Lessons for Life: A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion

A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion
A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion by Oliver Van DeMille
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you know that thing where, when you’re pondering what direction to take, everything around you seems to be centered around a particular direction or message?

I love when that happens.

We’re in the middle of this several-months-long period of job transition and cross-country move that’s fixing to shift again as we move into our new home (at long last) next week. My thoughts have been circling for months this idea of what I want to take with me, emotionally and materially, and what I want to leave behind.

This book is full of this idea. In a series of essays, Oliver and Rachel DeMille and Diann Jeppson write about the importance of applying the principles of Leadership Education and practical ways of doing so. At some points, the book is a little slow-going, and some of Diann Jeppson’s essays, rather than helping me see TJEd as more doable made me wonder if I was up to the task (Jeppson offered practical advice, but reading it felt overwhelming at times).

The most powerful essays for me were those that dealt with the leaders of the past and what we can learn from them as we try to improve our own education so that we may give our children the opportunity to be leaders. Rachel DeMille’s “‘Steel to Gold’: Motherhood & Feminism” lit a fire under me and helped me see the importance of my role as a parent (when often the gifts I have to offer as a stay-at-home mother are undervalued in our culture). She helped me begin to place myself in history, which helps ease some of that feeling of loneliness as I take less-traveled paths.

And the last five essays were just incredible. They dealt with the fallacies of education, like that education should be fun (“No nation focused on unearned fun will pay the price to fight a revolutionary war for their freedoms, or cross the plains and build a new nation, or sacrifice to free the slaves or rescue Europe from Hitler, or put a man on the moon. We got where we are because we did a lot of things that weren’t fun.”). They addressed the principles of “liber” and “Public Virtue” and how they were embodied by the Founders. And they pointed out how those we consider great leaders (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Churchill, etc) spent years reading and studying and discussing before they acted upon what they’d learned and changed the course of history.

Then there’s the Epilogue, which most directly relates to the quest I’ve been on these past months. A mother struggling to apply the principles of Leadership Education while raising six children (with a seventh on the way) uses the metaphor of the handcart, used by many Mormon pioneers as they crossed the plains to Utah, to illustrate the idea that those who follow this path are educational pioneers (debates about mismanagement of the handcart parties aside). She talks about the difficult choice of what to put in your metaphorical handcart and what to leave behind, knowing that everything you carry with you, you’ll be pushing with your own power for thousands of miles, and everything you leave behind might be something you needed to take along to ease your journey, or even to make it to your destination.

This is the choice I’m trying to make as we settle into this new phase of our life. What’s important to me? What will I need for this journey? What things no longer serve me that I’d like to leave behind?

This book not only helped me to see more clearly the path I’d like to take my children’s education (and my own), it helped me see that the path I choose for our family’s education is the path I choose for our development as human beings and as citizens of the world.

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: 2011: My Year in Books « Imperfect Happiness
  2. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ · August 6, 2011

    I’m looking at TJ right now as I plan for this year’s “for realzies” homeschool year. I’m attracted to the classics approach and unschooling-somehow they work in my head. Thank you for giving your take on this. It helps a lot to hear. If you come across other resources, please tap me with them, if you feel like it.

    Like

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