Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thomas Jefferson Education

Recently a friend mentioned her glowing recommendation of how this book had really changed her homeschooling and how she herself was benefiting from it, so I thought I’d take a read myself.  Before her glowing endorsement I had sat in and/or listened to lectures on a Thomas Jefferson Education possibly by some of the College Plus speakers, but I honestly can’t remember who for sure.  I was familiar with the concept but had never read this book.  The book is, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century  by Oliver VanDeMille.

The concept behind a Thomas Jefferson Education is in part mentorship and classics.  This I knew.  How can I put this in a nutshell?  Basically the idea that uses classics to study, write, discuss and from options as well as become a “literate” society is the way to develop leadership learning.  The mentor comes in as a part of the individualized schooling process but not just in a “counselor” type of role but an actual co-learner.  This mentor is a person who engages, discusses and learns alongside much more than critiques.  Most often in the earlier years this mentor would be the parent.

If this concept is foreign to you I also encourage you to take a read.  The book reads fairly quickly and easily.  I read it over 3-4 days as I had breaks here and there.  Being familiar with the concept I admit may have helped and it may take longer to digest if this is new to you.  It’s a book I really am considering making a part of our library which at this stage in my life is a big announcement.
You see, I have vowed to buy no more bookshelves!  If you have homeschooled for a few years you may understand.  We also believe firmly in the philosophy of borrowing and I use inter-library loan extensively (which is how I got this book in the first place!)  But I digress…

For me this book pointed out a couple of concepts that may shed light on some issues our family has struggled with.  First both of my boys are having some “difficulty” in choosing a “career” path.  When I read how they describe education in three different paths one stood out as the way we’d chosen.  The book states there is the conveyor belt method, the professional education and the leadership/statesmen education.  Though I have never followed any particular “method” or book, other than the Bible, we actually followed somewhat of what they describe as a Leadership Education.

In the Leadership model you are actually creating thinking and problem solving skills.  One tool that works well is simulations, which gives me more answers to why we have loved what competitive Speech and Debate has done for our children, it is a simulation.  We want our children to be able to think for themselves and spot faulty logic.  We want them to be able to articulate, discuss and have a grasp of the “big” ideas.  With Leadership education you are training them for anything and everything.  They will do well at anything they chose because they can think.  

The professional path is where you’ve trained them for a particular career or field.  With this type of training they are trained to think but only in that career realm.  We haven’t been training them in this way so it made a lot of sense to me that now at this time they would struggle with being put in this place.
So what to do with this information?  Well for us it makes us aware, at least in part, of why the struggle  exists.  It will help us to focus on the “you are prepared for anything” and the fact we’ve already been discussing heavily that you have lots of versatility and a certain major is not a lifetime commitment.  To me it was eye opening just to realize it.

The second area that I see our family has gleaned from this method is the seeing problems clearer piece.  Many times in multiple areas and situation we seem to look at things differently than most people.  People in general can many times be focused on the peripheral issues but not even know where the real problem lies.  Many times my husband, I and even the kids seem to pick up on things and clearly see what and where the problems are.  This truly is a blessing and I also believe in part having to do with gifting.  It also can sometimes be a burden, but now were getting into a whole different subject!

For me the book was very encouraging and affirming and did give me several ideas to improve.  I also highly endorse it as a good read and possible library addition!

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