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Homeschool Australia on The Art of Education

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Homeschool Australia on The Art of Education

By Beverley Paine

The Art of EducationMy life’s passion is summed up in Linda Dobson’s opening to her
anniversary edition of The Art of Education: “I’m forever a homeschool
advocate, because I know life and learning beyond the confines of school
make for happier, healthier, saner adults with a strong sense of purpose and
the ability to thrive and attain success to the best of their abilities, and I
want to see as many families and children benefit from the practice as

It is said that we’re lucky if, during our education, we have access to one or
two teachers who have a special ability to “switch on” learning in his or her
students: Dobson is such a teacher, and continues to be one of my treasured
home education mentors. For learning doesn’t stop once we become adults
and we need mentors of this caliber throughout our lives.

Trust and Hope in the Art of Education

Why is Linda Dobson special? What does she have that other teachers lack?
Trust. Dobson trusts that a learner can and will learn. And her respect and
concern for children is genuine and heart-felt. Those characteristics,
together with her ability to see and act beyond her own immediate interests
and needs to that of a nation, give me hope.

And we need hope: while business reaps the benefits of information and
communication technology, public education views it with suspicion or
worse, misuses and abuses it to spy on children or reduce learning to
meaningless and competitive league tables. Good intentioned but ill-
informed educational reform adds confusion and cost. Public education in
the USA is no longer sustainable. Dobson’s plea, for families to make sure
their children “get an education instead of schooling,” is an agenda that will
be increasingly heard as schools continue to fail.

A proponent of self-education, Dobson is convincing. Her message,“We,
the people, must teach ourselves,” states the obvious, but it is a reality that
society has been lulled into letting go while governments imposed a
massive and failed experiment – that of compulsory public education –
upon us.

The Art of Education begins with a consideration of the “real business” of
schooling: the “subsumption of the individual… the [modification of]
natural, individual expression into a socially acceptable sameness.” When
home educated parents are asked, “Aren’t you worried about socialisation?”
it is this that people are talking about, not the acquisition of social skills. It
amazes me how often this is the first and most loudly voiced protest against
the concept of home education – academic education, civic responsibility
and personal fulfillment are sadly of lesser concern.

Parenting and the Art of Education

Few of us start home educating by defining “education” or critically
analysing the concept or purpose of schooling. Many families are refugees
from the school system, reluctantly starting on this path because school has
failed their children. The Art of Education questions the assumptions we
make about schooling, the way it is structured and its methods and purpose.
People who feel damaged by their personal school experiences will rejoice
and feel liberated by the messages in this book. Those who enjoyed school
or who found it to be a refuge from a less-than-happy home-life may feel
challenged by its strident anti-school language. But if we put aside our
personal biases and read the text objectively there is much to offer any
parent, for the subject is not purely “education.” There is much in this book
to guide our parenting practice towards a more holistic, healthy, and happy
relationship with our children well beyond their childhood.

“When education is art, the journey is the education.” By drawing on the
metaphor of education as art instead of business, Dobson makes a
compelling case which, through demonstrating the huge differences
between schooling and education, asks us to change our perspective about
notions of “success.”

An examination of the Self reveals those factors which create our lives:
social conditioning, experiences, nurture, genetics, etc. Dobson places an
emphasis on social factors, examining the imperatives these implant in our
minds and which drive our desires – wealth, duty, compulsion, reliance and
dependency on “experts” and overly excessive administration and
bureaucratization – to show us “how society’s institutions cleverly
encourage conformity and complacency.”

Dobson argues that education to prepare one for adult life needs to be more
than “feeble attempts at intellectual stimulation and preparation for jobs.”
How does home education offer more? Dobson answers by examining the
gift of time, real connection with others, a focus on self-knowledge and
self-understanding rather than selfishness, understanding the difference
between “learning” and “training,” and the role of context and meaningful
purpose, achievable within a home educating framework.

She offers a chilling summary of the damage to society inflicted by
schooling: “Schools condition adults (parents) to raise capital instead of
kids. Parents disconnect from kids. Schools take over even more parenting
responsibilities. Parents disconnect further from kids. Schools call in social
services to repair the trauma. Parents disconnect even further from kids.
Schools do even more of what they already do. And then those children
have children.” She blames schools obsessive attention on competitiveness
and reward and punishment, and argues that we need to shift our focus to
“family-centred, parent (adult)-powered lifestyle patterning.” We can do
this by noticing, examining, and changing our priorities – what matters and
what does not matter – and by taking conscious control of the actions which
direct our lives. The Art of Education not only provides a tool for doing this,
but takes you further by helping you develop, step-by-step, your own
personal educational philosophy for your family. From there Dobson
expands the horizons of homeschooling, dispelling some of the most
persistent and inaccurate myths. Far from the concept of children learning
in isolation at home with mom as teacher, home education is centred in
community learning with interaction with people of all ages and from all
walks of life.

Although aimed primarily at an American audience, this book has much to
offer families around the world worried about the fate of their children or
when considering their educational choices.

Examine the Art of Education with a Friend

Dobson peppers this text with insights and advice aimed at making the
transition from schooling to unschooling easier for parents, not with the
authoritative teaching voice we are familiar with but as a friend, a mother,
someone deeply concerned with our well-being. Her helpful attitude and
personal, “I’m on your side” tone is both encouraging and reassuring. The
practical tips, advice and insights give the reader appropriate, achievable
and immediate actions to take. Common sense starting points reveal just
how easy and simple homeschooling can be.

The Art of Education is a powerful and passionate plea for parents to take
stock of what’s happening in their homes and communities. It’s also a
blueprint for taking control, reclaiming the lost territory of family and
community responsibility.

~ Beverley Paine, Homeschool Australia

The Art of EducationThe 15th Anniversary Edition of The Art of Education by Linda Dobson is now available in e-Book format here. 254 pages. $4.99


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