Leadership Education, also known as Thomas Jefferson Education, is a philosophy based on the style of education received by great leaders and thinkers throughout history.
It centers around principles instead of a specific curriculum, seeks to honor children as individuals instead of teaching them as little adults, and groups childhood education into four phases, which we’ll cover in a later post.
The goal of Leadership Education is to teach students how to think, as opposed to teaching them what to think. To do this two main methods of instruction are employed–classics and mentors.
Many of us are familiar with classical education, but what exactly makes a good mentor?
Learn about these seven key ideas to find out.
1. Classics, Not Textbooks
Following the direction of philosophies like Charlotte Mason and the Classical method, Leadership Education uses classics to teach and inspire students.
A classic is defined as any work written by an author with a firsthand passion and expertise for the topic, who exudes his personal enthusiasm to the reader. Classics can be found in any field of interest to the student. A mentor helps the student discover the next classic that will inspire him.
2. Mentors, Not Professors
The goal in Leadership Education is not to have an “expert” teacher pour his or her knowledge into the student. Instead the mentor’s goal is to inspire the student, take the student’s interests into account, and help direct the child along the path that will provide the best individualized education.
Parents are the natural mentors for young children. As a child gets older, parents seek out specialized mentors in the community as the student has need.
Photo by Wonderlane
3. Inspire, Not Require
The tenets of Leadership Education do not force a child to study specific subjects, believing that such force kills the spirit of learning and curiosity in a child.
But unlike unschooling, the Leadership Education parent may not just wait for a child’s interest on a subject before engaging it. Instead, the teacher seeks to inspire a child to engage with the material on his own.
Ways of inspiring could include leaving a new book laying out on a table, taking the child to watch a spelling bee, or giving the student a musical instrument.
4. Structure Time, Not Content
Parents who follow the Leadership Education model do have structure in their homes–the structure of time. It may be that from 9 am to lunch is “school time.” What a child studies during that time would be completely up to her.
Parents study as well and look for opportunities to help any child who needs it. The entire home atmosphere is one of education–for all members of the family.
5. Quality, Not Conformity
When older students (think upper high school students) submit an assignment to their mentor, the only grades given are “excellent” or “do it again.”
High quality of work is the goal; mediocre efforts done to just “get by” are not accepted. And because the student has chosen the assignment, he wants to his best.
Photo by Jimmie
6. Simplicity, Not Complexity
As our educational system becomes more complex, results continue to decline while dissatisfaction (among parents and students) increases.
That’s why Leadership Education seeks to return to a simpler model of education. The focus is therefore on classics, discussion, projects, and writing. Keeping it simple allows for more depth within the subjects the child decides to study.
7. You, Not Them
Leadership Education mentors focus mainly on their own education, pushing themselves academically and serving as models. They don’t micromanage their children’s education, but instead provide an inspiring example that students naturally want to follow.
Mentors lead the way, encouraging their children as they embark on the learning journey together.
Oliver DeMille, author of A Thomas Jefferson Education and Leadership Education writes that “education can’t be fixed as long as we believe one basic myth. The myth is that it is possible for one human being to educate another.
The fact is that the only person who can fix education is the student.”
If you follow Leadership Education principles, please share how you have seen it work in your home.