Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“Some thoughts on Thomas Jefferson Education for homeschooling”

(The following commentary was provided by my daughter-in-law in response to a question to me from someone on the internet. As she emphasizes, she hasn't personally taught the TJEd program, but is familiar with some of the specific methods and results that she has seen as an observer - the lack of developing reading skills seems particularly evident.
In any case, I trust this piece will be helpful for anyone interested. You may email me through my website home. - CL)

I don't know much about it, and there aren't any people that I know of that have used this approach, so my opinions are more from generalized knowledge of it rather than the practical application of the method.  As always, I would say that homeschooling in general, with at least a modest amount of attention by the parent or parents will result in a decent education, so this methodology will have as much success as the time and effort put into any other home school program.

Having said that, here are my thoughts:

  • The program uses a semi-classical approach to teaching.  There is no doubt that this approach has some amazing benefits.  Mainly, I feel that it teaches a child to think as opposed to just spouting back information.  Though it doesn't force reading at an early age, it does expect that the classics will be read to the child, which is meant to increase love for books and increase vocabulary and comprehension skills.
  • The program's mentoring approach is is the apprenticeship of old, only ideally with as many professionals as possible.  The purpose is not just to sit in a classroom listening to a "professional," but to go out in the field and work with one to attain knowledge and skills.  Perfect!
  • The early years (until age 8 approximately) are a time to instill biblical principles, while also encouraging individualism.  To me, this means - let them play games (ideally educational games, but that is not forced) and "creative" play.  One can never find objection to instilling biblical principles!
  • The approach tends to have a happy, non-confrontational home, because the child is not forced to learn.
  • The expectation is that the child will WANT to start reading beginning around age 8, and often say that boys will WANT to do that later.  I believe that this is too late.  I believe that those early educational years are formative regarding learning habits and developing the foundations for future learning.  Though obedience has in theory been attained by that time, it doesn't mean desire for learning has.  If my children were given the opportunity to go fishing every day until they were 8, they would still be doing it now!  It is a bit like the one of the families here who said the same thing about boys, and their children are the only ones that can't read the hunter safety test that they needed to take when they turned 10.  Not only is their reading still behind, but that puts them behind in other areas of learning, because they don't have the ability to read for math, science, history, etc.    This is the case with one family I know, but that doesn't mean this approach is not successful with other families.  Additionally, I do not believe that boys learn at a later age, as I am sure my children and their cousins can attest to that fact.  I think that discipline is harder to achieve in boys, but that is why I tell my children that I pray that they will be wise, disciplined, God-fearing, productive members of society.  It is a quality they must learn and, in my opinion, is best instilled at a young age.
  • Mentoring sounds wonderful, but is sometimes impractical to achieve in today's society.  During Jefferson's time, this approach would have been easier and in certain societies today it is attainable, but rare.  I can see this approach working in Mormon communities or some religious communities like Seventh Day Adventists, etc., because there is a community that would be more apt to agree with the approach.  It is a bit like my son working at the maintenance shop.  Eventually, there was more concern about possible lawsuits or injuries, rather than the carrying on of a trade to our youth, and he was told he couldn't return.  Part of that problem is probably centralized around trade unions as well, but I'm only guessing at that--it would be harder to control your workers when you don't know who they are, and it would also be harder to control the trade when those outside the union would already know the skills of the trade.
  • There isn't a real studying/learning approach until the child reaches puberty, when there is the expectation that the child will desire to learn 10-12 hours a day.  I have never had any of my children wanting to learn 10-12 hours a day, but then again I have not used this approach :)!  And, the things they may want to learn about are not areas of study that I want them to carry on for the rest of their lives (i.e., air soft gun repair, metal detecting, ipod games, etc.).  I hope that I am giving my children an education that will help them feel like they have had an advantage over public school students, rather than a disadvantage having been home schooled.  Their approach would mean that someone like my middle son would just be beginning to gain certain learning habits, instead of his having just completed his college-level Pre-calculus test on Thursday.  
  • There is something to be said about the approach claiming that the student DESIRES to learn, but I am not convinced of that personally.  I feel that it is a bit like the First Law of Thermodynamics--a child who is at play desires to remain at play; a child who is learning will remain learning.  I pulled back this year on Calculus with my two older boys because I felt I was expecting too much as they were taking their CLEP tests, but I have had both of them ask me on numerous occasions to start back up with them.  I've had the oldest ask for me to continue helping him with Advanced Chemistry as well as his other sciences when I thought he might have too much on his plate right now.  They both started early, but they both want to learn.  Part of that desire, I think, is because they see success in what they already know, rather than feeling like their catching up to what others their age have learned.
Education is very important to me--not for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of being a good Christian example in all areas of society.  As I say all the time to the teens here and to my children, you can't expect to have Christian leaders, unless you plan on becoming the Christian leaders yourself.  We need to infiltrate our society again, and we can't do that without being educated on so many different levels.  

Like unschooling, this approach can definitely be successful, but it takes the right child, the right parent, and the right community.  Like any home schooling endeavor, there are going to be parents/children that will not succeed, but the majority, whether using this approach or not, will be better off than the public school system--even if it only means that they have retained so many values that are lost or stolen from our youth that are indoctrinated in the public school system today.