Sustainable Homeschooling

Most families in America have cars and houses, because we value independence and autonomy and want to have control over our lifestyle, rather than depend on public transportation and housing. We know that if we want to eat healthy, we cannot count on supermarkets and big brands selling mass produced food, and that’s why many people resort to buying from small local farms and markets or producing food at home. Some homeowners install their own solar panels and wells, because they like to stay in control over their water and energy supply. We all lock our cars and houses and try to be careful with matches, because we know that we cannot expect public police and fire services to watch our homes and our property for us at all times. All in all, it’s in the American blood to be self-sufficient rather than depend on public or government services. Regardless of their political orientation, Americans don’t expect the government to attend to their every need. We take proactive steps to provide for ourselves and our families, because we know that no one will take care of us better than ourselves.

Yet it’s ironic that, when it comes to raising their own kids, most people willingly give up control and parental influence and gladly defer to the outside authority to raise their kids in institutions that bear almost no accountability and no consideration for parental opinion. Somehow we choose not to rely on government and big corporations to safeguard our homes and grow our tomatoes, yet we happily trust the government with the most significant task in our lives: raising our kids. We value individual rights and choice, yet we deny the same to our five-year olds when we send them off to kindergarten, without asking whether they want to spend the next ten years of their lives locked up inside most of the day and under the supervision of strangers. So much for free choice.

Why does this happen? What keeps American parents from taking control over this very important family matter? What prevents them from homeschooling their kids?

Mental self-reliance

One of the popular arguments against homeschooling is that parents don’t feel they are qualified to teach their kids. Of course, they are not – that is, if we consider what is meant by “qualified” nowadays. In order to qualify for anything, you are supposed to have a diploma, degree, or a professional license. Otherwise don’t even dare trying. We came to rely on “experts” with diplomas so much that anyone who doesn’t have a license or a degree is brushed aside as unsuitable to practice in the field. However, back in the earlier times of American history they didn’t have licenses and diplomas, yet it didn’t stop people from exploring and becoming proficient in the matter of their choosing, from inventing wonderful things and generating interesting ideas, many of which shaped our modern law, politics, philosophy, and science.

No doubt, there are people who are more knowledgeable in a certain field than others, and their expertise is valuable. Education, however, is not one of those fields where we need to worship the experts. Education is not about sitting still and being spoonfed knowledge from a person licensed to spoonfeed. It’s about living a lifestyle and teaching from experience, about sharing wisdom and ideas. Anyone who has the heart and vision, who is living a creative and productive life, has something to teach.

Unschooling (self-directed learning) is the most libertarian version of homeschooling. Unschoolers recognize that teaching is not top-down, that kids should be free to explore and pursue their own way of learning. Unschooling paves an easier way for parents to become educators of their own kids. If children are given the freedom to direct their own learning, all they need from parents is support, encouragement, gentle direction, patience, and love. Parents should be able to provide at least basic resources for kids to start their learning, should be able to recognize their kids’ interests and, hopefully, to inspire their kids by being role models and by setting an example.

Who else but parents would be best fit for that role? Who else but parents can provide the support and encouragement necessary for kids to start learning on their own? Parents, not outside “experts”, are meant to be the first and most influential teachers of their own children, and parents should not give up that responsibility if they want the tradition of self-confidence and self-reliance to continue within their family.

Financial self-reliance

Another argument against homeschooling is that both parents have to work and cannot afford for one parent to stay at home. It’s a valid point, especially in today’s economy. We all have bills to pay, and many of us also want professional growth and achievement.

But the truth is, career and homeschooling are not mutually exclusive, because work no longer means sitting in an office nine to five. We don’t have to sacrifice our income and professional ambitions for the sake of staying at home with the kids, and the kids don’t have to be sent off to school in order for us to work.

This country was founded on the tradition of sustainability and entrepreneurship. Earlier, Americans worked at home, at their farms and shops, often with their kids alongside them. There is no reason why this can’t be done today. One or both parents can start their own business, which means they can create a flexible schedule and set up time for both meaningful work and meaningful homeschooling.

Granted, it’s not easy. Speaking from my personal experience, it requires a lot of planning, patience, organization, and cooperation between parents. Above all, it requires commitment, sticking to your values, perseverance, and a strong vision of the goals you want to achieve. It’s hard to be a small business owner in our society, which is dominated by traditional office culture. It’s also hard to be a homeschooler. It’s hardest when you combine the two. Yet it’s doable, and some parents are doing it already.

There are some Linkedin groups that provide advice and encouragement to working homeschoolers. I hope that the homeschooling community will continue to offer recognition and support to its members who are not only homeschooling but also running a business. Such appreciation will uphold the values all homeschoolers cherish: self-reliance and the sustainable family. It will also send a strong message to other parents that staying with the kids doesn’t mean being out of work, that homeschooling and meaningful career can supplement each other.

Family vision

Being your children’s educator and running your own business is not easy, but in the context of the libertarian values of sustainability and self-sufficiency, it’s the logical thing to do. It gives you and your family true independence and empowerment. You don’t have to wait for your boss to give you a promotion or a permission to go on vacation. Your kids don’t have to depend on their teacher to tell them what to learn and when. It’s challenging to both homeschool and run a business, but if you are truly committed to a sustainable lifestyle and if you want to uphold your family values, you will find the strength to meet the challenge.

School has been around for a long time, but family values and the spirit of independence and self-reliance have been in this country much longer. Homeschooling and entrepreneurship were mainstream in the times of the Founding Fathers. We should reclaim these traditions today if we want to minimize our dependence on government and take a step closer towards a sustainable family.

After all, running a small business in the family is invaluable to children’s education. The entire point of homeschooling is setting an example, being a role model and inspiration for your kids. As many homeschoolers know, children learn best by observing and doing, and nothing could be better for kids’ learning than watching their parents at work. Nothing could teach kids the values of innovation and free market relations better than helping the parents and participating in their enterprise. By running a business, parents provide the best learning experience for their kids. By seeing their parents as an example of entrepreneurship and self-direction, children will hopefully be inspired to lead their own lives along the same libertarian values.