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When a Nation’s Head of Education Chooses Homeschooling, It Hits the Fan

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When a Nation’s Head of Education

Chooses Homeschooling, It Hits the Fan

By Linda Dobson

homeschooling

© Jamaica Observer

I became aware of Prime Minister – and Education MinisterHolness’ decision to homeschool last week when a friend in Jamaica contacted me. She let me know she had loaned Prime Minister Holness one of my books. She said he still hasn’t returned it yet, kindly insinuating that maybe the book (and hers!) had something to do with the minister’s announcement.

Thrilled with the news, I wrote a letter to the minister and his wife that appears in yesterday’s Jamaica Observer. From a line in the letter, the paper titled it, “JA fortunate to have homeschooling father as education minister.”

May I be among the first to welcome you to the wonderful world of homeschooling!

Accepting full responsibility for your children’s education is a huge decision in the best circumstances, and I congratulate you for making it while knowing controversy and politically charged comments would follow. I’m encouraged by the many comments in various media from people who understand that, as parents, we must make our children’s education and happiness a top priority. Parents are, after all, the ones who know them best and love them most, so we are the perfect candidates.

Homeschooling is an inspiring journey for the whole family, a grand experiment to discover the way your individual children best go about the act of learning. For amazing results, you won’t so much be teaching but rather guiding along the path. Homeschooling’s built-in flexibility allows for quick recognition and change when mistakes are made, so cherish them as the learning opportunities for the parents they represent!

We get only one fleeting childhood, and you can make it count for your children. Cherish each heartwarming experience as your children’s eyes light up with their “aha!” moments, and their questions fill your days with curiosity and wonder.

Jamaicans are extremely fortunate to have a homeschooling father as the education minister. You will discover much about how children learn best. You’ll realise the importance of “customised” education, and see how painlessly it’s accomplished with the help of technology. You’ll notice it’s quite different than the school approach. Indeed, one might call it antithetical to the school approach, leading you to realise there’s a fundamental difference between “schooling” and “education”. You’ll know what needs to be done to transform the schooling that is failing some students into real education children and parents know is worth pursuing.

I close with thoughts from one of my books, The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start.

“Before I actually started homeschooling, would any words put forth by others have conveyed the depth and breadth of the experience about to unfold? Ha. How could mere words do that? Words could not have made me understand, because I was not yet capable of ‘thinking outside the box’. I was still confusing ‘schooling’ with “education”, which prevented my thinking on the subject from flying toward a new place, a place where education transcends the schedule, organisation, and methods of others so that its possessor may lay full claim to it.

“The ability to think outside the box develops over time, a result of study, observation, thought, and a valuable collection of abject failures and stunning successes. Only your attention can give you the tools you need; only your time can hone them. If upon completion of your first year of homeschooling you are on your way to thinking outside the box, if your children are uncovering and following interests with the time available to them, if education is emerging as something you all do for yourselves instead of having it done ‘to’ you, congratulations. You are a homeschooling success.”

Linda Dobson

Imagine for a moment if U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced his family would start homeschooling. Or if the president announced a homeschooling journey. Or if somehow Arne Duncan became president, held on to the Education Secretary gig, and announced he’s homeschooling.

See also “Are They Really Trying to Fix a Broken School System?

Imagine how the homeschooling community would buzz, happy for the children and family. We’d likely be joined by his political supporters, as well. Conversely, many non-homeschoolers who don’t understand, along with political non-supporters, would eagerly line up to criticize. That’s exactly what’s happening in Jamaica right now, with well-wishers and critics expressing themselves equally.

Canadian Not In Support of the Homeschooling

P. Chin of Canada states, in part, in his letter to the editor titled “PM insults system for which he’s responsible:”

This confirmed what many of us already knew, that is, the Jamaican education system (private and public) is actually quite shabby, and in dire need of drastic repair and upgrade. This takes nothing away from the benefits of homeschooling, as journalist Barbara Blake Hanna from her own experiences has articulated many times. No matter how you look at it, all children are homeschooled in a sense, in one way or the other. They do much of their learning at home where they spend most of the day anyway. They do homework, research, assignments, they study and many still benefit from direct parental guidance with their work. In an ideal case, this provides a healthy balance for learning.

However, the Jamaican education system has many flaws which affect learning and the ultimate end results, and the PM who has the responsibility for education who is aware of this, has just insulted the very system he is responsible for…

Even before I knew the letter was in the paper, I’d also received an e-mail that queried:
Perhaps you could explain why the Prime Minister is to be congratulated for homeschooling his children, when all it shows is that as Minister of Education he has no faith in the system under his portfolio. Isn’t it an indictment on his effectiveness and his plans for the future in educating the Jamaican child?
-Kadene
Yesterday there were additional comments at the newspaper’s site. They, too, were not supportive of the prime minister’s homeschooling.

Why I Support Homeschooling

Why am I supportive of this family homeschooling? In part, it’s because many of us have been sharing the benefits of homeschooling for a very long time. We know that educating children need not be expensive and should not be a one-size-fits-all practice conducted in an institutional setting with compulsory attendance. We have reached many families and seen a positive impact on the children individually and the family as a whole. Many more families, though, hear the message when someone such as the prime minister give attention to homeschooling. Look how it has the country of Jamaica buzzing!  As more families hear the message, more will consider homeschooling. The more families who consider it engage in it, and realize the benefits.
You cannot truly see a system until you step outside of it. Only then is it possible to fix systems in “dire need of drastic repair and upgrade.”  Believe me, Jamaica’s system is not alone. This will be good for all Jamaicans because, as Debra Medina once said, “If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.” Your prime minister is the first in any country taking the first step.

 

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  1. [...] this link to read Linda’s wonderful open letter to the prime minister and Mrs [...]

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