Are All Homeschoolers Butter-Churning, Ultra-Traditional Weirdos?


I really enjoy working with homeschoolers. I wasn't always a huge advocate for self-education, though. Like most people, I had biases and stereotypes in my mind. Those changed by actually going out and working with homeschool families when I was working at Praxis.

What does the typical anti-homeschool person think of when they think of a homeschool family? They probably think of a couple of kids, all taught that the world is 4,000 years old by parents who don't believe in taking them to the doctor's office, churning butter at 4 AM while wearing denim down to their ankles.

This plays well into the media's incentives and politicians' incentives. The media wants to drive clicks and shares to articles, so they appeal to biases and stereotypes so people can send articles to friends on Facebook with their own commentary, "see! This is what homeschoolers are like!"

The headlines around the recently-deceased Austin terror-bomber are good examples:

(The above screengrab reminds me of an incident at Voice and Exit 2015 or 2016, where in a debate about the value of college degrees, the professor arguing for degrees implied that not going to college means you're going to go to jail. Anything for clicks.)

Politicians have every incentive to portray homeschoolers as niche radicals, even if that's far from the truth.

But if you're interested in studying how laws change and how social change happens, homeschoolers should be a great case study for you. I'm fascinated in how homeschooling has gone from being perceived as a niche avenue for the ultra-religious to being relatively well-accepted, in a short period of time.

I had the opportunity to join the Cato Institute on their Cato Daily podcast to discuss how homeschoolers shifted the Overton Window in their direction and how the stereotypes about them are all wrong.


We discuss:

  • How incentives matter for social change. People care about how they can educate their children. It doesn't matter if you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, or something else. If you aren't allowed to educate your children how you see fit, you're going to join with other people who are also upset about this.
  • Homeschoolers are a great example of social change. As people get to know more homeschoolers and people self-educating, they see that they aren't all niche weirdos.
  • What others can learn about mobilizing on single issues.
  • How I changed my own mind about homeschoolers.

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I'm Zak. School should have taught you how to succeed at work and build a great career. Instead, it taught you that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Thankfully, I teach what school never taught.

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