July 29, 2015

How do I Get Started in Leadership Education?

This was a question posed on TJEdMuse, a yahoo group: " I am reading the books now for how to best implement TJEd [Thomas Jefferson Education]in our home. Our oldest is 12 and has expressed a desire to try for one of the military academies. We're clearly past Core with him and I suppose past LOL as well. Our 2nd will be 10 in February so also past Core and part way through LOL. Third oldest is 7, then we also have a 3 and an infant."

My response: Reading Oliver DeMille's books A Thomas Jefferson Education and Phases of Learning are outstanding places to begin understanding Classical Leadership Education!

Are you judging your children's development or placement in the phases by their age or by their actual development? Early Core, Core, Transition, Love of Learning, Transition, Scholar, Transition, Depth, Transition, Mission…

I wish to share insight that I hope will be helpful. Consider the earth's inner layers, from core to the surface, a metaphor for the developmental phases of leadership education. Rather than thinking of the phases as similar to age, grade advancement or a ladder, think of the phases as the layers of the earth. If the core is compromised or faulty our planet becomes unstable. You are never "clearly passed core." One does not "suppose love of learning." A phase is not presumed because of age of the child or their desire to attend a rigorous private military academy.

Core is as core does.

Love of learning is as love of learning does.

Scholar is as scholar does. If they talk the talk but do not walk the walk, they do not have it. A youth can talk military academy, but does he exhibit love of learning, deep values, personal character, work ethic, and a disciplined life? A military academy can be appropriate for some and a place for scholar learning.  However, if their core is not solid, it can also become a place of mischief and buckling to peer pressure, exposure to vice, and can undermine true leadership education. Leadership and scholar education with an under developed core can lead to hubris, arrogance, pride, and evil. Just look at our nation's capital! A person can be 30 years old with a faulty core. We all have a core. Some cores are more stable and directing for good than others and are reflected in the character of the individual.

George Washington came across a code civil of conduct in his youth and it was instrumental in directing his life and his leadership abilities. A person can be 12 years old or 30, or 50 and not have a love of learning, and not be in scholar phase, or never have a scholar phase.

I had to go back and strengthen my core when I started TJEd and I continue to do so. Have I been perfect? No.  Have I been working to become a better person? Yes. I have tried to be a good person and I understood right from wrong; I knew what was good and what was bad; nevertheless, there was room to grow and still is! The daily study of my central canon, recording my impressions and epiphanies, the aligning of my life with that truth is a life long process. The skills I gained doing this carried over into my scholar phase, depth, mission, and beyond, because they include the discipline of my mind, heart, and hands! The study skills and habits of daily annotating, cross referencing, epiphanies, vocabulary etc. gained in my study of my central canon, prepared me for scholar phase and carried over into my study of other classics.

When I read about classics in DeMille's landmark work A Thomas Jefferson Education, he summed it up that this is where I should begin. I should start with myself. I should start by establishing my central canon, reading it everyday, aligning my life with it, and using it to measure truth. Then I should study other classics that support my central classic. My central canon is not one classic among many of equal value, it is the center and my foundation. If it is the only classic I own and have access to, it is sufficient for a scholar phase.

Being a wife, mother, grandmother, and running an online business takes time. I need to simplify to carve enough available time to explore, experiment, expand and enjoy learning. In the day to day living there is much to do when one has a large family that enlarges with grandchildren year by year, and especially when I have youth at home. I love to learn, and I always have. However, if I let myself be over scheduled, I can lose or bury that passion for learning, or at least crowd it into a corner where it benefits no one!

This love of learning too needs to be continually fed and shared with husband, my children, my grandchildren, the children I work with, and the adults I work with. From time to time, I feel my scholar mind waning from being crowded out of time to nurture and feed that mind. Amazingly, if 15 minutes is all I can carve out at a time, it adds up and tends to inspire me to find more moment here and there. At other times I carved out time by reading aloud to my children the classics that I am reading. That way I get two birds with one stone!

I also have to take a very serious look at what I am doing, be brutally honest with myself, purge the over crowded life, have the courage to say no, and re-prioritize the essentials. First things first, and then choose wisely among many good choices, carefully trying to guard from over scheduling. Less of the good things, means more time for what really matters, more time for the best things that produce the fruit I want.

I did depth phase twice, once over thirty years ago when I earned my BA in Fine Art and Design, and sad to say I did not live up fully to that privilege. The second time was when I worked on and earned my MA in Education. I suppose after all my children are raised, I may go for a third depth phase. Meantime, I can continue to learn. Presently, while strengthening my inner core, love of learning, scholar, and relying on my depth I am working in mission phase, basically two missions of home and educational outreach– freeing the captive, educating the ignorant, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and more. It takes almost all I have and all I am. This is all a process. Phases of learning are not like grade levels.

I have academically "gifted" children. The one that tested at the 11th grade level when he was seven years old is now a rocket engineer. Even when he was seven and functioning at the 11th grade level, he still needed a solid core phase. He still needed to enjoy love of learning. He still needed time to become a real scholar. He still needed to develop breadth and depth. At 35, he still works on his core everyday, he expands his love of learning with his wife and boys, he still does scholar studies, he has been through depth twice (once as an under grad and once while earning his Master's), and he is living his mission at the same time.

I do not see academic giftedness as reason to hurry the phases and push benchmarks. As you can see, this is not a linear progression to be checked off. It is more like layers of the earth's crust. All layers working together. In other ways, because we continue to revisit and strengthen phases it is like a spiral cycle that can move forward and upward. It can also degrade if not nurtured.

In the end, we all get to lead and we all get to follow. When we choose to do good and associate with others who seek to do so, we can be followers. Jesus said, "Come follow me."  When we follow in His footsteps we let His light shine through us and become like a "city on the hill," we then become leaders as we do as He did. We have the opportunity to lead in our homes and in our communities, when we exemplify and live according to our beliefs and faith. Leadership education can prepare us to lead and to follow. We need to cultivate joy in the journey.

Did I muddy the conversation or help clarify?

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