Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

Linda Dobson began homeschooling her three children in New York in 1985. A nationally respected conference speaker, article and book author, she worked with Home Education Magazine as a news editor and columnist for many years.

Linda has served as a library board of trustees vice-president, town council person, "early years" advisor for Homeschool.com, and the editor for Prima Publishing Home Learning Library.

She continues to write on topics about education. Her latest book is: The Learning Coach Approach Inspire, Encourage, and Guide Your Child Toward Greater Success In School and In Life

Other Books By Author Linda Dobson:

What the Rest of Us Can Learn from Homeschooling How A+ Parents Can Give Their Traditionally Schooled Kids the Academic Edge

The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities for Kids Ages 3-12

The Homeschooling Book of Answers: The 101 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling's Most Respected Voices

Homeschooling the Early Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3- to 8-Year-Old Child

Homeschoolers' Success Stories: 15 Adults and 12 Young People Share theImpact That Homeschooling Has Made on Their Lives

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start

Oz Never Did Give Nothing to the Children They Didn't Already Have

By Linda Dobson

While interviewing grown homeschoolers and their parents for Homeschoolers' Success Stories, I heard at least six versions of a belief I have long held: You never understand the system until you get out of it.

Homeschoolers, each in her own way and each in his own time, eventually run into "things fishy" as they glimpse behind the curtain surrounding the workings of the nation's educational system while educating themselves about education. Likely questioning types to begin with, instinct compels them to tug a little here, yank a little there. Eventually, more and more of what typically goes on outside of public scrutiny is seen. I think collectively we're doing a pretty good job of revealing a Mighty Education Wizard blowing an awful lot of hot air.

Consider that in March, Education Week reported that while addressing a conference, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, announced he sees homeschooling along with charter schools, private schools, and cyberschools as competition the public schools can and must "beat." (What kind of attitude is this for the head education honcho, anyway? If he's rooting for the public schools to crush all alternatives, then let's call him the Secretary of Public Schools, shall we?) Since then, promises of improvements, often in the form of more greenbacks, have continued. Even President Bush has joined in the button pushing and smoke blowing, signing into law mandatory standardized testing as if it was some sort of educational snake oil.

What caused the original Wizard of Oz to put up as large a smoke screen as possible? Why, fear, of course, fear that folks would find out he wasn't nearly as all-powerful as he wanted them to think he was. This age of ever-increasing access to information has introduced the same fear to the educational establishment. It is aware that slowly, but surely, alternatives to its historic monopoly leave it bellowing to increasingly empty hallways.

Meanwhile, the freedom to bypass the system today places parents in a unique position in American educational history. They stand at an educational crossroads, as theirs is the transitional generation whose own type of education, despite the Mighty Education Wizard's efforts, grows obsolete. These parents, however, are charged with important decisions about greater educational choice and change for their children based on beliefs about learning that were formed in a different time from a different educational experience.

These beliefs continue to lay complete faith and trust at the feet of the Mighty Education Wizard, but since these beliefs are related to a rapidly disappearing educational model, the way many parents continue to think about learning today may actually be limiting their children's growth. At the same time, inquiring homeschoolers move on to learn we don't need a kinder/harsher/smarter/bigger/louder/richer Wizard. Indeed, we find we don't need a Mighty Education Wizard at all. Our "proof" in the form of happy, well-adjusted, intellectually stimulated children is growing so well that more and more of the aforementioned parents are tugging at the curtain with us, only to discover that their families, too, can figure out the tricks and live without the Mighty Education Wizard's pervasive influence in their lives. How dare they get so smart?

I'd like to set forth the notion that it's a combination of spending plenty of time getting to know their own children and enough glimpses behind the curtain; a combination of discovering just how much children are inherently capable of and understanding the self-serving reasoning behind the Wizard's tricks and propaganda. This powerful antidote just may be triggering the beginning of the end for the educational status quo.

Frank L. Baum chose a happy ending for his original Wizard of Oz. Once exposed, the Mighty Wizard 'fesses up, says he's sorry, then shares the truth with Dorothy and the others who had expected him to give them what they needed to become the beings they desired to be. The Wizard, they discovered, was incapable of such a feat. The wizard was only foolin'. His knowledge was neither greater nor more important that anyone else's. He was only human.

The folks who comprise the educational establishment are only human, too, humans growing increasingly fearful about personal and professional security. They likely will only grow louder and dig deeper into their bag of tricks to maintain the façade they need to keep functioning. As in Baum's story, if we are to witness a happy ending in the non-fiction educational story unfolding today, exposure is the only option that ensures the Mighty Education Wizard breaks down to tell the truth.

Oz never did give nothin' to the children that they didn't already have.

Copyright 2001, Linda Dobson, All Rights Reserved