What is Thomas Jefferson Education (TJE)? It is the learning theory that kids learn best when they are inspired and not required to learn. Which in this day and age sounds crazy. The question any sane adult would ask is “will kids choose to learn when not required to do it”.
TJE is based on three phases of learning. Core phase is the foundation of the other two phases. Core phase is the foundation where character is shaped, morals and values are instilled, and it is where relationships are started. Naomi and Titus are my Core learners. We have our morning time of practicing letter sounds, number flash cards, calendar time, story reading, and a few minutes of table time. The rest of the morning is spent with various games and activities I have strategically placed in their kindergarten cupboard.
Note: When I say strategically that does not mean I am being sneaky about it. The beginning of each year I do interviews with each of my kiddos. I ask them what they are interested in, what they want to learn, what relaxes them, what stresses them out, and other various questions. For example, Maddie loves science, animal science to be specific. I have scoured thrift stores and our libraries book sales for science books. She will literally spend all afternoon sitting at our dinning room table reading her science books. She sits at the dinning room table because that is where we keep our world map. When she reads about the various animals around the world she is able to see the exact location they are talking about. In this one moment she is learning science, math, reading, and often times handwriting as she journals what she is learning. Take in consideration we are done with our school work by lunch time. The kids get to pick what they want to do after lunch, often times Maddie chooses on her own to pour over her science books. This is an example of knowing what she is interested in and then filling the house with what she is passionate about. Naomi and Titus have similar moments like this everyday.
The second phase of learning is Love of Learning. A Love of Learning kiddo will often show interest in many different things. In the Love of Learning phase the sky is the limit for what they can learn. The whole world is at their fingertips and they want to explore every avenue.
The third phase is the Scholar Phase. This phase is where the student begins to hone in one or two particular interests and they begin to study everything they can within the areas they choose. This phase is where they begin to buckle down and become serious in their studies. This stage often requires outside mentors depending on the interests and areas of study. For example at this time in Titus’ life he wants to be a builder and a farmer. Mark and I will continue to encourage him in this direction if this remains a passion of his. We will look for a trusted contractor/mentor and a farmer/mentor. The Lord has put great men that we trust in our lives that happen to own their own business in both areas. We would love for Titus to have hands-on experience in his passions. It might look like him taking college carpentry classes or graduating from high school with a two year college degree. The scholar phase is what begins to seriously prepare the student for life. Maddie wants to train agility and therapy dogs. With that in mind for her scholar phase she would buy her own dog, train it in her field of interest, and then eventually breed her dogs and raise her them based on her training goals. Naomi dreams of going to an art college and becoming an art teacher, so her scholar phase would include various art mentors.
When you first start using the TJE method there is a detox phase. Most kids today have been forced to learn. They are told what to learn, when to learn it, and given a time frame for the learning. In the words of Maddie, “mommy it’s really hard to learn what other people want you to learn”. I have to agree with Maddie. Most kids are going to need a detox time to play and at first it is going to feel like they will never desire to learn on their own. It’s going to feel weird because allowing our kids freedom to learn in the form of playing has been lost.
I have found it to be true that when a kiddo’s world is filled with resources to learn what they are passionate about, they soar. Learning becomes the natural bi-product of their passion. Every passion and goal has an element of math, reading, science, and handwriting. When anyone is allowed to immerse themselves in their passions learning happens on its own.
The homeschool parent’s role becomes more of a mentor than a teacher. Being on alert to the teachable moments our kids present to us becomes of utmost importance. Watching for reading readiness, light bulb moments, and inviting our kids into the learning moment is all part of being a mentor. Simply being ready, willing, and aware of the teachable moments allows a child to sore in their learning.
A TJE parent also pursues their own passions and education. Do you have a hobby you have always wanted to attempt or a degree you have always wanted to go after. Our kid’s character and attitude about their faith, character, and learning begins by watching us their parents. Do you love reading? Do you love learning? Are you compassionate and investing in a relationship with our kids and our God? What do we draw our energy from? What drives us as a person? The answers to these questions are important because they are what will begin to shape and mold our kids hearts, minds, and emotions.
Does Thomas Jefferson Education work? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes! I have discovered the more I back off and have given our kids time and space they have engaged in their own learning. I have seen more learning sparkles in my kids eyes since starting TJE than ever before. I have a front row seat to watching my kids take the reigns of their own education. TJE has transformed the way we are homeschooling from here on out!
Inspire not require looks different in different families. There are aspects of life that are required of us. There are always going to be jobs in our kids lives they would rather not do, but are important to do. We have required daily and weekly chores. We feel chores are an important vital part to our kids becoming well rounded adults. In regards to Maddie we have found Math-U-See to be a great curriculum for her. Prior to using Math-U-See she had daily tears and frustration. She loves the hands on manipulatives, the five minute teaching segments for each unit lesson, and the short lessons in each unit. Along with math we require handwriting, but we have given her the freedom to decide what she wants to write about. Daily writing teaches spelling, punctuation, and grammar. We are also exploring countries and cultures. Every year looks different depending on where each of our kids are at in their goals, dreams, desires, and learning development. Some years look more intense, while others tend to be more laid back.
Will kids learn on their own? Yes, when given the right atmosphere to do it! When their passions and desires are listened to and honed in on. When I engage with them in their learning, they do indeed sore!
To find our more about the Thomas Jefferson Education Method click here. To view the book A Thomas Jefferson Education click here, Phases of Learning click here, and for A Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens click here. It is a journey worth investigating!