Opting Out Of The Legacy Model

When you look at industries that continue to operate on old, outdated, and highly regulated models (education, health care, banking, brokerage, etc, etc), it is interesting to look at the numbers of consumers who are opting out of the legacy model.

In K12 education, many people think of charter schools as the disruptive model and there are something like 3.5mm to 4mm students attending charter schools in the US now (out of roughly 55mm K12 students in the US: 50mm public, 5mm private).

But if you really want to look at where the disruptive models exist, you need to look at consumers who are completely opting out and in K12 education, that is the homeschooling movement.

My partner Andy sent around this tweet this morning and it is quite interesting:

In the US, we have almost as many students being homeschooled as are in the charter schools.

And homeschooling, which has its roots in the religious communities, is increasingly breaking out of that and slowly moving into the mainstream:

It has gotten much easier to consider homeschooling over the last twenty years via a combination of technology and infrastructure that has largely been developed by the early adopters of homeschooling.

This is a trend to watch and, possibly, to invest in.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. kidmercury

    to really take off homeschooling needs to solve the primary job that parents hire schools for, which is not so much education, but rather keep them alive and fed while two parents work. it is more like K-12 daycare. this is way more than a SaaS problem which is probably why it hasn’t been solved it — too many atoms relative to bits in the required solution. i feel like helping homeschooling parents connect and coordinate might be a software-centric approach of helping homeschooling spread, but trust and transportation are extra difficult in this problem space.i do believe meredith whitney’s vision of municipal collapses everywhere is still largely correct, just a matter of time. when that occurs and public schools lose all their money maybe homeschooling will be an easier sell. an economic reset which makes two full-time incomes less necessary may also help homeschooling take off IMHO.

    1. toddgeist

      Yes, parents need a place to drop the kids off,AND the kids need a place to be with their peers and other positive adult role models. Most kids want and crave a positive social environment.This is why tech only solutions that focus on kids learning in their rooms will not fly.

    2. Richard

      The economic reset wasn’t possible over the last 20 years because – in part – so few women had an interest in being a stay at home mom. The stigma and barriers to men staying at home might just allow this. But not until the housing model is fixed.

    3. JamesHRH

      Bingo.This trend will not blossom further.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Until UBI and costs of basic needs for survival are managed adequately.

  2. William Mougayar

    Which presidential candidates support homeschooling the most?

    1. awaldstein

      Why is this a campaign issue at all?To me it certainly isn’t though the trend is fascinating.

      1. Pointsandfigures

        Because teachers unions infrastructure and cabinet position

        1. awaldstein

          Don’t see it regardless.Education hell yes. But this trend itself, low on any list of shit that needs to be dealt with. Every data point is not a headline.

          1. Pointsandfigures

            Teachers unions are bankrupting Illinois. Huge issue

          2. awaldstein

            Everything is bankrupting Illinois per my local expert (that is you!).Can’t imagine anyone moving there or starting a company there if they follow you honestly.You draw a bleak picture though I trust your interpretation.

      2. William Mougayar

        I thought I heard this yesterday on TV in the context of the campaign. I think it is an issue that will be discussed.

        1. awaldstein

          Interesting as hasn’t surfaced for me and i’m pretty informed.Just nowhere near the top of any of my short lists.

        2. awaldstein

          Maybe you are simply right and this is showing my ignorance.

  3. Pointsandfigures

    Public policy will not keep up. Creating community around this space is something religious orgs have done organically. Will be interesting to see how it goes secular. In cities and in rural areas public schools are pretty terrible. So, there is tinder for a fire

    1. kidmercury

      religious communities have the trust to enable self-organizing collaboration around childcare. i wonder how secular worlds can replicate this, if at all? perhaps parents of special needs children, most notably autism, might be able to very quickly trust parents of other children with similar special needs. i wonder if that is an entry point for a startup in this space.

      1. Pointsandfigures

        A lot of it is about the confidence in yourself to opt out of public/private school and do it yourself. This is another reason community is key to success

  4. GB

    I looked at the home schooling market 2 and a half years ago (for a client) – at that time it was growing at a healthy 7% p.a. in the U.S.

  5. Mike Zamansky

    I’d love to see a granular geographic and economic breakdown of homeschoolers since it would seem to require either community support or economic resources.Personally, I’m planning on being able to retire by the time (if) I have grandkids and they’re school aged so that I could homeschool if the situation warrants.

    1. fredwilson

      Those kids would be sooooooo lucky

  6. kenberger

    There was a South Park episode long ago where the homeschooled kid was super smart but had absolutely no “playground skills”, couldn’t defend himself against lots of reality issues, etc.That’s a spoof of course, and my public school upbringing in mid-to upper-class Long Island was horrible in lots of ways, but this sort of thing is my #1 concern so I’m open to hearing what options address this.

    1. kidmercury

      a lot of homeschooling is simply unschooling, meaning it is mostly about not being at a government school and involves a school quickly assembled by parents putting together a curriculum they found online with some kids and parents nearby who like the idea. in these instances the kids usually get more social interaction than the government school kids get (more field trips, more recess, etc).

      1. kenberger

        Okay, that’s very helpful. I’m only aware of the literal meaning where the kid stays home and the parents somehow attempt to educate the kid using books and whatever

    2. fredwilson

      I agree with you and playground skills is the number one reason we did not consider home schooling for our kids. I wonder if a hybrid model could work

      1. kenberger

        Yup- hybrid. My family is active and experimenting here as our first child approaches age and we’ve enjoyed an extremely international lifestyle.For example there is the Green School in Bali we’ve been checking out that has definitely made some progress although still somewhat controversial and you are still stuck committed to a physical place for most of the year:https://en.m.wikipedia.org/…I’ve also been exchanging thoughts with Susan Danziger, she and Albert are a wealth of knowledge in this area.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Just a little devil’s advocacy here: maybe society overall would be better if we didn’t all learn our social skills on a playground? (In other words, maybe kids would be better off surrounded by more grownups than kids for most of the day.)

      1. kenberger

        The anecdotal evidence I’ve witnessed shows both extremes to be really sub-optimal.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Yeah, I wouldn’t argue for either extreme 🙂 Anecdotally, though, I find my kids prefer and thrive in the company of adults. (I always did, too.)

    4. James Burns

      We live near Raleigh, NC and home school our daughter. We found a lot of home school groups that meetup regularly (religious and secular). We also found a lot of science classes, art classes, gymnastics, etc… so our daughter gets plenty of opportunities to play/socialize with other kids.

  7. sachmo

    If a platform could figure out a way, in addition to educating the children, to also provide for a social connection to other homeschoolers — maybe parents take turn hosting children, maybe they just connect for recess, whatever — then I think it would be seriously disruptive. The problem now with homeschooling, and Zuckerberg’s Summit program which everyone seems to hate, is that it doesn’t provide for the social aspects of interacting with other kids at school which is probably equally important as traditional learning.

    1. kidmercury

      agreed, but i think the biggest challenge is trusting homeschoolers nearby; after you discover them, you need to build enough rapport to let them be with your kids unsupervised for significant parts of the day, and if this is a “co-op” type thing where parents rotate, then everyone needs to be on the same page regarding curriculum.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      They learn social interactions from their peers, equally and often less well developed than themselves. Instead, apparently all the way back to small villages and tribes, the children are supposed to be learning social and other things from caring ADULTS, to get the lessons that will work as ADULTS.On average, US family formation SUCKS, i.e.. in the most serious way possible — we’re going extinct, literally. Darwin is on the case. In particular, on average, US parenting SUCKS. Want the kids learning from caring ADULTS, not playground fights over the ball, insults, fists, cliques, gangs, etc.

      1. Richard

        Exactly. And unless you are super lucky to have parents with the right skill sets – kids should be encouraged to participate in adult activities – as soon as possible. Society has created a fear of kids interacting with adults and encouraged kids to devalue adults. This is short sighted.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          No worries, Mate! A correction, necessarily effective, is on the way — that universal problem fixit guy Darwin is on the case. His results are often terrific; his techniques are usually a bit tough to swallow.

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’m right in the middle of this situation, with my 9 and 11 year old kids. They are 2E (high IQ with ADHD) and so need accommodations.When my daughter got into our local charter school (a lottery), we were elated. It turned out to be a disaster for her. They were utterly and completely unable to support her special needs. I was never so glad to get back to and see the folks at our public school.I don’t need the school for daycare @kidmercury:disqus 🙂 The school actually teaches my kids stuff that I’m unqualified to teach them, and the teachers do a great job.But I still wish I could manage home schooling or a smaller progressive school. It’s not because our school is bad. It’s great! It’s because the take away I keep returning to about school is that it doesn’t benefit our kids to throw them in with 23 other KIDS all day long. They learn almost nothing productive from the experience of being around tons of other kids most of the day.If our kids were surrounded by a higher ratio of adults to kids, we’d be undoing a lot less undesirable and even damaging stuff.If the U.S. prioritized education and set it up to be optimal and not just workable, I’d be a happy public school kid parent.

    1. kidmercury

      you might not need it, but most do, simply because two income households is the norm and is essential.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Yeah, I totally agree with that. I just meant that they are more valuable than just day care 🙂 I don’t want to teach them, myself. (We have a two income household.)

        1. kidmercury

          agreed, i think homeschooling is a bit of a misnomer, and that unschooling or private schooling are better terms (though the latter is associated with expensive places for rich kids), in that the real desire is for something that breaks out of the “one size fits all” experience government schools offer. but no solution will get mass adoption without addressing the daycare need.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Yes, absolutely. That is absolutely one of the hurdles for our family.

      2. Richard

        Yep, there are schools in LA where less than 2% of the students read at grade level, 2%!

      3. kenberger

        Yes, spot on, even though my first reaction to that term “daycare” is indeed pejorative.To those who have retirement resources and no further desire to work full-time, I’m happy for them. But the vast majority of people are in a different situation and this daycare need is reflective of a very simple reality, regardless of what you call it.

    2. Richard

      Your instincts are spot on. Schools should allow kids to participate part time and allow for hybrid homeschool / public school programs.

      1. toddgeist

        We are working on that model. It has taken 8 years of trust building for some of the local public ed officials to see as partners, and not a threat. it is slow going, but we are beginning to get some cooperation from them in our programs

    3. Pete Griffiths

      “They learn almost nothing productive from the experience of being around tons of other kids most of the day.”I think this is overstating the case. Learning social realities is a core life skill.Btw high IQ w ADHD is indeed tricky. Strategies for dealing with this can be quite controversial. People hold very strong opinions on it.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Of course, I can only speak from my own experience with my children. My kids are like me and my husband. We preferred adults when we were kids.But, children model what they see. There’s not a whole lot going on with other kids that I think is a useful model.As adults, we spend more time unlearning what we learned on the playground than we do benefiting from it.I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t be around other kids at all. But I do think it would be better to increase the ratio of adults to children in school. I want my kids modeling what they see in the adults they admire, not the kid who’s getting the most attention.

        1. ShanaC

          Really true. Kids can be mean, and it is incumbent to learn how to be nice around differences

  9. toddgeist

    My wife and I started a Non Profit “Learning Center” aimed at Middle school students 8 years ago. We did it because the Charter school we founded still didn’t get us the freedom from regulation and oversight that we wanted. Even private schools are subject to a lot of unnecessary regulation. So we opted to take a different path.Parents pay us a fee to “Home School” their kids. We have figured out all the aspects how to make this work from a legal perspective, and even have good relations with some of the more progressive local public school board members, and even other charter schools as well.The kids come to our facility to take as many of the classes we offer as they want. About half of them come full time. The parents drop the kids off in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day. They think of it their school.Many of our families are traditional home school families but increasingly more and more of our families are just opting out and coming to us. In most of these cases, the parents would never have been able to opt out if it wasn’t for our program.We aren’t free but we are pretty cheap. We make up the difference in fund raising. I would hesitate to say we have a financially sustainable model yet. But our academic program works and works really well. The parents love it, the kids love it, and even the teachers love it.We are working hard to turn this into something that can expand beyond our little school. I think we wi be able to soon.The trend is real in CA, for sure.

    1. kidmercury

      do you have a web site you can share? also, do you offer food or are kids required to bring their own?

      1. toddgeist

        Here is a link to the school. – https://www.onesparkacademy…Here is list of current classes – https://www.onesparkacademy…And Yes we do offer lunch.Healthy food is a core value at our school. We even a class called “Food Fascination”, where the kids learn to prepare and cook the lunch that we serve at the school.Yes, thats right we have 6, 7 and 8th graders who are leaning to cook for their classmates. This just one example of things you could not possibly do at any “traditional” school.This is just one example of how our model can provide opportunities that you just don’t find in the traditional model.

        1. kidmercury

          this looks like a wonderful step in the right direction. keep it up!

        2. Richard

          Wow ! Nice work. Hopefully, a third party will step up and provide/sponsor kid friendly agile transportation to get from their home base to your school(s).

  10. Pointsandfigures

    https://www.amazon.com/Crib… This new book might give some insight into this. Emily is a PhD economist from Chicago Booth. Went through pregnancy and thought a lot of the advice wasn’t data driven.

  11. Michael Preston

    The microschool movement offers an interesting blend of homeschooling ethos with some formalization around a school-like operation. For academic structure, there’s no shortage of interesting models for project-based learning, individualized supports, connections to the world outside of school, etc.Homeschoolers perform better on the whole than kids in US public schools, but the sample seems a bit skewed toward whiter and more educated families.

    1. fredwilson

      Cool. I will check it out

    2. Pete Griffiths

      It would be interesting to dig a little deeper into these performance numbers.

        1. Pete Griffiths

          that’s great – thanks!

  12. Salt Shaker

    What impact, if any, has homeschooling had on college admissions acceptance and standardized entrance exams? In a way, I can see, if desired, how home school curriculums can be better structured to “game the system” for a better outcome on standardized testing. Curious how colleges view and take into account non-traditional educational routes? Are students at all disadvantaged or penalized? Lastly, I also wonder if/when students subsequently choose to enter college they at all encounter assimilation issues?

    1. Alberto Menoni

      Great questions Salt. The main reason for a standardized educational system is to produce certified learners and therefore capable workers. The homeschooling/microschool movement may risk missing this piece.

  13. Thomas Bogle

    Thanks for sharing this, Fred. I’ve been a high school teacher who chose to homeschool my own children. As others mentioned, the microschool movement is gaining popularity, especially those employing a self-directed learning model (primarily for teens). After leaving the public education system, I decided that there were too many excellent educators who were abandoning the idea of teaching altogether, simply because they didn’t know how to make a living teaching outside of the public education system. With that in mind, I started a project to help others like myself see how much opportunity there is in education. In fact, just this morning I decided I’d write a series of blog posts applying a number of different revenue models to educational services to see how many different approaches I could come up with. Nothing specific in this first post, but take a look and follow for the next month or so. As a VC, I think you might know some people who’d be interested in putting some of this to work.http://freemarketeducators….

  14. Soham Bhatia

    If anybody has early learners at home- check out kidappolis.com. mobile app for ages 3-6, curates the highest quality education apps available and offers personalized engagement. a great way to achieve many of the benefits of in class instruction at home

  15. jeffbaker

    I agree on the transformation happening in homeschooling. We homeschooled our now 21yo through high school, our now 16yo through 8th grade, and are still homeschooling our 9yo. The tech impact between the oldest and the youngest is immense. Tools like Scratch, Learning Ally, Khan Academy, and skype tutoring create a breadth and depth of learning that was not possible 10 years ago. The ubiquity of online information has made the past weekly library trips to check out 30 books a lot easier!Btw, I think the notion of ‘playground skills’ has some merit but is pretty easy to manage through – play days, co-ops, group classes can all nurture those socialization aspects. And the flip side to this ‘concern’ is that my boys spent their childhood years learning to deal with adults in call kinds of facets and that is paying huge dividends for them now.

    1. Vlad Stan

      Jeff, I’d like to talk with you about your experience with homeschooling. Are you up for a zoom call on the topic?

  16. Pete Griffiths

    If you look at the concerns shown in the diagram above many of them can be answered affirmatively by someone who has religious reasons for homeschooling. I am not persuaded that this indicates a trend to the secular. I am not arguing that there is no such trend but rather that the survey questions are poorly phrased.Let’s examine the concerns a bit more closely. The registered concerns over 50% are:A desire to provide moral instruction.A desire to provide religious instruction.These are either obviously religious or likely religious.A concern about the environment of other schools.A dissatisfaction with academic instruction.These could just as easily be motivated by religious concerns.What is striking is how unimportant the other factors were. The only one that was “largish” 39% was the desire for a non-traditional approach.Basically, this survey was poorly constructed.

  17. Pete Griffiths

    There is an important fact that underlies a lot of this discussion. And it is a fact.As Stephen Pinker sets out in ‘The Blank Slate’ around 50% of who a child becomes is genetic. The natural followup question is – what is the other 50%?Practically everyone answering that question puts the parents as the next major influence on what a child becomes as an adult. But in one of the most highly replicated results in (social) psychology it turns out this natural surmise is incorrect. By far the most important next factor is the child’s peers.The importance of peers is fundamental to any discussion of the strengths and weakness of traditional, progressive and home schooling.

  18. Pete Griffiths

    My concern with homeschooling is twofold:1. social – I am sure that are cases where kids would be better off socially than in some hideous school environment with destructive peer pressures, but setting those cases aside for the moment, play and peers are fundamental to a child’s upbringing.2. competence – there are of course dedicated educated parents who can properly oversee a child’s education, but what of the cases where the parents are either poorly disciplined at overseeing the child’s work or just can’t understand the content? Interestingly, there is a huge backlash against the Facebook/Zuckerberg sponsored IT based learning experiment and one big concern is lack of person to person time.

  19. llonyort

    Shouldn’t the %’s in the graph add up to 100%….or am I missing something ?

  20. Allison McCain Sweeney

    The state of California has a great option for homeschoolers. They can choose to remove their kids from the mainstream K-12 and homeschool their kids while receiving about $3300/year in educational funds to customize their children’s education. As a result of these funds, a huge infrastructure has developed to serve and support the homeschool community. There are many homeschool campuses where you can pick and choose classes and teachers. There are also many other providers of providers of services from coding to violin to tennis. The sky is the limit as to how you can customize your child’s education with your funds. This is truly personalized learning. Unfortunately, Sacramento has several bills under consideration to disnmantle charter schools in California. https://thecontemporaryhome

  21. TS

    Sorry, but I do not agree with the underlying claim in the tweet and post, that homeschooling is one of the fastest growing trends in education and likely to accelerate. Just look at the included chart: from 90 to 97 it almost quadrupled, from 97 to 03, it increased by 40%, from 03 to 07 by about 35%, and then from 07 to 16, over 9 years, by only about 20% total. So if you look at the annual growth, it has been going down significantly since the 1990s. In fact, we do not even know if it was still growing at all in 2016, given that there is no data point in the 9 years between 2007 and 2016 — it may very well have peaked say around 2013 or 14, but who knows.Also, from https://www.edweek.org/ew/i… “How many students are homeschooled?There are 1,689,726 homeschooled students. That’s 3.3 percent of all students, according to NCES 2015-16 data. After doubling between 1999 and 2012, the number of homeschooled students in the United States appears to have leveled off.”

  22. Vlad Stan

    I couldn’t figure out why my Twitter went crazy last week until someone pointed me to your blog post. Thank you so much for sharing it.I’m not a researcher and not yet sure if this trend is indisputable so all the researchers can agree on it, but sometimes you have to be able to see the trend before the trend, and I think this is the case now.To learn more about the space, we decided to organize the Homeschooling Global Summit, and I’ve talked with many experts in this space, and we spotted different patterns in different parts of the world. In the US growing but some will argue that maybe stagnating in the last few years. In Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK also growing, in South America growing exponentially, in India and China exploding as after-school tutoring programs, in Singapore and other parts of Asia it’s still an anomaly, as well as it is in Europe, except for a few countries in Eastern Europe.Also to verify my hypothesis, I have one questions for the parents. I always ask them if they want their kids to have similar skills and educations with the rest of the kids or if they are looking to have a unique set of skills and knowledge. Well, guess what, almost all parents want their kids to have access to personalized education because they want a customized set of skills for their kids. The trend may vary based on the age of the kids, but overall this is the main conclusion.Well, the way traditional schools are designed right now, it’s impossible to offer personalized education because it was designed with a different purpose in mind: to provide a similar set of skills to anyone. This is a core problem on the actual solution, and it can’t be solved with incremental improvements, the only solution is a radical one. And today the only way to offer your kids a personalized education is to homeschool them. I’m sure a few other trends will arise as well.At Galileo, we are not raising money now, but we will be in the next 8-12 month or so. For the moment we are experimenting with a few of these trends, and we haven’t shipped the final version of the product yet, we have lots of decisions still to make, but we’d like to show you our prototype. Let me know if you’re interested and we can schedule a short zoom call on this.

  23. JamesHRH

    No chance.Maybe an inverted classroom, as that may allow schools to richly incent great teachers.

  24. TeddyBeingTeddy

    People vastly underestimate the importance of socialization. An isolated puppy forever has coping issues. If kids are increasingly homeschooled and isolated, they will have a very hard time coping and being accepted into tribes of other children.

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Thanks for sharing your story. What are some countries that you believe we should look at for ideas around education?

  26. Diana McIntosh

    Finland is one that keeps coming up in the research I’ve done so far. I am sure there are others we can also learn from to discover what is working for them and what is not. I love this talk (and many others) by Ken Robinson. Our education system does not need another reform. Our children deserve a revolution in education! https://www.youtube.com/wat