Monday, August 9, 2010
A Thomas Jefferson Education
Mark and I are convinced that as of right now we are called to home school our kids. It is very overwhelming realizing that our children's education and training is our responsibility. But we also believe that God has equip us and will continue to equip us with everything we need to accomplish the race he has set before us.
One book that has inspired me and given me a jumping off point is "A Thomas Jefferson education" by Oliver Demille. His approach to education is using a method called classic/mentor Education. Through reading the classics Little Red Riding Hood, Dr. Seuss, and working your way to more complicated readings, and so on. This type of education is to create students who think for themselves. Who dissect what they are reading and talk about it with their mentors. What did the characters go through, how do we apply what we read to our own lives. The mentor guides the student through what they are reading, helping the student digest, think, and apply what they are reading not only pertaining to their lives but also how it pertains to them in the world.
"There are two types of great teachers which consistently motivate student-driven education: mentors meet face to face with the student, inspiring through the transfer of knowledge, the force of personality, and individual attention. Classics were created by other great teachers to be experienced in books, art, music, and other media." TJE pg. 20
I firmly believe I was one of the students in the public school system that passed under the radar. I believe that I did well enough to keep getting passed until I graduated, but I don't believe I was educated. I do not believe I was well equipped with what I needed to know. I still stink at math, English is better but still difficult. I clung to what I needed to know at the moment and as soon as I was done with it I chucked it out the window. I have to say what I did retain was because my parents worked long hours with me at our dinning room table. Also the first book I ever read was called "Will you be my friend", which my dad taught me to read. I had a mentor but it was my parents who took the time to help me grasp what I needed to grasp. Who encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me through the tears of learning. If I had been able to learn at my pace, if my environment had not depended on tests and how I should have been doing compared to my peers, but focused on educating me and giving me a desire and passion to learn I believe I would have accelerated beyond what I would have even imagined for myself. I also had a couple teachers who did not know how to teach something in a different way. So it was my fault for not understanding what they where trying to teach me. I was not a behavior problem, I tried to do my work, I tried to pay attention, I really honestly could not understand what they were teaching...and to them it was my fault.
Back to the book:
The solution to the American Education Question is to focus on great teaching rather than education. Each semester at George Wythe College I (the author) am moved by a new class of young people who literally come alive during four months of coming face to face with greatness in mentors and classics. Suddenly learning is magic, like falling in love; doors and eyes open and students become thinkers, creators, and leaders. pg. 25
Demille says there are three types of education:
I. public education: which tries to prepare everyone for a job, any job, by teaching them what to think. This includes rudimentary skills designed to fit them to function in society.
a. historically the primary goal of public school's, the reason they instituted was to educate the poor so they could get a Job and take their place in society (the middle class already had private schools and apprenticeships, and the wealthy were tutored at home.
b. Public schools come with a down die. consider three successful cases: ancient Rome, Eighteenth century Germany, and nineteenth Century Britain. Each instituted Free public schools to educate the poor, and the standard of living increased. But eventually the professional and leadership schools deteriorated because they simply couldn't compete with free, government-subsidized schools.
II. Professional Education: Derived from apprenticeship and trade schools to law, medical and MBA programs-which creates specialists by teaching them when to think.
a. private schools arose from the apprenticeship tradition of training youth for specific trades or professions.
b. The purpose is to get them into college or technical school, then trade or law school, and then law school, CPA or MBA school, medical school, etc.
c. this type of training allows you to be an expert at whatever you choose to do, however it only works in an interdependent system where other experts tell them when their knowledge is to be applied and what to do outside the scope of their expertise.
III. Leadership Education, which I (the author) call "Jefferson Education," which teaches students how to think and prepares them to be leaders in their homes and communities, entrepreneurs in business, and statesmen in government.
Leadership Education has three primary goals:
1. to train thinkers, entrepreneurs and statesmen-individuals with the character, competence and capacity to do the right thing and to do it well in business, government, church, schools, family, etc.
2. to perpetuate freedom, to prepare people who know what freedom is, what is required to maintain it, and who exert the will to do what is required.
3. teaching students how to think.
a. Those who know how to think are able to lead effectively and are able to help society remain free and prosperous.
"Those who know only what to think or when, no matter how valuable their contributions to society, are not capable of maintaining freedom or leading us to real progress without additional leadership skills. the success and perpetuity of our society depend upon leadership education."
He also talks about schools being a conveyor belt. Setting up school systems like factories. You enter kindergarten, you continue on to 1st grade, 2ND grade, and so on. Then you graduate. Then you continue on the conveyor belt when you enter college. You then are stamped with a guaranteed to be educated. Anyone can basically get on the conveyor belt to do just well enough to pass and be done. But with the conveyor belt comes conveyor belt professionals. We are no longer taught to think outside the box but we are taught that anything outside the box is nonsense and sometimes crazy.
I love the thought of teaching Maddie to be a leader, not someone who gets on a conveyor belt and does what she's told, because she's told to do it. I want her to think is this right or is this wrong. I want her to not think or do, because it is what you do (in the eyes of other people). I want her to question. I want her to bring it before God, to compare it with God's word to see if aligns with His word and go from there with her though processes.
After talking with Mark we agree that we both love TJE. We also agree we believe we do not want to use this alone when homeschooling our kids. We believe that incorporating various types of learning is also beneficial to out kids. We believe this because one we need records to show the state here is what we are doing and here is where are kids are on the learning journey. But we think it is beneficial for our kids to have experience being taught in different ways.
Do we have it all figured out, of course not. We are still reading, learning and when we are in the middle of school I'm sure we will still adjust and change with the way our kids learn. I'm excited, timid, but not discouraged that homeschooling is a path we are to take. I'm excited to explore with my kids the world of learning. I'm excited to be guided by the holy spirit as to what will spark our kids to love learning, to seek out learning, and continue the life long process of learning.
I have begun to look for the classics at the salvation army and rummage sales. I have recently been given many fabulous books that others have passed on to me. For example I found Heidi at the salvation army for $.49! I was given Grimm's fairy tales, we've been given a couple of different kids bibles, and the list goes on. I love opening up a world of learning to Maddie simply by reading to her!