        When you have a student loan payment as big as your mortgage, dropping out of the workforce to spend time with family has an entirely different range of consequences. You cant just decide to be broke…The government is not going to let you.

      • Hannah
        Hannah says:

        I agree about what Gen Y ought to do, but I don’t know if this will actually happen.

        Like you’ve mentioned many times, and Erika alluded (sp) to in this post, Gen Y is a bunch of rule followers (in general).

        Unless Gen X is so good at changing the parenting/education game in the next 5 years, there are too many factors that will cause a lot of Gen Y to choose career/money over family. These are just the personal reasons I’ve had to overcome (to say I’ve overcome them is a lie. My son goes to a friend’s house for daycare every day… I’ve just committed to not making him go to school-school):

        1. I should use my degree
        2. I should save money because social security is insecure
        3. I owe society my best
        4. Theoretically, I still think I can have a big career and a big family.
        5. I want to afford a luxurious lifestyle.

        If I had big debt or student loans, I know that would weigh on me too.

        Having a son has definitely changed me, maybe it will change a lot of my friends too.

  6. Laura in Montana
    Laura in Montana says:

    Socialization… Ask the person making the inquiry to define what they mean by socialization. Most people have not thought their question through. They are merely repeating something they heard without putting any thought into their question. Sounds like something a publicly educated person might do.

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      That’s true. But I’ve learned I just don’t have to answer any question I don’t want to answer.

      One trick called “Avoiding the question”:

      “Concerned” Citizen: What about your children being socialized?!

      Me: Hey, is it going to rain today? Oh, I gotta go. Bye!

      Or another trick in my book called “Agree so they don’t know what else to say”:

      “Concerned” Citizen: Gasp! What about your children being socialized?

      Me: I know!

      (“Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”
      – penguins from the movie _Madagascar_

      • Laura in Montana
        Laura in Montana says:

        I love “I know!” as an answer to the socialization question. It makes about as much sense as the question being asked.

  7. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    I’m Gen X (on the old end…. sort of in between baby boom and Gen X). What you are describing here are the exact same things I heard from parents of other three year olds when we started considering homeschooling twenty years ago. I’m not sure anything has changed.

  8. Amy
    Amy says:

    The _socialization_ ‘concern’ has grown so old with me. I find that the people who question me about socialization for my kids are the same people who really don’t give a crap about my kids–for sure my kids’ well-being. Why aren’t people expressing concern for kids who have been in daycare since the first weeks of their lives? Why aren’t people asking, ‘But what about your baby, child, needing *you* in their lives?’ I never hear that one–only people feeling sorry for my kids because they aren’t in an institution.

  9. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    I always turn the socialization question right back around.

    Q: “But what about socialization?”

    A: “Exactly! That’s one of the principal benefits of homeschooling! When I think about how the kids in school are being deprived of proper socialization it makes me very sad. It’s wonderful to see how polite, articulate, and inquisitive kids can be when they have the opportunity for proper socialization through homeschooling.”

  10. Dorie
    Dorie says:

    I am a product of public school and private university and my husband was a homeschooler with a few years of community college but no degree to show for it. Our different backgrounds have demonstrated for us, every day, that the socialization argument is garbage. My carpenter husband interacts with my friends that are doctors and attorneys as easily as he does with pipe fitters and hair dressers. He is probably much more comfortable floating between different socioeconomic groups than I am because of his homeschool experience.

    Our son is now 2 and a half and in a few weeks we’ll be family of four. We are really open to the idea of homeschooling our children but that will really depend on our financial situation when it is time to make that decision. Family finances are a bigger factor for us than anything (mainly because I have student loans that are bigger than our mortgage). My suspicion is that Gen Y has a lot of families in our situation with student loan debt but they are too embarrassed to say that their college education that is doing next to nothing to help them in their careers is holding them back from making the decisions they want for their families. It is so much easier to say that socialization is the concern.

  11. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Is something wrong with the blog? Every time I comment is needs to be approved now. :(

  12. Amy
    Amy says:

    I graduated from high school in 1988. I don’t recall feeling much pressures about going to college, though I remember thinking after my 4 years in the Air Force (where I also went to college on my free time), that I didn’t buy into the idea I needed a degree to get a good job. And I was disgusted in companies who let go of experienced workers for college grads.

    Later, I shook my head about my generation Y nieces and nephews who spent more than their potential annual salary for each year at their private colleges (their parents were so proud).

    I have known for a long time that college is Big Business. And some folks used amazing marketing tactics to get people, entire generations, to make such horrendous financial decisions.

    It’s not too late to wake up, though. Start today. And focus on emotional lives and well being. It can be a lonely road not following the crowd. But our kids are worth it. (And healing ourselves.)

  13. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    I’m gen Y and don’t really feel any concern about belonging to a group. I think that’s more of a personality construct. I feel uncomfortable and creepy doing the whole fitting in thing. I prefer several rotating casts of characters in my life to flitter to and from while largely doing my own thing. Generally I have found the more opposition I face when embarking on a new path the more confidence I have. I grew up on an island though where it was generally smart to be in opposition to the locals so perhaps that’s been ingrained in me for life.

  14. Kathy Donchak
    Kathy Donchak says:

    This is a wonderful insight, thank you for sharing. I am interested to see how this plays out according to the generational turnings – namely the idea that at least some portion of Gen Y is being called the Anti-Boomer Generation. I think it is a little soon to think they won’t homeschool, as they are not blind to the issues of our current system. Also, as they have children later, it may take longer to judge the trend.

    I find the idea of socialization interesting. I had a conversation with a former chief of a children’s hospital and asked his opinion on socialization young children. He asked me why would anyone would want a child’s model of behavior to be of other 3 year olds.

  15. Ame
    Ame says:

    Erin articulates my opinion clearly here. I am Gen Y, and although I am a number of years away from having children, I have already begun to consider homeschooling as the only option. I have started to express this to peers, and socialization IS the number one criticism they have. I think this is because the majority of homeschooled kids we knew as children we thought were weird. Really I think this was more that they weren’t one of us, they didn’t have the clothes, hairstyles, or know our jokes, and groups were very important. I also think most of the ones I knew were homeschooled for religious reasons, or had very high IQs, which can make you unusual for unrelated reasons.

    The part of the post that really gets it right – I have trouble with the idea that my kids won’t be like me. I already feel sad about it and they don’t even exist yet! They will probably never live in ANY state I have lived in so far, they probably won’t grow up with a big extended family, they won’t get to grow up in the woods like I did, because actually I couldn’t live in the country as an adult. The fact they might not go to school is just one of many.

    The bottom line is, I feel anxiety every time I think about taking a hypothetical child to school. Spending any of MY time in a school building again sounds horrible, and I would be there a small fraction of the time my kids would. I wouldn’t even call my school experience traumatic, but I still feel this way. So really, selfishly, if I don’t want to spend any time in a school at parent committee meetings, etc., and the kids hate it too, why do it?

  16. Crimson Wife
    Crimson Wife says:

    I’m tail end of Gen X, almost Gen Y (born in ’77) and it seems to me that Gen Y is much more open to homeschooling because it’s a natural follow-on from Attachment Parenting. The people who’ve I’ve encountered who are the most anti-homeschooling are older Gen Xers and Boomers, mostly because they feel women should be “leaning in” to their careers and not being SAHM’s.

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