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This is Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk Part 3

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Homeschooling Rights and Responsibilities: Are We Losing Them?

by Becky Olson
Many of us, in our complacency, have come to believe we have the right to homeschool our children. That is true. We do have that right. Along with that privilege is the responsibility involved in home education. And many of us have dealt with that, too. We know we have taken upon ourselves the privilege and obligation to educate our children in the best possible way. Amen. So simple, right?
Wrong. It isn't that simple. Among homeschoolers, who I have always believed were the new freedom fighters, a great schism has occurred. Many people have failed to understand the connection between privilege and responsibility. They are freedom fighters in name only. Instead of letting the school superintendent tell them how to educate their children, they are letting the homeschool leadership of a neighborhood, city, state, or national assembly tell them how to educate their children.
I see many people falling into the trap of believing they are educating their children when, in fact, they have turned over their liberty to some other authority figurehead. People who have shown great spirit and have worked through much difficulty to regain custody of their children from the school system are being convinced to again allow some other bureaucracy make the decisions concerning the who, when, and why of their family life and education.

Many of these organizations are encouraging people to turn over their own personal power. They are encouraging their constituency to let the alliance make decisions, let the group design the system of education best suited for their children. Membership is encouraged to "trust" the leadership to "know" what is best for the collective associates. Member input and options are kept to a minimum. The leadership makes all decisions and passes these decisions down to the membership.
I see two different bands: those that wish to maintain control over the decisions that affect their families, and those opting to give that control to their local, state, or national homeschooling association. The people, the individual, has the power, the right, the responsibility to make decisions for themselves. No matter how hard an association tries to convince the individual s/he doesn't have that freedom, or the information to make a choice, the individual does have the power. In our complacency, we have allowed the government, in its many forms, to convince us we are not capable of making certain decisions.
We have been happy to give up the opportunity to make some choices because we don't want the responsibility that goes along with it. "If I send my child to school, and the child doesn't learn, I am not responsible for his/her illiteracy. It is the school's fault s/he hasn't learned." The parent gives up the power, the particulars of the child's education and also the responsibility for the education. It's a nice safe package. "They" can be blamed -- and given the credit -- for the child's education. The parent is absolved of the responsibility. Or so the bureaucracy would have us believe. That's not the truth. Deep down inside, each of us knows this. The parent is always ultimately responsible for the child. And the parent knows what is best for his or her own child.
We have worked hard in many states to keep from answering to a state bureaucracy about the curriculum we use, or don't use. Many have worked to have testing abolished or at least minimized. All of these efforts were done to expand the parameters of the homeschooling family's personal options. Again, so many individuals are giving up those hard fought for freedoms by turning over those same personal choices to an organized group. They are allowing an association to decide which curriculums, which books, which tests, which support networks have their approval, and can be used. Without questioning this, families are accepting these arbitrary decisions. Without meeting any of the members of this or that support network, the state or national group's endorsement tells me if I do or don't want to meet these individuals.
Homeschoolers are leaders, not followers. Homeschoolers have chosen to take the responsibility for their own lives. They do not defy authority, they question it. We must recognize that these privileges we have worked so hard to establish concerning education are individual and personal. These liberties are part of the freedoms included in the framework of our founding fathers (and mothers) declaration of independence. Freedoms so important that thousands have, and continue to, risk their lives to establish and preserve them. When any sect sets itself up to define these rights, sets itself up to choose these rights, sets itself up to take the responsibility of the outcome of the enactment of those rights for us, we have lost everything we have struggled so long and hard for.
Homeschoolers! Recognize the "organization" of homeschooling for what it is -- an attempt to control and manipulate our choices for the greater glory of the organization's leadership. The power of these groups is not drawn from the combined freedom of the membership. It is created by diminishing the individual members' autonomy. All that is accomplished by these highly organized contingents is not done to provide independence for the membership, it is done to bring tighter control over the membership, to diminish even further the freedoms of the members, and to ultimately escalate the power of the leadership.
Accept the responsibility for your freedom. Examine what is given to you. Question decisions made for you. Take the leap of faith -- trust your own instincts. Only you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Stand up and be counted as an individual supporting your own and others' privileges and responsibilities. History has shown us repeatedly that when we allow the autonomy of any society to be diminished, more and more is taken from that group. When we contribute to the schism of the national homeschooling community, we contribute to the erosion of the independence of the homeschooling community at large. If the highly structured organizations allow the freedoms of the unstructured coalitions to be taken away, soon the freedoms of the structured alliance will be attacked.
The time has come for homeschoolers to stop arguing among themselves and join together to protect the freedom of all people. We must protect the opportunity to choose public education, private education, structured homeschooling, unstructured homeschooling, religiously based homeschooling and secular based homeschooling. If we allow anyone's choices to be diminished, we allow our own choices to be compromised.
"In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me--and by that time no one was left to speak up." Pastor Martin Niemoller
Becky Olson, mother of five, has been a long-time homeschooling leader in the Tucson, Arizona area.

Bitter Pill-ars To Swallow

An Essay About Service, Ethics, and Personal Empowerment

by Linda Winkelreid-Dobson
You'd like Doc Preston, too. Short in stature, a giant in heart, he's a pediatrician par excellence. No white jackets here; his casual sweater and shoes remind you he's a person first and foremost, yet still as professional as the next guy.
Welfare kids and the sons and daughters of rich businessmen - black, white, yellow and brown - are greeted with the same smile, respect, and sense of awe all children deserve.
When first he became my new pediatrician when I was thirteen, I thought him an old coot, asking all those personal questions instead of just taking my blood pressure and temperature. I'm still amazed at how much he learned between then and the birth of my first child twelve years later. Though many years and many more miles separate us, Doc Preston shines as a beacon by which I measure the light of the heart and soul of all professionals. Today it takes just one visit to discover whether a practice is Hippocratical - or hypocritical. Men and women as selfless and dedicated as he in homeschooling are the first I'd bestow the title of "pillar" on. Funny, isn't it though, but folks like Doc Preston would shun the title, anyway.
And what of self-appointed pill-ars? It's a title that feeds the ego; Doc Preston's ego faded long ago. It's a title that begs respect; Doc Preston earns his. It's a title that serves its bearer as a shield; Doc Preston has nothing to hide.
What bothers me most about hiding behind words like pill-ar and Christian is not the terms, but that which I discover is being hid - lies, fraud, slander, and a divide-and-conquer methodology reminiscent of the most evil, hostile takeovers in recent history.
Normally, I'd say any group who needs to stoop to such duplicity to gain power doesn't warrant attention - they usually die by their own hand. But this group preys on the most powerful emotions and vulnerabilities of humanity; ignorance (that of the new homeschooler seeking service), greed (I want my child to have/be the best), and most viciously, fear (don't mingle with the heathens!).
Think about it. You're a new homeschooler and you hear of a workshop within travelling distance. You gladly dig into your pocket and plop down money to hear what the "expert" has to say. He says you must spend thousands of dollars for a proper home education. You believe him. And he just happens to have thousands of dollars worth of material to sell you.
Or how about the attorney, well-versed in state regulations, who has raised fear mongering to an art form? He tells you your state regulations are fine today, but "we've got trouble brewing right here in River City." He just happens to sell insurance to "protect" you. Do you buy?
I've got nothing against people making a buck. But any pill-ar forced down my throat is a bitter pill-ar, indeed. Particularly at a time when humankind's very survival depends heavily on unity, cooperation, and our ability to raise ethics and service above profit. Those of us who oppose separatism and exclusivism must speak out to protect the service, ethics, and personal empowerment in which we place our trust.
It seems the moment we put our faith in experts in any profession, the fees increase in direct proportion. Personal energy, and thus, ability, dissipate. Our own energy mingles with theirs, and theirs grows beyond energy to explode in power. Are not the queer politics of power merely representative of the price for relieving ourselves of the obligation, responsibility, and constant vigilance personal power requires?
Perhaps the most bitter pill-ar to swallow is the justification offered by taking scripture passages out of context, further distorting the beautiful truths Christ taught 2000 years ago. My patience wears thin with folks who don't know me or my family, who don't comprehend me or my homeschooling purpose, and who don't care to do either, yet they profess to validate my political beliefs through absurd public statements, create regulations that have me contemplating moving out of my state, and hold on their shoulders the weight of a burden I long ago chose to bear myself. I don't want justification - I want truth.
When a publication refuses to consider my writing because I will not sign a statement of faith, I choke on that pill-ar. There is nothing Christ-like about closed minds, closed doors, closed policies, or closed hearts. Indeed, these states are anti-Christ and go against the very fiber of His message of understanding, compassion, acceptance, and love. Bitter pill-ars gag, separating us from the life-sustaining joy of free thought, feelings, and deeds accomplished in love.
I see quacks prescribing miracle "pill-ars" for every homeschool growing pain, searching for a way to capitalize on any suffering it may be causing, getting so lost in the opportunities for power they represent that, at best, the good of the movement is lost in both mind and heart. At worst, the good of the movement as a whole is never even considered.
For if it were, what would be their Christ-like response? Would it not embody truth instead of lies, guidance instead of dictatorship, giving instead of receiving, unity instead of divisiveness?
I remember Doc Preston getting us through 3 cases of chicken pox, 10 bouts of the flu, and at least a dozen ear infections via Ma Bell, because he shared his wisdom via the 6:30-7:30 AM call-in hour, saving patients countless time and expense if an office visit wasn't really necessary. He taught me how to mix a batch of home-made cough syrup which worked just as well as store bought, yet was healthier and safer to administer. When I called him not long after we moved away because the kids were sick and I had yet to find competent medical care, he spent half an hour reminding and assuring me that I, too, possess the knowledge and love necessary to see them through.
This, my friends, is the kind of person the homeschooling movement needs, and in fact, already has. I, along with folks all across the country, field innumerable phone calls every day, sharing information and a warm, loving approach with anyone who asks. Just yesterday a woman returned a stack of books and magazines I loaned her because she intends to begin homeschooling her oldest in the fall. Just in time, too, because a teacher's college student in Rochester is scheduled to call this evening for information he needs for a paper he's preparing on the subject. Is there fame? Profit? A title? No, there's a greater reward - the joy of Christ-like service, not in name, but in deed.
Thanks, pill-ars, but you're too hard to swallow. I'll continue seeking out the Doc Prestons of the world. And we'll continue building the solid foundation that makes pillars not only unnecessary, but tastelessly ostentatious. Personal empowerment -sharing what we have and know freely with others, and turning to true friends who do the same in our time of need - is working just dandy. Maybe you should try it.

This is Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk Part 3 - Please Continue

HSFAR Part 1 | HSFAR Part 2 | HSFAR Part 4

Editors Note Electronic Edition - Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk: The original collection was put together to be read as a whole, and in fairness to all involved this electronic version should be no different. Because of its length, Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk has been uploaded in four parts labelled Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Please read this file in its entirety.
Copyright 1991, Home Education Magazine
Electronic Version Copyright 1996, Home Education Magazine

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