"Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things."--Jefferson

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some Advice for Starting a Group

I wrote some advice about this on my blog, but I thought it may be of help here so I am changing a few things to apply it specifically to starting a Vanguard group in case my experience is of help to some...

A couple of my friends from our homeschool group are moving.  They are looking to start a Vanguard scholar group in their area when they move.  As I think about the most important advice I could give them, I decided to write a blog post about it in case it may be of some use to anyone else thinking of starting a scholar group.

1. To narrow down the focus of your group, prayerfully figure out what is most important for your children to get from their education and focus on those things.  Each lens has many areas of focus and there is more out there than any one person can learn in quite a few lifetimes - choose the most important aspects of each lens and focus on that.  It can be tempting to make Vanguard feel "all-comprehensive" since you have these different subject areas, but it is important to target your resources on what will have the most impact.

For me, this was: 
-A testimony of Jesus Christ, His gospel and His love for them
-Knowledge that He has a work for them to do (core)
-The ability to find true principles in anything they read, see and experience and apply those principles to themselves (core, journeyman and master)
-The skills to take that truth and share it in a way that changes hearts (journeyman)
-A love for all people (historty/geography), and of freedom (leadership academy), beauty (imaginative arts), and order (Eureka)
-The ability to think spiritually (core), from other perspectives (history/geography), creatively (imaginative arts), symbolically and logically (Eureka) 
-The desire to serve

I do know tests and making money is important, but I believe if my children have the abilities and skills listed above, they will be able to quickly learn what they need for any test and be able to provide for their families.  Besides, learning to think logically often involves doing some math...

2. Decide what you want to do at home and what is best done in a group setting. (For example, for us, math is best done at home, but group discussions are a powerful way to learn to find principles and see their evidence in the lives of our peers, fun group games can motivate skills and knowledge, etc). This year I am asking parents for volunteers to teach 3 BONUS classes outside of Vanguard, but after or before it (to save driving time): Writing Structure, Apologia Science and History (chronologically) on a weekly basis. We could do these at home, but these subjects seem to work well in a group and we don't have time to do them justice in during Vanguard. Plus,  I don't want to take away from the more important purposes stated above.

3. Pray for God to send you people who you can serve and who can help you with the vision He inspired you with.

4. Set up an information meeting (look for yahoo groups or other homeschool websites in your area) to tell people your vision and to let them know you are looking for people who like your vision and would like their youth to  participate and would like to help you see it through. Then read great books together and some of the resources on this blog and find true educational principles you want to apply to your group.

5. Learn and focus on true educational principles (and teach them to your students)
Such as the foundational principles on the top tab that incorporate some of the following:
-The Spirit is the real teacher - our job is to invite Him to teach us
-Going to class prepared to discuss invites the Spirit into our hearts and edifies others as we share the truth we learned. (This applies to teachers, but especially to students)
-Inspire as much as possible - students learn best when they choose to do it. Never force.  Sometimes ask for obedience when you see a need that the student does not yet see.
-Writing and speaking open communication channels to others and also to God.
-You can't inspire if you are not living the truth you teach (including a love for learning more than you already know and aspiring to live it)
-Extrinsic rewards (grades, treats, social time, etc) can distract and overpower intrinsic rewards. Use them very sparingly for skill or knowledge acquisition. Never to inspire a love of learning.
-Seek an education for the purpose of blessing others
-The deeper you follow a truth, the more connections you will find.  If you go deep enough, it will connect to all subjects or disciplines of study
-Classics teach you to think. A lot of curriculum focuses on information. In this age of google, youth are right when they feel they are wasting their time regurgitating information.  They must learn to sift through the data to find the nuggets of truth that will benefit them and others. Classics help them learn to do this.

6. Only plan assignments, lessons and activities that support your purpose, don't get distracted with all of the other good purposes out there. The methods listed on the top tab here are only suggestions. For example,  your may find your group's needs are different for the types or amount of ativities. Or maybe the focus of your Eureka lens is to show how science alighns with the word of God and that when it doesn't it's because we don't have all the pieces and another group may focus on symbols/shapes and numbers to teach symbolic thinking.  Decide what your purpose(s) is/are for the year and don't try to cover everything.

7. Be okay with changeL you may have found the perfect system for a semester, but it may need to be changed to fit different needs the next semester.  It is okay, and perhaps for the best, for your group to looks different every year.  Just measure your changes against the true educational principles you know and be okay with changing the application of those principles as you are inspired or see a need.

8. Remember the principle of a council. As you lead a group, choose carefully who you want in your governing board, choose those who are close to the spirit and who live the truth they know. Then counsel with them when you need to make decisions.   Remember Elder Boyd K. Packer's words, "I have a deep, even a sacred, regard for councils; inspiration is evident in them.  If ever another course has been followed, trouble has followed as sure as night follows day. If we are to meet the great challenges...we must respect these principles. The Lord has said, 'I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."

My favorite books or sites for finding true educational principles a lot of these are listed under the foundational principles tab above)  - just remember to apply them in your own way:
The Scriptures
Teach the Children by Neil Flinders
A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille
Norms and Nobility by David B. Hicks
Educating Zion
Increase in Learning and follow up books by Bednar
D&C 88 and 93
Gateway to the Great Books Introduction
The Great Conversation by Hutchins
Teaching Videos
Teacher Training
Arm the Children by Arthur Henry King
Ten Boom Institute

The list may look overwhelming, but the good news is most of the principles are the same in each book :-)  And it is hard to apply more than one principle at a time so just get started and apply the principles as you come across them.  Then the next time you come across one, you will see a way you can apply it even better, and you can just keep progressing in your educational journey :-)

Our youth need a great education. Schools are often (not always) failing them in this. Too often they are training instead of educating our youth. I think a grassroots effort to help these youth get a real education may be the best answer to this dilemma.

I love learning about learning.  If any of you are embarking on the great adventure of building community and helping one another inspire your youth, I am happy to help by sharing my experience if I can.  I don't claim to be an expert, but I do believe there is a need for better education out there and so I am happy to help in this endeavour when possible.  Have joy in your journey!