Posted on 2010-08-10 by Rachel DeMille
From the Desk of Rachel DeMille...
It's been fun to get your feedback on these messages of late. I'm about finished with them. Our "Mommy Loves Meri" school (that's what America has named it) is about to get underway for the fall, and I'm going to be spending just a little less time writing.
A little note on that: the messages I've sent out lately have all been reposted as blogs here on TJEdOnline Community, so you can reread them here on the site or direct others to them as well. I would also urge you to share your thoughts and responses to them on the blog comment section. And if you have blogged on related topics, you are invited to share a link to your post. This is a simple yet powerful way to spread the influence of ideas.
When you read a blog--not just my blog here, but any blog--don't just nod in agreement or mumble under your breath your rebuttal: take a moment and share your thoughts, and direct interested readers to a place where they can read more. This makes the blogging process dynamic, interactive, personal and conversational. And it's a skill and a strategy that is precisely the type of thing I hope we, as "TJEd'ers" become more active in.
I mentioned as I closed last time that I had been asked a particular question over and over in the past few weeks. It is this:
What do you recommend for online instruction of youth?
I love this question. Sadly, I think that homeschoolers in general have felt that participating in organized instruction as the youth hit their teens was somehow a failure of the process. I couldn't disagree more. The inclination our youth feel to connect with peers and mentors (other than parents) in an academic setting is an indication that their development is right on track! Not only isn't this a failure, but it exactly the right thing to help them progress toward Depth Phase and prepare for their life and mission.
Clearly, not all formal settings are created equal, and there are some offerings that can completely undo the good you've accomplished in twelve years of nurturing the Core and Love of Learning. But one of the most providential things about the current state of affairs is that you don't have to live in a burgeoning TJEd community to have a high-quality peer group and world-class mentors for your youth in Scholar Phase. These can be found online.
I would go so far as to say that even those who do live in TJEd hotspots should encourage their youth to do much of their formal group learning in an online setting, because they not only need to be completely at home with the technologies (which can only come through using them often and in a variety of circumstances) but because they need to build rapport with others outside of the immediate circle of influence and become more conscious about issues affecting those far away. These are skills and attributes of a leader.
In Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning we discussed "The Formal Ball" as an important ingredient to create a TJEd model environment.
Well, we go into some detail on pages 138-140, and it just so happens that his whole section is included in the free sample excerpt available here (I urge you to read the whole section on the Formal Ball), but let the gist of it is that the languages we learn as a child we are able to speak without an accent. Whether that language is Spanish or cello or black tie or online communication--if it matters to our children's mission, there is a way to appropriately and effectively make it a part of their healthy progress through the phases, and there is a time when a clear emphasis on it becomes critical.
And to support and influence the leaders of the world, our children (and we!) need to be able to be ourselves (not self-conscious, aloof or out of place) in a formal setting--indeed in any setting. Our children may needlessly find barriers to their ability to make a difference if they are perceived as out-of-touch, backward, elitist, narrow-minded, etc., and especially if they are not fluent in the language of technology or well-practiced in building rapport with others who have a different background or life experience. In this way the Formal Ball and online interaction are alike.
We want our children to be confident and authentic in their interactions in these settings, because much of the important work of the world takes place in these venues. I hope it goes without saying that as parents, teachers and mentors, Inspire, not Require and You, not Them apply here. We must lead by example not just so that it is effective, but because to turn them loose in cyberspace without knowing the lay of the land is just nutty. They need our guidance. And at the end of the day, we actually have a work to do that isn't about them.
So I again issue a call to mentors and youth in Scholar Phase and above (if that's not you, relax--this doesn't apply to you. You've got plenty on your plate with Core and Love of Learning and when it's right to move the next phase you'll know it.):
Get involved in the Great Conversation! And if you are mentoring Transition to Scholar and Scholar kids, consider how to help them develop tech skills that will lead them where they need to be in the next few years.
So back to the practical question:
What do I recommend for online learning?
I know of some really great offerings that are really in sync with TJEd.
One offers online learning for kids in Transition to Scholar and Apprentice/Practice Scholar, and for Parents progressing to Scholar Phase. It's called Leadership Education Academy, and you can find them here. (I have a kid attending here)
For youth in Mentored Scholar, I LOVE Williamsburg Academy. (I have a kid attending here)
There are great discussion groups for adults on TJEdOnline Community and various Yahoo email groups.
Face to Face with Greatness does online mentoring for adults in Scholar Phase (Shanon is the favorite mentor of a couple of my kids).
For college age adults and continuing education for adults in Depth Phase, GWU can't be beat. (I have two GW students in my family)
For adults in professional and entrepreneurial paths, check out The Center for Social Leadership.
Each of these is run by TJEd people who were personally mentored by Oliver and me. FYI, this is not a paid promotion. I've just been asked so many times (practically daily in the past few weeks!) that I'm pretty clear that this is a question on a lot of people's minds. Plus, if I'm going to be urging involvement in online education, I think it's helpful to point people in a direction that's harmonious with the Leadership Education path.
Many of these offer both live and recorded classes, with a price differential.
So many of TJEd'ers are feeling:
Seriously: If this describes you, check out the options above. They're affordable and they're excellent. And they're in tune with this time in history.
Family calls, and I've taken enough of your time today. I'd love to hear your comments on this--you can post them on the blog here.
Have a blessed day!
Posted on 2010-03-15 by Rachel DeMille
For almost fifteen years now my family has used a wood burning stove to help heat our house. It's been quite the science experiment for my kids. Different types of wood, different materials, shapes and sizes and arrangements of kindling, different adjustments of the damper, even wind conditions outside--all these affect their success in working the wood stove. They have learned through trial and error--and the frustration or approval of their family members--what makes a good fire.
Every once in a while the conditions have been such that the fire was almost too good; it burned so hot that the iron actually glowed a little bit, and the stove was literally swollen from the heat expansion. You couldn't stand more than ten feet from it without being uncomfortably warm. But as intense as that fire was, the memory of it won't heat my home right now. The stove only burns as warm as the fire we build today.
I had an epiphany yesterday about woodstoves and warmth--if a little bit more metaphysical than the reading on the thermostat. I was pondering about the struggle I've had of late getting off my personal conveyor belt. Not with TJEd, you'll be glad to know; but I've been in a personal rut and have wondered in vain for several weeks how to break free from my habits.
You see, I have been blessed with some very limiting health challenges in recent years, and I have struggled to learn how to overcome the obstacles and facilitate healing. Because of the particular impact on my ability to assimilate nutrition, doctors have strongly recommended that I observe a regimen of 80% raw fruits and vegetables, which are high in enzymes.
Okay, I like fruits and vegetables. I mean, I really do--more than most people I know. But I can witness that there is a limit to the sliced apples and carrot sticks one can eat with joy. To compound the challenge: I am what many people might call a "foodie."
I LOVE gourmet cuisine, and I love to cook. I love to prepare food without recipes by relying on my senses. For example: I sense temperature and time even at a distance from the kitchen just by the smell of what I'm preparing. I'm not bragging--I just can. And I have enjoyed this as a lifelong hobby. So now I'm supposed to prepare mostly raw foods? Where's the fun in that? What's my freakish sense of smell supposed to do?
It turns out that there is quite a lot of fun to be had preparing raw food (and just stick with me--I'm not trying to evangelize my nutritional choices. I actually have a point here that relates to TJEd). Some very artistic "foodies" have written books on raw food preparation that I would consider "classics." For several months I had a couple of raw "cookbooks" beside my bed and I would consult them for maybe 5 to 20 minutes before retiring. I would turn down pages, make grocery lists, find interesting recipes to try the next day. I was actually having fun with it!
Then somehow a couple of months ago all my "cookbooks" ended up back in my kitchen on the rack. And (as in retrospect I realize), my excitement for and commitment to my nutritional plan began to wane. Not noticeably, at first. But after a couple of weeks I found myself going to bed each night with plans and promises to "do better tomorrow"--even with thoughts of what I would prepare, etc., just like before (or so I thought)-- and then find myself at the end of another day wondering how I could have failed again.
My 40+ years of habit kicked in, and in the moment of choice I just couldn't remember why it mattered to do anything different than what I had always done.
Yesterday, after another day of going with the flow rather than choosing the better path for what my body's needing right now, I asked myself how I could still believe that the doctor's prescription for my health is right, and at the same time continue to ignore his advice.
Then I remembered what I had been doing differently: during the several months of my success, I was getting daily "inspiration" that motivated me and kept me focused on what I really want and need. (Hopefully you're starting to see where I'm going with this, and how it might apply to you.)
I remembered the wood stove.
It does matter that I can remember how to build a fire, and that I can remember how hot it burns when I do this or that. Those experiences gave me a sure knowledge that the principles of fire-building actually work. But for as much as I know that the principles are true...
...the house is only as warm as the fire I build today.
For me to have that fire within, I have to fuel it daily. And I have learned for myself that neither memories of success nor good plans and intentions are adequate fuel. I have to recur to the classics and be daily reading from the works of those who are successful at doing what I want to really fuel that fire.
As I pondered on this lesson for me, I wondered if it might not apply to you, too. So let me share what I have learned:
...Try adding fuel to the fire.
Whether it's reading nightly from a TJEd book or listening daily to one of the TJEd audios, I really think that you will find, as I have, that a daily dose from original sources (not just thinking about it, but actually engaging with the TJEd classics) will help you out of your rut immediately.
You don't have to do everything at once to make meaningful progress. You just need to do "the next right thing." By daily fueling the fire, you will have clarity on what that is; as you follow through on the next step, the one after that will be made clear as well.
Secure, not Stressed comes from daily fueling the fire and doing the next right thing. It's true!
"Cookbooks" now at my bedside,
Posted on 2010-03-03 by Rachel DeMille
Our 16yo dd is, and always has been, a self-starter. She'll probably make us famous some day with her mastery of the Classics. She knows Shakespeare really well, she currently teaches a mythology class for local students, and she reports to me from time to time the progress of the several books she's writing.
But earlier this year she seemed to be in sort of a slump. She was still taking the personal time to study, but she seemed sort of unanimated---maybe frustrated with life, or something.
Then I got a call from a gentleman in our neighborhood encouraging me to enroll her in a certain class. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make it happen for our family; we're booked right about to my comfort level. But the thought kept nagging me and I proposed it to her. To my surprise, she readily accepted the offer, and made the necessary adjustments to her schedule in order to make it happen.
It's like I have my old Sara back! She's got the spring back in her step, she volunteers with the littler ones when she sees a need, she steps in to do what she sees needs done around the house without being asked.... YAY!
It made me think of another conversation I had this week with a TJEd mom who is a community leader, mentor, writer, teacher, etc. She had been feeling out of sorts herself, and was trying to figure out what she should be letting go in her life and drawing a blank. She felt right about everything, but still felt out of sync.
She called me to say that after the couple of overwhelmed emails she had sent, she had figured out what was needed: She was supposed to start writing more. She had interpreted her malaise as evidence of having too full a plate, and was really surprised to find it all fitting together when she actually added something to her roster.
I think these are examples of what Oliver calls "Key Actions." My key action lately is to play around in the kitchen for the first couple of hours of the day (before the family is really up and at it), experimenting and inventing with fresh foods. When I do this, I manage my time better, I make better choices for my health, I'm not too engrossed in my writing or emails or what-have-you when the kids awake to put the day on course and attend to their interests and needs, and I feel a real lift from doing something I enjoy. Sort of a funny Key Action, but its working for me.
The thing is, Key Actions can be sort of tricky. I have yet to find someone whose Key Action is actually the single most important thing on their list--like, say, studying from their Core book or praying. It's absolutely true that my life is more peaceful, richer and more inspired when these things are prioritized. But it's also true that simply doing them doesn't necessarily seem to get the ball rolling so that everything else falls into place. It may be that your Key Action intricately related to these habits, or not at all; and neither case is a reflection on what we value.
For people who tend to be materialistic in their pursuits, a spiritual- or interpersonal-type Key Action can help them to channel their energies into a good balance, and provide grounding and meaning for their focused efforts.
For many TJEd'ers, I've found that a Key Action is often something a little more mundane. In fact, for many, mundane is precisely the point. As a demographic, TJEd'ers are often passionate and mission-driven. This can translate to a level of selflessness that can encroach on being neglectful of ourselves. Our energies can tend to be other-oriented, and don't lack much for spiritual connectedness.
The fact is, your Key Action is likely something that doesn't regularly appear on the Top 5 of your to-do list. You likely either do it intuitively, or feel the urge to do it and brush it off as less important than the other things on your list.
Some Key Actions that I've heard of:
The Key Action, whatever it may be, tends to put everything into balance, or create a positive momentum, or bring peace and a sense of well-being. It's not, strictly speaking, the thing we value highest or most deeply but it is the key to our equilibrium--and thus our peace, productivity and clarity.
Again: of all the things we do or don't, the top priority isn't always the most Key thing; it's the Key Action that makes everything else fall into place.
What's your key action? Do you put it off? Do you get it done?
Posted on 2010-01-29 by Rachel DeMille
I wonder if your experience as a parent is like mine on that point. A broken kitchen appliance, a carelessly used vehicle, another lost jacket....
Sometimes our youth are guilty of esteeming lightly or neglecting to care for what they didn’t have to pay for themselves. I cringe when careless words or actions by one of my children are hurtful to another of them. Don’t they know how much I’ve sacrificed to try to give that little one a sense of love and security? I’ve seen many families go to extraordinary measures (by today’s standards) to try to counteract this commonplace problem in our human nature. It’s not that we’re ungrateful....really. It’s just that we don’t actually GET it.
It has me thinking...
Americans enjoy a legacy of freedom and prosperity that is perhaps without equal in the history of the world. The pride we have traditionally felt over the idealism, vision, heroism, and sacrifice of our Pilgrims, Founders, and those that followed them is a part of our national heritage.
And yet it seems that it is no longer alarmist to assert that we are in grave danger of losing the freedom and prosperity that were won at so terrible a cost.
Strangely, though, our culture of idealism, heroism and sacrifice is not lost.
Our people still show a great capacity for moral courage, tenacity and altruism. There are still those among us who are willing to take risks, endure hardships and make difficult choices. We still take our hats off when the flag goes by. We honor the sacrifices of our military brothers and sisters; we show compassion to the less fortunate.
Why, then, are we sliding virtually unchecked down the slippery slope of cultural and societal decay?
Why are we losing our freedoms?
Santayana warns that a people that forgets is destined to repeat history. We have forgotten the great stories of how our freedom was won and the principles that they teach. Americans who are so demonstrably willing to labor and sacrifice for the benefit of their posterity can only consent to the destruction of the forms that guarantee our freedoms if they do not understand what freedom is, nor how to maintain it.
In a 1998 survey of teenagers aged thirteen through seventeen, Luntz Research found the following:
• Only 23 percent of American teenagers know that there are one hundred Senators.
• Only 40 percent know that the first three words of the Constitution are “We the People.”
• Twenty-four percent cannot name even one of the three branches of government. Only 42 percent of teens can name all three.
• Fewer than 10 percent know that the Supreme Court case that found separate but equal treatment of blacks and whites in public schools unconstitutional was Brown v. Board of Education.
• Only 25 percent know even one provision of the Fifth Amendment
• Only 26 percent know that the Constitution was written in Philadelphia.
“As bad as kids are with simple historic facts,” wrote Frank Luntz, founder of Luntz Research, “their parents aren’t much better. On election night in 2004, many adult voters found themselves woefully uninformed. Ten percent of voters—VOTERS—didn’t know that the vice president for the past four years was Dick Cheney. Twelve percent didn’t know that John Kerry’s running mate was John Edwards. As for what they did know—only 18 percent could name the majority leader of the U.S. Senate…Remember, this was not a poll of teenagers or American adults as a whole—these were voters on election night.”
By virtually every indicator, America is in steep decline. Public education is in shambles, the national debt is skyrocketing, the family is being eroded, political apathy and economic entitlement are the norm, ubiquitous media outlets have turned us into a “sound-bite” culture, our political forms are rapidly transforming into an aristocracy. The four foundations of freedom, upon which every republic depends, are crumbling at an alarming rate.
Our remedies must be both immediate and generational. A new American founding—comparable in
vision, foresight and scope to that of the eighteenth and nineteenth century founding—is necessary. And, just as in the 1770’s, there are those in our day who understand what will be required to effect this change. We are fortunate in our day to have great technological advantages that we believe will enable us to accomplish such a renovation without having to be subjected to the tyranny and violence that cost their generation so dear a price.
We are desperately in need of a Freedom Shift, and I believe that the most powerful way for that to happen
is for our youth to quietly mature into their generational role of leadership with a clear understanding of and a firm commitment to the foundations of freedom.
A few days ago I shared with you an opportunity that is upcoming next week: a scholar class on The Basics of the Constitution to be taught by James Ure. James Ure is one of those, of whom I spoke, who understands what is necessary to effect a Freedom Shift. Let me tell you a little about Mr. Ure.
I first met James Ure when he was a youth—the younger brother of a student of mine at George Wythe College. He was fresh, energetic and idealistic. A lot like your youth, and mine. He had a clear sense of purpose;
he was to be an expert on freedom and the law. To achieve his dream and mission, he sacrificed above the average.
James Ure not only got an accredited undergraduate degree at BYU in order to qualify to attend the law school of his choice, but he undertook the additional time, effort and expense to get a liberal arts education at George Wythe College before he went on to law school. He knew he needed the liberal arts depth and the experience with mission mentors in order to fully benefit from his graduate education. This speaks volumes to me of his character and vision.
As an educator, James Ure is virtually without equal. He worked directly under, with and then independent of
my husband Oliver as an instructor and mentor, and Oliver shared with me many, many times his amazement at James’ abilities in the classroom. “He’s the real deal,” he said to me. High praise from Oliver, especially when evaluating a mentor.
While maintaining a relationship and role with GWU, James took on a new project: mentoring youth. Here he found that his gifts were especially well-applied, and I know personally many parents and youth who felt that their experiences with him were literally life-changing.
I share this all with you because today is the last day to register for the upcoming class on the Basics of the U.S.
Constitution, to be taught by James Ure. This class is 3/4 full, and due to the nature of the material and the format, late registration is not an option. If you and your youth have been thinking about taking this class, please don’t delay. And if you’re not—please consider it.
And if it’s not right for you right now, please consider making a plan to help your family—and especially your youth—to be well-versed in the principles of freedom that will enable them to effect a Freedom Shift in the coming years.
Thanks so much for reading this far! You guys are the best.
P.S. Here’s the link for more information, or to register:
Posted on 2010-01-10 by Rachel DeMille
It’s hard being little. I remember keenly wanting to fit in with all the older people around me. I was the youngest of six kids—and quite a bit younger, at that. The closest in age was four years older, and they went up from there to about 11 years older. No matter how old I was, I was still the baby.
Some people would say I had an old soul. I do remember feeling like I was stuck in a little body. To make matters more complicated, I was interested in adult things and was academically precocious. So I in my little fevered mind, I was on-par with the “taller” people around me; they just couldn’t see it.
Why do I share this? I’ve been pondering about my six-year-old, Meri. Actually, she now says she prefers to be called by her full name: America Esther. She called me on the cell phone a couple of days ago while I was at the grocery store and pleaded with me to buy her yarn: “red, blue, green, pink, yellow, purple, orange…did I say red?”
I explained that we had a veritable yarn store right in our own house, and promised to show her to the supply when I got home. She met me in the driveway with impatient expectations.
We chose a nice pink one, I pulled it and rolled it into a nice yarn ball, and she went happily on her way.
Later, while I was doing some work on the computer, she came to me and asked me to help her learn to crochet. I showed her how to make a chain using just her fingers.
Her joy soon turned to disappointment, as her small hands were unable to duplicate my simple moves. I suggested a different activity and she moved on. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it. And I think maybe she hasn’t either.
She wants what I wanted. Validation. To fit in with a houseful of older and much more accomplished people. Shared experiences. Energy, momentum, progress. But in some important ways, she’s not ready or able to do what she sets out to do, and won’t get what she’s after.
I confess that privately I’ve been thrilled and relieved to find her so ambitious to learn to read and write since she was four. But as I watched her fumble with that yarn, I had to ask myself what was driving her to do something she wasn’t ready for—and if it wasn’t a metaphor for many of her other ambitions in general.
She has a need. She’s searching for a way to fill it. And I’ve almost given in to becoming a willing accomplice in allowing her to seek fulfillment of that deep emotional need through doing—instead of being.
I strongly feel that Doing is a part of Being, and an integral part of self-worth and happiness. But I also believe that Doing is subordinate to Being, is an easy substitute and even a counterfeit for Being, and must come as a natural outgrowth of a healthy approach to Being.
Meri is not yet fully morally aware and accountable. I need to counsel with my husband and my older children. We all need to evaluate our conduct toward her and be mindful of respecting and communicating her individual worth without the conditional value of size, age, or ability. I need to brainstorm ways to help her feel a sense of personal power through principled conduct, self-mastery and service.
I need to ponder and learn what portion of her ambition is healthy and appropriate, and what portion of it represents a hunger that should be filled in some other way than what she, in her unseasoned and naïve way, is gravitating toward. I see a hazard that, if everything were to go wrong on this course she seems embarked upon, she might become an over-achiever who seeks outward approval—a pleaser with no sense of personal triumph or altruistic reward.
I need to take more time for cuddles and giggles to remind myself and reassure her that we can connect on a Core Phase level. I need to take more time for laughter and listening to re-energize my own Core Phase. Here’s the rub: if I’m not connecting with my six-year-old on a Core Phase level, I’m most likely missing too many opportunities to connect with the others of the family on a Core Phase level.
That’s quite a wake-up call from a fumbled finger chain.