Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thomas Jefferson Education . . . and Waldorf???

September 24 and 25, I attended a 2-day seminar on Thomas Jefferson Education, entitled "Face to Face with Greatness."

Why does a self-described Waldorf home educator attend a seminar of a differing philosophy?

In the past several years, I have been exploring and researching other approaches to home education. Sometimes, this begins in a superficial way, but often, it becomes deeper.

What I have found, especially through reading Climbing Parnassus, is that much of what I am drawn to are simply different branches of Classical Education. By tracing the entire history of education from ancient times through Climbing Parnassus, I was able to see what was going on in the world of education, the great debate of the times, when Rudolf Steiner came on the scene. Similar to Charlotte Mason, much of Steiner's work was a response to the "deadening" of classical education. In Steiner's case, however, there was also a sort of bridging between the two camps at the time: those who advocated for classical and those who advocated for an emphasis on technical education. Steiner included both a rich exposure to high level literature, poetry and the arts, as well as an appreciation and application of woodworking and other technical crafts. This had to do with his understanding of the three-fold social order and the realization that the classics are "good" for the laborer, and appreciation of the laborer's work is needed by the professional, in order to create a more harmonious social life for all.

While Thomas Jefferson Education (TJed) seems to be new on the scene, it is actually rooted in the larger body of education, known as Classical Education. Its principles are based on the way our Founding Fathers were educated, which was basically classical. There is also an emphasis on Mentors. Again, this emphasis is not unique to TJed; it is, however, highlighted, as the masses are typically no longer educated through classics or mentors. By definition, the mentor-student relationship is typically a one-on-one experience which allows the student to learn in a more in-depth manner.

So how is TJed alike or different from Waldorf. To begin with, TJed is not so much a method as it is an over-arching view of education. It teaches the parent/educator about the different types of education in the broadest sense: conveyor belt (the method most of us grew up with and that has been adopted in nearly all U.S. schools, public and private); "professional" -- similar to "conveyor" but geared toward the top students for the production of lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Like conveyor belt education, the emphasis is on the end-product: getting a "good" job. Then there is "leadership" education, which TJed calls itself: education that aims at creating great leaders, not unlike the Founding Fathers of our country.

To take it a step further, I would say that one of the points of TJed is that the education transforms the person. Yet, others might argue that any other form of Classical Education has the same emphasis. This may be true. However, no matter what the approach, philosophy or method, there is a constant danger that it becomes dead, or dry for the student and ends up being another form of "conveyor belt" education. Along the way, most parent educators are confronted with the fact that their previous experiences with education may or may not work for their children. They often find themselves imitating some form of conveyor belt education simply because that is what they know and are familiar with.

This can even happen to parents who choose Waldorf as their main inspiration for home education. If they have previously been associated with a Waldorf school, they already have a long list of ideas and expectations in their minds which they tend to constantly compare themselves to. So even if they are not trying to measure up to the local public school, they may constantly being trying to measure up to their local Waldorf school.

So how can a Waldorf homeschooler intertwine the high ideals of TJed with that of Waldorf in a meaningful and productive way? Look for my next article for a practical application of the two philosophies working in harmony, and bringing out the best of each, for a truly free-ing education.


Jane said...

I loved this post!!! I have been pondering on some of the same things. I really like the Waldorf Education but I also like Tjed and Charlotte Mason. I like how you put it into words. I have been struggling with getting off the "conveyor belt" with all these different methods and ideas. I agree with you about Tjed and it has been helping me follow my heart more and listen to what my children need are. I still might use a Waldorf aproach or perhaps a Charlotte Mason idea to teach reading etc. but its becoming more organic than before. Im trying to inspire and not require as much. : )
Sorry this is so long. It just hit the spot for me. Thank you so much for writing it. Im so glad I stumbled upon your post. : )

Shonda said...

Just found your blog through the CM-Waldorf group. Great to see a post about TJEd! I am heavily involved in our local TJed community and I am a Waldorf inspired homeschooler,too. :) I once had an oral exam on comparing TJEd and Waldorf. Haha You did a much better job thank i did! :)

Amy Sey said...

I have never heard of TJed until reading this post and I'm very curious what connections you made between it and Waldorf. Again, I know it's been a while, but I would love to hear some follow up if you have the time. :D