Sunday, August 10, 2014

Leadership Education in Our Homeschool, and Our Top 10 Read-Aloud Chapter Books

This post is the first in my Back-To-School series for 2014-15.
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 Paramount

The foundation of the Leadership Education philosophy is the 7 Keys of Great Teaching:
  1. Classics, Not Textbooks
  2. Mentors, Not Professors
  3. Inspire, Not Require
  4. Structure Time, Not Content
  5. Quality, Not Conformity
  6. Simplicity, Not Complexity
  7. YOU, Not Them 
The last key, "YOU, Not Them", is fulfilled when the parents focus on actively pursuing their own educations, and this goes a long way towards fulfilling the 3rd Key - "Inspire, Not Require". When parents are leading out by pursuing their own educations, the children will naturally follow. I have seen this work repeatedly in our home: the more my children see me reading, writing, and doing math, the more they spontaneously want to do those activities themselves.

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-Aloud

In 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:

Do you read chapter books to your kids? What are your favorite read-aloud chapter books for young children?

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1 comment:

Hibber said...

I am interested in reading more about Leadership Education. It sounds similar to Waldorf education. I read to my daughter the three books on Tiptoes Lightly by Reg down about a fairy, two farm kids and small animals in a forest. They are delightful!