Thursday, May 7, 2009

More TJEd--bear with

I just want to write my thoughts as I reread TJEd so I don't forget. Besides, knowing I have an audience forces me to clarify my thinking in a way that jotting down notes doesn't. The more I look into TJEd the more I am disinclined to affiliate myself with it. Although, that doesn't mean I won't take what I like--especially from the Home Companion. In all honesty, I can't see myself aligning myself with any particular strain of homeschooling because I like to do things the way I like to do them. That seems to be the approach most homeschoolers take anyway--steal what they like from every style and make it their own. That's me. That's where I am.

My review of TJEd revisited:
Chpt 1: "Is the education our children are receiving on par with their potential?" Something I need to be constantly asking myself as I continue homeschooling. Not only on par with their potential but learning what I want them to learn.

Chpt 2 (Education today): Dad marked and I agree with, "Any effort to 'fix education' will fail for two reasons. First, education is so many things to so many people" (pg. 12). "Second . . . Education can't be fixed as long as we believe this basic myth. The myth is that it is possible for one human being to educate another." To clarify, I agree completely with the idea that education is unfixable due to a general disagreement over the purpose of education. I do not believe that one human cannot educate another. If that were the case there would be no need for parents, teachers, mentors, or anything like unto it. Ridiculous, really.

However, I think this touches on the problem of blaming the teacher. As long as people blame the teacher instead of identifying other problems with the system the system won't ever be "fixed." Not that it can be fixed.

Chpt 3 (Three Systems of Schooling), or the chapter that BUGS ME: "What happens if you get ahead? A factory worker moves you back into place." (Dad marked that with a "what?") Again, ridiculous, as Kami pointed out in her review of TJEd.

The biggest problem with the chapter is the section called "The Competitive Conveyor Belt": "But once you're in that percentile, once you make it and say, 'I'm in Harvard,' you are required to get on the conveyor belt for several yars until they stamp another diploma on your forehead. Yo usay, 'But I want to think; I want to be a leader.' The institutional response is that there is time for that later, after you have graduated; for now you need to focus on your conveyor belt studies." The conveyor belt studies that don't teach you to think like the Scientific Method, or the philosophy of logics, or history papers that require only primary sources as references? I'm offended by his assertion that you don't learn how to think at school. Any math class is a class that teaches thinking. Any science class is teaching you about how the world works--and that's thinking. When he bashes my education when I have a masters degree and tells me I need a degree from his non-accredited university that only serves the function of funneling hard earned dollars to him with no benefit to the student--I get a little aggrieved. Dad marked with a huh? Totally. pg. 26

That chpt also talks about socialization: pg 28: "The highest level of socialization, the ideal, means the ability to effectively work with people of all backgrounds, stations, and positions, of really caring about them and being able to build an dmaintain long term, nurturing relationships. The conveyor belt, by its very nature, discourages this." I have to agree with him there. However, public schools do teach you how to have a thick skin and that is an important life skill as well.

Pg. 32: "During this phase (core) attention should be given above all to the nurture of a happy, interactive, confident child through the lessons that occur naturally during work and play in the family setting." DeMille's emphasis on not pushing a child too fast has always appealed to me because I have long argued that elementary aged students are expected to do too much too soon in the US.

pg. 33: "Rather, in the areas of exploration and skills building, the parent/mentor should be wary of establishing premature and unnecessary standards of 'correctness' on points that will later be obvious and require no criticism." This was listed under love of learning principles. I agree.

pg 34: talks about scholars having "defined responsibilities" that are full-time jobs--like making dinner every night. I believe our young people don't do enough in the home to feel a part of it--whether or not parents use DeMille's approach or another, they should be requiring more full-time participation in the running of the household from each member of the family.

7 keys:

classics, not textbooks: Although DeMille says this, he doesn't always follow it and that's because it is basically stupid. Both classics and textbooks have their place and are useful. I'm not going to understand Euclid before I have some basics down and one of the best places to get basics is through textbooks. Besides that, I don't really believe that reading Euclid is necessary for me to have a great education.

Dad marked under that section, "As students become familiar with and eventually conversant with the great ideas of humanity, they learn how to think, how to lead, and how to become great." pg. 40. This is what DeMille does well. He reiterates the importance of the classics, or a classical education. I always agree with him when he sticks to this topic because I cannot think of a better way to educate than through reading great books, discussing them, and writing about them. However, his "method" becomes more complex all the time and that bugs me.

Mentors, Not professors: again, bugged by the way he titles it. I had excellent professors that were mentors. By his very definition of mentor, anyone could fall into that category including profs. Especially profs as they have incredible skill sets and knowledge. Also, he tends to bug me with his classical education leadership model in that learning a trade doesn't make you less able to be a leader. Knowing how to fix something sharpens your brain's ability to solve problems (think) also. It isn't an "only" situation. Also, DeMille said that only the student can choose to be educated. If a student chooses to learn he can learn in a classroom of twenty as easily as by himself. The student will take the initiative and personalize himself if he wants a quality education so DeMille undermined his own arguments for homeschooling.

Inspire, Not Require: This idea was initially the hardest one for me to swallow, but I've since thought about it more and actually believe it to a certain extent. For example, my student Steven. When I taught I gave weekly book reviews to my students about books that I love. Once I made the mistake of telling my 7th graders about a Juliet Marieller book I had just finished that was FANTASTIC. I was very enthusiastic because I had just finished it and LOVED it. Later, I saw Steven reading the book. I had inspired him. However, the book was way too mature for a 7th grader and had a nasty rape scene. Oops. I hadn't thought through what being excited about the book would lead to.

Another story. I showed my son Cowen a Robin McKinley book about a girl who fights dragons. I told him a lot of the plot line and made it sound really exciting (easy to do because it is a great book). Cowen carries that book around now and calls it his "favorite book." He can't read it, obviously, and won't for years. But he knows the basic story and knows that I told him he would love it and he believed me. That's inspiring.

However, I am, at heart, a require girl. I required excellence from my students and they delivered. They would never have risen to the level they did if all I did was inspire. Humans are naturally lazy. Do we really think we can change the entire natural man make-up of our children by embarking on a study plan for ourselves??? If nothing else our children might get turned off from school because they never graduate. They always have to do it!! That's one message our studying to inspire will send. I was able to get my students to achieve greatness by making sure they understood that I never gave assignments I didn't believe they could do. It was my faith in their ability to achieve that inspired them--not my example of study.

"Inspiring, in contrast to ignoring and forcing, means finding out what the students need and then creatively encouraging them to engage it on their own--with excitement and interest." pg. 43. I can agree with DeMille's explanation there, but that isn't what he sells throughout the rest of his book and through his university and other publications. He tells people that to inspire their children they have to be studying themselves in an aggressive course of study.

I read the anti blog that Kelly talked about. The green below is what the anti guy wrote and the purple is a response to what he wrote. I liked what both people had to say on this issue.

I gained huge amounts of inspiration to push myself and achieve from the requirements of Basic Training that still affect me today. Doing your best, then blowing through that and excelling even farther is exhilarating. Often a person cannot simply inspire themselves to get to that point. They need help from outside. That's what coaches do. They observe the athlete and require them to perform better.

We are required to do lots of things in life, aren't we? I'm required to make money for my family. I am required to do some boring, non-inspiring things as part of that. We are required to clean up after ourselves. We are required to get along with others. We have obligations. I think there is some value in knowing how to deal with being required to do things, including things you don't want to do. Like anything else this can be taken to the extreme, but on both ends: of always requiring the child to do things, and never requiring the child to do things.

That is I believe what most TJEders are trying to do, but this is a paralyzing point for many of them. I agree that too many of them out of fear of requiring ignore. But that doesn’t mean the principle is wrong, just that they don’t know how to inspire so they just give up. Inspiring is hard work it is a step beyond just saying “what do you want to do?” You must orchestrate an environment that encourages and guides kids to choose to study and learn. Most of the time this overwhelms parents.

To summarize: DeMille thinks parents need to study themselves. I think that parents need to inspire by being enthusiastic and creating an atmosphere where school is enjoyable and not torture. Mostly though, I believe that people want more than anything else to feel successful at something just beyond their ability. In my own homeschool I will require--constantly--especially things that are hard and I will be demanding. Then, I will make sure that my children know that I believe completely in their capacity to do the hard things I'm requiring. Then, when they achieve their success will be sweet and real. That will motivate (inspire) them to continue to push themselves and achieve.

Structure time, not content: Miriam needs structure--therefore his "you're the expert in your own home" catch-all comes into play. Good thing he thought of that one to save his backside in case someone calls him on something.

Quality, not conformity: "When Scholars do an assignment, either say 'great work' or 'do it again.'" pg. 46. One of my favorite ideas because I did it and my students performed.

Simplicity, not Complexity: YES, YES, YES. You don't have to make things complex. Read, write, discuss. I totally agree. Unfortunately, his method becomes more complex all the time. Four subsets of scholar phase??

You, not them: First, it is proven that youth usually rise to the level of their parents' education. My own students told me they'd get by without a college education just as their parents did. Those who are used to the lifestyle more education provides generally get more education to maintain the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. Clearly, the more education you have as a parent the more likely your children are to be educated. However, I don't think that translates into a parent study all the time. Our season for intensive study is past. To me it seems selfish to think you can devote that much time to yourself at this juncture. Right now, I'm focusing on my children's education. I think my own educational track record set an adequate example.

A response to anti (same person as above in purple)

I have found that almost anything I study with my kids they love. Not because I make them but because they catch my enthusiasm.

I agree 100% with the comment in purple. Again, I don't think being enthusiastic correlates with hours of intensive study.

The issue of a "mission" or preparing your children for a "mission" is relatively new in TJEd and it gives me the creeps. It is too much of what teenagers are looking for--something to get passionate about. The church already provided for this need in humans: patriarchal blessings, songs like "Shall the youth of Zion falter," put on the armor of God, "Who's on the Lord's Side, Who?," waging war against sin, etc. We don't need to look elsewhere for inspiration. We don't need to worry about preparing our children for their "life mission." That's already covered in teaching them the gospel. I like what the same purple commentator said:

One further point that I would add to your concerns that you don’t address is the tendency of some TJEd families to neglect their responsibilities to care and teach their children because they have to “fulfill their mission.” This is a bigger concern to me because these parents understand how to inspire and have the skills and knowledge, but choose to do something else instead. “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” I won’t pretend to know all the answers, but I worry when I see parents choosing to go back to school or choosing to do community service to the neglect of their children. It happens. There are some families that maintain the balance and can do both, but it is HARD. If people who are struggling with the basics of homeschooling try to add “mission” into their life it can be a recipe for disaster. The greatest mission we can fulfill at this time and season is to be there for and with our children.

Anti brought up some good points:

When people tell me they are doing TJEd, but they don't really adhere to things like the keys or they question them or modify them for their family, I don't understand why those parents still believe those aspects of TJEd. If you have problems with the keys, why do you even believe they are keys? This is what I am getting at. I know a lot of parents don't do TJEd like DeMille says you should, yet they still accept DeMille's assertions of how you should do TJEd.

What's the point of "certification?"As I go to homeschool conferences and browse seminars and courses online and talk to people involved in TJEd, I find a lot of "training" and "inspiration" about doing TJEd. I see moms "doing their 5 Pillars" which is a certification from George Wythe College that indicates that you know how to do "Leadership Education."
"Certification endorses an individual’s knowledge and ability in the Classics/Mentors approach to teaching leaders by incorporating all Five Pillars into an overall approach to education—the approach which has trained great leaders from Washington, Jefferson and Abigail Adams to Lincoln, Churchill and Gandhi." online page at George Wythe CollegeNow, why does anyone have to certify that a person is a mentor, or is proficient in their "knowledge and ability" in using the classics and mentors? Leaders have to be certified? Mentors too? I thought the whole point was on how to think. Are they certifying people that they know how to think? And why does George Wythe College think they are in any position to be certifying anyone? What are their achievements?

I believe this is what has happened to a lot of people that got swept into the TJEd movement. DeMille's ideas of reading classics and not pushing the student and returning to the old ways of educating leaders struck a chord with them and aroused a desire for the realization of the promise, but they weren't able to do a very careful evaluation of what DeMille was proposing because they really hadn't come across these ideas before. They bought the promise that TJEd would create leaders out of their children, and now they are doing everything they can to realize that promise, regardless of the results they are actually seeing.But it's even worse than that. Even after people try to do TJEd, they are told there is yet more they need to do in order to do it right. The more you learn about TJEd, the more you learn that it is very complex and there are so many things you need to do in order to do it right. It's like you can never actually be successful at doing it. The goalposts keep moving, and new requirements keep getting added (like an "Eighth Key").

The following is a quote from DeMille that I find disturbing. He's basically saying that if you find things wrong with TJEd, don't worry about it. Trust in the process. STOP THINKING.

When the temptation to return to requiring, textbooks, canned curriculum, and even public school arises, we as parents must go back to those feelings present when we first felt that TJEd was right for our family. We can trust that desire to give our children a chance to become truly educated, great men and women of character who will someday change the world. Our children have important missions to fulfill, And parents are equipped to help them live up to those missions. But we have to trust our hearts, our feelings, those whisperings from God.Trusting the process yields the best results for a true Leadership Education. Just keep moving forward on the path you have chosen.

Here's another comment I found helpful:

From Jim’s blog: “part of the point of the college is that most mainstream credentials are in fact not useful.”
This may be my main beef with GWC/TJE. I am in full agreement that K-12 education (and some introductory college classes) can become victims of the “conveyor belt” syndrome. But MAs and PhDs in the liberal arts are very much like what TJE advocates–only we call them “thesis advisors” and “dissertation advisors” instead of “mentors.” Hence, the hostility to these credentials by TJE’ers is baffling to me.
“GWC does not hire specialized credentialed professors unless they DEMONSTRATE they have a broad and deep liberal education.”
A PhD from an accredited, respected university does in fact demonstrate this.
Comment by Julie M. Smith on June 1st 2008 at 11:35 pm

Read this--especially the last comment.

In summary, the more I study DeMille the more I think he took the basics of a liberal arts education, correlated them with some things that parents already do instinctively (inspire), bashed the current system to validate people's decision to homeschool, and then figured out how to make the most money possible off of his "system."

That might sound harsh considering I agree with the basic tenet of read, write, discuss--but there you have it.


Kelly said...

It's all very interesting, isn't it? There's definitely good stuff and bad.

The thing that interests me, is that I know a lot of smart people who like TJEd. I wonder if it's because they get interested in being able to have discussions with people who actually READ. Most people I know around here don't follow politics, don't read literature. They just take their kids to soccer and call it good.

What I understood about Inspire not Require is that it is more pertinent in the younger years, but a scholar SHOULD have requirements and SHOULD be pushed. I may have interpreted it differently than DeMille wrote it.

He mentions Saxon math as a classic. He doesn't say that textbooks can't be classics - what I thought was that they shouldn't be your sole source of information. Because we all know texts are someone else's interpretation of events. So I think he advocates finding multiple sources - the more original the better. A text is great for an overview but it's definitely not in-depth knowledge. Even with math I think it's great to use various resources.

I think what TJEd has really done for me is allowed me to think outside the box in terms of my children's education and how to go about directing our homeschool.

I agree that there is a big push to further your own education. I've felt that. I think the benefit is that a parent who constantly desires to learn new things creates a culture of education in their home. Furthering your own education can be overdone.
I personally haven't felt that I should be taking college courses right now. I have enough on my plate! But I'm constantly reading and sharing with my kids. I read above and beyond what we study for school so that I can have a better understanding of what they're learning. It's challenging, but fun. I'm glad that I heard of TJEd because it has inspired me in that regard.

About the MLM aspects of it - I have felt that push myself. It's one of the turn-offs to me. It's like anything else - you take what you can use and throw the rest away. After hearing raves about the Montessori method and doing a little superficial reading, I decided to go more in depth. I checked out a translated version of Maria Montessori's original book. There was some good stuff, sure. But there was a lot that I didn't agree with (for instance, she thinks pretend play is bad - children should be taught to use toys "appropriately" and not allowed to deviate). There's always something to disagree with. :-)

I think Charlotte Mason and WTM are my favorite methodologies, with TJEd being a great thing for me because it keeps me thinking about child development, chore teaching, and appropriate expectations per age. Oh, and it's great because it allowed me to give myself permission to read. You wouldn't believe how guilty I felt reading before I heard about TJEd. And since Josh agrees with that, I don't have to worry that he thinks I'm a slacker wife. :-)

Kelly said...

Have you guys checked out It's one of my favorite sites EVER. Superficially it's just about math through literature, but if you join the yahoo group - holy cow! There are some smart-about-math parents out there with some awesome ideas.

These people take a basic math curriculum and then supplement the heck out of it so that their kids can really GET math.

Math was not my strong suit. Not because I think I'm not a math person - the more I read the more I think I should have loved math in school - but because I think I just got rushed and needed more time with key concepts.

Just a side note. Love that website. Super resource!

Angie said...

I don't know if you'll ever get my comment. But I really, really like your commentary on this book. I have now read the book twice and am starting to homeschool my children. I never really felt the urge to get on board with the whole thing. I understand the philosophy. And not that I've read more homeschooling books, I can see that many of the ideas I love in TJed are in other hsing methods (like not pushing a child to learn, classics-based learning, agency-based learning/giving children freedom to choose and lead the way).

The second time I read, I, too, paid more attention to those one sentences that gave me "permission" to do things my own way. Right now, I feel like I don't want to be a TJed educator...I don't like how things are becoming more complex (a necessity DeMille found as he realized that most of the parents are follower conveyor-belt parents that have a hard time taking initiative?). I don't like how "mentors" feel like they have to be they have to go to a 3 day conference to learn how to lead a great book discussion (what about practice and error?). I really don't like how TJed is getting all mixed up with politics with the new ReValue America if getting 1,000,000 TJed homeschoolers will turn the nation around. That part really turns me off. I don't like that everyone feels like they need to do a "Knights" or "American Girl" Mom School because that's the one type that was outlined in Home Companion. I don't like that people are turned off by math and science because they feel like they have to teach those through the classics while there are so many modern resources out there that do amazing jobs at preserving the love of learning and teach the methods well. I also don't like how someone has come up with a whole new method of teaching math...just trying to get it to fit into Truth and Reason (Inteligro Method...also replaces the Scientific Method). Isn't that what Math is? Right or Wrong? Correct or Incorrect?

In part, I don't like how the TJed homeschooling philosophy has turned into a TJed Conveyor Belt. And, for that, I'll take what I like, but leave it for the pursuit of what fits our family and our goals.