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Creating Your Own Education Reform

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Creating Your Own Education Reform

By Linda Dobson

education reform

You are reading this blog for a reason.

Because of the ever-increasing number of laws related to schooling, politics and educational reform go hand in hand. The first President Bush called it “America 2000.” With a few tweaks and a slight name change, President Clinton gave us “Goals 2000.” (You don’t hear anything about those goals anymore!) The second President Bush touted the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” which, by the way, represented $44.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal 2002 (one year, at the federal level!).

The next president ballyhoos a new brand of education reform with an equally catchy name (Race to the Top), setting forth yet another set of standards and his ideas about how the government will see to it that those standards are met or, better yet, exceeded. Federal education funds are the carrot ensuring compliance, as any school that “doesn’t play” loses a sizable chunk of cash.

Every time the program changes, new panels are commissioned to perform new studies and then issue new guidelines for necessary curriculum alterations and their implementation. Eventually, this all filters down to the local school administrators and teachers, who merely carry out the orders from on high, whatever those orders may be.

In some cases, those orders trickle down to the children in the form of tweaks to their course of study. If, for example, current research shows that American kids lag too far behind other industrialized nations’ children in science, the U.S. kids find, at least in theory, a more vigorous science program. After the April 1999 Columbine tragedy, American children suddenly found themselves exposed to additional lessons in respecting diversity, new classes on how not to be a bully, and what to do when they see a bully in action. Additional training in everything from the joys of vegetarianism to condom use, if not part of the curriculum proper, enters via special assemblies.

Of course, there are only so many hours in the day, even at school. With so much material to cover, and pressure to produce outstanding test scores as well, the number of hours spent on the school agenda must expand beyond the time during which the school doors are open. Enter lots of homework to maintain the education reform of the day.

Bypass (or Leap Ahead of) Education Reform

There are two schools of thought on the state of American education. The first and most commonly held notion centers on the academic side of the topic. It considers illiteracy rates, falling test scores, failure to meet new standards, the trend of college remedial classes for incoming freshmen, and so on. By these criteria, American education is failing.

The second less publicized or discussed notion is that, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, the school agenda is a raging success as it works against independent thinking and trainsn chldren to accept confinement, classification, movement en masse as a bell tolls, unquestioned authority of others, and an unexamined life as an obedient consumer and producer. (Please see The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto [Oxford Village Press, 2000/2002] for a thorough treatise of this issue.) No matter which point of view you claim as your own, there is nothing here but a lose-lose situation for children.

You are reading this blog for a reason. Perhaps you’re a parent who has chosen to take your child out of school or not to send your child in the first place. If so, you are bypassing educational reform. Or maybe you’re one of the growing number of parents tired of waiting for any possible benefits of reform to trickle down to your child’s school. If so, you are leaping ahead of education reform. In either case, congratulations.

Do-It-Yourself Education Reform

In 1985, as I watched a laid-back little boy turn into a bundle of raw nerves as he attended kindergarten, the word “homeschooling” almost miraculously came to my attention. I spent subsequent weeks turning the idea over and over in my head, and I kept coming back to this phrase: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

No matter what your guiding motivations are, if you’re looking for change in your child’s education, you can do it yourself. In fact, that’s your only insurance that change will happen quickly enough to impact your child’s experience positively. The beauty of do-it-yourself education reform is that it begins in the comfort of your own home with some of the people you most love.

Adapted from Linda Dobson’s The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities. This book is available for purchase at, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookstore.


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7 Responses to “Creating Your Own Education Reform”

  1. happygirl says:

    I homeschooled my son from 1995-1999 so he would be able to read and write and do basic math. He had failed first grade repeated and they pushed him to 2nd and he still couldn't read at the end of that year. I needed to give him the attention he needed and was not able to get in school. He struggled in HS, but graduated. It was so hard for him. Now, I don't know if he will ever give college a try.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, happygirl. I'm soooo glad homeschooling was possible for your son! Given the economy, you might be very happy he doesn't choose college. And there are many options. The best thing will be to guide him to labor that will make him happy, whatever it may be. I wish you and him luck and a wonderful rest of the day. I really appreciate you are here, reading…many thanks.

  2. Lisa Wood says:

    We are homeschooling our four boys (we have five boys). Our oldest has decided to apply for the navy so he is no longer homeschooling.
    I so wished we had decided many years ago to go down this track. Its the best option for childrens education…they can learn what they want, and learn at a faster pace/slower pace. The benefits are many, my oldest so would have benefitted if we had homeschooled when he was in primary school. My youngest is 6 years old and he is developing skills that a school situation could never teach him.
    Great article about creating your own education.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Hi, Lisa,
      Nice to have you here! It's hard to not be able to turn back the clock. But you discovered homeschooling in time for your younger ones. I'm sure your oldest is glad you did. Five boys – I have to ask – are you ALWAYS cooking?!?
      Thanks for your kind words, Lisa

  3. Mother Mary says:

    Linda: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

    We thought that, but we also thought, "I could do this bad a job. No problem." Turned out we could do a whole lot better with a whole lot less. I think the key is WANTING to do a good job and most parents do; schools, not so much.

  4. Linda W says:

    Four years ago, the public education system was failing my child, and I did not want to face the fact that the idea of homeschool was our most viable option. After much thought, tears, prayer, and finding a curriculum that helped me organize and plan (thank God for Time4Learning!) we began our homeschool adventure. My child regained the self-esteem she had lost, and blossomed as a student. We are so glad and grateful that we jumped on the homeschool boat. If you are having doubts about homeschooling just consider that it could make life and education so much better for your child and your family!

  5. grandma_linda says:

    Thanks for taking the time to post inspiration and encouragement for other parents who may find themselves in similar situations! It's my hope that more and more children get to experience what yours has.

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