- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

I just discovered a new source for getting educational materials at a good price.

I was looking at EBay and typed in “educational CDs.” I got five pages of hits. I then searched for “books” and “textbooks,” and the number was in the tens of thousands. There even are items to help special-needs children learn, such as math for autistic children and how to teach children with attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder.

Again, I am amazed by how easily we can home-school our children, with materials available at the touch of a finger. Technology has provided us with unlimited access to virtually any type of information, to any level we could want to pursue.

Even college courses are available online. What a boon for the student who needs to travel or do various activities while pursuing his or her schooling. Also, imagine how the walls that traditionally have limited education are getting knocked down. After all, why should a college be limited by the number of students who can fit in a classroom? Why should students be limited by the courses available from any one institution?

I envision a totally new method for post high school learning that would give any student in the world, regardless of age or SAT score, the ability to learn the material that formerly only the most privileged students could receive. With wireless technology, it should be possible to attend classes while on a ship or a plane or an island in the Pacific Ocean.

At the same time, our life learning should be captured and reported to the general body of mankind and recognized for the value it brings. If someone knows how to use a certain plant to heal a serious illness in one remote corner of the world, that knowledge should be made available in every other part of the world. And that person should be recognized for the knowledge, the same as any government-supported researcher in a spotless laboratory in the United States.

Even though we have the ability to expand education beyond all the former limits of geography, language and income, humanity still is following old pathways in its thinking. People still are thinking in terms of “getting into good colleges” instead of “learning what I need and want to know, in the most useful way possible.”

It’s as if someone continues to believe that we have to use a horse and buggy even though trains, planes and automobiles are zipping by that person’s home. It’s OK if you enjoy driving a carriage rather than a car, but you should realize that you have options.

Today, everything from medical education to law studies is available through nontraditional routes. Of course, there are tests, exams and boards that must be passed to ascertain whether knowledge has been gained. But what’s wrong with going a different route?

We are creatures of habit, and it is natural to follow old barriers or pathways until we discover that new ones work better. I believe home-schooling is just the tip of a new movement, a shift in attitudes about what education is and how we can learn in newer and more effective ways.

With the advent of infinitely more compressed means of sharing information, there is going to be an inevitable democratization of knowledge. This is not a one-way street. Each person will become the expert in the areas of his own exploration and creation. The meritocracy will replace the bureaucracy.

Most exciting of all, the nexus for all this will be the family. Mothers no longer need be looked upon as “just housewives” but can be seen as the educational guides and valued shapers of minds they truly are. Dads can be breadwinners and attentive parents at the same time. Children will not have to give up the security of the family for the activity of learning.

I look forward to the day when an African family or someone in South America can hear lectures from Paris or Boston, Beijing or Honolulu — and then return the favor. I believe home-schooling is a catalyst for this process and that the results will be liberating for the entire world.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a free-lance writer who lives in Maryland.

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