It turns out that Burning Man is filled with startup founders streaming down from the Ramen-stocked futon-furnished studio apartments in San Francisco. This is shocking to me because it used to be that startup founders were obsessed with their companies. The founders thought of nothing but their product, their market, their competitors. There were no vacations, and there were no distractions.

Today startup founder is just another name for lucky rich kid who is probably a guy with no cares in the world except being able to say they are a founder. There is no urgency to scale. There is no self-imposed pressure to change the world. There is only the drive to impress friends. The most efficient way to impress lots of friends is to post photos of your this-is-so-fun life on Facebook. It’s why Gen Y spends so much money on their wedding photos and it’s why Facebook is full of unrealistic views of peoples’ lives.

You can’t publish photos of having a great life in a startup because there’s nothing to take a picture of. So you go to Burning Man – totally photogenic. And you go to SXSW, which used to be a place for early adapters to exchange ideas and now it’s a place for anyone who can pay for a ticket to say they are part of the tech sector.

I saved that picture up top of me because it’s what I feel like when I’m pushing myself to do something new. I felt this way when I was learning how to launch startups. And I feel this way now, when I’m trying to downshift my work to make room for homeschooling. Blurry, disoriented, wearing clothes that should to go in the laundry.

Okay. So startup founder is today’s version of the 1970s lawyer and the 1980s banker. It’s just what you do to show your college friends that you’re a success and they’re not. In fact, here’s a chart of the history of the non-risk takers of each decade. This is the sector the most noncreative people went into upon graduation:

1950s house in the suburbs

1960’s IBM

1970s doctor or lawyer

1980s investment banking

1990s consulting

2000s online content and advertising

2010s startup founder

First of all, to be clear, I was in the Internet sector in 1994 and the reason I know it was not trendy until 2000 is that I had no way to explain to people what I was doing or why I was doing it.

You can bet that if you are in a job where people say “Wow, how studly of you. You are god’s gift to post-college success,” then you are not god’s gift to post-college success. In fact, you are god’s gift to rule-following, ego-driven, sheep-pasture grazing.

So the question is, where are the revolutionaries right now?

If you look at the chart, the risk takers are the people who experimented with what’s popular before it was popular. Most experiments fail, of course, but visionaries hit it right on the nose.

Just as the 1950s workplace experiment focused on creating a job environment that catered to suburban living. The 2010s revolutionaries create job environments that cater to homeschooling. It’s clear to me that homeschooling is inevitable for everyone who is not poor. And it’s clear to me that homeschooling is a logical extension of the current workplace revolution.

Given that, it’s easy to conclude that startup founders are no longer risk-takers or particularly interesting. It’s the homeschoolers who are pushing the envelope of what it means to work and what we ask from work. And I’m so excited to be part of this group.

28 replies
  1. Homeschool Sweet Homeschool
    Homeschool Sweet Homeschool says:

    Your conclusion is excellent “It’s the homeschoolers who are pushing the envelope of what it means to work and what we ask from work. And I’m so excited to be part of this group.”

    Homeschoolers have a very different mentality about study, work, money, live… They are changing education point of vue, maybe tomorrow they change the world. Well… some of them… some part of the world ;-)

  2. Moses
    Moses says:

    Well, there it will be a challenge for homeschooler in a place like Kenya where some of the parents have no idea of what school. The upcoming generation of parents want graphics, they would do little to read what is hapenning and the best thing for them is get babies out of the house.

  3. Katarina
    Katarina says:

    Interesting that you say “downshift.” When I began homeschooling seven years ago, I shifted my focus, not my energy. I think the “downshifting” idea is less focus in personal professional goals, not goals period. Leading my family towards a meaningful and rewarding rhythm of life is more important to me than any other goal. I give it all I’ve got. Maybe how people see their own importance is what you are referring to. Seems to me that putting family truly first ends up being the ultimate radical way way of life. Especially if you do not advertise your successes to anyone or even bother to be understood.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I feel like if you put family first you better have amazing pictures on Facebook and your kids better be just better than everyone else’s otherwise you just look like a frazzled parent that no one wants to be.

      Or you could make yourself not care about the validation that outside admiration provides and go on living your awesome life and drinking fancy wine when it gets so rough and you can’t take a fancy bath so fancy wine is sort of a shortcut for self care.

      Sometimes I tell myself “I’m a honey badger. Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t give a shit!” (Have you seen that video? Otherwise I just sound stupid.)

      • susan
        susan says:

        It’s funny, Karelys, that the favorite photos of my kids that I’ve shared on Facebook lately are really kind of dull (no glamour whatsoever). This week I posted a shot of my 12th grader helping my 9th grader with a biology lesson (what you can’t see in the picture is the 12th grader calling for the 10th grader, because she says he has a much better grasp of nucleotide bases than she does).

        There’s nothing amazing about the picture but than again a picture is worth a thousand words, right? It shows my oldest in her scrubs from work, the girls squatting in our art room and the computer perched on a stack of magazines. This is our real life, it’s messy at times, but so is homeschooling. The shot was taken around 9pm, my youngest is a wee bit obsessed with this biology course and always eager to work on it.

        Now you’re making me wonder why I don’t give a crap about how we look. I see through the mess to the incredible but intangible life we have together and I assume others can see the same too. But maybe I’m giving people too much credit?

        (here’s the link to the picture this week – it’s totally underwhelming but it’s 100% real, which makes it awesome: )

        • Karelys
          Karelys says:

          I love the picture. It permeates me with a sense of calm and warmth. Maybe the last few days have been slow enough that I can actually hear what my quietest voice tells me.
          This helps me picture what our unschooled life will be like and I love it.

  4. Adrianne
    Adrianne says:

    “You can bet that if you are in a job where people say “Wow, how studly of you. You are god’s gift to post-college success,” then you are not god’s gift to post-college success. In fact, you are god’s gift to rule-following, ego-driven, sheep-pasture grazing.”

    This is a longer version of what I like to tell people: “If you can see the bandwagon, it’s already too late for you to jump onto the valuable part of the trend cycle.”

    Creating the way for the yet-to-be-determined bandwagon is more fun.

  5. ruo
    ruo says:

    I was reading this article today:

    And it made me think this was probably a smart child. The parents are relying on government and school to provide support. The parents themselves are confused and lost as to what to do… in the end, it was still the child that suffered. Would have something like homeschool saved the situation?

    ps. my friends usually have a budget of $5K for wedding photos and another $500 for a MUA; then another $1K for videographer. typically, they all end up looking so different on their wedding photos, i wonder why people no longer want to look like themselves on their wedding day? wouldn’t the groom feel totally jipped for marrying a different girl than the one they’ve dated?

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I had one of those overpriced extraordinary weddings that is ironically so ordinary it hurts to look at the total spend and lets be honest: Planning the whole thing was not about me- it was about every other person attending from the location, to the designer dress, to the drinks. It was made to wow, it was made to entertain, it was made to be amazing, it was made to impress. Have you seen Carrie in the S&C movie? It’s that. You get overwhelmed with the marketing of it all. At least I did. I thought I needed the big amazing glamorous wedding.

      I hate weddings.

      No one we know knows this, but we got married privately on a lakeside two months before the large ‘event’ with an ordained minister. I cried that day. I was happiest that day.

      • Jenn
        Jenn says:

        I wrote about this a year or so ago but some of it bears repeating. I worked as a banquet manager for a prestigious hotel years ago. I did not help plan the weddings but I make sure the weddings went according to plan on the big day.

        In the 250+ weddings I oversaw, I came to the same conclusion you came to: The time and expense of most weddings (and I’m talking about 95% of them) is not worth it, not even for the bragging rights on social media.

  6. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    “1950s house in the suburbs

    1960’s IBM

    1970s doctor or lawyer

    1980s investment banking

    1990s consulting

    2000s online content and advertising

    2010s startup founder”

    One of these things doesn’t really belong

  7. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    My husband is a truck driver. He made a delivery to the campus of U of Penn the other day. He calls me right after he makes the delivery and tells me how all the kids on this campus all look the same, talk the same, act the same, not a single original thought between them. He said I thought Ivy league schools were for Innovators and Masterminds. I said they are there, sadly, they are the extreme minority. Your quote ” you are god’s gift to rule-following, ego-driven, sheep-pasture grazing” reminded me of this conversation I had with him.

  8. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    I recently worked for the department of education statistical unit in Australia. In working with the data I noticed that hardly anyone home schools over here. It is practically non-existant. I asked the department head why. He said that there are schools for practically every denomination of faith in Australia and that parents don’t need to take their kids out of schools to teach them their religion, unlike in North America.

    This makes me question how revolutionary home schoolers actually are if this is one of the main drivers to home school. Mind you, this woman didn’t present me with any studies to back this up. It was based on her experiences throughout her career.

    • HomeschoolDad
      HomeschoolDad says:

      I would say that 30 years ago homeschooling in America was nearly 100% driven by Christians. Today the number is down to around 40%.

      Americans, more so than other countries, home educate because they are AMBITIOUS and more disposed towards FREEDOM, imo.

      It almost goes without saying that government officials, in every country, are a font of ignorance:

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I’d say that another driver of homeschooling in America is the abject failure of our public sector, including schools, relative to other countries.

      It’s illegal to homeschool in Germany, but I think if I lived in Germany I wouldn’t feel like I had to. Their schools are more like my homeschooling than they are like our schools.

  9. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    God, I love this…..
    “You can bet that if you are in a job where people say “Wow, how studly of you. You are god’s gift to post-college success,” then you are not god’s gift to post-college success. In fact, you are god’s gift to rule-following, ego-driven, sheep-pasture grazing.” This is so true, I’ve felt that way for so long, I just didn’t have this perfect choice of words to articulate it. : ) Thank you…..

    I see unschooling the same way I see becoming an entrepreneur. It’s all about creating the life you want and not following the path and structure someone else laid out for the masses. I’ve always understood this as far as my work life is concerned, having been an entrepreneur since I was 24 years old. I just never seriously considered it for my boys schooling, for numerous reasons. One of them being an extremely critical, unsupportive husband who would have sabotaged anything I tried. And, second, a drinking problem, which tends to put the kabosh on most plans.

    Thankfully, the bad stuff is far behind us. My current business is 5 years old and growing. My boys are 18 and 20 and very definitely not sheep. Not sheep at all. And, I’m excited to see how this plays out for them. My current concern is for my 18 year old who honestly, has an amazing talent for design. He always has. I’m an artist with a studio loaded with various supplies and he goes in and comes out with amazing work. But, he wants to go to welding school. He feels like an academic failure because he just did not fit in to the public school system. I have to remove my ego from that one.

    Though the program is not for artists, it’s for “welders”, I can see how he could parlay that knowledge into something creative. (Is that my own ego again?) Partly. But, this kid is so amazing I hate to see him go into something out of his insecurities developed from years in the public school system. My mission is to show him a wider range of possibilities at this point. This isn’t just the mom in me, this boy has real talent. I would hate to see him not develop it. I’m on it.

    Great tidbit here….Right now he is finishing up his last semester of high school. This is a tiny school he transferred to a few years ago and it’s been a godsend for him. It’s not ideal, by any stretch, but he has felt a sense of accomplishment here he hadn’t felt in years. He announced he was finally learning something. He is thriving in math, a subject that literally scared him in middle school.

    Bear with me for just a second….every one of his teachers broke into a smile and said, “I love him!” when I introduced myself. Smile. Thank you. I love him too….. Anyway, the first teacher said, “I just let him pace in the back of the room”. Huh? “Yes, that’s what he needs. He can’t sit. So, I let him pace. It doesn’t bother me”. I could have kissed her. What a refreshing attitude, right? Another teacher made a joke about expecting him to ask to leave at some point during the class every day. He lets my son get up and go for a few minutes. “It’s what he needs, so I let him”. What a joy to come across teachers who “get” what my son needs and are okay with it. What’s the harm in letting a kid get up and move if he needs to get up and move.

    Me? I cannot follow corporate rules. I simply cannot. They make no sense to me, so I do my own thing, and I get fired. I hate working for other people. I just loathe it. So, I don’t. I will never work for another person again. I know this. It’s just not going to happen.

    Back a few columns ago when Karelys was the guest writer, she said (paraphrasing) something about the idea of adapting to a school’s schedule on top of everything else seemed like too much, so they were just going to “remove it”, the outside schooling. I feel that way about working for someone outside of myself. It just doesn’t feel right to me, like it’s a huge intrusion on my life to adhere to the rules of some company and structure my life around it. It’s not just that I don’t want to, it feels like I simply cannot bring myself to do it. So, I removed it. I just create my own work situation and it’s perfect for me. I love it.

    I think I could be a great unschooler at this point in my life (no more wine, no more nasty husband). But, to me, this whole discussion is about creating your own path whether it be your work situation, your children’s schooling, or even how you structure your family life. None of it has to follow what is considered a traditional path (in America).

    Speaking of America, we have so much opportunity to create the life situations we want, why don’t more people get creative with how they set up their lives? It’s odd to me.

    Anyway, my main point was that though this blog is about education, I see it being more about life design in general. I love that I can do that.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I don’t know if you knew this, but there’s a shortage of skilled welders in this country, which is predicted to become worse shortly. Welding would be a great trade to get into about now. Of course, there’s likely nothing entrepreneurial about it, if you want to get paid.

      The barriers to entry (talent and training) are sufficient that people can’t just get into and out of welding anytime they want. If your kid has the opportunity to study welding, and really wants to, that’s great. Your kid could end up with a six figure salary right out of the program.

      I get that a lot of folks here are entrepreneurs, or serial small-business founders or owners. But most people aren’t. Any business, once it stops being something in your garage, involves a non-entrepreneurial majority. And for most people it’s a good choice to be in that majority.

  10. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Feel free to delete that previous post of mine. I took way too long to say too things….
    1) I see this unschooling conversation as not just being about education choices, but about designing the life we want, period. It encompasses everything.
    2) Even though the high school my son transferred to is a better fit for him, I have an issue with “alternative” high schools automatically funneling the kids toward “trades”. As if, if you don’t fit into traditional public schools, you are destined for a “trade” rather than a “career”. They push that hard.

    At this point, I’m working hard at exposing my son to as many possibilities as I can so he can create the path that’s right for him.

  11. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Tell us how. I need to homeschool my son but I don’t know how to pull him from school, make the change, pick the curriculum, focus on discovery, keep it interesting, expose him to things despite living in a small rural town….


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *