The coming school year will be our second year since I started implementing Leadership Education (also known as Thomas Jefferson Education) in our home. The changes in our home since we started using this philosophy are myriad:
- I have stopped pushing my kids academically.
- My children are learning to be helpful, responsible members of our family through chores and through working alongside me. Previously they dabbled with this, but now it has become a more central part of their homeschool experience.
- I trust in my children's innate curiosity, allowing their interests to lead the way in what they are studying.
- I recognize that children do not learn in the same way as adults, and that play is one of the most important ways that children learn.
- Reading classic books aloud has taken a more prominent role in our schooling.
- I am leading out by pursuing my own Leadership Education, through intensive self-study of classic works and through the 7 Keys Certification.
The Parents' Education is ParamountThe foundation of the Leadership Education philosophy is the 7 Keys of Great Teaching:
- Classics, Not Textbooks
- Mentors, Not Professors
- Inspire, Not Require
- Structure Time, Not Content
- Quality, Not Conformity
- Simplicity, Not Complexity
- YOU, Not Them
This was a real epiphany for me. Previously, I spent so much time trying to figure out ways to get my daughter to do her schoolwork without complaining. I kept thinking that if I found the "right" curriculum and if I kept pushing hard enough, she would eventually get there. But this just led to burnout for both of us. When I focus instead on pursuing my own education, I am energized and excited, and both of my kids become energized and excited to do the same. I am currently working my way through the 7 Keys Certification, which is a fantastic way for me to solidify my own homeschooling paradigm as well as kick-start my own education in the classics.
The Lessons of Core Phase and the Importance of the Family Read-AloudIn the Leadership Education model, up to around age 8, children are in Core Phase. "During this phase 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." [from A Thomas Jefferson Education] This is not to say that there are no academics during Core Phase (and I will talk more about that in a later post), but the most important things children learn in Core Phase are right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. My kids are learning these lessons through being accountable for doing chores, through play, and through working alongside me in running our household.
These lessons are being reinforced through our family read-alouds. We are careful in our selection of books, so that we are reading books which epitomize the values we want our children to learn. We avoid reading aloud "twaddle", which was Charlotte Mason's word for books which are second-rate and may even reinforce negative values. Instead we focus on reading classic books, which are books that demonstrate beauty, love, and character.
Books That Teach Values, Character, and Beauty
Some of our favorite read-aloud classic books for Core Phase are:
- Little Britches, by Ralph Moody
- The Secret Garden, by Francis Hodgson Burnett
- Little House in the Big Woods, and the following books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Laddie, by Gene Stratton Porter
- Charlotte's Web, or any other children's books by E.B. White
- At the Back of the North Wind, by George Macdonald
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
- Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit
- A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
- Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know, edited by Hamilton Wright Mable
In follow-on Back to School posts, I'll talk about the specific academic curriculum we will be using this year, as well as some of the nuts-and-bolts of how we do leadership education in our home.