Fabulous Farding Friday: Thomas Jefferson Education

My wife says that I am obsessive.  She thinks that when I pick something up that I am an all or nothing sort of person.  You could use the example of geocaching.  This past week has been the first time since August that I have not been geocaching in more that 48 hours. Other family obligations have made it hard to find the time. My obsession with geocaching has gone so far that I have even woken up at 4:00am and gone out a snag a cache.  I just needed to get a fix.

But I am not writing about my geocaching obsession. My latest “obsession” (for want of a better word), is Thomas Jefferson Education (or Leadership Education).  As most of my readers know, my wife and I (okay, mostly my wife) have been home schooling our children for the past year and a half.  If you have ever investigated home schooling, you know that there are many different ways that parents approach educating there children.

These approaches include unschooling, the classic model, “traditional” schooling (i.e., at a desk with a workbook), and many more.  Perhaps the biggest hurdle (at least after one makes the hurdle to actually homeschool) is to find the teaching model that is going to work best for your family.  My wife and I have been using the traditional model for all of our educating.  And it has worked fairly well.

At first we struggled with the time we needed to dedicate to this model, but eventually we discovered a way that removed some of the time burden from my wife and I, but also gave our children more freedom from the schedule class time model that we started out with.

Our children now have a check list of 40 things that they must accomplish each week.  This list includes 2 hours of silent reading (broken up into half hour segments), 4 session of reading out load, math lessons, history lessons, science and more.  Our kids usually eagerly finish up all 40 items by Friday and have an enjoyable weekend.  Sometimes they don’t and they struggle with a Saturday of school work instead of play.

This system has worked will for us over the past year and more.

But in our quest (again mostly my wife’s quest) to do the best for our children, my wife suggested that I read, A Thomas Jefferson Education for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille.  Being the skeptic that I am, I picked it up hesitantly and questioningly.  What whack-job homeschool theory is this?  My investigation found further evidence of the whackery of this theory in that this book is self published (George Wythe College was founded by DeMille).  And self-published in the academic world equates to this is so far out in left field that I could not find a publisher, so I published it myself.

However, as I read his ideas I found them captivating.

In a very over simplified nutshell, Thomas Jefferson Education is about reading good books with your children and then discussing them.  No, you don’t give good books to your children and then discuss what they read.  You read the book.  Your child reads the book.  Then you discuss the book with each other.  The discussion also comes in many forms, one-on-one conversations, group discussions, writing essays, critiquing essays, then rewriting essays, and more.  I have to admit. I was captivated.

I was captivated because, although I am not much of a reader, I like a good book, and I want my children to love books as much as my wife does.  This model seems to create a situation where parents model for the children reading.  But more important than that it also creates an environment where children are taught to think about what they read.  They are taught to question what they read.

I was also interested in it for one other reason.  As things go, we will probably discontinue our full-time homeschool after this academic school year.  My children have learned much over the past couple of years, and I feel that they are near their full potential for learning at this point.  I am afraid that by putting them back in school, they will drop back to where they were when we first started to consider homeschooling.

However, with this Thomas Jefferson Education model, and can encourage my children to go beyond their public school education and continue to maximize their potential as learners.  They will study good books with their parents.  They will discuss, debate, question, and ponder good books with their parents.  While at the same time attending public school and garnering from that what they couldn’t if they home schooled.

So, one final note, in conjunction with this study, I have recently read, The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  And as the Thomas Jefferson Education model encourages, I have written about it.  Please feel free to read and comment about it over at the Helaman Academy blog.

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