I refuse to steal my kids’ dreams (On homeschooling as a social movement)

I refuse to steal my kids' dreams
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

I am a big fan of Seth Godin. He inspires me–and much of the world–to think bigger, to embrace change, and to consider new ideas. For these reasons, I eagerly downloaded and read his recently released free manifesto on education, Stop Stealing Dreams.

In blog-sized chapters, Godin outlines his ideas about how schools can and should be reformed so they allow kids to thrive while learning and to graduate prepared for a new and connected world. On all this, I couldn’t agree more.

I have doubts, though, about Godin’s thoughts on homeschooling. It’s not that he portrays it negatively. On the one hand, he acknowledges this educational path:

“Thousands of caring and committed parents are taking their kids out of the industrial system of schooling and daring to educate them themselves.”

But on the other hand he states:

“There are several problems, though–reasons for us to be concerned about masses of parents doing this solo.”


Photo by mikebaird

Godin is right–the world should be concerned about crazy homeschooling families like mine and yours.

After all, social movements have always been started by groups of people who made solid institutions feel “concerned.” I imagine quite a few were concerned when abolitionists would no longer keep silent about the evils of slavery or when women rose up and demanded the right to vote.

These movements went on to change and influence the world, and as homeschoolers continue to model a successful path through our modern-day educational minefield, so will we.

Time Commitment

“The cost (in time) of one parent per student is huge–and halving it for two kids is not nearly enough. Most families can’t afford this, and few people have the patience to pull it off.”
~ Stop Stealing Dreams, Chapter 121

Without a doubt, homeschooling involves a major time, effort, and cost commitment from families, making it out of reach for the majority. But it is within reach for many, and the important things in life always involve a sacrifice of time, cost, and commitment.

I’ve heard a similar argument before–when my husband and I completed two international adoptions to add Trishna and Elijah to our family. Opponents of adoption say that the cost is prohibitive and therefore it doesn’t work on a mass scale. Some suggest that those who adopt should instead donate the money to charity, to make a difference for greater numbers of children.

There is some truth to this argument. Adoption is a broken system–a miracle for the one, not a solution for the masses. I don’t know why my two adopted children received this miracle, but they did. And our entire family is blessed because of it.

Industrialized schooling is a broken system as well. And if it’s in my power to give my kids a superb education, it’s also my obligation, my responsibility to do so.

Just because we can’t solve the beast of schooling and all its problems overnight, it doesn’t mean that we can’t give our own kids the education we know they need and deserve. Mother Teresa said it well: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

The one lives in our homes, and through our choice to homeschool we act to nurture their dreams. Not because it’s easy, not because we have the patience to pull it off, but because our children are worth it.

So we rise to the challenge.


“Without experience, new teachers are going to make the same mistakes, mistakes that are easily avoided the tenth time around…which most home educators will never get to.”
~ Chapter 121, Stop Stealing Dreams

Our mistakes provide our kids with the best education of all. The idea of avoiding mistakes comes from the notion that even when reformed, education remains a top-down, expert activity. That it is a teacher’s job to educate the student. But a true teacher’s job is to inspire the student to educate themselves, to “transfer emotion,” as Godin calls it.

And at that quality, homeschoolers come out on top. Who else can transfer emotion better than those who care more than anyone possibly could for their students? We do it all day long–when we bake apple pies in the kitchen with plenty of “help” or when we laugh together over the latest chapter of a read-aloud.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing we do is make mistakes–and apologize afterwards. Mistakes are to be embraced, not avoided. Not feared.


Photo by Monica’s Dad

“If the goal of the process is to create a level of fearlessness, to create a free-range environment filled with exploration and all the failure that entails, most parents just don’t have the guts to pull this off.”
~ Chapter 121, Stop Stealing Dreams

On this point, I firmly agree. Far too many parents are setting up schools at home exactly like the floundering institutional giant we’ve pulled our kids out of. If we follow their failing formula, we’ll get their failing results–kids who hate learning, who do the bare minimum, who follow well but are afraid to lead.

We have to be willing to pioneer and forge a new trail. I know that we can.

Homeschoolers have passion, courage, and conviction. We can fight through our fears and come out on the other side; we can fail forward and provide our kids with a world-class, leadership education.

Someday or Today

Photo by graymalkn

“The common school is going to take a generation to fix, and we mustn’t let up the pressures until it is fixed. But in the meantime, go.”
~ Stop Stealing Dreams, Chapter 131

Godin advises parents and children to keep attending school, to keep pushing boundaries, but not to abandon the institution. For some, that might be the right choice. But I refuse to allow an institution to steal my kids’ dreams while simply waiting and hoping for a better system to someday evolve.

My children don’t need a great education someday, they need one now.

Homeschoolers are part of a revolution, one unique for our time.

May our role in it impact the educational world–making it into one in which all individuals emerge from childhood with their dreams still intact. In the words of Margaret Mead,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you, Seth, for all this good food for thought. Head here to download your own copy of Stop Stealing Dreams.

This post originally published on March 5, 2012.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.


  1. Thank you for this post. Not only are my husband and I wrestling with the homeschool decision right now, but we are in the midst of the adoption process which as you know is expensive and difficult, especially on a one-income family. But we feel it is right for us, even though sometimes I wonder if the money should be used for good in other ways. Thank you for reaffirming both how I am feeling about home school and how I feel about adoption. I love your blog, it is one of my 3 I read in the morning to get me started off right!

  2. I’m about halfway through Stop Stealing Dreams and my thoughts are running along similar lines. We’re homeschoolers, so I’m bristling at his criticisms, but I appreciate his perspective.

    Jamie, have you read Brill’s Class Warfare? He says very little about homeschooling directly, but his perspective on why schools succeed or fail is fascinating. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Brill does say the #1 factor for a child’s successful education is a great teacher that’s invested in their students’ success. That sounds like a good description of a homeschooling parent to me :)
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Sneaky Smoothies: How I Became a Blender-Wielding Vitamin Pusher

  3. Sounds like an interesting book. I think homeschooling can improve public schools. If enough students are leaving, the school system will try to improve so that they can keep those students. My husband is a teacher and always hears about the numbers of students they are losing to homeschooling. If they want to keep them, they will need to do something different.
    Heidi’s latest post: Abeka High School

    • Not to mention that Homeschooled parents are still paying property taxes, but aren’t using the resources, so actually the schools then have more money per child.

  4. Thanks so much for this post. I recently watched Waiting for Superman and felt quite uncompelled to consider public schooling, even reformed. I feel that I’m the best teacher for my child right now (maybe not always, but right now) and how can I do less than the best for my child? I do see the One (ok, there are 2!). And, it’s my duty and joy to do the best by that One.
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: Smaller.

  5. Thanks so much for this article. We have adopted two special needs kids from our local foster care system and are in our 13th year of homeschooling. If I had a dollar for every time someone has suggested that we could better spend our money in another way. This article spoke to my heart. We must give our children the best that we can while striving to help others.

  6. Hi! This is my first time commenting but am a long time reader. You are the first blog I check in the morning. I really appreciate your comments about homeschooling. This article helped solidify why my husband and I do what we do. I am also working through the book Leadership Education and appreciate how you weave it into your articles. It is not a well known philosophy in my neck of the woods but it really spoke to me. Thanks for the great comments and I plan to check out this manifesto.

  7. You’ve inspired me to read the e-book now! My husband is a teacher, so I have a lot of respect for the challenges they face today. I want every child to have access to a great education. I agree that by trying new things, homeschooling families can spark new ideas for the sake of the whole system. (Wasn’t there a book by Guterson that argued that, too?) And parents need to be encouraged and empowered that they do have options, “costly” or not!

    • I have the utmost respect for hardworking teachers as well–not an easy job! And yes, most of the time we still have a choice about things, even if we choose to not make a change.

      • Halfway through, and I’m amazed the author doesn’t see why homeschooling, while not a fit for every familyis such a great, natural fit with almost all of his vision. It takes so much courage to buck the status quo and homeschool… We do have so many resources at our fingertips… Even the cost argument – many of us are also already bucking consumerism and the 9-5 job mentality. We are the innovators!

  8. This is such an important, insightful post! Thank you for sharing!

    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling
    Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling’s latest post: 10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Kids

  9. This is great Jamie. I read about halfway through last week and thought, “This is what homeschoolers already know!”
    I’m extremely grateful for his thoughts (I am a huge fan) because when he tackles the topic he brings the conversation to a new audience. But I have a hard time swallowing the sacrificial lamb bit for my own children. It’s our kids caught right in the middle of a huge shift and as long as we’re able, I’d rather keep their childhood out of the sticky mess and home — happy and free to learn.
    I’d like to think they can help contribute to the solutions, not from a wounded place, but rather from an inspired perspective of what is possible.
    Hillary’s latest post: Get Karen to Haiti: Making a Healthy Difference for Mothers and Babies

  10. My reaction was definitely to bristle at his thoughts. I want to say, too, though that for some of us, part of the reason we choose to learn at home, especially for the younger years, is that we simply do not believe children do best pulled out of home at such a young age to be raised by an institution. I’d have less issue if laws were changed to have kids begin school at about 9 years old.

    We talk often about “voting with our dollars” in other areas of life so why not education? When we make a different choice, we are sending a strong (hopefully not arrogant or antagonizing) message that we believe there is a better way.
    Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Do You "Hold Your Pee" Because You Are Too Busy :: and other thoughts on self-care

  11. Great thoughts and exactly how I would have responded. We’re not waiting for a failing system to fail our kids, that’s why for our family it is best to take matters into our own hands. I don’t see major education reform anytime soon, certainly not anything that will benefit kids, i.e. taking away summer vacation or adding hours to the school day will make matters worse, much worse I’m convinced. We will have kids literally raised by the system who don’t even know their parents.
    Anastasia @ eco-babyz’s latest post: White Fluff

  12. I’ve downloaded Godin’s manifesto, and have been looking forward to reading it. I’m glad for the heads-up; now I’m forewarned that some parts may be slightly infuriating to me! Your responses are thoughtful and spot-on, Jamie. Thank you. (Hope you’ve forwarded a link to Godin!)
    patricia’s latest post: the rule of three

  13. Love the way you pulled out some of his “concerns”. I totally agree that the system is broken and we should do what we can to help fix it. But like you said, in the meantime: “My children don’t need a great education someday, they need one now.”
    We can’t sacrifice the best we can give our children so that we can help fix the system for the future.
    Great thoughts!
    Bernice @ Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: The voices in our head

  14. Thanks for this thoughtful interaction with Godin’s ideas. It’s refreshing to read intelligent and respectful dialogue about these issues.
    Steph’s latest post: Mindset for Moms: Chapters 11-15

  15. A great post. Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. And to be really clear, I think that talented, passionate, focused homeschooling is amazing. But I also think we can agree that the cost of this solution (taking one parent out of the paid workforce for much of every day) is extremely difficult to scale. I also hope we can agree that there’s a difference between an amazingly talented homeschooling parent and one who’s just plain lousy at it, and that kids deserve the best society can give them, regardless of whether their parents have the money and the passion and the talent and the practice to deliver it at home.

    One thing in the comments jumped out at me, “I’m glad for the heads-up; now I’m forewarned that some parts may be slightly infuriating to me!”

    Oh no! I hope that I infuriate here and there, but I’m worried that people need to be warned in advance…

    • Thanks so much for taking time to comment, Seth! I’m not sure “talent” is needed to be successful in homeschooling as much as “commitment.”

      And making others think is always good, even when infuriating, yes?!
      Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: I refuse to steal my kids’ dreams (On homeschooling as a social movement)

    • “But I also think we can agree that the cost of this solution (taking one parent out of the paid workforce for much of every day) is extremely difficult to scale.”

      I have to respectfully disagree with this and say that I think there is a small but committed and growing movement afoot among many families to simplify, scale-back and look more critically at priorities. While there is an opportunity cost to homeschooling, an increasing number of families are finding that they can make it work through careful budgeting and simpler living.

      I’m really enjoying this discussion!

      Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling’s latest post: 10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Kids

      • I have to agree with Kerry. We made the decision to be a family with a full time stay at home parent almost 15 years ago. We have sacrificed to do that (rent movies rather than theater tickets, eating out no more than once every couple of weeks, used cars, shopping at Goodwill for name brands rather than the mall etc) and once we adjusted, it really doesn’t hurt anymore. My children know the value of money as they have learned to work for that toy they really want or to hang out at the movies with their friends. I think that making the decision to have a stay at home parent was just as beneficial, if not more so, than the decision to homeschool our youngest child after seeing how the school system failed to engage or encourage our other children. The decision to homeschool and/or have a full time stay at home parent is one that requires careful consideration and then a high level of commitment once decided upon but the rewards for the family are tremendous!
        Ginny’s latest post: week 2 projects

      • I totally agree, Kerry. It is interesting what many consider to be an average standard of living in America. We do not take many vacations (our first in 5 years happens this spring), nor do we have cable (the list goes on), but we also do not consider these things to be sacrifices. If I worked outside of the home, we could afford these luxuries, but we are instead choosing homeschooling as our luxury.

        This was a very moving post all around with interesting follow-up discussion.

      • I again have to strongly agree with Kerry! The section you quoted was the part of Seth’s reply that made me bristle. I am MOST valuable to our society in molding my children to be confident, intelligent, caring individuals, and I feel I do that best when “pulled from the workforce.” I think we can all agree there is a clear correlation between the breakdown of our society and the time that every woman decided it was in everyone’s best interest for her to go to work. Our kids need their mothers. Mothers make a lot of decisions for this society. My children are still young and I haven’t had to make the decision regarding public/homeschooling, but I know that RIGHT NOW, I am where I belong. Wise individuals can choose their priorities – mine and my husband’s have been to have me at home with our children. I have no intention of going back to the workforce any time soon – because I am working on the most important projects of my life – at home. This is not a great cost, it is a HUGE privilege and we will continue to make wise financial decisions to live within our means and provide all the best for our family! If that means homeschooling in a few years, then so be it. I feel Seth’s statement is quite myopic.

    • I’m going to second (again) what Kerry said. Living on one income is not as difficult as it may sound. But, it does take a shift in priorities.

      Even if we hadn’t chosen to homeschool, I would still have left my full-time teaching job to be home for my children.

      But, there are plenty of two-income families who homeschool. Again, it’s a shift in priorities and takes “thinking outside the box.”
      Jessica’s latest post: This Month on Zone Defense: Kitchen Organization

    • I suppose there are some people who think everyone should homeschool. I am not one of them. I do homeschool my children. I see its advantages and disadvantages, and every situation is different.

      I do differ on the concept of taking someone out of the workforce. I wasn’t certain if you meant that it’s not good for the economy or the family. We have chosen to live on one income. That can mean choosing activities that cost less – we canoe instead of boat. We backpack and cross-country ski instead of downhill skiing. We like to encourage our children to live lives easily sustained and enjoyed. We garden, use things for a long time, fix things that are broken, eat simple foods. Not everyone can manage even this on certain incomes, but just about everyone with my husband’s job thinks they need more money and work second jobs. We do not. We are grateful and contented instead of trying to move upwardly into a bigger house, a newer car, focused on possessions. As for the economy, we believe it’s much better for the economy to have one person who devotes mostly full time to providing healthy meals, living sustained lives, making appointments, cleaning, … without the added stress of trying to do it while working full time. Having someone home when someone is sick without stress of using sick time/missing work is huge.

    • Pamela R says:

      It is sad to me to see how little faith you, Mr. Godin, seem to have in parents. (Although fantastic that you were willing to respond to this post!)

      It’s also sad that our society puts so much more value on someone in “the paid workforce” than on raising fantastic citizens.

      Thank you, Jamie, for your post. It is heartening to see so many responses and to see that so many wonderful people are willing to trade “normal” for a chance at something better.

      • This is just what I was thinking Pamela! Why is my being ‘in the workforce’ so much better? When I was growing up the majority of mothers were at home and not because they homeschooled. Raising a family and keeping a home are full time gigs AND we do school on top!

        I think we deserve more credit and I certainly don’t need my role defined by someone else!
        Emmalina’s latest post: School Report

    • Katherine Barron says:

      I have to comment here that families make it work. I am a nurse and my husband is a media specialist in a high school. I work 1-2 shifts per week. I have a sister nearby that is staying home with her young daughter and who keeps my kids while I work (and helps them with their home school work). Because she has been able to see how easy homeschool can be, she is going to be homeschooling her 1st grade daughter next year. we are supporting each other, because the money that I pay her to keep my kids enables her to stay home with her children and yet keep food on the table.

      You are selling people short if you think that we won’t make room in our budgets for the things that are important to us—and what can be more important that our kids!!!

  16. This is so well written. I absolutely loved this post. Thank you for writing it!

  17. I have not heard of it but will check it out now. I am always interested in having a real conversation about education.
    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds’s latest post: Does it offend you that I homeschool?

  18. Kelly Lescarini says:

    Thank you!! Such an awesome post!!

  19. Barb Barker says:

    Excellent! I loved it! Did you ever read Dumbing us Down? I bought it at an sustained agriculture fair( have no idea why it was there). Written by, John Taylor Gatto . I can’t help but think of the Lorax. Unless. It only takes one.!!! Thanks so much for this post!

  20. What a great post. I also appreciate the fact that Mr. Godin commented in a very open and warm way to promote conversation. Too many times I read an author being very defensive, and I appreciate his (Mr. Godin’s) ability to converse. That makes me more likely to read his stuff.
    Dianna @ Aspiring to be’s latest post: Journey Through Ephesians Week 7

  21. I believe this is the best post you have ever written about homeschooling.

  22. You rocked it, girl! Amen. And I have to laugh since each of his statements basically asks us to sacrifice our kids at the altar of a failing institution so that it can survive and get better — a generation from now? I should let my children’s generation drown for the greater good of public education? I don’t think so.

    Thanks, Jamie, you said it well. Preach it!
    Jessica’s latest post: This Month on Zone Defense: Kitchen Organization

  23. Thanks for this post.
    It sounds like Seth Godin’s concerns about homeschooling are similar to the collectivist line of thinking (the needs/liberty of the group trump the needs/liberty of the individual), which I don’t agree with.
    I agree with your comment above “Mother Teresa said it well: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” ” And Heidi Baker, (Iris Ministries) “stop for the one.”

    Homeschooling isn’t for just one type of family or one type of belief systems. There are wonderful benefits for many different people. This is David Albert’s site: http://www.skylarksings.com/ He edited one (or more?) of John Taylor Gatto’s books.

  24. Thank you for posting this. I have been going through a rut of doubt. This and other things said by Seth lit that fire in me to carry on with more energy in my homeschooling efforts. This is hard, but it is my vote. and if I give into my fears and doubts, I also give up my liberty to vote for change. Thank you for putting so much energy into inspiring the homeschool community. God bless you.

  25. This is a wonderful post, and I agree with you 100%. As for making mistakes, I believe that when a parent truly listens to their child and works WITH THEM, mistakes will be overcome more easily, and like you said, learned from. Teachers don’t have the luxury of working with just a few students. I believe that whatever they do, they will fail someone in the class. Because out of 20-30 students, surely one or more will not learn well with whatever technique is used. Homeschooling is a blessing because we have the time to really observe and find out what works and what doesn’t.

    I also believe that homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but having different options in education is very important. And I think that perhaps it’ll be the children raised in these alternative forms of education that will someday be able to make the changes needed to make our public education better.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Homeschooling a Kindergartener with a Toddler in the House

  26. Love your blog!

    My biggest problem right now is that I DON’T pull home the school setting that I deliberately avoid by homeschooling, but I am required to test my children each year, using questions and standards that I don’t teach to, and therefore my kids tested VERY poorly last week. I was discouraged. I was de-railed. I questioned everything I’m doing (“failing” at?), and questioned if the “experts” could better help my child who has dyslexia and dysgraphia.
    I wish, wish, wish I could just “ignore” the test results, but it’s hard.

    Nevertheless, I will continue trying and yes, sometimes “failing,” as we seek to find the BEST way to teach my child. I KNOW I’m doing it better than an institution would, because I still have his heart. And through all these struggles, my 11 year old son still LOVES to learn. That can’t be tested. That can’t be proven. But I know the truth, and I need to remember. Thanks for this post today. My heart needed it.

  27. Just thought I would add that I do see his point in that if EVERYONE started homeschooling then of course we’d start seeing more problems with it. The bigger any population gets, the more problems it will have because people are all different and bring different opinions, personalities, attitudes etc. to it. I definitely know people who I don’t think would be very good homeschooling parents.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Homeschooling a Kindergartener with a Toddler in the House

  28. Katherine says:

    Making the decision to simplify and homeschool is fantastic if 1) your child’s temperament supports it, and 2) your family has enough money to support it. As a single parent, homeschooling is just not at all financially viable for me.

    Unfortunately, good parenting doesn’t put any food on the table. We gotta eat, and I’m the one who has to supply the means. In my community, we don’t all have (reliable) partners, and even fewer have the financial luxury of homeschooling, even as frugal as we are.

    “But I also think we can agree that the cost of this solution (taking one parent out of the paid workforce for much of every day) is extremely difficult to scale.”

    I think Seth is probably wise to the reality of low-income and one-parent households. I’m not helpless, but I’m not home free, either. There is no other parent — and one-parent families are far from uncommon, these days.

    Plus, as my child gets older, I find that his rampant extroversion is colliding head-on with my extreme introversion. I’m not a good teacher, simply because I hate to talk! But the kid needs to be around people all the time — he hates to be alone, and to do things alone. He gets kind of crazy, like a single Siamese cat alone in a house.

    Mad props to those who can do it, but homeschooling is not possible for me or my child. I need the time to work, and he needs to make friends. He’s going into kindergarten in a year. I’m not crazy about public school, either, but perhaps I can offset the damage done by institutional learning by more attention at home.

    • There are always different angles to any ‘story’ and I like how clearly you presented your experience. My son, homeschooled from K-gd 9 is also very happy at school this year (he was happy at home too but kind of driving me crazy with his constant need for chatter/my need to tell him to focus); he thrives on the social environment and all the sports, etc.
      Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Do You "Hold Your Pee" Because You Are Too Busy :: and other thoughts on self-care

    • See, this is an excellent attitude. It’s all about the individual kid. Homeschooling is good for some kids – it’s terrible for others. Public school is good for some kids, terrible for others, and private school is good for some and terrible for others. In my own family, my brother and I went to the same Christian school – I graduated his 9th grade year and when my family moved that summer, he went to public high school. For me, the Christian school was a great experience and strengthened me. For him, it nearly destroyed him.

      As a teacher, the family I admire most at our school is a family that sends each kid to a different school – they’re committed to placing each individual kid where he can best flourish. That’s better than carrying some banner about homeschooling as a virtue in itself, or public schooling always being evil. It’s truly about the kid, not the ideology (or worse: the parent).

    • Melissa says:

      Good input. You’re right that homeschooling isn’t a viable option for some families. Even though it is an option for our family, I’m still not sure that I’m up for it.

      I am glad to hear from someone with a differing point of view. Helps to keep me from isolating myself and my thoughts :-)

  29. Great, great post! I especially love the part about embracing mistakes- wisdom to apply to all of life. Thanks for this- as we wrestle through our homeschool decision this is very timely!
    Jess’s latest post: Book + Link

  30. Thank you for your insightful, well-thought-out response to Seth Godin’s commentary about homeschooling as it relates to his ideas on education reform. I absolutely agree with you. My personal decision to homeschool has less to do with reforming “the system” and more to do with taking personal responsibility for the way my children are educated. However I am always encouraged when I see that a critical evaluation of today’s educational systems ends up strengthening many of the key reasons why homeschooling is such a compelling alternative, in my opinion. Rather than making a case for participating in the system to improve it, I find that these points remind me why I choose not to place my children in a failing system if I don’t have to.

    One thing that particularly concerns me about his response to your article is the statement that “kids deserve the best society can give them, regardless of whether their parents have the money and the passion and the talent and the practice to deliver it at home.” Several implications of his opinion are alarming to me, but the one that stands out is the idea that “society” provides superior opportunities to our children than parents can — and more important, that it’s society’s job to make that judgement call. This is another step down the slippery slope of invalidating parental rights. Thankfully, we still have the freedom to homeschool in America (within a range of state-by-state requirements), however it’s easy to see how this kind of thinking has led to stripping parents of the right to homeschool in any form in other countries. It’s my prayer that our freedom to choose home education over the “best society can offer” remains intact in our country.

    Thanks for sparking this discussion and for so eloquently sharing your position. Your articles always inspire me.
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  31. I appreciate this post so much. I was home educated K-12 and my husband 5th-12. I have an education degree and am passionate about how children learn, etc. However, I do have to say that I live in a community where homeschooling is so in vogue that I sometimes cringe when I hear about a new homeschooling family. The commitment to a good education is not as important as just doing what everyone else is doing. THAT is so irritating, especially for those of us that are committed to a quality education…
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: In God’s Hands, Not Mine

  32. Bring it on baby (smile). The revolution and the world changing children we are raising and home educating.

    And a comment from Seth himself. wow.
    renee @ FIMBY’s latest post: The Boy Turns 11

  33. It seems like for thousands of years of human existence “homeschool” was the norm and it was scaled throughout society. You learned a real, productive skill from your family and set to work at it as soon as you could contribute. One of the downfalls of higher education today is that we’ve drilled into a generation of minds that , “you can do anything”. And they can, but the diversity of options has left kids with tremendous opportunity cost and they don’t know what they want to do with their lives. What if we told kids, “you can do anything, if you have a passion for something particular, but if you don’t, doing whatever your parents do is a good idea.”

  34. To me, homeschooling is about educating my children, but it’s also much more than that. It’s about my relationship with each child, about their relationships with each other, and about the integrity and strength of our collective family unit.

    Relationships are different from businesses in some pretty fundamental ways. They are altruistic, and they definitely don’t scale in the same way some business models do. That’s OK with me. I feel that my contribution to society will pay off in the long term as my children grow up, work hard and have children of their own.

  35. Michelle Heim says:

    Inspiring,well worth the read

  36. I know some wonderful people who take their children’s education very seriously as home school parents, but I also know parents who give home school a very bad name. As a child advocate for abused and neglected children I see parents who say they “home school” when all they do is take their children out of school to sit and do nothing so they can fly under the radar.

  37. Jaime, thank you for this. We homeschool our 3 children and I was fortunate enough to find your blog over a year ago and it continues to inspire me. I have read Steady Days and Mindset for Moms and want to thank you for spreading the message you are obviously meant to spread as your mission here on earth. You are using the talents God gave you and don’t have any idea, probably, the number of lives you are changing through your words. This post, especially, not only benefits homeschooling parents, but trickles down to their children, then, when we as parents return to homeschooling with fortified passion and purpose. I agree with everything you wrote here and I love your honesty!
    Jen Husz’s latest post: Daddy’s Home!

  38. Hi Jamie. I am a long time reader, but have never commented before. Well done on such a respectful, insightful post. I really enjoyed ‘Stop Stealing Dreams’, but it is difficult to see how the arguments advanced couldn’t lead to a consideration of homeschooling as an alternative. Congratulations on advancing our cause in such an inspirational way.

  39. Kim Green says:

    “If the goal of the process is to create a level of fearlessness, to create a free-range environment filled with exploration and all the failure that entails, most parents just don’t have the guts to pull this off.”
    ~ Chapter 121, Stop Stealing Dreams
    I just downloaded the book so I don’t know if this statement is aimed at homeschoolers but I am inferring from your comment that it is. And although you agree, I couldn’t disagree more. I am home educating three boys ages 6, 8 & 9. Not only do we spend a ton of time camping and outdoors (talk about free-range!) but I am making them responsible for their own education in ever-increasing steps. If they don’t get their basics done in the morning, we don’t go to the park in the afternoon. I don’t constantly check (like homework or projects that school children do) that it is getting done. At least for my 8 & 9 yos. My 6yo is a different story. He’s not there yet. Most of my friends allow their kids to own their work and fail. And then help them realize the problem, figure out how to find a way to solve it and then release them to find an answer. All the while being there if they need assistance. It’s not a guided, “let’s all come to the same conclusion”-type of assistance that you get in a brick-and-mortar school.

    And frankly, the entire endeavor of home educating is one of the most fearless things that you can emulate to your children. Talk about bucking the system and thinking you can do this! What we model to our children is far more important than anything else. Model how you love to learn and read and how you find answers to questions you don’t know. Model inquisitiveness. Model manners and respect and love for country. Model citizenship. These things don’t require testing and yet make a far greater impression and molding of character than anything made by Houghton Mifflin.

    We just had a panel at our hs support meeting where we had engineers and musicians and college advisors. One of the men had a degree in chemical engineering and was a patent attorney. His brother graduated college at 18, has about six advanced degrees including one in chemical engineering from MIT and another brother about the same. These boys were allowed to figure out how to gain information as children and young adults. Not being spoon-fed about where to get everything but using the world as their resource and finding creative ways to go about learning. If you want a degree in chemical engineering (love science!) but hate to write, you better find a way to learn how to write papers to pass on your love for science. Learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it. You may kill a child’s love for math or make them feel stupid if they “need” to learn long division with remainders (who does that as an adult) in third grade. Or decimals. Or Roman numerals. Can there be another appropriate time to learn these things in context with it being necessary to something else? Maybe you love history in seventh grade and study the Romans and learn about their numbering system.

    Fearlessness is an environment where you are willing to try anything and risk everything to forge your own path. There is almost no better definition for home education.

    Warm regards, Kim in Phoenix

    “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ― Albert Einstein

    • What do you do if two children have finished the basics in the morning and one has not?

      • Kim Green says:

        Personally, the two who do are the older. If the younger one has not, I don’t sweat it if we have plans and need to be somewhere. If we’re home, then that child has plenty of time to do what they need to do. But at six, I never stress with his education. If he’s alive, he’s learning and I don’t stress any formal education with him. However, this particular 6yo taught himself to read and does third grade math. Not because I taught him, but because he’s just around so much learning. He spells at a 1-2nd grade level and writes really well. Not from formal lessons but literally through osmosis. ; )

        If one of the older boys has not finished in the morning, then there is always time to do it later or not at all. Life is first, lessons are second. Today we didn’t get to spelling but spent 3.5 hours at the park with 10 other families where they got to show kindness, sharing, and met a new friend. Tonight is two hours of tae kwon do lessons as the older two are about to graduate to 2nd degree black belt. Minecraft for 30 minutes. Lessons done for the day!

  40. I clicked on a link to this article from a friend’s page, so I will be the first to admit that I am not part of the crowd this is aimed at, but I think it’s wonderful that so many of you so passionately homeschool. I support homeschooling and think it can be a great thing. However, I find it frustrating that so many commenters seem to believe if we just “simplify,” we can find the means to homeschool. We already live a very simple life, and if I left my job in order to homeschool, we would not be able to put groceries on the table. But even if we had the means, we might not choose to homeschool, because public school has been great in many ways for our children. We love our children just as much as homeschool parents do, and implying (as some, not all, commenters have) that we are not making the best decision for our children is unfair, at best. I am grateful for those who work to create a better school system, in the public sphere AND at home.

  41. Havent yet read this particular work by Godlin, hoping to download it as soon as my Internet connection is installed today. From the blog post and comments, the presupposition made with respect to affordability of a stay at home parent jumped out at me as well. We’ve often pondered just what would happen to the economy if a large percentage of families chose to make the sacrifice involved in having a parent at home – it seems there is so much money that simply circulates from employer to employee to service occupations and taxes to support the 2 wage earner model. How much of that truly stays in a family’s possession. Is that collective good of the economy being stimulated by the revolving door of those dollars more important than the specific individual good of educating ones children in a more effective manner?

    Another thought that keeps coming to mind is perhaps idealistic given zealous administrators and teachers unions, but any true educational reform certainly will need a multitude of stakeholder voices involved and the courage to be able to admit what works, what is broken and not be wedded to ideology at the expense of our students and children. Perhaps cooperative models, already used by many homeschoolers, have a place in mainstream education as well. Any true reform, though, is going to need to be rooted in a third way alternative, a la Stephen Covey – not a your way or my way, but something that accounts for more sets of needs than is being done now.

    • Well said, Pauline. And thank you for explaining Goodin’s “scalable” comment. I have been scratching my head wondering what he meant by that.

      The argument that there are some bad homeschool parents means nothing to me. There are also bad districts, bad schools and bad teachers, we still keep the schools open.

  42. My husband and I made the decision when I got pregnant with our first son that our number one priority would always be raising our own children. We don’t take lavish annual vacations, and drive brand new cars (our cars are paid for now). He has a very good job and works long hours so that I can be a stay at home mom and it is worth every penny!!!

    By the time our oldest two were in 2nd and 4th grade they HATED reading.
    : ( One child was struggling with an overwhelmed teacher that did nothing more than hand out packet after packet of busy work with very little or no instruction. My other son was bored out of his mind, not being challenged at all. I was literally spending 3 to 4 hours after school with them teaching them, and realized that I WAS homeschooling them, and they were enjoying it. They were learning and thriving! I had thought of homeschooling for a long time, but had been overwhelmed by it. I tried homeschooling them through the summer after 2nd and 4th grade and they loved it! They both all of the sudden loved to read and couldn’t put books down. They were reading history and science books for pleasure! They have a completely different outlook on learning now : )

    I spend ABOUT the same amount of money on homeschooling curriculum, supplies and educational stuff annually that I would spend (and used to) on gas driving my 4 children to their 3 different public schools. (I was driving 32 miles per day just to take and pick them up from school. I drive an Excursion that gets 12 mpg. Our average cost of gas the past few years has been about $3.50 per gallon. That is almost $10.50 per day, $52.50 per week, $1575 for 180 days or 30 weeks). Not to mention all the school supplies for each of them, lunch stuff, snacks we were asked to bring for 30 kids for the classroom a week at a time, field trips, book orders, constant birthday parties for kids they barely knew…

    This is our 4th year homeschooling and I will admit it was HARD to find our balance, what worked best for ALL of us!!! I had a hard time not recreating public school at home at first (I have a teaching background). We were all miserable! We’ve tried different schedules, curriculum and tons of different things, we’ve finally found our groove and what works best for us. I buy good quality curriculum for my children, both new and used! I am able to reuse a lot of our books for my younger children. In our home we learn everyday, not just Monday through Friday between 8am and 3pm. We learn music and art. We learn sewing, cooking, auto shop and repair, engine building, woodworking… We learn on the weekends, in the evenings and each and everyday of the year. I am positive they are getting a well rounded education that is not JUST concentrated on a test score. They are learning fundamentals and life skills. I am proud of them and I am proud of the commitment I made to take this on, because it isn’t easy! I can guarantee you no one cares for my children and their future like my husband and I do!
    Kelsey’s latest post: {this moment}

  43. “I refuse to steal my kids’ dreams!” We unschool for that very reason and are able to because my husband makes a livable wage and we choose to live simply on 40K a year. But he works with others and there are others in our neighborhood who do not make half that and work hard. There are just not enough livable wages to go around, jobs, nor are there enough teachers for all the kids. I would love to see the best of both worlds collaborate. Public education that allows more self direction, maybe modeled after a library, where anyone can go at any age and connect with others and experienced mentors to increase their knowledge in their chosen fields of interest. I was homeschooled, but it was a fishbowl experience, and I went straight from that to being a mom. I wish I could have been able to pursue my dreams alongside my childrens’, my life feels so isolated. I wanted to be a naturalist, writer, activist and so many different things, but now I feel stuck, stealing every bit of time I can to read about what’s going on in the world and why. No one offered me any help to get further schooling, it was discouraged because the idea was that if you learned how to learn, you could learn anything. What is missing is the COMMUNITY to learn in and with. It seemed like my experience with homeschooling was that we were always in self defense mode from an evil, outside community. But outside there are just people, with dreams, who want to be understood, communicated with, to share life and love of learning with. That’s my 2 cents. :)

  44. Kristin says:

    I am wrestling with this decision right now. My only child is finishing his last year at the small Christian school that he has attended for the past four years. He wants me to homeschool him. I taught public school for 13 years. I am afraid of recreating the “school day” at home. I am afraid he will be lonely since he is an only child. I am afraid that we will butt heads and destroy our relationship. I do feel I owe it to him to try.

    Having taught public school, I had a front row seat to some pretty terrible experiments with curriculum. I loved teaching and found that the politics prohibited me from doing my best. I taught gifted kids who loved school, but it was still too “one size fits all” They had to choose which subject they wanted to have for the advanced class. Most parents picked math (my subject) Not all the students were gifted in math, but their parents thought that was where they were supposed to be. And fought tooth and nail if you suggested a different class. I actually had a parent say they would rather have their child do poorly in an advanced math class than excel in an on level class! Talk about not doing what is best for your child. Too many parents (not all) just blithely send their child off to public school and then assume the school will teach them everything they need to know. They don’t pay enough attention.

    The emphasis on testing is terrible. And the tests are so arbitrary. We had a principal commit suicide because her school’s standardized test grades didn’t show enough growth.

    One comment that Seth made that stood out to me was that it would take a generation to fix the schools. I took this to mean a generation’s time. What about those whose education isn’t fixed? Why should they suffer? In all my years teaching I only met one child who had been home schooled and came to public school that wasn’t prepared. Most parents do a pretty good job overall.

    As for having one parent stay home to do this not being scalable, I just don’t understand that. That used to be the norm. I know that there are some who truly have to have both working to make ends meet, but I have met many who have to have two incomes just to keep a certain lifestyle. It is all about priorities.

  45. Well said. Thank you for writing this. As a former public school teacher who is now homeschooling my daughter, I had a tremendous sense of guilt at “abandoning” the schools. But in the end, I decided that my daughter didn’t have time to wait for the system to be fixed, she needed a good education now.
    Dawn’s latest post: Ice cream roses and other stuff

  46. Growing up I only knew of 2 people who were ever home schooled. Going to school traditionally in a public setting I had no idea of what this meant. Now that I’ve been reading about it, I think it is amazing and great. I’m probably not the type to be able to do it, because I lack focus when it comes to most subjects. I’ve been to four different colleges and have no degree. Somewhere along the line the education system just did not grab a hold of me. I was a A student up until 8th grade. In HS I dropped to being a B student. Do I remember what I learned in HS or college…hardly. There are times I wish I would have been put into a trade school or was taught in a different hands on manner. I most likely will put my children in public school as long as it is a good one but will also really listen to what they truly are passionate about.
    I enjoy your blog and learn a lot from it.

  47. I have to add one more thing. I went to a good public HS. The teachers were not awful, they just lacked passion for what they were teaching. Most of them didn’t want to be there or at least you can see right through them. The only really good teachers that seemed full of life, were english, music, or art teachers.

  48. I find it curious that a lot of people act as if moving to one income is as simple as cutting out movies, restaurants and vacations. For some families this may be all it would take to go down to one income. However for some families, they would have to worry about giving up really important things like medical insurance or adequate housing, etc. Sometimes cutting back isn’t enough.

    • Kim Green says:

      Hi Amanda – we have lived on one small income for years as small business owners. Now, due to the economy, our business is just about over. We’ve lived for years with the help of family and from savings from one good year. We have no TV, can’t take vacations or go to things like the state fair or many other events. We pay our own health insurance, which, for our family of five is $400/mo through BCBSAZ. My minivan was donated by my mother and she buys all my kids’ clothes and shoes and buys us groceries once per month. We may lose our home in the next few months while my husband looks for a traditional job. I have a college degree so I could get a job. But we made a value choice for us that keeps me with the kids. Regardless of where we live or who we may have to live with. Yes, it’s hard. But I can’t imagine that it’s any harder for me to put them in school and make $10/hr. Plus I get the added benefit of their company and watching them grow into amazing young men. They inspire me and keep me going. It’s not an easy choice at all and I know lots of families who have one car and rent homes. It can be very difficult. But the payoff is so much greater and I will never regret spending so much time with my kids. Can’t say that about working for someone else. We all have our path to walk and try to do our best.

  49. christina says:

    I just found you blog and I have to say I love love love it.My daughter is 2 but will be homeschooled as I refuse to send her to a broken system so they can compromise her future and warp her wonderfully naturally curious mind against learning. I have yet to tell her father though lol since he already thinks I am way to crazy about her “stuff “, he happens to like chemicals and junk proccessed food and thinks I am insane for insisting he keeps it away from her. This post just reminded me I will have to have this conversation soon even though I know how it will end. ( he may be unsupportive but he usually defers since most of the time I simply have more facts and stamina)


  50. I agree with you that we can’t wait for “someday”. It could take years for schools to turn around. The entire system needs to be changed. I’ve spent nearly 20 years teaching in public schools and they just seem to be degrading more and more. That’s why I homeschool. My kids deserve better than that. They shouldn’t have to be afraid of being bullied on a daily basis. Homeschooling is also an opportunity to make a curriculum suit the child instead of making the child fit the curriculum. We can help our children develop their talents instead of requiring them to learn everything that everyone else does. Homeschooling is truly about the uniqueness of each child.

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