A parent who homeschooled his four children for two decades reflects on the parallels between Bitcoin and sovereign education.
This is an opinion editorial by Scott Lindberg, a parent who homeschooled four children over 20 years with his wife, and cofounder of Free Market Kids, a company that teaches Bitcoin concepts through tabletop games.
My wife, Tali, and I recently presented educational information about Bitcoin to homeschoolers for three days at a homeschooling convention in St. Louis, Missouri. We hosted an exhibition booth and led a workshop session and the event didn’t go exactly as expected.
Bitcoin has clarified misconceptions in energy, economics, diet and countless other fields, but education is another obvious area in need of an overhaul of truth. At least, this is obvious in hindsight, once you have embraced Bitcoin.
Tali and I have always been fired up about taking self custody of education, but we didn’t describe it this way when we started. We have four grown children who we homeschooled for 20 years. When we started, it was just “schooling.” But thanks to going down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, we now have a more precise framework to explain “self custody of education” and its significance.
The ways that Bitcoiners and homeschoolers think are incredibly similar for reasons I’ll explain here. I am more bullish on this community than ever, but we have work to do. Just as the bitcoin mining and energy sectors are merging, so too will Bitcoiners and homeschoolers eventually merge.
All images in this article provided by the author
Think how it feels to share good things with close friends. Can you recall finding a thoughtful, personal gift and feeling giddy with excitement as you presented the wrapped present to its recipient? How excited were you about sharing something wonderful with another person and watching their eyes light up when they “got it”? Leading someone to the Bitcoin rabbit hole is like this.
This is the level of excitement that Tali and I felt before the convention. Homeschoolers are our people. In our hearts, we know how aligned they are with Bitcoin. Here are 10 reasons why our passion and excitement were so high:
Many Bitcoiners are surely familiar with “The Creature From Jekyll Island” and the continual expansion of the power of central planners. The cancer of fiat does not discriminate. Both homeschoolers and Bitcoiners understand the burden of increasingly-centralized agencies, woke policies and socialist philosophies. Government and central-planning bureaucracies have entangled themselves deeper and deeper into education.
The U.S Department of Education (DOE) was created in 1979 and has an annual budget of $68 billion (this excludes state and local education budgets). Where does the money go? As the insane budget grows, the beneficiaries are not students or even teachers. Increased spending goes to bureaucratic administrators. In Bitcoin speak, it goes to rent seekers. From 2000 to 2019, the increase in the number of students was 7.6%, the increase in the number of teachers was 8.7% and the increase in district administrators was a stunning 87.6%.
Once you control the purse strings, you control policy. Dare go against the approved narrative from central-planning-know-it-alls and your school or college risks losing federal, state and local funding. Individuals within institutions risk losing their jobs (and power) if they fight to protect against environmental, racial, sexual or political agendas in curricula.
As the top-down statists feed the bureaucracy machine, the trend is for more families to pursue exiting the traditional educational system. Draconian COVID-19 policies showed many what was possible in the way of resources too, driving the percentage of school-aged children being homeschooled to over 11%.
Homeschooling is decentralized education. There are co-operatives which are like nodes, running their own education programs, support organizations and a growing number of resources. But at the core of homeschooling is the home. The family unit is as fully decentralized as you can get for education.
It’s hard to conceive, but our society once was on a gold standard. Sound money is not a new concept from a long-term historical perspective. It’s just new to us. Bitcoiners have embraced sound money and the need to protect it. If everyone followed the advice of “not your keys, not your coins,” then criminals like Sam Bankman-Fried couldn’t hurt them.
Homeschoolers have trust issues with education, just as Bitcoiners have trust issues with money. Homeschooling is not a new concept, historically speaking. It’s new to us. Here are some influential leaders who were homeschooled: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Douglas MacArthur, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis and so many more.
We protect ourselves from the risk by controlling our own keys. Whether these are the keys to your bitcoin or the keys to your kids’ education, self custody is a core principle to embrace.
Time is the only thing in the universe more valuable than bitcoin. Therefore, there’s an opportunity cost to investing one’s time to stay home and teach. One could instead get a job and let someone else deal with textbooks, grading tests, etc. It goes deeper, though. It’s not just time. Homeschooling is tough, 24/7 work. It has emotional volatility. There are days when the stress makes you question what you’re doing.
The tradeoff decision is not unlike bootstrapping a Bitcoin startup. To steal a phrase from Christian Keroles and Matt Odell, there is a sat opportunity cost when investing in a Bitcoin company. The alternative is to HODL. The expected return on the investment must be greater than other options like stacking sats.
Homeschoolers are simply making the decision that making their kids’ education a rock-solid foundation for a happier, more successful future is the best return on their time. They are making the decision to persevere through an emotional rollercoaster of a journey. This incredible investment of their time, energy and love is their proof of work.
The most common FUD about homeschooling is socialization. When Tali first suggested staying home with our firstborn, I questioned whether doing so would negatively impact her socialization experiences. My concern was unfounded. The reality is that homeschooled kids are like all other kids. They play sports; participate in theater, robotics and other activities; have social dances; etc. As our kids grew through their teenage years, I started to question if they were too social.
Additionally, my observations are that homeschooled kids excel at thinking for themselves. They grasp concepts like “don’t trust, verify.” Contrast this with compliance, the backbone of State-driven education institutions.
The reason is that homeschooled kids are getting lessons 24/7. Something as small as the chore of taking out the garbage is an opportunity to discuss personal responsibility, integrity, trust and other non-academic subjects. Show me the proof of work of where and how such topics are discussed outside of the home.
It’s a first principles idea that parents are first and foremost responsible for teaching their children. Marxists, socialists and communists, on the other hand, repel this basic concept. They want the State to decide what’s acceptable, the “teachers” to indoctrinate and the kids to comply.
“Who ‘owns’ the child, then? The choice is between the parents, who have taken the trouble to have and raise the child — and who, in almost cases, will give their lives to support the child for as long as it takes and longer — or the educational bureaucracy, which is more likely than a parent to look upon the child as an asset in a social-engineering project to rearrange government and society.”
–Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College
Homeschoolers, like Bitcoiners, realize that our freedoms are under attack. Homeschoolers risk becoming a target of the State because of their beliefs, so it is logical for them to align with a political philosophy that upholds liberty. It makes sense to align with those who value individual political freedoms. The thought of the State deciding what and how children should be taught — at the exclusion of the parents — is as appalling to homeschoolers as a central bank digital currency (CDBC) is to Bitcoiners.
Homeschoolers take action. They invest time in researching options, curricula and activities that will most benefit their children. They read books. They listen to podcasts. And they are even willing to pay to attend a homeschooling convention, in addition to the travel and lodging expenses to get to it. They do not expect handouts. They are not asking for big government solutions. They do not trust that bureaucrats will avoid fiat temptations, e.g., promoting curricula based on political agendas.
Sound familiar? Taking action is a ubiquitous Bitcoiner trait. Bitcoiners research their options, read books, listen to podcasts and even pay to attend conferences. They do not wait for handouts, nor expect big government help, nor trust bureaucrats to avoid fiat temptations, e.g., endless printing and money debasement.
This concept is not as obvious as the others, but you can find it hidden behind feelings of frustration (and perhaps some heated yelling) about current events, broken systems and the state of our high-time preference world. I’m talking about optimism.
If one did not believe in a better future, it would be pointless to invest and sacrifice to pursue homeschooling. Yet, homeschooling parents go to extraordinary lengths. Tali and I made the conscious decision to live on one income, even if it meant a smaller house and missing fancy vacations. We are not atypical. Homeschooling is a calling worthy of sacrificing short-term desires for long-term benefits. (More on low time preference shortly.)
Bitcoin is hope. Michael Saylor’s use of www.hope.com is brilliant. If it wasn’t for Bitcoin, our national debt spiral would depress me to the point of giving up. If it wasn’t for Bitcoin, the statists’ push to replicate China’s CDBC would make me believe George Orwell’s “1984” future was inevitable. If you didn’t have hope in Bitcoin’s future, you wouldn’t have decided to read this article.
Education at a homeschooling convention really doesn’t need clarification. I haven’t met a Bitcoiner yet who doesn’t believe Bitcoin education is key. Nevertheless, I’m going to share a couple of examples.
For homeschooling, we may have been the only exhibitor at the convention focused on sound money literacy, but we found another focused on teaching liberty and freedom. If you have small children, or are looking for gifts for small children, check out the books by the Tuttle twins.
For Bitcoin, the example to call out is Mi Primer Bitcoin. This group recently translated its program from Spanish to English. This is an absolutely wonderful teaching resource and it’s free.
President Biden’s administration is no friend of Bitcoin, nor are other government agencies or the Federal Reserve. While I believe in the “then-we-win” stage, it doesn’t mean the current “then-they-fight-you” stage won’t be painful. They are attacking. Here’s an excerpt from Custodia Bank’s website that makes my blood boil:
“Historic bank runs in the last two weeks underscore the dire need for fully solvent banks that are equipped to serve fast-changing industries in an era of rapidly improving technology. That is the exact model proposed by Custodia Bank — to hold $1.08 in cash to back every dollar deposited by customers. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve took its eye off the ball and allowed bank-run risks to build at traditional banks – while simultaneously engaging in a crackdown against the digital asset industry at large and Custodia Bank in particular.”
This example reminds us of what Satoshi Nakamoto put on the genesis block. Bailing out failed institutions creates moral hazard. This creates bigger problems later, which creates an incentive for even greater bailouts and greater moral hazard. Not approving Custodia Bank, with healthy risk policies, is purely an attack on those who do not comply with the central planning gods.
Now for an education example. I picked this one not because it focuses on homeschooling, but because it shows how far those in control will go to protect their power.
In 2021, the Loudoun county school district in Virginia covered up the rape of a female student by a skirt-wearing male student. It was not the assailant’s first assault. He was allowed to be in the girl’s bathroom because the school was following woke liberal policies.
While this is horrendous, it actually gets worse. Here’s where the “then they attack you” hits education and not just homeschoolers. This is an attack on education and an attack on parents. The father of the rape victim was essentially labeled a terrorist because he spoke out at a school board meeting. The father was arrested. The school administrators who pushed critical race theory and other radical policies, who covered up assaults, were able to silence a father exercising his right to speak, a father whose daughter suffered unnecessarily because of a political agenda.
Deciding to homeschool is a long-term undertaking. It is filled with uncertainty and emotional volatility. I wish there was an equivalent of the “stay humble, stack sats” meme for homeschooling… For the moment, I’m going with “take action, self-custody education.”
According to veteran homeschooling conventioneers, our neighbors in the exhibition hall, the St. Louis event was bigger and more energetic than in prior years. Yet, Tali and I were surprised by some of the less-than-enthusiastic reactions of attendees to Bitcoin.
For all of the reasons I covered above, we expected mostly open discussions with those curious about adding sound money to their curriculum. We did have some interactions like this, which were uplifting. But many attendees avoided eye contact altogether, as if Tali and I were aliens.
Here are our top three lessons learned and what we’re changing because of them:
Most of the 5,000 people who attended the convention didn’t have a sound money framework. This led to curious and sometimes even scoffing looks at our booth, the sole exhibitor with educational Bitcoin games and books.
Using sound money to lead homeschoolers to Bitcoin is less effective than being direct.
We are changing our presentation for an April homeschooling convention to be more direct. Bitcoin is a revolutionary technology. Bitcoin is hope for us and future generations. It is critical to teach our kids about it. If you don’t want to use our educational resources, that’s fine, but just start educating yourself and your kids ASAP.
I presented an overview of Bitcoin using our game, HODL UP, in a workshop session. Through play, you learn Bitcoin mechanics and terminology. I limited the discussion examples to three things: mining, the 21 million bitcoin cap and wallets.
It’s difficult to reach a split audience. Even simplifying and connecting the gameplay concepts to real Bitcoin was too much for half the audience. It needs to be even simpler. The other half was curious about investment advice.
Tali and I are increasing the number of workshop sessions from one to four at the April homeschooling convention. We are creating customized content to address different audience interests and knowledge.
There was a distinct trend based on gender. We had many discussions with homeschooling moms who said their spouses were the one who understood finances or who took an interest in Bitcoin. We had zero homeschooling dads say the same.
We need to understand what is driving this. We do not fully know. It’s not something limited to homeschoolers either. Why is it that Bitcoin meetups typically seem to be comprised of 80% men? Bitcoin is good for everyone, so why don’t we see more women in the space? What can we do to reach them?
We will gather additional data as we travel and meet more people face to face.
Tali and I know homeschoolers are ready for Bitcoin, they just don’t know it yet. We’re on a mission to guide them on the journey to figure it out. It may take years but that’s okay. This is a low-time preference endeavor. It’s better to let others decide for themselves, e.g., by asking questions rather than forcing them to experience a catastrophic failure of our money system.
As of this writing, our next homeschooling conference is only weeks away. Based on the experience from the March event, we’re modifying our approach. We look forward to sharing lessons learned with fellow Bitcoiners.
Tali and I would like to express our gratitude to “Thank God For Bitcoin” and SHAmory, both of whom helped with our March event. We also want to express gratitude to the St. Charles Bitcoin Meetup. It held a special Bitcoin game event the day after the convention and we spent five amazing hours connecting with humble and awesome people! We hope to make this an annual event!
Lastly, we want to express our gratitude to current and future homeschoolers: Thank you. If you’re interested in homeschooling, don’t trust us. Verify for yourself.
This is a guest post by Scott Lindberg. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
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