The Washington Post published a list of books for women from Gen Y who are entering the workforce. It’s a little late for that, because this year is the first college graduation for Generation Z.

It’s time to make a mental shift. Every time you imagine what your kid will be doing when they grow up, play this game: If Generation Y would like it then Generation Z won’t.

Your kid won’t build their own brand. Generation Z thinks social media is ridiculous and they don’t even use their real names in email. Though really, how could they? All the real names in gmail were taken by the time Gen Z got there. Generation Y built their social capital by looking perfect on Instagram. But Generation Z has no interest in looking pristine.

Your kid won’t climb ladders. Generation Z is unimpressed with the idea of disruption. The Internet has been disrupting everything since the 90s. Generation Z wants to put things back together in a way that creates justice for all. MBA applications will continue to decrease because Gen Z wants to elevate institutions rather than elevate themselves. And you don’t need an MBA if you want to stick with everyone else.

Your kid won’t drive. Expensive cars will give way to cheap green cars and cars that are shared. Public transportation will get less expensive because Generation Z is very, very price sensitive. And while getting a driver’s license used to be a trope of teenage years, 30 percent of Generation Z says they don’t plan on getting a driver’s license. Ever.

Your kid won’t go to law school. Most practicing lawyers struggle to pay back their school loans, which means the law schools are overpriced. The unemployment rate among law school grads is so high that some people think it’s fraudulent. And law schools (more than other graduate schools) are set up so that kids with wealthy parents get higher grades. Generation Z is repelled by this sort of structural unfairness, and being part of the problem will be unacceptable. This is much different from how Gen Y leveraged inequality to solidify their status.

Your kid will push for diversity. Everywhere. But it won’t be what you’re expecting. We won’t talk about minorities because most members of this generation will be non-white. Instead we’ll talk about people who are economically disadvantaged or mentally different. Generational heroes will be people like Cody McLain who grew up in foster care with Aspergers and built a successful business as an adult.

Your kid will work locally. When Generation Z is too conscious of their global footprint to jet across the globe. Generation Z is practical and concerned with building physical communities before they disintegrate under the weight of the Internet. So a millenniel might work at Qualcomm in San Diego racking up frequent flier miles, and extend business travel into an exotic adventure long enough to post on Facebook. But the corollary person in Generation Z will work locally at a San Diego lawn care service offering new, earth friendly services, and rather than taking pictures of themselves, this person will take pictures of community improvements.

Did you see the speech Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave to Congress about her Green New Deal? She said previous generations have refused to spend serious money on saving the climate. So the coming generation will have to take responsibility for climate. This is how Generation Z will feel about everything. They will tell us older generations that we were irresponsible. They will not be a generation known for selfies. Generation Z has too much to fix.

I went hiking with my kids, and I couldn’t remember where the trail started. But my younger son remembered. And my older son remembered to put the tick collar on the dog. And I found myself going along for the hike, as a sort of passenger on the journey the kids set up for us.

It is so hard to imagine this happening, but kids become teenagers and then there it is — you are following them. Which makes me wonder when did I get in my head that I would have any idea what skills they’d need in their life?

My parents had no idea what skills I would need. And their parents had no idea what skills they would need. So what makes me think I can help my kids? What do I know?

So far what I know for sure is that skills I never dreamed of calling superfluous are, indeed, superfluous.

Taking notes. Kids have flipped classrooms now. The teachers hand out notes and the in-class time is for discussion. Moreover, taking notes doesn’t help with retention or comprehension. Kids are much better off saying the information out loud, or taking practice tests covering the information. I like taking practice tests on Quizlet so much that I do it just for fun when I’m bored.

Writing a paper. I actually only found this out when I started recording conversations with journalists. I give them so much good material, and I think, why don’t I use what I just said? I can use MightyCall to record my conversations, and then turn those conversations into posts. (Especially easy since I’m a terrible listener — there’s so little to edit when I’m the only one talking!) Podcasts are growing faster than text or video. And the only way to find what works is to try stuff.

Starting a company. Startups are passe. Which makes sense because 55% of them were started by Gen X. The lure of Silicon Valley is over, and homeowners and companies are gunning to get out. The only people are staying are those who could not function anywhere else. And for those who want to start a profitable, non-Silicon Valley company, places like CalChamber make it so easy to stay legal that your kids won’t have to give up tons of stock just to get a labor lawyer to take their call.

I am trying hard to remind myself that I have no idea what my kids will need to learn and I should leave them alone. But I always want to give my opinion.

Then I watched a teacher talking to my son when he stumbled on a word.

She said, “What should you do if you see a word you don’t know?

He said, “Look on the Internet.”

She said, “Or a dictionary.”

He laughed. Out loud. And so did many kids in the class. Because what is she even talking about? The dictionary is on the Internet now, but more than that, the Internet is actually a huge dictionary.

The adult who presumes to tell a kid how to learn will be an adult makes kids laugh.

Schools decide the priorities of non-school time as well. In Newton, MA there is an extra period in the day so the school can require kids to try extracurricular activities that will make the kids more appealing to colleges. In Darlington, WI, there are half-days of school when the football team has a home game so all students can spend the afternoon preparing for the event. In Winnetka, IL kids in jazz band frequently travel during school breaks.

If you send your kid to school, the school board chooses the parenting philosophy for your household. If you homeschool, you decide what the point of childhood is. You decide what the goal of family time is. You decide what your role as a parent is.

These are questions we are not accustomed to answering. For most of history children were small workers – in fields and then in factories. Then children went to school where they learned to be good adult factory workers. We have not given much thought to what is the point of childhood because we have not had so much freedom to decide for ourselves.

No one asks the school board to defend it’s parenting philosophy, but homeschoolers end up doing this all the time. Because if you talk about how you make decisions about education you cannot avoid talking about what you think is important about childhood. I have been swayed by different philosophies at different times:

Childhood Institute: making sure children fulfill their potential
Mihaly Csikczentmihalyi: becoming an expert at something
Martin Seligman: learning the principles of locus of control
Bryan Caplan: twin studies show nothing parents do matters

Each of these theories took decades to develop. And the theories contradict each other. So it’s clear that knowing the goal of childhood is like knowing the meaning of life: impossible.

Often while my kids were playing basketball, I was stressing about not knowing my parenting philosophy. Now that I see there’s no right answer to what is the goal of childhood, I wish I had watched more basketball and been less distracted by people telling me I shouldn’t let my kids stay home from school and play basketball.


Today’s students memorize fewer facts because they are well aware that everything they’d need to know is online. To get the best of this sea change, your kids actually know how to find things. It’s not as simple as you might think, and kids need a lot of time to explore the Internet unfettered by parental advice.

Read more

Being a homeschooler and breadwinner feels like I’m the ball in a pinball machine. I hit something, hopefully make it light up, and go to the next thing. I never stay too long at one thing or I fall down the black abyss. Read more

How do you know when to quit complaining and put up with the terribleness of life? We shouldn’t torture ourselves, but maybe some things should be endured.

Read more

I started unschooling when my younger son was 5 years old. I did not teach him math or reading. This is because my friend who is a teacher in New York City public schools, told me that everyone in the school system knows that you don’t have to teach most kids to read — they teach themselves. You only need to teach socially or economically disadvantaged kids how to read. Read more