March 11, 2013

Why We Chose the TJEd Model for our Family's Education

As a high school senior I became disillusioned about the fidelity of the school system I was graduating from.   I distinctly remember feeling that I had become GOOD at a lot of things, but I was not truly GREAT at anything.  I started college feeling lost and unsure.  What I needed was a mentor; someone who could guide me through the world personally by introducing me to the classics.  Someone who could help me to become GREAT!

Oliver DeMille started a movement in education almost two decades ago.  He named his philosophy the Leadership Education Model or Thomas Jefferson Education.  Five years ago, he spoke at a seminar I attended.  He challenged us as we left, to go home and read classics books, find like-minded people, and get together regularly to discuss our thoughts.  Plunging into the unknown, I started a book group called “Mothers Who Know” that meets once a month. 
Studying the classics regularly brings you face-to-face with the greatest minds in history.  This process will change and inspire you to become better.  If I am going to mentor my children in the classics, I need to know them intimately myself.  For instance, when I studied Les Miserables this last fall I read the book, watched the movie, listened to the CD of the musical driving around town, attended a live performance of the musical, and discussed it with my book group.  My children now have a great love of Les Mis, because I exemplified a real love of this story.

Studying great classic works can be hard work.  If the home is filled with distracting media, it may be difficult or impossible to study.  Thus, my family has opted to not have a television or any video games in our home for the last four years.  Our children are allowed to be “bored” on purpose.  They have to find their own fun.  Without distracting media in our home, I am able to fill that space with great things.  Memorizing and reciting poetry, studying the Suzuki method for violin,  Spelling to Write and Read, Latin, The Life of Fred math series, gardening, swimming, reading and listening to classical stories for children, canning, raising pet chickens, and serving others in our community keeps us plenty busy.
The Thomas Jefferson Education model does not offer a specific curriculum. It is a philosophy and a way of life.  DeMille identifies different phases that children go through as they develop.  Each of the phases has specific goals that help our children to become the best individuals they can be.  Young children need to learn a set of core values.  Older children should establish a wonderful love of learning with different strategies of how to approach studying classics. Teen and young adults dig deep into great works and learn to keep commitments as scholars.  Through succumbing to a mentor and exposure to the classics, children can’t help but become not only GOOD, but GREAT!