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Education Innovation
Homeschooling Sweeps Silicon Valley

Homeschooling is on the rise nationally, but it seems to be especially hot in Silicon Valley right now. Wired profiles techie families who have opted for homeschooling—and are seeing their friends and colleagues start to do so as well. The evidence in the piece is anecdotal, but the reasoning offered by families mentioned in the piece is fascinating:

“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha [Cook, wife of “lead systems administrator at Pandora”] says. “So how do you do that? Well if the system won’t allow it, as the saying goes: If you want something done right, do it yourself.” […]

“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?’” [app designer Jens Peter] 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!’” […]

“We are going direct to learning,” she [Lisa Betts-LaCroix] says. “We don’t need to hold to this old paradigm of top-down, someone tells me what to do.”

There are a few things going on here. In the first place, it’s notable that homeschooling is spreading outside its original religious context. Given their cultural influence and cache, Silicon Valley families who are adopting and promoting homeschooling will likely accelerate its rise. Secondly, as we’ve noted before, this movement represents a threat not only to outdated schooling systems and models, but also to the entire blue progressive worldview. The threat to the blue model schooling system here is obvious: parents are rejecting a one-size-fits-all “time served” approach to education that does not encourage or allow students to rise to their full potential. They believe schools are failing to prepare their children for today’s economy, and they are right.

But the “do it ourselves” attitude that Betts-LaCroix alludes to is also related to a general, and growing, suspicion of experts across many areas of American life. The more Americans feel like they can do things better on their own, the less patience they will have “professionals”—whether that be educators, doctors, or various kinds of bureaucrats (though, as the current uproar over vaccination shows, this isn’t always beneficial). This impatience will undermine the stability of institutions that blue model progressives built and supported. Homeschooling’s rise is just beginning—and is itself only the start of a wider transformation.

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  • Dain Fitzgerald

    It’s astonishing, this anti-hierarchical attitude coming from one of the most cutthroat and economically lopsided industries in the nation. These are the people who claim the new serfdom – a world of temps (see the app WONOLO for a glimpse at things to come) apart from a small cadre of Stanford grad full-timers – represents a world where you can “be your own boss.” Ha ok, well that’s one way to describe it. A life of economic uncertainty and anxiety is another way.

    For those who weren’t gifted with the high IQ, connections, and drive that stems from well-to-do SV parents, a “system that tells people what to do all day” provides a helluva lot more security.

  • Boritz

    The federal government should not allow this. There must be a parent mandate requiring children to be enrolled in an approved school with increasingly severe penalties for each year they delay demonstrating obedience. None of this ‘if you like your school’ garbage.

    • FriendlyGoat

      The states enacted parent mandates decades ago.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Home school is cool for inquisitive, self-starter kids whose mothers don’t happen to be nut cases to spend the day with (as some are). The curriculum options are continually improving and a LOT of stupid stuff (from other kids AND the structure) can simply be escaped, allowing time and attention to be focused on more important things.

    But thankfully for society, which needs the REST of its children fed, supervised and educated to some level—-the single reason that the “blue model” of school is not going to die—-despite the screwball wishes of TAI—-is school sports. Yes, as trivial as sports may be in the whole education scheme—–NEITHER LIBERALS NOR CONSERVATIVES ARE GOING TO FOREGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS BECAUSE OF SUPPORT FOR THE TEAMS. It’s a crazy glue we have no intention of abandoning in most places.

    • rubashov2

      Heh. Don’t be so sure. I coach a team of homeschool kids outside of public schools, and we travel to tournaments and such just like the public school teams. Church leagues in multiple sports are growing. Soccer and swim teams have long existed quite comfortably outside the confines of the public school system.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Yes, I know there are other teams. But, I’m just sayin’ that the general public is not going to let its public teams go.

    • rheddles

      A good point today, but things change. Remember the first Heisman Trophy winner attended some midwestern football powerhouse…I’ll remember the name in a minute. In the meantime, I’ve got one word for you; concussions. A couple of lawsuits and the cost of insurance for a district with any teams more physical than chess will skyrocket. Then you will see more club sports, like the soccer and swim mentioned below, where there are ironclad release waivers prohibiting litigation and no deep pockets to pay.

      The real danger here is that teams are only critical for small towns in rural areas with only one high school and big cities where sports or entertainment are the only legal routes to prosperity. They are not nearly so meaningful for the suburbs like silicon valley. Once home schooling or any type of school choice is seen as the means for the upper middle class to advance the career success of their progeny, public schools will no longer get the knee jerk support they now garner. They will be seen for what they are, institutions of involuntary incarceration for age violations monitored by hack union guards.

      • FriendlyGoat

        I am aware that times change and our school cultures have changed. I am grateful, though, for my time in a 500-student public high school decades ago, with eight public grades preceding, and never find myself wishing I had been in home school or a church-run school.

        My comment about sports is just an observation. I was in other activities more, but it’s not lost on me that both sides of the political aisle support this stuff more than they agree on anything else. Even Sarah Palin called herself a “product of Title IX”.

  • Josephbleau

    In my opinion there could be no better system than having a dedicated parent set or wise uncle/grandparent participate in the education of a child. Internet courses could help with subject matter not held by the family. I could imagine no more wonderful system where you could lead a child from 5 to 15 in learning and release them to adulthood in the care of a University. The US and Norwegian system is designed to restrain the top kids to enforce the Danish no one is better than me deal.

  • rubashov2

    One small correction: the original homeschoolers weren’t religious. It was “progressive educators” (aka hippies), people like John Holt and John Gatto that got it started. Christians came later.

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