I discovered Daniel Pink around the same time that most home-schooling parents did, last fall when Reason magazine published the cover story, "School's Out: Get Ready for the New Age of Individualized Education."

 

The article was an excerpt from Pink's book Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, a best-selling book dubbed by a New York Times columnist as "one of the decade's most important books."

 

I considered the article one of the best apologetics of home schooling I had ever read. What was most surprising was that it wasn't written by someone inside the movement, but by an outsider looking in, an author who while researching the emerging freelance worker and do-it-yourself world of work found home schooling to exist as a perfect corollary in a "parallel universe."

 

I corresponded with Daniel Pink at that time, to share the reaction of my college class to his article. (It wasn't positive, but these were 20-year-old business students who were about to enter the work world and didn't want anyone telling them the rules had changed.)

 

Months later, he was gracious enough to accept my invitation to speak at the Virginia Home Education Association (VHEA) Conference in Charlottesville, his first home schooling conference.

 

Daniel Pink's last real job before declaring his free agency was as a White House speechwriter for then-vice president Al Gore. I'd never met a White House staffer before, and I wasn't sure what to expect. A starched white shirt with an Ivy League attitude? (After all, Pink was a Yale law school grad, just like his boss's boss, Bill Clinton.)

 

But I didn't get a white shirt or an attitude. Instead, Pink was animated and avowedly "non-linear" (his words), with a quirkiness that was more Jeff Goldblum than Al Gore.

 

We sat down in the Teen Retreat room at the VHEA conference, while Dan ate his lunch in between signing books and toting his two young daughters around the conference.

 

Amy: For someone outside of the movement, you seem to have a pretty firm grasp of what home schooling is. How did you happen upon home schooling in your research?

 

Dan: I noticed, first of all, that among the people who are free agents, among the people who were working for themselves, there were a lot of people who were also home schoolers. Not everybody, but enough of a portion of them to make me raise my eyebrows, and say, "Ooohh, what's going on here?"

 

The other thing was the question I got from people I interviewed around the country about what it's like to work for yourself: "What does this mean for education?" And I never knew the answer to that question. So those two things coalesced.

 

As I learned a little bit more about home schooling, it was almost like being in this parallel universe of free agent nation because so many of the values - the animating values - were similar. So much of the spirit was similar.