I am reading this book and am so inspired that I just had to write about it here! I stumbled upon this book while requesting books from my library. I had heard about it from someone in my homeschool group, but I didn't know exactly what it was about. A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille is such a great book! I have several other books that I am supposed to be reading, but I decided to start this one since it's due back to the library soon and I'm so glad that I did.
Oliver Van DeMille is the founder and president of George Wythe College and a father of eight children. The book basically explains how to inspire your students to love learning, to be inspired, to get a better education than your average American student, and to become leaders in society. He is writing the book to teachers, professors, homeschool parents, and parents in general. He says that students need to read classic literature, the Bible, poems, short biographical stories about great people in history, such as scientists, presidents, artists, etc.
The author tells a story about a group of freshmen at a prestigous university. Their professor had the class read the book The Closing of the American Mind. The students read the book and hated it. They weren't impressed......after all they were the cream of the crop at an Ivy League school. The professor gave a pop quiz to make his point. He asked the class to tell him what they knew about the Mayflower Compact, the Magna Carta, the Spanish Armada, the Bull Moose party, Don Giovanni, the Tenth Amendment, and other topics. The students were embarrassed.
DeMille says to have your students read, write, do projects, and discuss. He says that the classics teach the great moral lessons and make you think when you read them. For younger children he recommends Little House on the Prairie, Black Beauty, and others. He says to have your students keep a journal and write in it every day----a few paragraphs about what they have learned that day.
This type of education is similar to the Charlotte Mason method of teaching. She recommended having your children read "living" books as opposed to dry, boring textbooks. Oliver Van DeMille is also opposed to textbooks as far as I can tell so far. (I'm not yet half way through the book.) I completely agree that textbooks don't inspire children to learn. When you don't want to learn something because it's so stinking boring, you will forget it soon after you have read it. Right now I am reading through the Slim Goodbody series of books and I'm embarrassed to say that I have learned some things tonight after reading the one about the endocrine system. (I have a bachelor's degree in nursing.) The illustrations are top notch in these books. No, they aren't the classics, but they are very helpful in teaching anatomy to my first and fifth graders.
I do agree with DeMille about how important the classics are to read. They honestly make you think. Some of the better books I have read to my children have made a big impression on all of us and made us think. I can't wait to read more of A Thomas Jefferson Education and put into practice some of his suggestions. You can get it from your library or order it from www.amazon.com. There is also A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion. I hope my library has that one too!
Speaking of classics, I love to play classical music during the day when we are doing school, especially if it's more mellow music. There is just something about classical music that calms my children down and helps them to concentrate better on what they are doing. There is scientific research that shows that classical music is good for your brain and behavior. It definitely helps at our house! :o)