Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
This post is part of an ongoing series
about the educational philosophy Leadership Education
(also known as A Thomas Jefferson Education.)
Find the other posts in the series here.
I brewed inviting mugs of hot tea, explained to the kids our goal for the day, and carried the mugs to our porch where we could enjoy the recent influx of definitive spring-like weather (Hallelujah!).
I was also trying to brew a little inspiration for something we’d never done before–making homeschool compasses. A compass should do what it sounds like–point us in the right direction for our learning as a family.
For years now I’ve regularly created “six month inventories” for our homeschool–plans that form a scaffold for what Steve and I need to do in order to guide and direct our children’s educations.
Every six months (or thereabouts) I carve out quiet, pray for each child, and brainstorm ideas about what he or she needs most at this time.
A compass is similar in some ways–except that the kids have created it themselves! I figured that now–at ages 9, almost 10, and just-turned-11–they would be ready to set some of their own learning goals.
But I was surprised by how deep we went and how much we enjoyed the whole process.
“Each binder should include the student’s past and current compass – a six month list of everything they want to study, learn and do.”
– from Leadership Education The Phases of Learning
If you feel drawn to this concept, it’s important to remember that a compass is not just about academics–it’s about life.
Life skills, hobbies, and personal interests carry as much weight and importance as academics when you discuss with your kids. Don’t shut down their ideas–think of it as a brainstorming session of sorts.
I used this download created by another TJEd (Thomas Jefferson Education) family, and found it to be a helpful blueprint. The categories and guidelines I mention in today’s post come from the download.
Here’s an overview you can use and tweak to create your own homeschool compass.
What do I do really well?
I love the idea of starting with strengths–because so often the typical educational system focuses on weaknesses. Why not empower our kids instead by reminding them of their God-given gifts and talents?
Some of my kids’ responses to this question about their strengths:
- nature study
- riding my bike
What books have I read that have most impacted or inspired me?
Because we read so many classics at home and literature is one of my top passions, I was super-curious about what Trishna’s, Jonathan’s, and Elijah’s answers to this question would be.
- Little Women series
- Little House series
- Toliver’s Secret
- Life of Fred
- Books about Harriet Tubman
- Just David
II. Areas to work on/strengthen
I was nervous at first about including this category–maybe because I have baggage about being shamed or embarrassed over weaknesses in my own school days.
I decided to give it a try, however, and found that my children didn’t share any of my qualms about it. Remember to think of this category holistically–it includes all of life, not just academics.
Some of the feedback from my kids:
- become more patient
- improve my drawing
Books I want to read and study over the next six months
I usually keep a post-it note with books to check out from the library based on the kids’ interests, but it had never occurred to me to ask them about specific titles they might like to prioritize.
Elijah and I actually went down the rows of our home bookshelves and he picked out some he’s heard me or his brother/sister talk about.
A few other answers: (Note that they’re not all heavy reading! =) )
- Amelia Bedelia
- Hardy Boys
- Books by Louisa May Alcott
- Airplane books
- Poppy (We’re in the middle of this now–so fun/exciting!)
- Castle Diary
- The Secret Garden
- Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
What I want to learn/study in the next six months
Remember again: This doesn’t have to be just academics!
(As you can see from one of my son’s responses below…see if you can guess which one I mean:)
- multiplication tables
- how to cook eggs
- how to make girls fall in love with me =)
- US presidents
- how to make candles
- cooking lessons
What is my mission?
We talk often about mission and purpose in our home, believing that God put each one of us here for a unique and special reason. Yet I had never asked my kids to try and articulate what their mission might be.
What I loved is that as children, they didn’t get hung up about whether or not they were choosing the “ONE…RIGHT…ANSWER.”
Instead they used their imaginations, had fun with the process, recognized their strengths, and played with what that could look like in the future.
Some of their answers even brought tears to this mama’s eyes:
- to free slaves
- to be a good mom who makes books for my children
- to be an author
- to be a happy person who works hard and helps others
- to be a kind, firm, nice father
- to be generous and helpful
- to be a firefighter, lawn worker, nature preserver, litter collector, meteorologist, worship leader (oh, the choices!)
There’s more to share about the creation of our compasses, but it ended up being too long to fit in one post!
I’ll continue next week to discuss the next steps and also the “now what?”–how do you practically make use of this information to guide and direct learning once you have it?
In the meantime, if this post intrigues you and you’d like to learn more about A Thomas Jefferson Education, check out these resources:
- Tjed.org – the official site of A Thomas Jefferson Education
- A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille (This book explains the WHY of the method)
- Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille (My personal fav, this book explains the HOW)
- FREE 7 Keys Certification – Right now the DeMilles, founders of this philosophy, are offering one of their most popular trainings free to readers here at Simple Homeschool! (See an overview here. You can work through the material on your own timetable.)
How do you try to include your kids in developing life and learning goals?