I didn't realize that this book had already changed my life before I even read it. One of my BYU professors read an excerpt from A Thomas Jefferson Education that has truly stuck with me through the years. I am relieved to see the actual story in print. It has influenced my parenting as well as my views on creativity in education. Here is the story...
"The teacher handed out crayons and paper and announced that it was time to draw a picture. The little boy enthusiastically grabbed the crayons and began to imagine all the things he could draw: mountains, lakes, airplanes, his familiy, his dog, the ocean, the stars at night...
Hundreds of ideas raced through his creative little mind.
His teacher, seeing that he had started drawing, stopped him and said that today the class would be drawing flowers. The boy's mind again ran wild: daisies, daffodils, roses, carnations, violets, lilacs, pansies, mixed bouquets, green gardens full of rainbows of colors...
The teacher again interrupted, informing the class that today they would be drawing a certain kind of flower.
Taking colored chalk, the teacher went to the board and drew a green stem, with two leaves, and four identical pink petals. The little boy, eager to please, dutifully copied her drawing.
After several attempts, his drawing looked exactly like hers. The teacher congratulated him for doing such good work.
As the school year passed, the little boy became a very good student; he learned to listen, obey instructions and get the right answers on tests. His parents were very proud of him, and his teacher was impressed with his excellent progress.
When the next school year arrived, the boy had done so well in his classes that he was enrolled in an accelerated program. During the first week of class, the teacher handed out crayons and paper and announced that it was time to draw a picture. The little boy, still in love with art, enthusiastically picked up his crayons and waited for instructions.
After several minutes the teacher noticed that the little boy wasn't drawing. "Why haven't you started?" she asked. "Don't you like to draw?"
"I love to draw," responded the little boy, "but I was waiting for you to tell us what the assignment is."
"Just draw whatever you want," the teacher smiled and left the little boy to his creativity.
The little boy sat for a long time, watching the minutes tick off the clock and wondering what he should draw. Nothing came to mind.
Finally, in a burst of creative inspiration, he picked up his crayons and began to draw:
A green stem, with two leaves, and four identical pink petals."
This story breaks my heart. It broke my heart enough that it changed my life.
A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille is a book about traditional, classics-based education. It is not just a homeschool book, but a book about what has worked historically in terms of education. It is a look into how our Founding Fathers were taught and inspired and an appeal for current educational systems to return to the classics.
The book is well-written, accessible, and thought-provoking.
I recommend it to anyone who is interested in life-long learning for themselves and the young people they interact with.