Leadership Education

I am currently reading Oliver & Rachel DeMille’s ‘Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning‘. I was directed to it via a blog I enjoy regularly, Simple Homeschool. Jamie Martin does a fantastic job of explaining Leadership Education in practice over there, and I recommend you check out her many posts to find out more about what it’s like to live this philosophy.

Although I am not even half-way through this book yet, I have found it to be inspiring, practical and fitting with my own ideals of education. The focus is on educating a child in the things that matter most, first. Then it follows up with inspiring a love of learning which will lead children to seek out a superb quality education. It talks a lot about tailoring education to each child’s unique talents and gifts, and seeing the goal of education as preparing them for their personal ‘life mission’. This might be in international ministry, an office job, a world-renowned scientist or a homemaker.

Reading 'Leadership Education' on my Kindle, thanks to my amazing Granny who just knew I "needed" one!

Reading ‘Leadership Education’ on my Kindle, thanks to my amazing Granny who just knew I “needed” one!

After reading through the theory part of DeMille’s book, I put together a personalised summary of the principles and beliefs that Leadership Education promotes. I emphasise personalised for two reasons: First, having not yet read the whole book I may have misinterpreted some aspects, as I don’t yet have the whole big picture. Secondly, I have included notes and quotes which reflect what I take from the book, which is not always exactly what the book means (though in most cases it is). I originally wrote this summary for a friend, but found it a helpful overview myself. I share it with you below, and hope you too find it inspiring, encouraging and useful.

I would especially like to hear from others already using Leadership Education, or those who have read the book and have more comments to offer about it 🙂

Please note that all text in quote marks come directly from the book.  I have not attached page numbers as Kindle versions don’t provide that information.  If you would like to know exactly where a specific quote comes from, please do ask and I’ll provide you with a proper reference.

Basic Premise

There are two main methods of education:

  • Conveyor belt
    • offers all children a set knowledge base without consideration of their specific gifts
    • expects all children to learn through the same (or at least, very similar) methods regardless of age
    • focusses on academic achievement as the main goal
  • Leadership
    • focusses on each child’s unique gifting and starts with this as a basis for learning
    • believes that children learn differently at different stages of life, and adjusts methods accordingly
    • lays a foundation of morality, spirituality and character development, believing this is of central importance to all other learning

 Theory

There are six stages of learning that students should progress through chronologically

‘Nearly all development occurs in stages or phases. This is also true of education. We believe it is important to take advantage of each phase of development to its fullest.’ Ages for the stage are guidelines only, as each child is unique in development.

Foundational Phases

‘over-programming’ during these phases can cause conflict in the child. This is a crucial time to figure out ‘what is success? What is maturity? … What is my relationship with God? What is my relationship with others? What is my duty? And so forth.’ ‘When we give inappropriate attention to academic achievement during these phases, it can teach our children that they dislike academics because everything is “hard” and “boring,” and/or offer our children an alternative source of self-worth that is inferior to a genuine and positive self-concept resulting from living according to true values such as faith, good works and accountability.’

  • Core:  birth to eight or nine
    • ‘During core phase we lay the foundation for all learning and service in the child’s life.’ The ‘curriculum’ is made up of values, relationships, identity and responsibilities.
  • Love of Learning:  eight to twelve
    • Pressure to learn formally in this stage can cause negative attitudes to learning. ‘These are the years when children dabble with learning, getting to know “what’s out there.”’

Educational Phases

‘During this period the bulk of a person’s “book learning” takes place.’ Through this phase the student will being to use about 70% of their time in intensive learning. Important topics are ‘our place in history and the cycles of society.’

  • Scholar:  twelve to seventeen for girls, thirteen to eighteen for boys
    • ‘At first, the new scholar may only study a few hours at a time, but … by the end of Scholar Phase, most student are studying well over forty hours a week.’ Students are still free to study their own choices of topics, though teachers should encourage and inspire them to ‘see the value, relevance, and excitement of studying other important subjects.’ Teachers should be careful not to ‘knee-jerk’ and require conformity to conveyor belt education at this stage, however some formal education at a college or similar is often useful for some topics. Mentors are key during this phase, and ideally fathers should be one of these. During these teenage years, ‘A leadership view replaces the conveyor-belt search for identity with a quest for vision and mission.’
      • NOTE:  there is a “semi-phase” before scholar, termed ‘transition to scholar’. I have not read further on this yet.
  • Depth: eighteen to twenty-four
    • ‘During depth phase, mentors asses student strengths and weaknesses, help students fill in gaps in their knowledge, go into real depth in their areas of strength and passion, and otherwise lead young people in preparation for their life mission and focus.’ As youth typically leave home for college/uni/work during this stage, it is vital that you prepare them to find mentors of their own who will encourage them wisely. This should be a time of mastering self-control and developing education to career-level.

Applicational Phases

‘Leadership Education will naturally be followed by a life of service and leadership.’ This is the time to carry out one’s personal mission work, and to have an impact on future generations. ‘The greatest component of the Applications Phases is not education per se; it is application of one’s education and whole soul to improving the world.  These phases do not have age guidelines, but relate more to the two periods of life as an adult, and then as an elder.

  • Mission
    • This phase is about ‘building the two towers of family and organization’.
  • Impact
    • This phase is about ‘changing the world to be whatever it should be for your grandchildren and their children’

 Learning Keys

There are eight keys of great teaching which can be applied throughout the phase, which enhance learning.

  • Classics, not textbooks
    • ‘Great works inspire greatness.  Mediocre or poor works inspire mediocre or poor learning.’
  • Mentors, not professors
    • Different emphasis ‘professors’ teach a set curriculum, ‘mentors’ find out student goals, talents etc. and ‘develop and carry out a plan designed to effectively develop his genius and prepare him for his unique mission.’
  • Inspire, not require
    • Lack of inspiration should cause the teacher to question ‘what do I need to do to spark their passion to do the hard work?’
  • Structure time, not content
    • ‘Great teachers and schools allow young students to follow their passions and interests during their study time and inspire them as needed to take on areas they may not initially recognize as interesting and desirable.’  This requires a degree of trust from the teacher, both in the student and the method.  ‘Students must have the freedom to fail in order to truly take responsibility for their own progress.  They must know that their education, their life, their mission, will hinge upon their own choices.’
  • Quality, not conformity
    • Resist the pull to conform to educational norms if they do not contribute to the lessons which need to be learnt at each child’s specific stage.  Also, ‘Great teachers inspire and demand quality, ever urging their students to higher levels of excellence.  They shun mere conformity and expect their students to think and perform to their ever-increasing potential.’
  • Simplicity, not complexity
    • Don’t feed students overcomplicated curriculums.  This fosters a dependence on experts and an attitude that he/she is not able to learn and understand for themselves.  Rather, ‘students study the greatest minds and character in history in every field, write about and respond to what is learned in numerous settings, and apply it in various ways under the tutelage of a mentor’
  • You, not them
    • ‘Focus on your education, and invite them along for the ride.  Read the classics in all fields, engage mentors who inspire and demand quality, structure your days, weeks and months to include study time for yourself, and become a person who inspires great education.’
  • Secure, not stressed
    • Try to ‘know what you are doing is right and that you are doing it effectively’.  Use your own system of knowing what is right to evaluate Leadership Education and see if you believe it is right for your family.  If it is right, then learn to do it effectively by taking advice from others who have done it before.  Being secure instead of stressed will result in peace, focus and joy in your educational journey.
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