Since my last post, I have studied some books about the Thomas Jefferson Education Model. So far, I really like what I’m reading.
The key to this program is to figure out what inspires your kids as well as yourself. Then, find out what classic books and primary documents are in that field. Study them. Take notes. Then think.
Teaching kids how to think for themselves is a big deal in this model. We’re avoiding the tendency to tell them what to think.
We’re also avoiding the tendency of requiring our kids to reach a certain goal by a certain time. For instance, I don’t tell my kids to read a certain number of pages each day. Instead, I ask them to read for a certain amount of time in a book that interests them and encourage them to look up words that they don’t know in a dictionary, to re-read if necessary to make sure they understand what they read, and to write down their thoughts as they read because the notes may provide useful insights that could be referred to later.
What I’m finding is that my kids are choosing to read longer than I’ve requested. They encourage each other to read longer, too. They are eager to learn because they are focused on enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination by a certain time.
My oldest son, Caleb, when asked what he thinks about the change, said, “Well, it’s been slower paced. It’s not like we’re rushing around trying to reach deadlines, changing subjects unnaturally. Now, we’re changing subjects when we want to.”
Jared, 10, said, “I like it that we don’t have to do as much school work each day. My favorite day is project day and that I can do math in my bedroom. My favorite things count as school. We also go to enrichment class where there are no kids who attack or hurt people other people or call people names. I like that we can choose to take a day off from school work because it’s someone’s birthday.”
Caleb, continued, “I am glad I can build a scarab (a robot) and read so much. I can choose which curriculum I want. I can also have more time in my schedule so I can go outside and play. I am glad I have nice teachers at enrichment class who run the class quite well and they listen to me. I like that my math curriculum is on DVD so I can see real examples and how it applies in real life. I enjoy reading about Greek Mythology by reading the Percy Jackson series again.”
My school district has an enrichment class that is offered to home school kids where they get to learn about various subjects, learn how to choose appropriate activities during “free time” (it was modeled to them at the beginning of the year), and the teachers are actually more like mentors.
A fun part of getting rid of the deadlines is that we take “sun” days instead of snow days. When the weather is really bad in the winter, we use that as an opportunity to do school work uninterrupted. On sunny days, we may skip school for part or all of that day to enjoy the great weather.