Homeschooling Off-the-Grid

No government wants people living off the grid. No jurisdiction in The United States allows families to live completely off the grid. Doubly so if you have children. The Back to the Earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s caused a legal reaction in most rural jurisdictions. Local governments implemented anti-hippie regulations in zoning, water rights, sewage, electrical connection, and children. State and federal authorities provided enforcement when necessary.

Off-Grid Homeschooling

Families who want to live and school off the grid must first reduce the digital fingerprint. Familiarity with local regulations and local precedent is critical information before putting up a dry cabin, installing septic or electric services, and especially before off-grid homeschooling.

Some families living off-grid continue to send the children to public school just to avoid the inevitable accusations of child endangerment or abuse. This works only poorly. Local education authorities monitor children in public schools to identify off the grid home behaviors. A casual comment like, “We have an outhouse at home,” can trigger a social services investigation or even a sheriff’s visit.

Sign Out, Shut Down, Unplug 1

The issue in off-grid homeschooling is not the schooling. Homeschooling requires at least one child and an adult who can read and write in one language. The next step seems difficult because everybody is more or less institutionalized in the United States in 2021. No computer, smart phone, or the Internet is required to homeschool children. Leaving the compulsory education system is an act of nullification over compulsory education and the indoctrination attached to it. Unplugging from the network is the act of a sovereign individual. Government at every level hates this. The zoning inspector or public health administrator is not a harmless bureaucrat. 2020 taught that rights can be taken away by proclamation, even by your local health administrator. Do not allow the local zoning inspector to derail your homeschool.

The Spartan Path

Most children schooled at home in the past learned to read and write using books, pencil and paper, with the regular recitation of previous lessons. Parents can begin with just the materials at hand. Teaching children the basics, then leading them into more advanced subjects with those basics is simpler than teaching them to speak or to use the toilet. The simplest approaches to homeschool start with books, pencils, and paper, whether your family lives in a city apartment, in a small town, in a rural district, or in an RV.

Even those without any resources, the homeless or off-grid rural families can follow George Washington Carver. Born a slave he scrambled from opportunity to opportunity to get an education. Mr. Carver was literally unschooled.

He understood that basic learning is a survival skill. He learned to read and write with the Bible. This was bravery. Basic literacy was dangerous to the owners during slavery and could get an individual sold or killed. Learning still happened. Quietly. Off-grid homeschool is bravery too. Parents cannot be sold off, but confiscation of land, vehicles, tools, houses to be sold off by investigators is common in most states. Some states regard digging an outhouse as criminal.

off grid homeschool
Education is the Key to Unlock the Golden Door of Freedom

The Blended Model Path

Not everybody wants to be completely off-grid. Those who are moving some parts of life off-grid, who must work in the system, but want to substitute solar power or composting toilets and want to homeschool still can. The family can augment the public school curriculum with directed tutoring. This approach is common today among Indian technical workers who supplement the children’s public education with something like the education the parents received in India.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain 

Alternatively, parents can withdraw students at the compulsory minimum age. Work and homeschool can follow. Going to work was common as recently as the 1940s. In the 1950s most craftsmen and artisans still went to work with just the basic education. School can be the first step in a lifelong self-education. The Great Books Program of Mortimer Adler supplemented the learning of millions of blue collar families over the years before homeschooling was available.

Now that homeschooling is permitted, the homeschool path can start directly with a set of graded readers like McGuffey. A library card to a nearby physical library helps, but remains difficult in 2021 when most public libraries are still closed. Parents should contact the local librarian to see how access to the collection works. Haunting the used book stores and Goodwill stores for additional books on math, science, history, and other interesting topics also works inexpensively. Thousands of Adler’s Great Books live today in used book stores.

The Tutoring Path

Children of corporate workers and suburban professionals can be educated at home by the parents. This was once the choice only of the upper middle class. John Stuart Mill studied at his father’s desk as James Mill worked at home. This style homeschooling is more possible than ever with the COVID distance working making one or more parents available to run the homeschool.

Dog and Cat Off-Grid
Dog and Cat Off-Grid

Homeschooling offline seems radical in the digital culture, but people attempted it recently. The “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” movement of the 1960s and 1970s put it’s heart in the right place, as much as mass movements have hearts. Drugs and deep media immersion derailed the the dropping out. Not much off-grid happened.

The government actively stamped out as many of the freak hippies as it could. Now it focuses on preventing them. Parents who want to walk on this path in 2021 must understand the triggers for the state. The joke in the 1990s was that the Internet was a trap for perverts and criminals to identify them to the police. It is now a trap for the nonconforming. To be avoided off-grid are social programs, especially financial, and medical programs that give the experts an excuse to classify parents as anti-social or even dangerous.

Homeschools must avoid being demonized, criminalized, and attacked by a bureaucracy that does not want any homeschooling, a state that will not tolerate off-grid activities, and bureaucrats that can use the homeschool as an excuse to confiscate property. Getting off the Internet is the first step off-grid. The autonomous individual should raise autonomous, thinking, reasoning children, and look out for both the bureaucrats who want to end it and the police who will profit from confiscation. Parents should not let a zoning inspector, a child protective worker, or a truant officer end the off-grid dream or disrupt your homeschool.

Children today can be literate. Even slaves learned to read.

But Quietly.

1Margaret Beetem 2021.

FREE Homeschooling on the Internet

Homeschooling on the Internet requires no more infrastructure and expense than the cost of a smart phone or tablet, a computer, and a USP connection. Two critical components for parents wanting to minimize state control over the home school are VPN on your Internet connection to keep nosy people out of your family business, and the TOR browser for access to “pirate” websites like Z-Library and Sci-Hub.

The VPN augments your broadband connection. If VPN is still a mystery, here is a recent article on both free and paid VPN. Brassword Publishing uses Nord VPN because “free” usually comes with a price in reduced privacy.  Hackers hack, so parents should do the research. https://www.techradar.com/vpn/best-free-vpn

 Nobody-is-Watching

Nobody is Watching

TOR claims you can “Browse Privately. Explore Freely,” and mostly that is true. https://www.torproject.org/ TOR Browser will not prevent all intrusion, but it makes detection of your traffic harder for state or other malicious hackers.

Digital Homeschool

Homeschool parents teach basics after walking, talking, potty-training, and family morality. Common sense says to teach reading by reading, writing by writing, and mathematics by doing math. The Internet provides millions of teaching resources for FREE.

Digital Homeschool
“The Replacement for Saturday Morning Cartoons” by Wesley Fryer

Parents can even teach advanced subjects after the basics. Mastery comes from doing things, building knowledge, gaining experience, and mastering reasoning skills. Science uses reading, writing, and math in combination to master logic, reasoning, and the finer points of the scientific method. History uses reading and media to explore the past. What is the motivation for teaching basic skills? No real learning is possible without the basics.

Basic Skills

Christians after the Reformation stressed reading as the gate into the Bible. For hundreds of years families used that book alone to teach reading. Consequently, at the time of the American Revolution, the colonies were among the most literate population on Earth. This continued to be the American tradition. Abraham Lincoln’s mother taught him this way and for this reason. His interests broadened as he grew older, but his fundamental literacy was unquestioned.

Writing can be mastered with a reflective journal and copy books to show that the material read was comprehended. The digital homeschool can use an e-book toolkit like Calibre to make digital journals and notebooks.

Young children can learn math as part of household economics. Middle class people after the Reformation taught math to the family as part of the mercantile culture. Learning to make, to buy and to sell, is still a great way for children to master math in the home school. Because the Internet is born in math, limitless tools for mastering every form of math are available online.

digital homeschool
“Studying” by Kelly Hogaboom

Deeper knowledge comes organically to a child from basic skills, depending on aptitude and interest. The dungeon of curriculum should not stop the young organic farmer from mastering the science and math of earth science and horticulture. Neither should it block the young historian from reading and reasoning through the mysteries of the past. Some children may move from crawling to walking to dancing and this should be okay. Maybe Tik-Tok is the right classroom for the young dancer.

unschooling morning digital homeschool
“An Unschooling Morning” by Kelly Hogaboom

Young humans must be free to pursue interests to become expert. Advanced subjects, beyond the comfort zone of the parent, live on sites like MIT Open Courseware https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm where all MIT courses are offered for FREE, but without certification. If the student can do differential calculus, no certification is needed. The  path for the child aimed at engineering can start with homeschooling on the Internet.

Your First Trick

First things first. Homeschooling on the Internet begins with digital copies of books. Put the title of any desired book into your search engine with “PDF” after the title. Not every book is available, but some university students never purchased textbooks in four years.

Beyond the free search, those parents who want to teach the basics using the free Internet can start with Gutenberg, LibriVox, The Internet Archive, and Calibre.

Digital Homeschool Public Domain
SAIL INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN by Laure L. Russwurm

Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is an online library of free eBooks.”

https://www.gutenberg.org/

The dream of Diderot and Voltaire was FREE information for the people. Project Gutenberg goes far toward fulfilling that dream.

LibriVox

https://librivox.org/

“To make all books in the public domain available, narrated by real people and distributed for free, in audio format on the internet.”

This is a free version of Audible. The readers are volunteers, so the quality is sometimes uneven, but the price is right. Much of the material is aimed directly at the homeschool. Look at the lists that homeschool parents made just for you. Consider reading your own favorite book into the collection.

  • “Librivox is a non-commercial, non-profit and ad-free project
  • Librivox donates its recordings to the public domain
  • Librivox is powered by volunteers
  • Librivox maintains a loose and open structure
  • Librivox welcomes all volunteers from across the globe, in all languages”
Digital Homeschool Internet Archive
Internet-Archive-Servers” by jblyberg

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive supplies millions of files for homeschooling on the Internet. Every conceivable form of digital product is freely available. Whereas, Gutenberg has books and Librivox has audio books, the Internet Archive also has movies, television programs, pictures, and software programs. In their words:

“The Internet Archive began in 1996 by archiving the Internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral – but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it. Today we have 25+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine  and we work with 750+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.”

“As our web archive grew, so did our commitment to providing digital versions of other published works. Today our archive contains:

“Anyone with a free account can upload media to the Internet Archive. We work with thousands of partners globally to save copies of their work into special collections.”

Calibre

https://calibre-ebook.com/

Calibre is an e-book manager, a program that runs on your computer and allows better viewing of your digital material. Calibre also downloads current newspapers and magazines. An interesting feature is the ability to create and edit your e-books, so it can serve as an interesting digital writing tool for the homeschool.

“Calibre is also completely free and open source and great for both casual users and computer experts”

  • “Save time on managing your e-book collection
  • Use it everywhere and with anything
  • Comprehensive e-book viewer
  • Download news/magazines from the web
  • Share and backup your library easily
  • Edit the books in your collection
  • Satisfy every e-book need and get support”

Advanced homeschooling on the Internet can use more advanced scientific and scholarly materials from Z-Library and Sci-Hub. One person’s import-export is another person’s smuggling, so we recommend you follow the wisdom of Chinese students exploring Democracy articles on the Internet to use VPN and TOR for these links.

Digital information is leaky and researchers from across the globe have been using Sci-Hub to get access to current information in their field without paying the exorbitant fees charged by academic publishers. A single paper on robotics or biology can cost hundreds of dollars, making it impossible for students and researchers in the third world to afford the information they need. The need found a solution.

Z-Library

https://z-lib.org/

Z-Library file-sharing project for scholarly journal articles, academic and general-interest books. Z-Library says the project provides access to more than 6,754,720 books and 80,759,561 articles as of April 1, 2021”

Sci – Hub

https://sci-hub.st/

Sci-Hub the first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers”

“A research paper is a special publication written by scientists to be read by other researchers. Papers are primary sources necessary for research – for example, they contain detailed description of new results and experiments.”

  Papers in Sci-Hub library:
more than 85,483,811”

Homeschooling on the Internet really means Homeschooling on the Internet.

Some Reasons Why People Won’t Home School

Public school distance learning seemed unplanned and chaotic to most parents in 2020. Some district Internet application, or K12 Internet School, became the classroom in the house. Homeschool could go viral in 2021 with all that learning at home, but it probably won’t.

Here are some reasons why:

Socialization

Parents say, “If I schooled my children at home, they would lose social skills. They need to learn to get along with others. Teachers will prepare them to deal with employers. I want them to get the right socialization.”

The teacher’s authority and classroom regimentation start in kindergarten or elementary school. This socialization institutionalizes students over the years. Methods for preparing kids for future employers changed little since most jobs were in factories. Schools continue an old-fashioned regimented authoritarianism not found in good jobs now. Parents who push children toward socialization should remember school better.

Income

Parents say, “We have to work. We cannot afford to give up one income to stay at home with the children.”

Most homeschool families provide at least one adult to teach the children. Unlike socialization, the need for two incomes and workday child care shifts family priorities away from education. Income and child care come first. These priorities also challenge single parents. Working from home allows parents to work and to homeschool, often with available child care covering time for critical calls and meetings. Parents who must work outside the home should consider a tutor. One decent income can hire a workday tutor. Not a Mary Poppins Governess, but a college or exchange student as the nanny. The cost is not much more than day school. Many middle class families afford this today.

Can a family be too poor to homeschool? If income assistance or government aid is involved, then yes. Authorities force humble, single-parent families to use the public school and government subsidized day care. Promoted as benefits, like government income or health insurance, school care ties the family to the system. To reject this help risks social services calling or visiting. Even still, all is not lost. Parents in this system can work with the school to use K12 and stay home with the kids. This prevents the total loss of parental influence that comes with children raised by the schools, by television and by their peers. Opportunities for supplemental homeschool appear over time.

Legality

Parents say, “Is this even legal? I’m not sure where to begin.”

Government school is the rule. The modern homeschool movement took off in the 1950s and 1960s. Advocacy groups like the Amish and other Christian organizations worked hard to decriminalize school-at-home in all 50 states. Homeschool parents must still adhere to local guidelines, but homeschool is legal. Hundreds of organizations across the country, and on the Internet, can guide the parents through local regulation.1

Those who decide to school at home soon find that the standards are manageable. Attendance is not policed and the rudimentary content standards are easily met. Parents complete paperwork periodically and students demonstrate competence in required certification testing. Even SAT and ACT testing for colleges allow a GED rather than local school certification. Remember, the certifying organizations are in competition with the homeschool. Schools lose money, both federal and state, when a child is not within the walls of a school, so administrators are never reliable helpers.

Time and Work Conflicts

The parent says, “I do not have time to teach my children and keep my job.”

This might be right. The single mother in Oakland who is working at two jobs to keep a roof and day care in her family’s life is not available to teach the child at homeschool. She cannot hope to do more than supplement the free government school. Similarly, the two-income middle class family probably does not have time to be with the child either.

This might be wrong. The basic skills of reading and writing require a commitment of time, but once the basics are mastered, who can say what the length of the school day should be? Isn’t learning to bake a cake an exercise in practical chemistry and household mathematics? No better way to learn some science and math. Unschool or Open School2 parents insist that regimented school hours and curriculum tasks retard learning. Maybe your parental quality time is actually school.

Selfishness

Parents say, “Spending that time educating my child will impact my personal development. Not being seen in the office will hurt my career.”

Many cannot imagine an uncompensated obligation. This speaks more to the quality of the parent and the moral center of the adult than to the issue of homeschooling.

Homeschool families make the education of the children a priority. More Christian families probably prioritize family and education. It is not so great a sacrifice after all, but in the secular world some adults can not understand personal sacrifice.

School Resources

Parents say, “I want my kids to be in band, be a cheerleader, or on the football team. Schools have libraries, bands, athletic facilities and team activities.”

The 2020 distance learning stopped most extracurricular activities. When these activities become available again, homeschool parents still can use the school facilities. Public means access to public facilities. Homeschool families participated in school events in the past. Many localities also mandate that schools open programs to home school students who need public libraries, art museums, golf, soccer, or other available activities. Community programs or church programs serve the homeschool. This requires a 2021 reopening of activities, of course, but it is not about homeschool.

Social Lifestyle

Secular parents say, “We don’t want the religious orientation provided by Christian publishers any more than we

The Dream of the First Internet
“Gutenburg Press” by Killfile

want the social agenda of the public school. The available homeschool curricula, organizations, and materials will not work for my family.”

 

The modern home schooling movement was driven by the Christian families who wished to remove their children from what they saw as the most pernicious influences of popular culture and the government school secular bias. These families have the most proven curriculum materials. More recently, the Muslim3 and Jewish4 communities have also entered into developing curriculum for their followers just like the Christian families. Even secular families no longer are out in the cold5.

Of course any family can design something closely suited to their own goals. The Internet changes everything. Gutenberg6 and The Internet Archive7 alone contain more free material than existed on Earth in all the great universities and libraries at one point in history. A family can offer a secular curriculum easily. The Enlightenment happened and documented itself. This requires more work from the parent-teacher, but is simple. Secular families should be encouraged to look into Unschooling8 where the life of the family replaces the curriculum itself.

Teaching Qualification

Parents insist, “I’m not qualified to teach. Even if I teach the basics like reading, writing, or household arithmetic, what about science, algebra, or chemistry. What will my kids do for advanced study?”

The schools struggle with skills training, so any focused effort on the basics exceeds what the kids get in school. This is why the ranks of National Spelling Champions are nearly monopolized by homeschooled scholars. Similarly, few certified public school teachers mastered advanced mathematics. People who mastered math probably got a high paying job with a tech company. Most certified teachers get their advanced subject skills out of the Teachers Edition of the textbook. Parents can buy those books online and be as competent as most public school STEM teachers. Every course at MIT9 is online for free. Beyond the basics, on-line classes, tutors, and learning swapping groups are available.

Certification

homeschool graduation
Homeschool Graduation 2011 – Jim the Photographer

Parents say, “I think parents must be certified to teach at home. And how does my child get a high school diploma to get work or get into college anyway without one?”

Home teachers need no certificate. Some schools would like parent certification to be law. It is not. The teacher’s unions in some urban areas would like the homeschool parent to be both certified and paying dues. Homeschool learning does not require it. The industrial profession of teaching requires teacher certification. No parent needs it.

Terminal certification is a different challenge. The government empowers schools to certify when a child has completed each level of schooling. A high school diploma is an authority document. Employers and Human Resource Managers still need the degrees. Nevertheless, long-standing alternatives exist. General Educational Development (GED) works as well as high school diploma. It carries the same social authority as a diploma from East Lancing High or any public school for that matter.

Empowerment

People still say, “Is schooling at home an option?”

Many parents do not feel empowered to teach, but they are teaching. Parents begin to teach at delivery. The child learns to recognize people, understand language, learns to speak, to walk, to meander through the complexities of the family, and then, the outside world, all with the help of the parents. Children are learners by nature. Parents teach. Teaching children the basic skills of reading, writing, and math just comes sometime after learning to walk. Not all teaching has unicorns carrying bunnies of course. You begin with diapers and end up with teenagers, but that is the project. Becoming a parent empowered you to teach your children. Every reason not to is just another excuse.

Web References:

Click the link below or the reference number in the text to see the site.

1. Homeschool.com is a good place to start. Twenty years experience means they have seen almost everything. 

2. Open School is a novel idea for most Americans. 

3. Our Muslim Homeschool 

4. Our Jewish Homeschool BLOG:

5. Calvert Homeschool has a secular track:

6. Welcome to Project Gutenberg:

7. Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.

8. The Family Unschoolers Network:

9. MITOpenCourseware from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: