Relaxed Homeschooling: A Thomas Jefferson Education

Reading Rachel Demille’s post on simplehomeschool today, I remembered again listening to her and her husband at a homeschooling convention about ten years ago.  Although many of the concepts they presented were new to me, I thoroughly agreed with their ideas about cookie cutter or assembly line education.  They spoke about the idea that public education churned out followers off an assembly, rather than leaders.  A true leadership education would teach a child how to learn anything he wanted, and then follow his own goals to whatever ends they led.  Even though I only had a four year old and a two year old at that point, I knew I wanted a truly liberal arts education for them that would allow them to follow their interests and to be brave enough to defy conventions and choose wisely for themselves.

Perhaps the most life changing idea I heard in that presentation was to forget the kids.  They stated that rather than focusing on what the kids were supposed to be learning, become a scholar yourself and model lifelong learning for your children.  Always a goal-oriented project finisher, I may have continued in the path of learning without the exhortation they gave in that speech.  On the other hand, I may have decided that my children were my project instead of focusing on the project of ME.  As I returned home from that conference, and I returned to their book A Thomas Jefferson Education throughout the years, this was the reminder again and again:  are you being the person you would like your children to be?

These ideas continued to motivate me through the years.  Perhaps without them I would not have immersed myself and family in the Spanish language 8 years ago, allowing us to learn Spanish well enough that some (non-Hispanics,:-)) have wondered if we had an Hispanic background.  Perhaps I would not have begun hiking and backpacking when after my youngest was born, thoroughly changing our lives for the better.  Maybe I wouldn’t have begun running 2 years ago, finding a natural way to deal with headaches and depression.  Maybe I wouldn’t continue to assign myself research projects.  Maybe I wouldn’t have started this blog.  Part of the reason I took on each of these challenges was that idea of modeling for my children what progressive adulthood would look like.

The truth is, I didn’t end up putting into practice many of the suggestions given either in the book or in the presentation for my children.  At that point in time, I was not able to be relaxed enough for complete child led learning.  However, I have seen the payoff in my children.  They are eager learners, ready to put in the effort to learn the things that they are interested in.  They excel because they love to learn.  I have used the ideas about great books, and a learning contract was essential to us for one year.  I recommend this book as a great read for evaluating the reasons you are homeschooling, and this time of year is a good time to think about personal goals for growth.

Some other books I have read recently that motivated me in the same direction are:  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and the Fat2Fit radio podcast, the last one strange, but all of them admonishing toward living now as you wish to be.

Please share your thoughts on these ideas.  Leave a comment.

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  1. Looking into the Distance: Curriculum 2012 « anothergranolamom

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