Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Big Picture of Learning/Secrets of Private Elite Boarding Schools

How do you define learning?
“You and I are blessed in mortality with a multitude and variety of opportunities to learn and increase in intelligence--the intelligence defined as applying what we know for righteousness.  Consequently, we should not equate intelligence with formal education, academic degrees, or worldly success.  Some of the most educated people I have ever known had little or no intelligence.  And some of the most intelligent people I have ever known had little or no formal education.”  ~Elder David A. Bednar (Increase in Learning, p. 73)

A list of some of the formal educational and career achievements of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles:
  • Doctorate in Educational Administration from Brigham Young
  • Internationally renowned surgeon and medical researcher (U of U)
  • University of Chicago Law School, Justice of the Utah Supreme Court.
  • George Washington University
  • Two Harvard MBA's 
  • Master and doctor of philosophy degrees from Yale University.
  • Phd. from Purdue University
  • Law degree from Stanford University
  • Law degree from Duke University.
  • One speaks French, Portuguese and Spanish in addition to his native English (Neal Anderson)
  • MBA from Brigham Young University (Thomas S. Monson)
What Does It Mean to Be Well-Educated? 
By Alfie Kohn 
“No one should offer pronouncements about what it means to be well-educated without meeting my wife. When I met Alisa, she was at Harvard, putting the finishing touches on her doctoral dissertation in anthropology. A year later, having spent her entire life in school, she decided to do the only logical thing . . . and apply to medical school. Today she is a practicing physician -- and an excellent one at that, judging by feedback from her patients and colleagues.
She will, however, freeze up if you ask her what 8 times 7 is, because she never learned the multiplication table. And forget about grammar (“Me and him went over to her house today” is fairly typical) or literature (“Who’s Faulkner?”). After a dozen years, I continue to be impressed on a regular basis by the agility of her mind as well as by how much she doesn’t know. (I’m also bowled over by what a wonderful person she is, but that’s beside the point.)”

So if education's true core isn't really spelling, grammar, and basic math facts, then what is???

Meet John Taylor Gatto:
  • New York City Teacher of the Year four times
  • New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991
  • 30 years of classroom experience (7th-8th graders)
  • A man with great courage and without guile; child-like yet highly intelligent
  • An incredible mentor to youth
I heard him speak at the North Carolina Home Educators Conference (NCHEA) around 10 years ago, then purchased the audio talks  on these two topics :  
  • Secrets of Private Elite Boarding Schools (Leadership Schools vs. Govt. Schools)
  • What Kids are Capable of When We Open our Eyes (told true stories of his students & other young people who achieved remarkable feats.) 
He takes an approach that many seem to refer to as "un-schooling", but I believe a more accurate description is: "Agency Education" which includes accountability and wise guides/mentors.
In my humble opinion, John Taylor Gatto exemplifies the following quote in his work with youth:  

“I believe that this gift of discernment when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions--spiritual impressions, if you will--to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them...” (David A. Bednar quoting Stephen L. Richards, “Increase in Learning”, p. 58)
The Secrets to John Taylor Gatto's Success?
  • He told us how prior to winning these achievements he began to wonder how the wealthiest, most-powerful people educated their children and then he proceeded to research the methods used in our nations private-elite boarding schools.
  • He was amazed to find out the techniques and principles used were inexpensive and things that ANYONE could apply, including himself.  
  • The results he would get, even from the poorest ghettos of the U.S., were so spectacular that even he was blown away!
He also pointed out that in the 2000 presidential election four of the six candidates had come from one of these private-elite boarding schools which only graduate about 1,000 students/year.  And as it turns out, Mitt Romney also attended one. :-) 

What did he discover in his research?
He found each of these schools had 14-core common themesthough each school operates differently in many other respects.

1. No child should graduate without A THEORY OF HUMAN NATURE, or an understanding of what makes people tick. What buttons do you press to get the results you want? They gain this theory through the study of history, philosophy, literature, theology, and law, NOT psychology!
[We LOVE Liahona distance-ed. for history (5th-12th grade)! The Robinson Curriculum booklist and TJed booklists are great resources, but the possibilities are are everywhere when we open our eyes!]

2.  Writing & Public Speaking--they MUST be able to do these two things very well. Offer your children regular opportunities to speak before strangers. To write well they must do it every day or regularly. The simple practice of doing it is powerful. 
[Journal writing and the Robinson Curriculum does this very well (we don't do Robinson six days, however.) SPEAKING: Our family gets the chance to speak in front of strangers when we minister to people at a local abortion clinic while doing community service.]

3. They MUST have insight into the major institutions like courts, corporations and the military, including details of the ideas that drive them. Government schools fall very short of this:  not taught how to speak one's mind clearly or how to give good arguments--it would lead to much more effective dissent--however, this is what America was founded on! Government schools don't teach an understanding of the inner-workings of our institutions!

4. Repeated exercises in the forms of GOOD MANNERS & POLITENESS : not touched in public schools.  This is based on the utter truth that politeness and civility are the basis of all future relationships, alliances, access to places you might want to go. This is the complete opposite of what goes on in the public schools. "Now don't just tell me that's common sense because every public school I've ever been in, and I've been in hundreds, is a laboratory of rudeness, cruelty, sloppiness, coarseness."-John Taylor Gatto

5. INDEPENDENT WORK; in pub. schools teachers are responsible for filling 80-90% of students time one way or another, and all the choices are the teachers. In the private boarding school that ratio is ideally reversed. They're expected to DO most of the work and to be resourceful enough to use the work of other kids too.
[They are required to ACT rather than to always be ACTED UPON--This is a huge emphasis in Elder Bednar's new book! This is also a core principle in the Robinson Curriculum.]

6. Energetic PHYSICAL SPORTS aren't a luxury or a way to blow off steam, but absolutely the only way to confer grace on the human presence. "And if that grace translates into power or to money later on, so be it." George Washington stated that two things made his physical presence outstanding and were deliberately selected: horse-back riding and ballroom dancing. They conferred a commanding physical presence on the person who could do those things well. Sports also teach you practice in handling pain which occur in emergencies.
[Horse-back riding and ballroom dancing are both very expensive activities today, but ballet dancer's always have great posture and poise I've noticed. T-Tapp dvd’s greatly help me out personally with my health and spinal alignment. When I do them, of course...:-)]

7. A COMPLETE THEORY OF ACCESS TO ANY PERSON OR ANY PLACE: Far better than reading a civics textbook.  He would challenge his students to get a private meeting with the mayor of a big city, the governor, CEO's (his students got access to all these people, CEO's beyond count.)
[He taught them about dress, poise, manners etc. to help gain this access.] 

8. RESPONSIBILITY as an utter part of the curriculum. That includes things like washing dishes, but also things like caring for a horse, to take on some important community service, to go for leadership in clubs; it's easier than you think because it's a lot of hard work to be a responsible leader of a club that's actually doing something.  They're taught to always grab for responsibility when it's offered and to always deliver more than is asked for.
[Neal Anderson said he grew up working on the family farm from morning till night in his bio.  Many, many of our church leaders had this type of responsibility while growing up! I can think of a number who lost their father's early in life so they were forced to take on responsibility while young. For example: Joseph F. Smith, Brigham Young, Dallin H. Oaks....]
9. ARRIVAL AT A PERSONAL CODE OF STANDARDS IN PRODUCTION (work), BEHAVIOR,  & MORALITY-- a long range goal, but one that needs to be checked regularly.  You don't really ever quite get there, but always aiming for your personal best is emphasized. 
[Think of Steven Covey's "sharpening the saw" analogy from his "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" book.]

10. FAMILIARITY WITH THE MASTER CREATIONS OF MUSIC, OF ART, DESIGN, PAINTING, ARCHITECTURE, SCULPTURE, LITERATURE, & DRAMA. To be at ease with the arts, because apart from religion the arts are the only way to transcend the animal materiality in our lives--to get in touch with the bigger you.
[I LOVE this, of course, being the mother of a musical artist! But it is just SO true! When you hear inspired music, read inspired literature, watch inspired performances, or see inspired artwork it is FAR easier to feel closer to our Heavenly Father!]

11. THE POWER OF ACCURATE OBSERVATION & RECORDING. Example: In the British upper classes, if you could not draw what you saw with your eye you did not see what was in fact there. Drawing was expected not as a way to pass time but a way to sharpen the perception. Example:  Charles Darwin's drawings -- how far would the theory of evolution gone without his drawings?
 [He recommended the book "Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain" in one of his talks. I also love the book "Drawing with Children" and have used it with great results.]

12. The ability to DEAL WITH CHALLENGES of all sorts: Everyone's challenges are so different-- you must KNOW your son or daughter in order to help strengthen them. For example, if your child is painfully shy, obviously public presentation is the corrective that they need rather than live that way the rest of their lives. Perhaps all of us are cowards on some level, but it's vital to find out that physical/emotional/mental/spiritual challenges can be met...and if they hurt, we find out not as much as we perhaps feared and we end up with personal GROWTH. Teach your child if they get knocked down to stand back up, and if they get knocked down again, to stand back up again! But challenges are different for different people.

13. A HABIT IN CAUTION IN REASONING TO CONCLUSIONS: listening to or watching propaganda for hours is not the way to find answers! They were told to form the opinions only after very careful study, pondering, etc. 
[This is certainly not something I was ever taught in school! But what a difference this one principle alone could make in the lives of youth!]

14. THE CONSTANT DEVELOPMENT AND TESTING OF JUDGEMENT; you keep an eye on your predictions to see how accurate or how consistent things are.
[Refer back to the discernment quote above from Elder Bednar's book. I think his entire book, if carefully pondered and studied, could develop this ability in remarkable ways. What better guide and tool of judgement could we encourage our children to use or have than the gift of the Holy Ghost?]
"Now this is a curriculum well worth considering long and hard."
~John Taylor Gatto

But what about early childhood?

A Key Book:  Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s:  A Successful Homeschool Family Handbook
    • Based on solid legitimate, educational research, NOT on "trendy parenting" or popular culture.
    • Required reading in Charlotte, NC’s largest home schooling group (Home Educators Need Team Support/HINTS)
    • Teaches a balanced program of work, study & service (in the home and out-side the home as children grow). They call this combination "The Moore Formula".
    • Teaches that a secret to creating genius is warm, loving, nurturing parental responses to children.
Example: Francis Sellers Collins, is an American physician-geneticist, noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP). He became recognized as one of the most important and talented figures in the field of medical genetics. His early education certainly fit within the principles laid out by The Moore Formula: He was raised on a farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and home-schooled by his mother until the sixth grade with his three older brothers. It’s reported by John Taylor Gatto that they would all vote to decide what subject they were going to study together, with only one rule: as soon as they got uninterested they had to choose another subject!
Example: "Homeschooling for Excellence" by David & Micki Colfax, tells of their educational journey while homesteading just about 20 miles up the road from my childhood home in Ukiah, California. They also applied the Moore Formula, though they didn't call it that. Three of their four sons attended Harvard on full-tuition genetic science scholarships--the fourth went to a top culinary school in San Francisco. They learned first-hand about genetics while breeding animals on their homestead. They also found the chance to read books a great relief from all their physical, hard work. Nobody forced or bribed them to learn! They also didn't have a TV set. When young people have experiences that back up their book-learning, everything comes alive, interesting and far more meaningful! Is this not just "common sense" though? What has happened to most parent's "common sense" when it comes to educating children? In most cases it seems to have been trained right out of us with all of our schooling!

Parting thoughts/quotes that will help improve LEARNING & PEACE in your family:

"...Researchers concluded that what seems universal in people who have excelled in their chosen profession is that they felt an 'underlying, love, respect and honesty from their families.' Those character traits seem to be the critical common elements that run through the family histories of those who have attained eminence in society. But they are also the character traits of parents who have children who become happy and successful and productive in all walks of life." ("The Power of Play" by Dr. David Elkind p.186-187)
"… You cannot drive people to do things which are right, but you can love them into doing them, IF your example is of such a character that they can SEE you mean what you say." 
~President George Albert Smith

"We can guide, direct, and prune a tender sprout, and it inclines to our direction, if it is wisely and skillfully applied. So, if we surround a child with healthy and salutary influences, give him suitable instructions and store his mind with truthful traditions, maybe that will direct his feet in the way of life." (Discourses of Brigham Young, 209)

"You see, hear and witness a good deal of contention among children—some of you do, if not all—and I will give you a few words with regard to your future lives, that you may have children that are not contentious, not quarrelsome. Always be good-natured yourselves, is the first step. Never allow yourselves to become out of temper and get fretful. … They have so much vitality in them that their bones fairly ache with strength. They have such an amount of vitality—life, strength and activity, that they must dispose of them; and the young ones will contend with each other. Do not be out of temper yourselves. Always sympathize with them and soothe them. Be mild and pleasant.
(Discourses of Brigham Young, 209–10)
“One of the great discoveries of parenthood is that we learn far more about what really matters from our children than we ever did from our parents. We come to recognize the truth in Isaiah’s prophecy that ‘a little child shall lead them.’” 
(Elder Boyd K. Packer, April 2012 Conference Report)

An increased yearning to learn is one of the important spiritual effects that grows out of putting off ‘the natural man...’”
~Elder David A. Bednar
“The Spirit of the Lord is the only true and trustworthy teacher who can 'teach us all things, and bring all things to our remembrance', and kindle within us an abiding love of and for learning."  
~David A. Bednar (Increase in Learning, p.19) 
“From failure you learn, success, not so much.”
~Meet the Robinson’s, movie
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~Walt Disney (also describes Gatto)

The Bible says “fear not” over 360 times! Let's educate and raise our children in a spirit of FAITH, rather than worry and fear. You can do it!
"Go Forward in Faith." 
 ~President Gordon B. Hinckley's biography title

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Required Curriculum": Turning Point

The POWER of how just ONE individual, group of individuals, or even ONE FAMILY going about doing good can make the world a far better place--people who have found great COURAGE to look deep into their hearts, to use their own simple, unique, God-given gifts, talents and abilities to unselfishly bless those who so desperately need those blessings!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Agency Education: Being a Doer of the Word, and Not a Hearer Only

Early in the pregnancy of my sixth baby I was physically tired, lacked home schooling support (in fact I faced persecution) and was overwhelmed by my husbands expectations of what "home-schooling" was supposed to look like (he is learning!).  End result: *K was enrolled in 3rd grade at the local elementary school.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Will Work for the Glory of Our Lord

 "It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain." 

"The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This is a season to be strong.  It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission.  It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow.  It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain.  It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Top Eleven Reasons that We Homeschool

[Ok, so I actually stole this off Jennifer Georgia's blog, but I agree completely! For many more great resources from Jen, visit her site at The Georgia Times.  Scroll down and look for her lists and articles in the right hand column. -K]

11 - It’s Fun!  We can do all the fun things that happen at public school (field trips, band, orchestra, drama, art, choir, sports, geography and spelling bees, science fairs) with homeschool support groups, community groups, or (many of them) with the public school.  We can also do things that they can’t, like doing school on the trampoline on beautiful days.

10 - Freedom from bullying classmates, screaming teachers, classroom apathy, moral relativism, the homosexual agenda and the wacked-out environmentalist agenda taught in schools, bad language and inappropriate behavior in the halls, pornography, drugs, prostitution rings, pedophiles and kids with guns.

9 - Freedom to study what we want, when we want, take a family vacation whenever we want, and be around nice people of all ages, both LDS and not.

8 - Home schools are “Drug-Free Zones” - children with ADHD can run or bike around the block whenever they get antsy, children with Inattentive ADD aren’t continually distracted by 25 other children.

7 - We can incorporate our LDS lifestyle into our school.   We learn our own family history and LDS history as we study  world history.  Scripture Study, Personal Progress, Faith in God, Duty to God and Scout requirements are all a part of things we do for “school”.  We earn Merit Badges in our science co-op.

6 - We ALL learn together.  My education is just as important as theirs.

5 - Our children don’t develop peer-dependency, and aren’t impacted so much by negative socialization. 

4 - We can have the “butter and honey” (see 2 Ne. 17:14-15) instead of the mediocre and the foul.  Instead of studying  mind-numbing textbooks and reading morally-degrading assigned books, we can read the classics and can learn from the great minds of the past and present.

3 - We can teach true principles that are not politically correct, such as the proper role of government, free-market economics, true environmental stewardship that isn’t anti-human, and the principles found in “The Proclamation on the Family”.

2 - We can customize to the needs, wants, interests and abilities of each child.
1 - Family, Isn’t It About ... Time???

Three Homeschool Requirements
1 - You must be able to read.  

2 - You have to like your children (in addition to loving them).

3 - You have to be able to relax, be patient, laugh, and trust your children.

Three Non-Requirements
1 - It doesn’t take any more time than sending them to public school.  Think of all the time spent in transportation, class-helper assignments, PTA and other meetings, fund raisers, accompanying field trips.  Think of supervising the three hours of homework that people tell me their third graders come home with.  I spend 1 to 3 hours a day actually sitting reading to them, or doing  math, science, history, Spanish, Latin, or whatever else the day brings.

2 - It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Private schools run $5000 to $15,000 per year, but you can have your own private school at home for free if you use the extensive resources available in the library and on the internet.

3 - No formal training in education is necessary, in fact, it seems to make homeschooling more difficult. 


Earlier is not better, complicated is not better, more is not better.

Structure time, not content (early years).

Help children set and achieve academic goals (later years). 

Enrich the environment.

Enjoy the journey, go with the flow.

School is life, and life is school.  There is no artificial division.

Encourage the child to make observations and generalize them to new things.

Reserve for the child the moment of discovery.

Avoid pushing the child into the “frustration zone.”

Children will reflect the social, educational and spiritual development that their parents possess, so be a good example.

OUR HOMESCHOOL GOAL - That our children leave the Georgia Academy as happy people with strong testimonies and self-confidence, who are academically prepared for any university course of study.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Love Family Life

[A friend asked me to write about what I love about "family life" and this is my response.]

I have had the blessing of being part of a good family since the day I was born.  How my heart aches and wishes for that same opportunity for every infant coming into this world: to have loving parents and siblings who are seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Where ever there is righteous living there is peace, love and joy.  Where ever there is self-centered living there is strife, anger and pain.  But I also know the atonement of Christ is real and through that power he will heal any and all who come to Him with full purpose of heart.

This being said, I don't believe there exists a "perfect family" anywhere out there.  We are on this earth to learn, grow and have experiences to teach us what our Heavenly Father knows we need to learn.  The Lord Jesus Christ was the only person to walk the earth who was completely perfect.  So we are either moving closer to that goal of becoming like our Savior or we are moving farther away.  Having a family that is striving with all its might to follow His example is an invaluable strength and gift to have in this journey of life!

I love family life because I can't think of any other way to refine my character faster and help me grow.  Is it an easy, painless process?  Of course not! Since when was anything truly worthwhile easy? But through working, living, struggling, laughing, praying, and studying daily as a family we can all progress closer to our Heavenly Father. And we learn the principle of MERCY is among the first to master in order to find joy in our family life: "For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."   3 Nephi 13:14-15

Where else do you have more opportunities to "trespass" or "to be trespassed" than in family life? :) It is such an intimate and personal environment that there seem to be many chances for either giving or taking offense.  But there are also many more opportunities to love, to forgive, to bless, and to serve! It's simply not possible to live a truly satisfying, happy life by seeking our personal interests and wants all or even most of the time!  Self-centered life-styles simply go against eternal laws as our Lord taught:  "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 10:39

Another one of sweetest blessings we gain, especially as parents, is through service in the home to little children.  I've noticed that many in the world prefer not to do the work it takes to care for babies and small children.  After all, where's the glory? Where's the monetary compensation?  Or perhaps even, where's my sleep?! :) And the "work" is quite constant and demanding!  But it is among the most precious work we can do for all of these very reasons.  Another powerful, unchanging principle from the Savior:  "As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40 

If we truly love the Lord with are our might, mind and strength we will rejoice in the opportunity to serve him in this capacity.  We will gradually be able to forget ourselves more and more and thereby be able to have more joy if our life.  But, you might be asking: Who will then take care of ME?!  I testify that as we put our whole heart and mind into serving Christ, He will take care of us FAR BETTER than we can ever take care of ourselves!  I have seen this over and over again as my husband and I have brought each of our ten children into this world and as we are trying to do our best to raise them.  We are still far from perfect, of course, but as I mentioned earlier, we must live by the glorious principle of MERCY and GRACE daily. A favorite quote relating to this principle from The Book of Mormon:

 "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."  (2 Nephi 25:23)

A FAMILY, with each member seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, is like a lovely symphony or beautiful piece of artwork to be enjoyed by all who seek after things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. Articles of Faith 1:13 

The Big Picture of Learning/Secrets of Private Elite Boarding Schools

How do you define learning? “You and I are blessed in mortality with a multitude and variety of opportunities to learn and increase in i...

Popular Posts