Why Homeschoolers Are Winning

Homeschooling is growing at breakneck speed. It’s the fastest growing form of education. Soon 4% of U.S. students will be homeschooled, that’s 2.5 million children! To put that in perspective, the proportion of students in private schools is 10% and declining.

Why is homeschooling growing so much? Well, besides being a much more humane way of educating the young than institutionalized coercive learning, it’s also very effective, it’s cheap, and it produces excellent results. The homeschool movement is not only winning in recruiting new practitioners, it is also more successful at what many probably, subconsciously, think of as the true reason for attending compulsory schooling: getting into college.

So let’s pretend that the purpose of the first 18 years of human life is to get into a good college. I don’t believe that, but for the sake of argument, let’s do it. Let’s take a look at how homeschooled children are doing at that game, because it might just be that not going to school Is the new Eton or Andover, and more interestingly, that not going to college at all is the new Cambridge or Yale.

Homeschooled children are already winning because…

They do better academically
On average homeschooled children perform better on standardized tests than 80% of their schooled peers. Now, standard academic tests are arguably not the best way to measure how much someone has learned lately, especially if they have engaged in self-directed learning, but I just wanted to debunk the myth that to excel academically, even by nonsense government standards, you need to spend time with professional instructors.

Homeschooled children spend less time studying what doesn’t interest them
Homeschooled children spend an average of 2 hours per day to keep them on grade level with their schooled peers. That’s three to four times less than schooled children, by a conservative estimate. Imagine if we invented a car that used 25% of the fuel of regular cars. What Tesla is to automobiles, homeschooling is to education.

Homeschooled children spend more time studying what interests them
Because they don’t spend much time in buses, homeschooled children can be done with “school work” before noon and then have all afternoon to engage in learning things that they are truly curious about, or play, which is the same thing. In other words, they can engage in self-directed learning, a much more effective, meaningful and long-lasting type of learning than forced education.

Homeschooled children can use evenings for socializing or being active in their community
Because they have no homework, a homeschooled student’s evenings can be spent with their parents, siblings, friends, being physically active, engaging in after school activities, or doing volunteer work. All these activities are important for building community and family ties, and to promote a healthy lifestyle, undoubtedly forming relationships and habits that will help them later in life.

When they apply to college homeschoolers win because…

They are more often accepted to college than their schooled peers.
Word has it that Stanford accepts one in 20 schooled applicants and one in five homeschooled applicants.

The main reason homeschooled students are more often accepted to colleges than high school students seems to be that in order to be Stanford material you need something more than just perfect grades and scores. You also must have a personal story and a unique demonstrated expertise, like being a high level violinist or a top notch dancer. Now, if you had all the hours of the day, except for one or two, to find your passion and delve into it, you’d probably be a lot further along than most others at your prefered skill. You’d be mostly, or fully, a self-directed learner and colleges love those.

Homeschoolers are more motivated when they get to college
Eighty percent of high school students don’t like school very much, so by the time they get to college, despite the change of settings, their motivation to attend classes and do academic exercises suffers. This is not likely to be a problem for the homeschooled students, unless they have had overbearing parents. Homeschooled students often report feeling more motivated to study when in college than their peers, and less motivated to party and consume alcohol.

While we are at it, why not skip college too?

This could be a good idea! If not going to school is the new Eton or Stanton, not going to college could very well be the new Cambridge or Yale. Because…

Future employers will care less about credentials and more about portfolio.
Google already claims they do. An increasing amount of the company’s employees have not gone to college, currently the number is as high 14% on some teams. Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google said to the New York Times: “When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.” Too many colleges, he adds, “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.”

People who don’t go to college won’t have student loans.
College tuitions just keep going up. You don’t want them.

Colleges will have less and less chances to educate people within new areas
In the sixties going into plastics seemed like great advice. In the eighties learning word processing was thought to secure your professional future. As the world moves faster and faster, large educational institutions have a harder time catching up in disseminating the latest expertise. The best way to catch up is to give their students more freedom to learn what they are interested in. Nothing gives you more freedom than not going to college at all.

In the future the brightest young minds will be paid not to go to college
There is already the Thiel Fellowship, founded by entrepreneur Peter Thiel, which grants fellows US$100,000 to forgo college for two years. One of the first projects founded was UnCollege, a movement that “provides resources for students that wish to define their own educational paths”.

Another interesting development is the Hacker School in New York were tuition is free for accepted students. The school makes its money from companies who pay when they hire graduates. Here is my prediction: In the future promising students will be identified early by recruiters, as early as high school, and be given a grant and a space to study what they wish, in return for signing on with the recruitment firm.

No school, no worries

Now, my children don’t go to school. We are homeschoolers, but of the subset called unschoolers. We have no curriculum, we simply assist our daughters in following their own interests, and let them set the pace at it. A recent study shows unschoolers seem to do well in life as adults also.

The reason we homeschool is not that I want them to achieve great things in life, academically. I don’t care. I just want them to be happy. I really don’t believe childhood should be a prep race for the rat race. A.S. Neill, the founder of the world’s first democratic school, said “I’d rather my school produced a happy street sweeper than a neurotic academic.” I agree, so forget what I said about Eton and Yale. Just leave them kids alone. Ultimately it’s all about trusting that children want to and will succeed in finding their own path in life, if not pushed one way or the other. All we need to do as adults is to be there to assist when they ask for help. Your dreams are not their dreams. So just relax.

Education today is a cynical race to “success”, and by opting out of it and allowing their children to find their own paths in life, homeschooling families are clearly winning.


Jens Peter de Pedro is a collaborator with Alternatives to School. By day he is a Play Designer at Toca Boca, the Swedish digital toys studio. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter: @jp_de_pedro

Articles referenced:
Home-Schooling: Outstanding results on national tests
Home Schooled Students Excel in College
Home Schoolers in Ivy League Universities
How Do Unschoolers Turn Out?
How to Get a Job at Google
Proportion of U.S. Students in Private Schools is 10 Percent and Declining
Alternatives to School: Democratic Schools
U.S. Teens in Our World (80 percent of U.S. students don’t enjoy school very much)
Why Play = Learning


  1. I am a proud, veteran homeschooling mom and I share your enthusiasm. However, the title of this article bothers me. To say that homeschooling is “winning” suggests there is a race (and a loser). Yes, homeschooling is growing for many reasons. We really don’t have all the numbers, as far as I know. So dropping statistics can be misleading. For example, “Word has it that Stanford accepts 1 in 5 homeschooled applicants.” Where is this source coming from? Maybe they only get 10 applicants each year. It really doesn’t tell you much. Rather than focuses so much on statistics, I think we can spread the word more effectively by using real life examples and cited studies. Homeschooling is not for everyone; clearly some kids thrive in other academic environments. Let’s celebrate our successes without confusing statistics.

    • Jens Peter de Pedro says:

      I actually agree with you in your criticism. Most of the statistics I use in the article are pretty solid, but some border on the anecdotal, such as the Stanford one, as I also admit in the piece. There are however several accounts of Ivy League colleges stating that they really appreciate home schooled students because they are self-directed and motivated. As for the title, I did aim to provoke a bit by saying homeschoolers are “winning”. That’s why I state in the beginning that learning shouldn’t be a race, but I understand if using such language comes across as trite, I’m not much of a competition enthusiast myself.

      • Yeah, seems like you were trying to be light and funny using the term “winning” but I think it falls flat. Unschooling is supposed to be about opting out of the rat race, so why the reference to competition, and the inference that the 96 percent of American families that send their kids to school are losing? We homeschool. We like some parts of it, not others. It’s not a magic ticket to happiness for all.