November 26, 2013

Alternative Educational Approach: Thomas Jefferson Education (TJed)

I’ve read a few great books about alternative educational philosophies. I’ve compiled some of my thoughts from this last book I read. (I will then post thoughts on the Waldorf Philosophy and another separate post of a comparison/summary of the two.) So, beware, my notes are choppy. The comparison post will be more polished.

Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching A Generation of Leaders
by Oliver DeMille

Excerpts from the book
Other peoples' quotes from book
My Thoughts

The Essential Question in my mind:
Is the education we are receiving on par with our potential?

Every person you have ever met is a genius.
And greatness is the purpose of each of us.

Two types of teachers: mentors (present) and classic (past)
- Teacher get students attention and starts them on the way and involves them Deeply. Students puts in the work to educate themselves.

Three major types of schooling
1. Conveyor belt education
2. professional education
3. leadership education:
inspires self-education and ability to think for themselves, based on character

Thomas Jefferson Education Model is Leadership Education
And I would add that so is the Waldorf Method, from a more creative/intuitive approach, but that is another post...

“Teaching, like farming and healing, is a cooperative art. Understanding this, Comenius in The Great Didactic again and again compares the cultivation of the mind with the cultivation of the field; so, too, Plato compares the teacher’s art with the physician’s.”

“…only when teachers realize that the principal cause of learning that occurs in a student is the activity of the student’s own mind do they assume the role of the cooperative artists. While the activity of the learner’s mind is the principal cause of all learning, it is not the sole cause. Here the teacher steps in as a secondary and cooperative cause.”

“Like the farmer and the physician, the teacher must be sensitive to the natural process that his art should help bring to its fullest fruition – the natural process of learning. It is the nature of human learning that determines the strategy and the tactics of teaching.” 
– Mortimer J. Adler -

Individualized Education Phases

  1. Core phase (0-8 years of age): Happy, interactive, confident child naturally playing and working in family setting. The meaning of tasks gains context through experiences with a rich learning environment.
  2. Love of learning phase (8-12ish):  Play at projects and skills which build understanding. Involvement is exploratory and interest driven With time to allow personal expression without negative feedback.
  3. Scholar phase (puberty/12-16): Readiness to apply greater level of effort to personal and academic achievement through a process of commitment and accountability.  Defined responsibilities that are agreed upon. Exposure to variety of materials and ideas in the spirit of passion and excitement for learning. A time to work hard at learning because you love it and to ponder, think, read, write,  listen, debate, analyze and learn. It is the time to lose yourself in study.
  4. Depths phase (16-22): Profound hunger to prepare for on-coming responsibilities and future contributions in society. To acknowledge limitations both personal and in current mentoring arrangement, and to submit to expectations of a mentor at a new and higher level. To network with those who are mission-oriented and involves the challenge of having your grand ideas revealed to be limited or ineffectual with the opportunity for exposure to peers with new and thought-provoking solutions to age-old problems. it is the ideal combination for the years of earlier training and must be individualized.

"Since learning is essentially a process of discovery the teachers Art consists largely in devices whereby one individual can help another to lift himself up from a state of knowing and understanding less to knowing and understanding more. left to his own devices the learner would not get very far unless he asked himself questions, perceived problems to be solved, suffered puzzlement over dilemmas, put himself under the necessity of following out the implications of this Hypothesis or that, made observations and weighted the evidence for alternative hypotheses."
- Mortimer j Adler -

Thomas Jefferson Education Basic Tenets:
  1. classics and mentors
  2. depth and breadth
  3. quality and application

No education is complete or even particularly valuable unless the student uses what he or she has learned to serve the community, family, society, and God.

A good mentor is someone of high moral character who is more advanced than the student and can guide his or her learning

Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.

Seven keys of great teaching or mentoring
  1. Classics not textbooks: Bible, Shakespeare, etc.
  2. Mentors not professors
  3. Inspire, not require: Force in learning dampens the passion, kills the spirit and destroys the zest and life of learning. Force trains followers not leaders. Inspiring is finding out what the students need and then creatively encouraging them to engage it on their own with excitement and interest
  4. Structure time, not content
  5. Quality, not conformity
  6. Simplicity, not complexity (Read, write, Do projects, discuss--not quick to point out answers or personal feelings....explore)
  7. You, not them (Mentors set the example and are continually learning and pushing themselves. They commit to study and ponder think about it and pay their own price in studying along with.

Teaching Parable: Baby Learning to Walk
  1. Observe
  2. Walk and smile: Try and have mini successes
  3. Totter and look alarmed: run into difficulties and get worried
  4. Fall and cry:  Fail and feel bad
  5. Start over again
Mentors' roles
  1. Smile throughout
  2. Shower advice
  3. Warn
  4. Encourage
  5. Praise
  6. Most importantly...set the example

The Mentor who shares her love for learning and willingness to submit to the labor that is the process of acquiring mastery will communicate the value of persevering through difficulties and trusting that ignorance and confusion must ultimately give way to knowledge and understanding.

You were born with potential.
you were born with goodness and trust.
you were born with ideals and dream.
you were born with greatness.
you were born with wings.
you are not meant for crawling, so don't.
you have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.


In Summary:
“A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences.” 
- Proverbs 27:12 -

Our Educational system has a the problem. Too many cooks in the kitchen trying to decide what our children need to learn and how to do that. There are tons of alternative educations out there that are worth exploring.

After reading much, I have come to view my children’s’ education as needing at least these three things:
  •  Inspires students to think for themselves
  • Based on good and true principles/values
  • Encourages their individual greatness (aka God-given potential/talents)

All types of education will change if parents lead the charge. 

What can you do as a parent to help truly educate your children? (regardless of whether or not you homeschool, charter school, public education, etc.)

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