Homeschooling: The New Techie Fad?

Wired notes a growing conflation between cutting-edge tech thinking and escaping the education monopoly.


Another subtle "Libertarian Moment" moment is noted in an interesting, lengthy feature at Wired by Jason Tanz. The story profiles some families representative of the growing phenomenon of techies choosing to escape the educational monopoly of government schools, or any sort of traditional school, for their children.

Some key excerpts explaining the ideas uniting the various individual families the story introduces and ties their techie-ism with their disdain for trad schooling:

"Do It Yourself" is a familiar credo in the tech industry—think of the hobbyists of the Homebrew Computing Club hacking together the personal computer, Mark Zuckerberg building the next great communications medium from his Harvard dorm room, or Palmer Lucky soldering together the Oculus Rift from spare parts in his garage. Progressive education is another leitmotif that runs through tech history—Larry Page and Sergey Brin have attributed much of their success to the fact that they attended a Montessori school. In recent years, Peter Thiel has launched a broadside against higher education, and Sir Ken Robinson's lecture,"How Schools Kill Creativity," has become the most popular TED Talk of all-time, with 31 million views. Now, all those strains are coming together to create a new phenomenon: the techie homeschooler.

This may come as a shock to those of us who still associate homeschooling with fundamentalists eager to shelter their kids from the evils of the secular state. But it turns out that homeschooling has grown more mainstream over the last few years. According to the most recent statistics, the share of school-age kids who were homeschooled doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 1.7 to 3.4 percent.

And many of those new homeschoolers come from the tech community. When homeschooling expert Diane Flynn Keith held a sold-out workshop in Redwood City, California, last month, fully half of the parents worked in the tech industry. Jens Peter de Pedro, an app designer in Brooklyn, says that five of the 10 fathers in his homeschooling group work in tech, as do two of the eight mothers. And Samantha Cook says that her local hackerspace is often filled with tech-savvy homeschoolers.

"There is a way of thinking within the tech and startup community where you look at the world and go, 'Is the way we do things now really the best way to do it?'" de Pedro says. "If you look at schools with this mentality, really the only possible conclusion is 'Heck, I could do this better myself out of my garage!'"

Lisa Betts-LaCroix personifies this attitude pretty well. She is no stranger to the various obsessions of the tech world—she leads the Silicon Valley chapter of Quantified Self, the personal tracking movement; her husband Joe has helmed a variety of computer and biotech startups. She has homeschooled her kids for the last nine years (though she prefers the term "independent learning"). When she started, it was seen as unusual. Now, she says, there are more than 500 families in her homeschooling group—a growing number of them tech entrepreneurs like her husband. She sees it as the latest expression of the industry's push toward disintermediation. "We are going direct to learning," she says. "We don't need to hold to this old paradigm of top-down, someone tells me what to do."

Amen. Tanz does the requisite hand-wringing about how "There's something inherently maddening about a privileged group of forward-thinkers removing their children from the social structures that have defined American childhood for more than a century under the presumption that they know better."

How dare an American think he knows better than the government how to educate his children, indeed.  But then Tanz has to admit:

as I talked to more of these homeschoolers, I found it harder to dismiss what they were saying. My son is in kindergarten, and I fear that his natural curiosity won't withstand 12 years of standardized tests, underfunded and overcrowded classrooms, and constant performance anxiety. The Internet has already overturned the way we connect with friends, meet potential paramours, buy and sell products, produce and consume media, and manufacture and deliver goods. Every one of those processes has become more intimate, more personal, and more meaningful. Maybe education can work the same way.

The very long story has more examples of how homeschooling, even the variety known as "unschooling" that provides no standard book-learning, desk-sitting structure to the process, can and might work. It goes into many of the programs, resources, and aspects of techno-modernity that make home/unschooling a viable and rich option for techies, and the rest of us.

Well worth a read for considering the less obvious ways Silicon Valley thinking and techniques are shaping a likely more libertarian future.

J.D. Tuccille wrote for us last year of his own family's decision to embrace the liberty of homeschooling.

I blogged last year about how hating homeschooling means hating American liberty.

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  1. “This may come as a shock to those of us who still associate homeschooling with fundamentalists”

    I have suspicions that lots of stuff ‘comes as a shock’ to those who are shocked by this.

    1. I’m shocked, shocked to find that education is going on in here!

      1. I’m sure those people are also shocked to find that other people really don’t trust PBS, too!

        1. If I can’t trust Carl Sagan, what will I do?

    2. I came here basically to say this. Darn you, Sevo!

      Here’s another thought: The fundamentalists can be thought of as early adopters who picked up on homeschooling before the “privileged group of forward-thinkers” in the tech industry.

      Soon the fundamentalists will be boasting of how they were into homeschooling before it was cool.

      1. It never was just the Fundamentalists either. The hippies were on the forefront too.

        And the hippie fundies.

        1. OK, it was the fundies who started the fad of *bathing* their homeschooled children.

          1. The hippies know I’m just busting their balls.

            Ha, ha!

  2. It seems weird to me that nobody is looking at this growing trend of homeschooling and seeing an untapped market of people who want neither the utterly failed public school monopoly or a super-expensive private school affiliated with the Pope. Like what if we made a private school that was awesome?

    1. And take the cultural instruction out of it? No thank you.

    2. Well, then the teachers’ unions would strangle it in its crib. You don’t think people want a good education for their kids already? The problem is, a lot of people see all the money they pay for the local public school via their property taxes and think “well, I’m already paying for it and I don’t get a refund if I send my kid somewhere else, so…”.

      It’s tough to create competition when one provider gets paid no matter what. It would be like having to pay Comcast even if you got (and paid for) DirecTV instead. A lot of people who hate Comcast still wouldn’t double pay, or can’t.

      1. I didn’t ask for a perfectly reasonable explanation, Epi. I asked for a school where kids ride giraffes instead of buses.

        1. If the giraffes can be woven into a religious theme, we’re good.

        2. I want a school where they teach you to shoot guns, drive a car properly (including pursuit and evasion techniques), construct explosives, and roll joints, especially those really cool tulip joint ones. Oh, also to read and write, as long as it’s not A Separate Peace.

          1. Well you can get a lot of that at the Cia farm.

            1. Yeah but then I’d have to get the CIA part. DO NOT WANT.

              1. Based on all the movies I’ve seen, it looks like it’s fun and as a bonus you become an invincible force for goodness and apple pie.

      2. Solution: RENT! That way you don’t have to pay property taxes 😉

    3. They exist. They’re just damned expensive.

    4. There are private secular schools all over the country. They tend to be expensive, though.


    5. There are plenty of good private schools that arent catholic.

  3. It might be fun to have a kid that I could kick around
    A little me to fill up with my thoughts
    A little me or he or she to fill up with my dreams
    A way of saying life is not a loss

    I’d keep the tyke away from school and tutor him myself
    Keep him from the poison of the crowd
    But then again pristine isolation might not be the best idea
    It’s not good trying to immortalize yourself

    Beginning of a great adventure
    Beginning of a great adventure

    Why stop at one, I might have ten, a regular TV brood
    I’d breed a little liberal army in the wood
    Just like these redneck lunatics I see at the local bar
    with their tribe of mutant inbred piglets with cloven hooves

    I’d teach ’em how to plant a bomb, start a fire, play guitar
    And if they catch a hunter, shoot him in the nuts
    I’d try to be as progressive as I could possibly be
    As long as I don’t have to try too much.

      1. Yo mama?

          1. Wow, this song is like the cliche singularity.

            It’s by Lou Reed, and it contains the line: “I’d raise my own pallbearers to carry me to my grave”

            Thus covering Lou Reed, death and the Cleveland Browns all at once.


            1. I knew you’d like it.

  4. The story profiles some families representative of the growing phenomenon of techies choosing to escape the educational monopoly of government schools, or any sort of traditional school, for their children.

    By “techies” do we mean, Kidz that use smartphone apps?

    1. And ride the Google buses!

      1. Is that the same as riding the short bus?

  5. I see this kind of practical libertarianism developing more and more, due to the internet and other tech progressing faster than governments can keep up. Look at the FAA and their idiotic quest to control drones — there are several other countries already ahead of us in practical legal uses of drones, and all our proggies can think of is to prevent search and rescue teams from using them, or their very own enviro freaks using them to find pollution.

    The practioners certainly aren’t libertarian in any general sense, but that will come. The more government does, the more it gets in people’s way, and the more people see it as an obstacle. The more this happens, the more the feeling will expand in to more and more aspects of life. At some point, people’s mindset will shift from “why did government screw that up?” to “why did anyone think government could do that?”

    I was always in the first mindset, even as a kid — why did LBJ, McNamara, Nixon, and Kissinger make such a mess of Vietnam, and why did NASA screw up everything after Apollo? At some point I switched to the second mindset, but it wasn’t until I read Jesse Walker’s history of radio and realized how radio survived and prospered until 1934 without government control that it dawned on me that government is a fundamentally flawed concept right from the start.

    It will be things like 3D printing and high tech homeschooling that roll back government, and neither government nor proggies can do anything about it.

    1. We are of one mind on this subject and the future of freedom in general. Government however is not fundamentally flawed; it’s vital. You can’t have freedom or much else without it.

      1. Pray tell, in what area is government vital, if it wasn’t even necessary to allocate radio frequencies?

        Don’t tell me national defense. The US hasn’t been in danger of invasion since 1815, and that was primarily because the US declared war on Britain. Every war since has been voluntary in some sense; even WW II in the Pacific would never have happened if we hadn’t beat up the Spanish (voluntarily) in 1898. Every other war is pathetically distant.

        1. It’s national defense, your worthless ‘understanding’ of history notwithstanding.

          even WW II in the Pacific would never have happened if we hadn’t beat up the Spanish (voluntarily) in 1898

          Bullshit the Japs still wanted Pacific Domination. There was also this thing called the Cold War America had to fight.

          Also, environmental protection of air and oceans ex banning leaded gasoline and CFCs.

          1. You are so damned ignorant it IS funny.

            Without the Spanish American war, we wouldn’t have had any Pacific territory, including Hawaii.

            Ever hear of the US’s Open Door policy with respect to China? We got to the colonization game late and all the good ports in China were already gobbled up by Britain, Portugal, and other countries, so we put our noses in the air and sniffed how bad imperialism was and how it was only fair for China to trade with everybody.

            Guess who forced the Japanese to open their doors to the West in 1854? Then when they decided the only way to survive in a white man’s world was to act like a white country and take colonies like Korea and Taiwan, the white countries ganged up on them. They beat Russia in 1905, took the British and French side in WW I, even had some warships hunting German U-boats in the Mediterranean, and got shunted aside after the war.

            California and the US passed laws discriminating against Asians, so the Japanese decided fuck the white man. But if we hadn’t picked sides, they wouldn’t have attacked us, and if we hadn’t had all those imperial overseas *Asian* colonies in Japan’s backyard, they would have had no reason to attack us. The Japanese were as arrogant and stupid as any other country, but that doesn’t make us angels.

            Many many books have been written on how to clean things up without government. Property rights and self-interest work wonders.

            Your ignorance and imperialism are typical statist claptrap.

          2. As for the Cold War, what was the US in danger of — invasion? Did you take Red Dawn for a documentary? Oh, you thought we had to protect western Europe? How about they take care of themselves.

            You remind me of so many virulent anti-communists, who fear it because they think it can beat free markets. If it really was as evil as they professed to believe, it would collapse on its own, and we could have hastened its downfall better by keeping government theft small and leaving the economy free to make communism show its true face. You probably think the Cuban embargo was good, but it was the main excuse Castro needed to keep his populace in check. Communism would have died there ages ago if they had not had our embargo justifying all their scary propaganda.

            You have nothing.

      2. yep.

        Can’t have freedom unless you have somebody stealing your money.

        Orwell has a big boner as his casket spins. Is that a haiku? don’t think so. too drunk to actually count either.

        1. You can’t have freedom without someone monopolizing the retaliatory use of force.

  6. How are home schooled children going to introduced properly to booze and dope?

    1. Same way they get introduced to sex, presumably?by doing it with their parents.

      1. (makes mental note about Hugh)

      2. I learned about sex from Hugh’s mom. But then again, so did everyone.

  7. Another subtle “Libertarian Moment” moment

    You Know Who Else constantly used every little incident as proof of their inevitable victory?

    1. Obama?

    2. Rolling Stone subscribers?

    3. The New England Patriots?

  8. I like the picture making fun of the socializing panic, which is one of the worst “critiques” of homeschooling. Because kids can’t make friends unless they’re supervised by a bitter, overpaid bureaucrat who yells at them anytime someone talks out of turn.

    1. It’s not like kids had trouble socializing before mandatory public schooling became widespread.

    2. I think the concern is that homeschooled kids are cooped up in the house all day or only allowed out on scheduled playdates.

      Most people get that socialization at schools happens away from the teachers on kids’ own terms, which may be lost to homeschooled kids.

      1. In short, when educrats talk about “socialization”, they mean that the purpose of a school is to create an environment in which the individual is subsumed into the collective, which teaches how to be a cog in that great machine we call “society”.

        1. The public School system has always been about indoctrination.

          1. The public School system has always been about indoctrination.

            You are absolutely correct. Horace Mann said as much. People always go goo-goo eyed over quotes like

            Jails and prisons are the complement of schools; so many less as you have of the latter, so many more must you have of the former.

            But if you view the quote in its context, it’s clear that Mann viewed the Irish as subhuman ape-beings who would run amok in the streets of New York and Boston if they weren’t taught how to stand upright in taxpayer-funded government-run schools.

        2. Which is why homeschooling bothers them so very much.

        3. Sometimes I forget that progs are evil, not merely misguided.

          1. Indeed. That’s one of two axioms that should guide you through life.

            The second is “There is a difference between a woman with a big ass and a big-ass woman”.

            1. Are you talking about Hugh’s mom?

              1. Hugh’s mom has a Schr?dinger’s ass.

    3. lap83|2.10.15 @ 9:19PM|#
      “I like the picture making fun of the socializing panic, which is one of the worst “critiques” of homeschooling.”

      When I was a yute, my friends were all from the neighborhood. The kids in school lived too far away to be real friends.
      Also, in school, hardly anyone was friends above of below their grade. In the hood, we had friends of various ages.

      1. Same here. Also, my brother and I were homeschooled for a few years during which time we got a lot more socializing done because our “homework” was finished long before our neighborhood friends got out of school.

        1. Interesting point in that I was ‘home-schooled’ for a year without realizing what was going on.
          I missed the 1st grade since my sibling caught polio and I was quarantined. I didn’t know I was ‘home-schooled’; Mom would just pull out a book or get one from the library and we’d read it together. Or go on trips to various historical sights. Or add 5 pieces of that to 10 pieces of this. Or visit my brother at the hospital and learn from the MDs. Or Dad would work on something and I’d see how measuring worked.
          Regardless, when I went ‘back to school’, the question was whether to put me in 2nd grade or 3rd.

    4. ya, how are you supposed to learn to stick to your own race and make shivs and stuff if you don’t go to public school?

  9. “Oh no I forgot to put alt-text in the picture!”

    That aside, nice article.

  10. Fuck you, Tanz. Kids aren’t state property, and if a parent wants their child to have a decent education instead of leaving them in those squalid little starter prisons, it’s nobody else’s business.


  11. I homeschooled my two sons from k through 8th grade (not that we really kept track of ‘grade’).

    What I would have loved and think most homeschoolers would love is a pick and choose opportunity – much like college. Pick a course or two and/or sport for your kid to attend/participate in without the hassle of the incredibly stupid requirements and useless coursework.

    I’d have loved to do something like this for high school, unfortunately, both mine were accelerated in math and need advanced instruction by 8th grade – something I wasn’t capable of teaching well. I’d have loved to send them to public school or even a private school for a handful of math and lab science classes that I just wasn’t able to outsource in any other way.

    Schooling needs to be more flexible.

  12. I don’t know about homeschoolers being techies. Some are, I’m sure, but most seem to be simply those dissatisfied with the public school system who aren’t prepared to drop $12 – 20K/year on private school.

    It’s not all happy libertarian news, either. A substantial number of the homeschooling parents my wife has contact with (we homeschool our youngest) are on federal assistance. They use that to keep a parent at home.

    What we critically need is for government to get out of school altogether. Completely–no standards, no barrier-to-entry-creating regulations, and so on. Then we can have affordable, market-priced private schools, private schools that aren’t influenced or corrupted by the government.

    1. What we critically need is for government to get out of school altogether.

      That would be the best for education. But public schools are only partially about education. They are also important for indoctrinating a new generation of good citizens, and for keeping kids out of trouble while their parents work to support the government.

  13. We’re opening a new school in San Francisco to find a middle ground for parents. We felt the same as these parents did, but didn’t feel capable of homeschooling (and we needed to work full time). In the land of new ideas, we decided to do a non-profit start up school. There was a hole in our neighborhood (2nd highest population of families in SF, but NO independent schools) that we are filling.

    Inquiry inspired and project based, progressive, nature focus, and small class size (12 max per class) make Sunset Progressive School a real option for parents who don’t want to homeschool. Gifted and Talented education is practically gone in San Francisco and we don’t think that children should be stifled just because schools don’t see it as a priority to keep up with their thirst for more.

    We’re capping our tuition at what most families pay for preschool and requiring a parent participation aspect of our school to do all the the work (other than teaching).

    I would say that 75% of our applications are from families with at least one parent in tech. Interestingly, our limited technology approach is one of the most appealing things to many of these parents. Technology has a place and is an amazing learning tool, but for 5 year olds, we want it to be thoughtful – and the most important interactions they have should be face to face.

  14. Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income… You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection… Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up… You can have your first check by the end of this week………
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  15. I have to ask: Is one of the two parents in these families a stay-at-home parent? Because how the fuck do you homeschool your kids if both parents are working?

  16. If you don’t want your kids brainwashed by multicultural liberal morons that run public schools we are in a golden age of accessible educational tools. You have to be willing to sacrifice some of the economic benefits of two incomes though, which is why Obama wanting to further subsidize daycare is infuriating.

  17. Tanz: “The Internet has already overturned the way we connect with friends, meet potential paramours, buy and sell products, produce and consume media, and manufacture and deliver goods.”

    Which is probably why Obama wants the FCC to take over the net.

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