Imagine a dynamic school where children from ages 2 to 16 are actively engaged in discovering and playing. Imagine a school without desks, grades, report cards, bells, a PTA, certified teachers, professional custodians, paid principals, and textbooks. Imagine a school based on principles and classics, where you are free to talk about God, religion, the scriptures, and the Ten Commandments. Imagine a school where the moms are the principals, the teachers, the nurses, and the administrators. If you can, you will be imagining the kind of school I wish that I had been able to attend instead of public school. You will be imagining the school my five children attend with me in tow once a week.
Every Thursday my kiddos (5 out of the 7, from ages 4 to 15) head out at 8 AM to our school in Bountiful UT. We are gone all day until we get home after 4:30 PM. We have something for everyone at our new school! It’s based on the Thomas Jefferson education philosophy. This school has been running for around 15 years, when Aneladee Milne started it with some other moms. It is based on Aneladee’s philosophy as outlined in her book, The New Commonwealth School. At the time the school started, it was for scholar phase, ages 12 and up. But as of this year, for the first time, we have classes for ages 3 to 12, the core and love of learning phase children. This school is a supplement to our homeschool. This is not a drop-off school. If you have a child in the school you have to stay there and contribute to the teaching while the child is in a class. The parents have turns helping in the nursery and cleaning up at the end of the day.
If you have read the Thomas Jefferson Education book, this book pictured above is the next book to read to get you prepared with a vision of what a TJED Scholar School can look like. I found out from this book that the “conveyor belt education” phrase did not originate with Oliver DeMille, it came from the author that inspired Aneladee to write her book.
The littlest ones, ages 0 to 4, attend the nursery, unless they want to be with their mom. This little guy stays with his mom and nurses often. I think he’s so cute! (Sorry, my tech help, the 12 year old boy and 17 year old girl, are gone and I don’t know how to rotate pictures on my laptop. I usually use my desktop and can easily rotate pictures on that.)
The core phase children ages 4 to 7 or so, attend the Ten Boom Class, named after everyone’s favorite WWII hero, Corrie Ten Boom. They are hearing stories based on the inspiration that came to my friend Katie as she has studied the Hebrew alphabet. These stories reinforce what they learn at home about the importance of obeying mom and dad and choosing the right.
The children rotate through different stations that allow hands-on learning for exploring math, history, science, and language arts concepts. They have lots of chances to dress up and role-play.
My three youngest have been attending this class, which my four year old fondly calls “The Boom Boom” Class. Katie has developed the curriculum along with Aneladee. Katie is also teaching the four basic skills of self-government taught by Nicholeen Peck by using Nicholeen’s picture books. This project is kind of like “TJEd meets Montessori.”
The Ten Boom class meets from 8:30 AM until lunch. During the Ten Boom class the love of learning kids, ages 9 to 12 or so, are attending the da Vinci class. This class is totally based on using storytelling to spark interest in all subjects. The kids are guided by the mom mentors asking them questions about their stories. The children are then encouraged to create their own projects based on the answers they give to these questions.
While these classes are going on I am teaching the Sword of Freedom class, a “LEMI scholar project” based on what I call the War to Prevent Southern Independence. This is for younger scholars, who are usually around 12 to 14 years old. I am doing my best to introduce these scholars to some challenging concepts about the War. Like the idea that the North was not the good guys and the South were bad. The war was a lot more complex than that. When my 20 year old son took this class seven years ago, I never would have thought that I would someday be in a season of life where I could be teaching it myself.
My 12 year old attends Key of Liberty during this time, which is a LEMI scholar project about the Revolutionary War and the Constitution. I love seeing him read great books for this class. So far he has read The Red Scarf Girl, and the Landing of the Pilgrims. Right now he is reading about John Adams! I love this!
The moms and the younger kids all eat lunch in the lunch room. It’s kind of strange to be back in that mode of “who will talk to me at lunch? Who will sit by me?” I like sitting by my kids but I have let them go off and be with their friends and then I want to talk to adults, so I usually start a conversation with someone close by me sitting with her kids. It has been fun to watch my little 7 year old girl, who has only one sister, ten years older, and brothers surrounding her in age, to go off with the bunch of girls her age.
After the first week I noticed that she started putting her hair in a ponytail (she never wants me to “do” her hair) and wearing some pretty pastel striped pants instead of the jeans she usually wears. It is also fun to watch these girls interact. They have a game going on right now where they are an all female “family” where each one of them is either a grandma, mom, daughter, or baby.
In the afternoon we have Boys Club, Girls Club, and Bring Your Own Genius, which is for the love of learners who don’t want to be in the Boys or Girls clubs. I helped teach the Boys’ Club last month. They are a rowdy bunch of 11 boys. If you ever want to have a challenge, just go be in charge of a group of boys for an hour and a half, and keep them from hurting the property or each other. It has been fun! We have been doing simulations based on the letter of the Hebrew alphabet that the Ten Boom kids are learning. I asked Aneladee for some ideas and she gave me some. I found out her secret weapon for finding simulations: YouTube! I found some on there as well and related them to the symbolic concepts were are covering in the Hebrew alphabet. I did one of the same activities in the girls’ club yesterday as I did with the boys. It was fun to see the differences. The boys were a lot louder, although the game I did with them required enough concentration that they were silent for more than a few minutes!
The older scholars do the Shakespeare Conquest class from LEMI, different variations of Pyramid Project, a math scholar LEMI project; a simulations class based on principles, and then an economics class taught by Aneladee’s husband. My oldest child is in that class so that means we have to wait until 4 PM, which is when it ends, to go home. By that point I am ready to be home! It is so fun to see my 12 year old reading Shakespeare and watching Shakepseare plays for this class! This is something that I never would have been able to motivate him to do on my own, shy of bribing him with money. My kids are loving this school, especially yesterday when they played football, first indoors, and then in the rain in the parking lot.
I love that our newly revamped school accommodates the whole family. For the first time in 8 years, my little core phase and love of learning kids get to go to the Commonwealth School on Thursday. I love that it is is based on an organic, holistic education philosophy, which recognizes that children learn differently than adults and according to stages of natural development. I love that the curriculum is based on principles. I love all the hands-on learning, the simulations, the active play for the younger kids, and that we can talk about God and the scriptures. I love that it is agency-based, not compulsory-based. I love that for the younger kids we aren’t tied to a strict curriculum. The moms are given some basic guidelines and asked to come up with their own “lessons” and activities. It’s a perfect complement to our homeschool and I look forward to many fun days full of learning, discovery, and friendship.
You can see more about our school here.