Monday, May 25, 2009

TJED According to Julia

Well, Ans, I know you probably didn't expect a response to your last post regarding the Thomas Jefferson Education model of teaching . . . but I just can't help myself. I have been pondering your words (and my own thoughts on the subject) ever since reading them and in order to get these thoughts out of my head I just have to write (type). Some things I agreed with, some things I thought "hmmm, maybe" and others I just didn't jive with. So, here it goes . . . (Andrea's thoughts in blue)

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.

I agree . . . I think there are many homeschoolers who take what they like and make it their own, which is why it's hard to find homeschooling families who match up with your ideals. I do believe there has been a major "TJEd Following" that I admit really bothers me. My main sources: TJEd,, Everday Math cirriculum, (my calendar obsession), the Classics!

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.

This is a tough one for me. I think I second-guess myself in what I'm teaching vs. what they could be learning in public school.

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.

I have to say I never had the intention to homeschool because I was disenchanted with public schooling. Since hsing, I have heard horror stories and do feel there is a problem with the system. "The myth is that it is possible for one human being to educate another." What does this even mean anyway? I'd have to read it in exact context I think (but my book is loaned out at the moment)

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

Now this is where I will beg to differ just bit. Why? Because I lived this kind of life growing up (I think). Not to blame anyone around me but myself. I was just clueless. I did good in school. But while my friends were taking AP classes, I had no clue what they were (I think I was in the AP English class but had no clue I was in it!). I did what my teachers told me, took the tests, got the grades and moved on. I would argue that not in every math class are you taught to think at all! Maybe doing the same type of problem over and over is considered thinking, but I was just following the step by step guide in how to do it, not really thinking on my own. I do firmly believe that public school can be a conveyor belt education. I would even say up until my last year of college, when I "got into" the classes for my major, did I really learn to love learning, not just do the required steps to get the diploma. He is harsh regarding diplomas, however, and I am still one who believes strongly in getting those certificates, but I hope that I can teach my children better HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

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.

PS may teach you to have a thick skin, but is it really worth it? I mean, I could have done away with my whole 7th & 8th grade years and probably come out with thicker skin than I did because I was so attached to the opinions of others on my character. Again, to nobody's fault, I have always had that dependency, and being in friendship battles did not help, it hurt. But, I ask myself, am I sheltering my kids from those experiences? Were they more necessary than I give them credit for?

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.

So when will do you require? Do you require at this age (other than chores)? (more on requiring later I think)

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.

I would agree with this as well. I do think that textbooks still do have their places. I do use a textbook for math . . . it just makes sense. However, DeMille did make me think outside the box in how we also use classics to inspire our children in all subjects. I like that. I like what your dad said as well!

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.

First of all, I do agree with the "only" statement. You notice in this book that there are lot of "onlys" "shoulds" "always" & "nevers." To me that comes across at tad too bit egotistical. However, I do have a differing opinion on this key as well. I can't say I've had mentors. Teachers, yes, some better than others, but I wouldn't call them mentors. Again, probably my own faulty way of thinking. I could never have a true discussion with an adult if my opinon slightly differed from theirs. They were the authority, not the mentor and guide open for discussion. I think there are some inspirational teachers out there, don't get me wrong, I have a few I loved. BUT I think there are so many students that it's hard to get that personal one-on-one mentoring that makes mentoring different from professors. I think that's the essence of what DeMille is trying to say.

My Mentors are authors such as Linda Eyre, Leo Buscaglia, and Rafe Esquith . . . people who have inspired me through their writings to look outside the box and get off the conveyor belt!

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. . . . .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.

This one is tough for me. I've vacilated back and forth. I've been inconsistant . . . one week I'm totally requiring everything while the next I'm not requiring anything (nor inspiring much either!). :-) I like how Kelly has explained this. You decide what you require (i.e. housework, chores, etc.) and then you make them do those things over and over until they fit the standard. I'm not sure if I'm ready to accept that this is the only way they learn the value of sweating and hard work, but I'm still working on it. I do require some things as well, but when the requiring is damaging to my relationship with a child, I rethink and start the more inspirational method. :-)

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.

First I have thoughts about those who create anti-anything blogs or . . .whatever. I don't want to sound ignorant or close-minded, but I just get frustrated when I see people use all their energy and their time to "bash" another's philosophy or viewpoint. If a guy wants to publish one article, great, but to spend so much time entering posts on why something is so horrible . . . it just doesn't jive well with me.

With that said . . . I do agree with some of the points made here as well. I'm a believer in the statement, "I can do hard things!" I don't think my kids say or believe that enough! However, part of making kids feel this way and want to work harder is by motivating, encouraging and uplifting rather than criticizing and correcting all the time! I am a bit of a criticizer. My expectations on "correctness" are sometimes blown too high. But, I think that's what DeMille means by Inspriring . . . building up, not tearing down (just like you say below). :-)

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.

This one works really, really well for me!

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.

Love this as well. Need to be better at it! I found when John was in K. he would cry if he didn't write his letters perfectly! So, I would just repeat, "Just do your best" to minimize his stress and frustration. I didn't want to create a perfectionist. Now, I'm seeing my follies in that he thinks medocre is his best! So, I'm now starting to do more of this, and he knows when he can do better, most times I don't need to tell him. :-)

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??

I agree! After reading their Leadership book, I was entirely overwhelmed. I think it did get more complex, but I think it's partly because people don't know what "Study the Classics" really means and so they created some of these things to help the conveyor belt thinkers to use the method correclty (which keeps them from then getting off the belt, right?!). ha!

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.

When I first heard of the Mission Phase, I was bugged by it too. Just the thought of having a mission other than motherhood gave me thoughts that I wasn't fulfilling what I needed to do here. Again, Kelly reminded me awhile back that studying parenting principles, how to feed your kids nutritiously, etc, are all a part of the mission. I agree we don't need to study all day, our noses in the books taking notes and preparing for tests. I appreciate your comments here, though, reminding me of that.

I think that You not Them means preparing yourself to teach your children. That's how I look at it anyway (maybe that's not fully what DeMille states). Just by reading and enriching our own minds how we do - - i.e. you read all the time, are living your lifelong dream of writing (hopefully publishing!) and adding new habits & talents into your life. The kids see their parents acheiving their goals and therefore they want to follow suit. It's when I worry about each individual's math lessons, and needing to read 15 min a day with each child individually, and checking off that they did their spelling for the week (in other words the CONTENT), that is when I am not longer enjoying myself. When I am reading things that are inspiring to me and working on my own projects, I feel more confident in teaching them. That's how I see the You not Them key anyway.

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").

I thought there were some good points in here as well. There is a group of "followers." I would say I follow the TJEd methods, to an extent. I'm not sure that makes me NOT a true TJEd follower or not. I think with so much emphasis on "Make it your own" there are a lot of "rules" to being successful. Again, though, I think it's the idea of taking the principles and applying them to your life. For instance, (not saying TJEd is the gospel) but if you take "Honoring the Sabbath Day" - - each family has their unique ideas on how that can be done. Some don't think going to the park with your family is honoring the Sabbath while others find that to be a peaceful and enjoyable time with family. So, it get hairy when you place specific rules (and place judgement on those "not following") on the basic principles of the method.

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.

Ha! Ha! I thought this was funny!


That's really all I have to say (I know, you're begging for more!). My experience with TJEd have only been inspiring, helping me to think in a different way than what is natural for me. So, for that I will always be grateful that I stumbled upon these books, and also will refer to them frequently as my children progress through their own phases (TJEd or not!).

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