Observations about Second-Generation Homeschoolers

One of several second-generation homeschoolers I have met this year.

This is “convention season” for homeschoolers across the United States, so I have been traveling to several different homeschool conventions, giving talks and speaking individually with lots of homeschooling parents. In some ways, these conventions never change. Many of the talks that I give are on the same topics that I spoke about at homeschooling conventions more than 20 years ago: how to “teach” science at home, why it is best for most students to be homeschooled through high school, and the fact that homeschooling produces graduates who are, on average, significantly better university students. Obviously, the details of the talks change every few years, but the basic points do not.

In the same way, many of the questions I get from homeschoolers are the same year after year and convention after convention. My son is only in 7th grade but is about to start Algebra 1. Should he really take high school biology? (In general, the answer is “yes,” but it depends on the student’s ability to work independently and how he reacts to academic rigor.) If he does take biology in 7th grade, can it be included on the high school transcript? (Once again, the answer is “yes.” See this article for more details.) My daughter is very talented in ballet and wants to pursue it as a career, but it requires a lot of rehearsal time. What should I do? (If a professional says that she has real potential, then you should scale back her other academic courses so that she can pursue her talents. Don’t neglect her education; just pare it down to the basic essentials so that she can have more time to hone her craft).

At the same time, however, each year brings a few changes. Some of the conventions that used to be large and well-attended are either very small or nonexistent. Other conventions that didn’t exist many years ago are now large and well-attended. Lots of new curricula are available, giving homeschoolers a wealth of choices for how to meet their children’s educational needs. The people you see at homeschooling conventions are also becoming more and more diverse every year.

This year, I noticed a new difference. Most likely, the difference has been slowly growing over a period of many years, but after speaking at the California Homeschool Convention this past weekend, it struck me that this year, I have interacted with a lot of second-generation homeschoolers (homeschool graduates who are now homeschooling their own children).

Of course, I have probably been interacting with second-generation homeschoolers for a long time, but for whatever reason, they are now identifying themselves to me. In every convention I have attended this year, at least one (usually several) young parents tell me that they used my curriuculum when they were homeschooled students and are now using it to homeschool their own children. While speaking with these amazing people, I made some observations that I would like to share.

They seem to be less dogmatic than the first generation of homeschoolers. Many first-generation homeschooling parents are very concerned that the worldview presented in the curriculum they use matches their own. They ask me detailed questions about how I treat evolution, the age of the earth, etc. The second-generation homeschooling parents who identified themselves to me also asked detailed questions, but it was usually to make sure that I give an adequate treatment to the “other side” of issues. They want to educate their children with their worldview, but they also want their children to practice critical thinking. I really like that!*

They plan ahead. Many of the first-generation homeschoolers I meet are focused on getting through the next year. The second-generation homeschoolers are trying to see how next-year’s plan fits into a long-term educational strategy. At the California Homeschool Convention, for example, I met a homeschool graduate who happens to read this blog. He and his wife attended the convention, even though they don’t have any children yet! His wife was not homeschooled, and he wanted her to get an idea of what homeschooling was all about so that she could help him make an informed decision about education once they started having children. As a side benefit, she told him that it helped her to understand him a little better.

They are really glad that they were homeschooled. In one sense, that goes without saying. Obviously, they wouldn’t be homeschooling their own children if they didn’t think homeschooling worked well for them. However, they seem genuinely enthusiastic about their homeschool experience and have a strong desire to replicate that enthusiasm in their own children. I can imagine graduating from a private school and being pleased with how it prepared me for university. If that were to happen, I would probably send my children to that same school, if I were still living nearby. However, I can’t imagine being as enthusiastic about it as these second-generation homeschoolers are about homeschooling their children.

They are not intimidated by serious academics. Because I write science courses, I get a varied reactions from homeschooling parents. Some hate science and don’t want to teach it. Some want to teach it but feel completely unable to do so. Some want science to be “simple.” A few of them love science and want their children to love it and learn it in the most rigorous way possible. In general, the second-generation homeschoolers are more likely to be in that last category. The same goes for math, another “dreaded” subject among many homeschoolers. These second-generation homeschoolers don’t shy away from the challenge of helping their children learn subjects that can be academically rigorous.

Now, of course, all of these impressions are based on my personal interactions, so they aren’t the result of any kind of serious study. Nevertheless, based on these interactions, I think the future of homeschooling is very bright!

NOTE: I received this as a Facebook message from a second-generation homeschooler, and I think it adds a good insight:

“I am a one who graduated in 96 and there are several 2nd gens in our old, well established homeschool support group. I think we are enthusiastically conservative and want to raise our kids to have a Christian worldview BUT we do not seem to be as fearful as the previous generation was about certain things. We also tend to more picky about things like NOT doing conventional “school” at home (I think we are more confident about educational philosophy). We want to prepare our children for the world that actually exists. Unfortunately a lot of 1st gen, older parents in leadership tend to think our lack of fear about exposure to certain things means we are too liberal! Or that our criticism of certain older, popular homeschool curriculum is akin to betrayal or rejection of conservative homeschooling…Older homeschool leaders need to see that just because we do not have the exact same concerns as the first generation, does not mean the second gen homeschoolers are too “liberal.” We just sometimes have a different approach to education based on our experiences.”

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12 thoughts on “Observations about Second-Generation Homeschoolers”

  1. My husband and I are both second generation homeschoolers! And this explains well how we both feel! We are greatful to our parents. Had no trouble getting into college, or careers! My struggle with confidence as a homeschool parent stemmed from the fact that I don’t know what a school room/ day should look like. But that is countered with our very really story of knowing that this method of education does work, and we are both living proof of it!

  2. My husband and I are also second-gen homeschoolers. It is encouraging to read that our educational philosophy is not as isolated as we often feel it is. Homeschooling through the 90’s and seeing both the good and bad in our homeschooled friends and acquaintances has certainly given us a different perspective and experience pool to draw from in our decision making. I suspect those experiences and observations are some of the driving forces behind the changes you are seeing.

    For example, many of us were unprepared for the ugly attacks we received at college from secular professors, particularly in the sciences. I personally know several people who were blasted in their science classes by hostile professors who actively sought out students who believed in Creationism. These students were put on the spot to defend their faith and then ridiculed by professor and other students alike when they were unprepared to do so. In one case, the homeschooled student was then bombarded with “proof” that they were wrong and eventually caved from mortification and confusion about what was true. Today, this person still hasn’t completely recovered and feels she was let down in her homeschool science courses because she didn’t fully understand both sides of the issue. She felt “indoctrinated” because she was only ever presented with one side and told to avoid all other information.

    We live in what feels like an increasingly hostile world toward those who do not conform. Many of us 30-somethings, especially homeschool graduates who were trained in critical thinking and debate, believe that isolation is not the key to survival. We must train our children in the truth, but also teach them how to discover truth, what defines “truth”, and how to deal with different ideas, philosophies and people with integrity.

    1. Well said, Rachel! It is really sad that there are professors who are more interested in tearing students down than in building them up, but it is a fact of life. Some people (like these professors) are so insecure in their beliefs that they must attack the beliefs of others to make themselves feel better. I agree that one way to prepare for such hateful people is to be familiar with their arguments. Another way (which I think is even more important) is to be part of an on-campus Christian fellowship group where there are older students who have already experienced the hate that such professors spew. They can be a source of encouragement and advice.

      1. Excellent advice! I will remember that for my children when/if they decide to go to college!

  3. I was never attacked by any professors, but there were some that would take cheap shots at opposing world veiws, though mostly on the subject of global warming not evolution. I knew enough about evolution to be able to dissmiss the “proof” presented. A knowledge of evolution is important. Its like an inoculation. I also think parents should let their kids watch tv and listen popular music. Prohibiting that completely only creates a mystique around it.

  4. Several times it felt like you were describing my wife and I! We are much more focused on the quality of education and helping our kids think through multiple points of view rather than isolating them from points of view we disagree with. This is definitely a huge change from our parents’ style of homeschooling.

  5. I’m homeschooled and my parents were not homeschooled but they were mostly self taught and their teachers didn’t really help them that much, does this remind you of a homeschooled kid?

  6. I’m sure that if I had kids all of this would apply to me! As a formerly homeschooled student, I’m not intimidated by academics in the way I remember my parents and their friends were – or anyone I know who’s just starting to homeschool now. A love of learning is enough. I honestly can’t wait to teach math and science, if I end up having kids to homeschool.

  7. Dr. Wile,
    I am happy to hear that the second-generation of homeschool parents want a more complete picture of God’s Creation. There has been so much misleading information about the chemistry and geology of Creation spread across the evangelical church and homeschool communities that is a disservice to our youth. The book from David Kinnaman of the Barna Group that surveyed youth who have left the faith report that one factor is the anti-science ideas which they heard in their church.
    Dr. Ken Wolgemuth
    Founder, Solid Rock Lectures
    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dr. Wolgemuth. Kinnaman’s research does indicate that 29% of those surveyed think “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in.” 25% say that “Christianity is anti-science,” and 23% say that they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” However, it’s not clear that any of those statements indicate that those surveyed have heard “anti-science ideas” in church. I would argue that those ideas mostly come from outside the church, not from the things those who were surveyed hear in church. If you read any of Richard Dawkins’s books and don’t know science very well, for example, you would probably be convinced that Christianity is anti-science, churches are out of step with the scientific world, and the creation/evolution debate is useless.

      There is, of course, another side to the issue. What such surveys leave out are those who come to Christ as a result of science issues and/or the creation/evolution debate. I am one of those people. So are Dr. Günter Bechly, Dr. Patrick Briney, Sai-Chung, and who knows how many others. If you really want to decide whether or not science is helping or hurting the Christian faith, I would think you would need to look at both sides (those who left Christianity because of science and those who became Christians because of science). Then, of course, you would need to find where each group found its information. Only then would you be able to declare that a particular scientific view within the church is harming or helping it.

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