June 28, 2014

“Thoughts on A Thomas Jefferson Education", by Sara Sweet

Sometimes, with the right lens fitted to view our world, it takes on a new shape and focus. Several months ago, I began reading the education philosophies presented by Oliver DeMille who, along with his wife and other colleagues, has written several books including A Thomas Jefferson Education. His assessment of the needs of children of various ages, as well as their ability and desire to forge an education of their own design, is a very different picture than the current public educational model, which system DeMille calls the Conveyor Belt. What better name for our public educational system which creates copycat thinkers whose main objective is to take their place in an expendable workforce and whose focus is on the acquisition of things and power. On the contrary, DeMille advocates an educational model based on the historic practices of many of our young country’s leaders and centered on the idea of inspiring youth to become virtuous leaders of self, family, community, and nation that he calls Leadership Education. But is such a different educational approach necessary? What kind of impact could this alternate education have in our lives, community and culture?

Recently, our family invited the missionaries serving in our church over for dinner. While visiting with these young men, I realized that they had little aspiration for the future. One wants to attend college and major in entertainment (theater) but is not sure how he would apply that education. The other is unsure what he wants to study after his mission. These boys seemed to me to have very little vision or passion for their current or future life situation. I have witnessed many young adults and young couples with little ambition as well, where they find themselves chasing what I call the New American Dream, which consists of little else than acquisition. A big house, expensive car, home theater and other forms and devices meant for entertainment, and the resulting debt from all such spending are the mediocre end goals being pursued in our day, and this only after individuals are burned out from a long period of self-indulgence during their teenage and early adult years. Marriage and children along with the rewarding sacrifices of creating and rearing a family are no longer prized, nor are the noble pursuits of charity, contribution, and as DeMille points out, the two great achievements of public virtue and liber.

If this is the reality of the younger generations, our culture is on a steep downturn. Without something to counteract the slippery slope of selfishness, apathy, and a typically lazy pursuit of indulgence, what kind of future can we expect?

Being new to theories and ideas presented by DeMille, it seems presumptive for me to represent his philosophies as the answer to all society’s ills. However, I personally feel inspired through my study to implement his theories in my home with great expectations. After reading his educational philosophies, I now envision a revised home school for our family that is filled with character building classic literature, teamwork, inspiration, self discovery, self motivation, and history (to provide a lengthy context and true compass in a world without either). I anticipate that refocusing my efforts in the home on people and processes, rather than skills and subjects, I will be able to provide the learning tools and  environment my children need to build their own vision and motivation for their futures, and the future of the communities in which the y live. I hope that through classic works and exposure to mentors both past and present, the y will develop a firm grasp on whom the y ought to emulate, and the real impact of their efforts. I also anticipate that through the ir own interested pursuits, the y will build a skill set that will have a depth and breadth only attainable through internal motivation and priority. I personally have much to learn and so much to change about myself and my home to make these worthy goals a reality, and I hope that through these efforts to do so I will lessen the distance between the ideal “self” that my children see of themselves at any given moment, and who the y want to become. In shortening the distance between who the y are and who the y want to be, I envision that they can become true leaders of self, family and community, possible even of our nation or world.

When someone asks my children ten years from now of their aspirations, as I did of the missionaries who visited our home, I envision that they will have firm answers, a plotted course, the skills to articulate and achieve their vision, and the charity to invite o the rs along on their surefooted path. If my children are able to accomplish these feats, they will have their roots in DeMille’s Leadership Education and a future that is boundless.

June 10, 2014

Title Swap

Weapons of Mass Instruction - John Taylor Gatto
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
The Child Whisperer - Carol Tuttle
The Story of the World -
Right Start Math Games

Amazing Grace
Alone, Yet Not Alone
Mom's Night Out

Web Sites
TED: Build A School in the Cloud by Sugata Mitra

June 9, 2014

How to Inspire Great Readers

Begin with Basic Tools
Did you know that over 90% of the English language is phonetically correct?  I have personally always struggled with spelling and when I heard this statistic, I wanted proof.  I found “proof” in my favorite resource, Spell to Write and Read.  I cannot give this program enough praise.  It is truly the secret to our families reading success.  You can find it at http://www.bhibooks.net/home.html

A Vacuum of Stimulation
Just like any other habit in your life that you want to create, you must make room for it.   No child would ever pick up a book on their own if they are allowed unlimited time with Television, Movies, Internet, and Video Games. If you want to raise a good reader, it is time to UNPLUG your family and let your children become very, very bored.  This may take some time to adjust too, that I like to refer as “detoxing.”  After a week or two of no electronic stimulation, your children will be craving new ideas – and that is where books come into the picture. 

Besides too much electronic stimulation squishing any desire to read, children can also spend too much time with friends, sports, dance, and other activities such as roaming the neighborhood.  Freeing their schedule up and allowing your children to have hours of “boredom” will highly increase their desire to read quit naturally.

Did you know that the average American functions at only a 4th-grade reading level? This is the level that we read newspapers, hear and understand our media and speak daily to one another.  How do we surpass this average and start thriving at a higher level?  POETRY! Add it to your student’s daily lives through reading it, memorizing it, reciting it, and copying it.  Poetry gives us a superior form of patterns of the English language at all levels.

Time, Not Content
Great mentors help their students establish and follow a consistent schedule, but they don’t micromanage the content.  Indeed, micro-management has become one of the real poisons of modern education. Encourage students to pursue their interests and passions during their study time.  For example:  Set aside a half hour a day for your student to read, but let them choose what it is they read.

Classics, Not Textbooks
No one can deny the value of a great idea well communicated. The inspiration, innovation and ingenuity inherent in great ideas elevate those who study them.  Great ideas are most effectively learned directly from the greatest thinkers, historians, artists, philosophers and prophets, and their original works. Great works inspire greatness, just as mediocre or poor works usually inspire mediocre and poor achievement.  The great accomplishments of humanity are the key to quality education. Study original sources — the intellectual and creative works of the world’s great thinkers, artists, scientists, etc., in the form they were produced.  Refer to the “Fantastic Reads for All Ages”book list for ideas for class titles.  Introduce new classics to your student by reading them aloud together.

Audio Books
A person can often understand concepts and vocabulary at a much higher level and rate when they are listening to a book, instead of reading it.  Listening to audio books is fantastic way to introduce your student to classics, which would be too difficult for them to read independently.  (This really works! My ten-year-old son recently no only listened to unabridged production of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” he loved it too.)  Listening to great classics improves vocabulary, pronunciation, and comprehension.

Inspire With Your Example
Focus on your education, and invite them along for the ride. Read the classics in all fields, find mentors who inspire and demand quality, structure your days to include study time for yourself, and become a person who inspires great education.  A parent or teacher doesn’t have to be an “expert” to inspire great education (the classics provide the expertise), but he does have to be setting the example.

June 8, 2014

Fantastic Reads For All Ages

Children and Family Read Alouds
Aesop’s Fables
Andersen’s Fairy Tales Classics for Young Children and Family Reading
The Besty-Tacy Series, Maud Lovelace
The Blind Men and the Elephant Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Karen Backstein
The Caterbury Tales, Retold, Barbara Cooney
“Casey at the Bat” Classics for Young Children and Family Reading , Ernest Thayler
Charlotte’s Web Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, E. B. White
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Dinotopia Series Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, James Gurney
Five Chinese Brothers, Bishop
The Gift of the Magi Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, O. Henry
The Giving Tree, Shel Sliverstein Classics for Young Children and Family Reading
“God Save the Flag”, Oliver Wendelll Holmes
Goldilocks and the Three Bears Classics for Young Children and Family Reading
Just So Stories Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Rudyard Kipling
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Washington Irving
The Little House Series Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Make Way for Duklings, Robert McCloskey
Madeline, Bemelmans
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Burton
The Mitten, Brett
Paul Reveres Ride Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Peter Pan Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, J. M. Barrie
Peter Rabbit Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Beatrix Potter
Pollyanna, Eleanor Porter
Rip Van Winkle Classics for Young Children and Family Reading,Carol Ottoleghi
Robin Hood Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Roger Lancelyn Green
Saint George and the Dragon, Trina Hyman
Snowflake Bentley, Azarian
Song and Dance Man, Ackerman
The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
Stone Soup, Brown
The Story About Ping, Marjorie Flack
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
Tales from the Arabian Nights, Geraldine McCaughreanGeraldine
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears -Aardma
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Classics for Young Children and Family Reading, Frank Baum

Reads for Youth
A Door in the Wall, De Angeli
Alice In Wonderland, Carroll
Animal Farm, Orwell
The Anne of Green Gables Classics for Young Readersseries, Montgomery
Battle Hymn of the Republic“, Julia Ward Howe
The Bears of Hemlock Mountain, Dagliesh
Ben-Hur Classics for Young Readers, Wallace, Johnson
Black Beauty, Sewell
The Black Stallion series, Farley
The Book of Three, Alexander
Caddie Woodlawn, Brink
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Latham
The Chronicles of Narnia series, Lewis
The Concord Hymn Classics for Young Readers“, Emerson
The Constitution of the United States Classics for Young Readers
The Courage of Sarah Noble, Dagliesh
Davy Crockett Legends
The Doctor Dolittle Classics for Young Readersseries, Lofting
Eight Cousins, Alcott
In Flanders Fields“, McCrae
Flatland, Abbott
The Foundation series, Asimov
Frankenstein, Shelley
The Gettysburg Address,” Lincoln
The War Inevitable, Henry
The Great Brain series, Fitzgerald
Mythology, Hamilton
Hamlet,” Shakespeare
Heidi, Spyri
“The Highwayman”, Alfred Noyes
History Reborn, Anderson
I Have A Dream,” King
The Incredible Journey, Burnford
The Indian in the Cupboard, Banks
Ivanhoe, Scott
The Hobbit, Tolkein
Joan of Arc, Twain
Jo’s Boys, Alcott
Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare
The Jungle Book, Kipling
Laddie, Porter
The Little Britches Classics for Young Readersseries, Moody
Little Lord Fauntleroy, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Men, Alcott
Little Women, Alcott
The Lonesome Gods, L’AmourThe Lord of the Rings Classics for Young Readers series, Tolkein
The Magic Bicycle, Bibee
The Man with the Hoe,” Markham
The Matchlock Gun, Edmonds
Mathematicians Are People, Too (2 volumes), Reimer
Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Atwater
Moby-Dick, Melville
National Velvet, Bagnold
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
Old Ironsides,” Holmes
Old Yeller, Gipson
Oliver Twist, Dickens
The Road Not Taken,” Frost
The Robe, Douglas
Roll of Thunder; Hear my Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
The Sackett Series, L’Amour
Saxon Math Classics for Young Readers Series
Sounder, William Howard Armstrong
Stuart Little, White
Tarzan, Burroughs
The Thief Lord, Cornelia Funke
To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee
Tom Sawyer, Twain
Treasure Island, Stevenson
Tuck Everlastling, Babbitt
White Fang, London
The story of William Tell

Reads for Highschool Students/Adults
John Adams, “Thoughts on Government
Aquinas, “On Kingship
Aristotle, Politics Classics for Adults
Aristotle, Rhetoric Classics for Adults
Augustine, The City of God Classics for Adults
Aurelius, Meditations Classics for Adults
Bacon, Novum Organum Classics for Adults
Bastiat, The Law Classics for Adults
Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
Bronte, Jane Eyre Classics for Adults
Cather, my Antonia
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Chesterton, Orthodoxy Classics for Adults
Churchill, Collected Speeches
Clausewitz, On War Classics for Adults
Confucius, The Analects Classics for Adults
Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans
Costain, The Silver Chalice
Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
Dillard, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
D’Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel
Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
Durant, The Story of Civilization (11 Volume Set) Classics for Adults
Einstein, Relativity Classics for Adults
Emerson, Essays Classics for Adults
Euclid, Elements Classics for Adults
Frank, Alas, Babylon Classics for Adults
Franklin, Letters and Writings
Galileo, Two New Sciences Classics for Adults
Goethe, Faust Classics for Adults
Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Hobbes, Leviathan Classics for Adults
Homer, The Iliad Classics for Adults
Homer, The Odyssey Classics for Adults
Jefferson, Letters, Speeches and Writings
Kepler, Epitome Classics for Adults
Martin Luther King, Jr., Collected Speeches Classics for Adults
Kipling, Captains Courageous
Lincoln, Great Speeches Classics for Adults
Machiavelli, The Prince Classics for Adults
Madison, Hamilton and Jay, The Federalist Papers Classics for Adults
Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto Classics for AdultsMore, Utopia Classics for Adults
Mill, On Liberty Classics for Adults
Mises, Human Action Classics for Adults
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws Classics for Adults
Polybius, The Histories Classics for Adults
Potok, The Chosen Classics for Adults
Plutarch, Lives Classics for Adults
Ptolemy, Almagest Classics for Adults
Shakespeare, Complete Works Classics for Adults
Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart
Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Classics for Adults
Sophocles, The Oedipus Trilogy Classics for Adults
Sun Tzu, The Art Of War Classics for Adults
Thackeray, Vanity Fair Classics for Adults
Thoreau, Walden Classics for Adults
Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Tolstoy, War And Peace Classics for Adults
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War Classics for Adults
Tocqueville, Democracy in America Classics for Adults
Washington, Letters, Speeches and Writings
Wells, The Invisible Man
Wister, The Virginian Classics for Adults