“Timing is everything, in education as in many other fields. It’s not enough to teach well. You have to teach well to kids who are ready to learn, kids who are developmentally ‘ripe’ for learning.”
- Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax

Monday, January 21, 2008

Major Changes

So let me start this by saying that I have never EVER wanted to homeschool. I thought that it was weird and that my kids would turn out "weird" if they were homeschooled. I had no problem with public education, I had never really given it much thought though. I did alright in school, and always said that it was a good thing for kids to experience - especially socially.

Well, a few months ago my husband's employer gave him this book called "A Thomas Jefferson Education" by Oliver DeMille. They told him he should read it, and they were having a seminar in January that we could come to if we wanted. We put it off for quite a while because we were too busy, and I wasn't very interested in it. Finally, around Christmas time we decided we better start reading it so we could decide if we wanted to go to the seminar. The book explains a teaching method that is based on how the founders of the nation, like Jefferson, were educated. Mainly by reading classics, and having mentors. They talked about how this method can be used in all types of schools - home, public, private, charter, and even businesses. So at first I thought that maybe we could apply these things to our children's public education, but the more I read the more that it all made sense to us. For some reason it really resonated with us, and we felt like this is something that we should do and the only way to do it effectively is to home school. I was still fighting that prompting and using the "socialization" excuse for why we should not home school, and then we got to a section in the book that explains how messed up the social experience of public school is. We get divided in to "social classes" based on age and we form groups and cliques, and look down on the younger students. We are pressured and bullied into doing things we don't want...I could go on and on. Anyway, I agreed with every thing they said. I don't think of my school years as the best years of my life and to be honest I hardly ever talk to any of the people who seemed so important back in those days. It does not teach you how to socialize in the real world, that is for sure. They explained that children taught effectively at home will get plenty of socialization and they will be comfortable socializing with people of all ages, gender, ethnicity, and station in life. So that was the turning point for me and I started looking into this whole thing more seriously.

The book describes public school as a "conveyor belt". They teach us WHAT to think, and we won't succeed unless we conform to the teacher's way of thinking. This system will not prepare us to be leaders in society, we will be followers. Professional schools teach us WHEN to think, in regards to the area of expertise we are pursuing. The TJEd method teaches you HOW to think and how to make good choices and impact society, and you can be successful in anything you pursue.

We attended the seminar about a week ago and that just reinforced everything for us. We decided that this is definitely something we should do, and we are pretty much changing our whole lives. It's not just a change in educational methods, but really a change in lifestyle. We took our son out of preschool - we figured the sooner the better. We also gave away our entertainment center and we are going to put our TV in the storage unit. The book recommends having an entertainment room with the TV and computer and such, but we don't have an extra room for that right now so we are going to put it in storage until we buy a house. We think that this will help us get used to not watching it all the time. The living room is the most important room in the house and if the TV is the center of that room, it will be the center of attention and focus. I already knew that it was a waste of time, but I can't believe we are seriously removing it from our home! It did feel pretty liberating though. The living room is supposed to have lots of books in it, and be the center of learning in the home. So we are in the process of trying to create an enjoyable atmosphere in the living room. There are a lot of other changes we are going to try to implement as well to create the proper lifestyle in our home. I know you probably think we are crazy, but we are pretty excited about this.

The educational method in nutshell is this:

There are Four Phases: Core (age 0-8), Love of Learning (8-12), Scholar(12-16), and Depth (16-22). Our children are obviously in the Core Phase. During this phase is when the kids learn who they are. You focus on teaching them right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. You DO NOT push them into learning things that they aren't interested in. This is the hardest part. We always want to push push push little kids to learn everything as early as possible and then that is when the learn to HATE learning. Instead, you should wait until your kids show an interest in the subject and then you help them until they start to get bored and you stop. You don't push. As they get older you help ignite their curiosity and then you back off, and let them satisfy it on their own. The children learn to love learning, and they will educate themselves. As parents we have to constantly be inspiring them and we help them when they need it, but we don't force them to do anything. Love of Learning Phase is when they begin to be more interested in Learning and they move around to all sorts of things learning as they go. You structure time for them, but not the content of that time. You let them study whatever they want. Scholar Phase is when things get a little more serious. They will spend hours reading and studying each day and they will do it because they want to. Depth Phase is when they move onto college and such. They spend the majority of their time studying. There is obviously a lot more to all of this, but those are a brief description of the phases.

We have it kind of backwards in our society. We push our little kids to learn everything and then when they are teenagers we let them do whatever they want. It should be the other way around. Young children should be allowed to play all they want, and the teenage years are when we should push a little harder, expect more from them, and help our kids succeed.

The other element of this education model are The Seven Keys. They are:

1. Classics, not Textbooks
2. Mentors, not Professors
3. Inspire, not Require
4. Structure Time, not Content
5. Quality, not Conformity
6. Simplicity, not Complexity
7. YOU, not Them

I could go into so much more detail, but I will just suggest that you read the book. I'm not saying that it is for everyone, but for our family and our desires this seems to be the perfect solution. I know that it is going to be hard work, but it will be satisfying work and we are really excited.

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