Many Homeschooling Mothers Lack Confidence

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The home-school movement is expanding rapidly. No one knows how many home-schooled children there are in the United States, but one U.S. government estimate was 1.5 million as of 2008. Another organization puts it at 2.1 million in 2010. This is a large market. It is growing. There is no reason to think that it will shrink.

The rights of parents to home school vary, state to state. It is still a battle, but there is little possibility in the future that the United States will ever impose what Europe has: a system of state-run schools in which home schooling is illegal.

We see a growing market. We also see information-delivery costs at zero: YouTube,,, and PDFs. We would expect to see a large number of videos and curriculum strategies on-line. But we don’t.

As is true of almost every phenomenon, about 20% of the curriculum publishing companies control about 80% of the market. The main ones are Accelerated Christian Education, A Beka, and Bob Jones University. There are others: Alpha-Omega, Rod and Staff. These are printed materials. They are expensive. If you print your own, you can buy low-cost, high-quality materials. By far the best for the money is the Robinson Curriculum: $200, once, for the entire family. It is on CD-ROMs.

Then there is the growing influence of the Khan Academy. Salman Khan, a graduate of M.I.T. and the Harvard Business School, teaches mathematics (K–12), physics, chemistry, and business, free of charge, using YouTube as the vehicle.

Think of what Khan has done. He is a man with no experience in teaching for money or in home schooling, yet he has launched by far the most promising secular home school curriculum on earth. His nieces and nephews told him that he is a good teacher. With that limited testimony, he created the Khan Academy. He has self-confidence, courage, vision, self-discipline, and a willingness to spend time for a larger cause.

Today, there is a generation of home-school mothers who began three decades ago, and whose grandchildren are now being home schooled by their daughters. With the new digital media, you might think that there would be dozens of detailed, step-by-step curriculum programs for sale or for free. Yet Dr. Arthur Robinson’s was the first purely digital curriculum. It is delivered on CD-ROMs. He created it because his wife died unexpectedly, and he had to develop a self-taught curriculum. He was running a sheep ranch, a biological research organization, and was the publisher of the newsletter, Access to Energy. He had no time to teach his six children using the labor-intensive, mother-run programs.

So, two men without experience have developed comprehensive programs. Why men? The barrier to entry is not money. The monetary cost of creating and delivering a digits-based program is basically free.

My conclusion: home school mothers lack self-confidence.

But why? They have taught their own children. They have talked with other home school mothers. There are lots of Websites and blogs on the topic. Yet there is only one K-12 mother-created home school curriculum on the Web that is free of charge or very cheap ($200 or less): Old Fashioned Education (free).

The public domain materials are out there. If necessary, a mother could let Khan do the hard lifting in math and science. Yet there is no such mother-designed curriculum.

There are all those women out there who could do this. They don’t do this. They are scared. They don’t think their efforts in their own households are ready for prime time.

One of my site’s members has begun a series of videos on teaching phonics by using the famous McGuffey Readers. She is using Google-owned Blogger. She is also using Google-owned YouTube. Both are free. I think there is a real opportunity here.

I had approached other mothers about doing exactly this. They all said it is necessary. None of them agreed to do it. I offered money. I was rebuffed. They all thought they were not qualified.

Here is what is needed, K-6:

A McGuffey-based, YouTube-based reading programBasic arithmetic. Here is a sample video that I did

Basic grammar, based on actual literature, not boring stand-alone rulesMoney managementBible lessonsMusic: reading notation, singing

It should be a 4-hour daily course.

It should involve writing a daily essay after the second grade.

Most mothers can do this. In each area, there are specialists who are really good at a subject. What is so difficult about all this? Why aren’t there dozens of these options available?

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February 8, 2011

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2011 Gary North