An Essay About Service, Ethics, and Personal Empowerment - 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.

© 1991, Home Education Magazine

This piece is part of the series Homeschooling Freedoms at Risk Originally published
in the May-June 1991 issue of Home Education Magazine (Top)

Freedoms At Risk - Twenty Years Later
Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk
Freedoms Responsibilities And The “Four Pillars”
Homeschooling Rights and Responsibilities
Bitter Pill-ars to Swallow
From Across the Nation

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One Response to “Bitter Pill-ars To Swallow”

  1. debra elramey says:

    I’ve homeschooled my children since 1983 when there were only three legal alternatives: public, private, or parochial schools. My firstborn, Jesse, turned five while the court case Duro v. District Attorney was still underway. Since the compulsory school age in North Carolina was seven I didn’t have to sweat it – at least not for a couple of years down the road. But in the meantime I did some fervent praying. Then, when Jesse turned seven Delconte v. State became the landmark court case that would officially grant North Carolina parents the right to home school their own children.

    Soon we were in good company. A French-Canadian family from Montreal, the DuSablons, moved directly across the street from us into the tan stucco house with the sprawling eucalyptus tree in the front yard. They were all bilinguals; the kids spoke both fluent French and English and were taught at home. Devout Catholics, they added a new family member each year- thus receiving the “best parishioner” award from Saint Therese.
    We soon discovered other families in our neighborhood who’d abandoned the great Titanic of public education and rowed off to safety in their separate lifeboats. There were the Lamns around the corner on Conner Street with the white pit bull who seemed like one of their own family members. Also among the home school cohorts was the Oates family, two blocks over on Nash Street. Then there were the Killions from Elm City, who stated that God had told them to remove their children from the public school system and get them “in the ark.” On bright sunny days we gathered at each other’s homes (arks) or met for picnics at the Recreation Park and talked shop. We discussed teaching methods we liked or disliked while the kids ran and played together. This was the first home school support group in Wilson. If someone wanted to organize a field trip, teach French or sign language or art, they were free to do so, no questions asked. Those who wanted to participate did and those who didn’t declined. It was that simple.

    The movement soon grew and flourished like a rose garden in the heart of spring. At that time we had no name except “Homeschoolers.” There was no centralized form of government, no dues, no constitution and by-laws. And no statement of faith to sign because it was understood that we weren’t a church organization and matters of faith were not within the realm of our jurisdiction. But we came together in one accord with a common interest: to network as a means of encouraging and supporting each other. We banned together to preserve our right to educate our children according to our individual values. No one ever questioned the others’ doctrinal beliefs in a day when our freedoms were so tentative - and may very well be again in the not-too-distant future.

    Many of the original homeschoolers’ children have all graduated. But a few of those whose children still learn at home opted out of the group when it developed a more authoritarian structure - a system which many homeschool parents denounce in principle.

    Debra Elramey

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