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The French Way

The French Way

June 16th, 2012 // 5:45 pm @

Many people around the world are discovering the principles of great education that those using TJEd are already applying.

The conveyor belt approach to learning has two big competitors in this second decade of the twenty-first century.

The first can be summed up as, “Don’t just participate in the conveyor belt, excel at it!”

This is the idea widely popularized in the Tiger Mom book and debate which swept through American education circles during the past two years.

The second approach, the one adopted by Montessori, TJEd, and several other highly-effective educational viewpoints recently gained another proponent.

In the enjoyable book, Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, we learn about the core principles of parenting used by French parents.

Those familiar with TJEd will find many old friends among the French techniques, and all of us can learn from these ideas.

For example, according to Druckerman, here are some of the “secrets” of effective parenting widely utilized in the French culture:

  • A focus on parenting as a pleasure rather than a chore or grind
  • An emphasis on helping children experience growing up as a joy rather than a job
  • Taking it slow and enjoying the journey rather than rushing to stay ahead of the neighbors’ kids or meet standards set by unnamed experts
  • “Establishing firm but gentle authority…”
  • “Favoring creative play over lots of lessons…”
  • “Never letting a child become the center of your existence”
  • Realizing that children aren’t “projects for their parents to perfect. They are separate and capable, with their own tastes…”

“French parents just don’t seem so anxious for their kids to get head starts,” Druckerman tells us, but rather help them experience quality in growing up and learning.

The focus is more on the current goal of being happy children and the end goal  of becoming well-adjusted adults than on striving for adult goals as toddlers and young children.

Throughout the book, those using TJEd will find familiar themes couched in an interesting European experience.

The following ideas show up repeatedly and in new and interesting ways: classics; mentors; structure time, not content; you, not them; simple, not complex; quality, not conformity; secure, not stressed; teach to the appropriate phase, not one-size-fits-all education; personalize, instead of joining the conveyor belt.

Above all, Druckerman emphasizes the French emphasis on wisdom (rather than grades, gold stars, or other external accolades) as the central purpose of learning, and for that matter of family and life.

The fact that Druckerman is an American who learned these principles while living in France adds to the book—it is practical in the American way while being idealistic and even artistic in the French way.

In short, it’s a great read, even if you don’t use TJEd but especially if you do!


Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Education &Family &Featured

3 Comments → “The French Way”

  1. Keith

    11 years ago

    There is something missing in the conveyor belt model and the home school model. None of them support the oral traditions. Throughout history it is the oral model that advances society. Take King James of Scotland who became King of England. He brought several religious factions together to draft a new translation of the Bible that would later impact the world. Or take the ancient schools in Egypt where many Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras went to study, or even the time of Christ where open and public discussion was the norm. It has always been the open clash of minds that produces the best ideas rather than the closed walls of one’s home. What we are talking about is not simulations but real live discussion where both student and leader openly converse. It is the model of our jury system where common consent must be reach at all costs no matter how much time it takes. The home school model reeks of dissatisfaction when it comes to the oral traditions. There is no practice of dissent. There is only the preparation for elitism. But that is not all. The real problem is how it offends the statist do-gooder who will always bring up the illiterate, the poor and the uneducated and how only they can take care of them. The home school model does not solve for these inequalities and so the controlling statist will always secure more power at a distance because the home school model does not adequately tackle social responsibility in education. Does this mean I favor the statist model? No! It means they are both dead wrong because one advocates for personal responsibility for greatness and the other advocates for social responsibility to solve for equality. A true education model will bring them together, just as King James did with two opposing factions that traditionally never got along. I call for a halt to polarizing oral instruction where all must stand to be corrected from the private instruction where just a few are taught how to correct others. The temptation to avoid either social or personal responsibility by taking a position in opposition produces some of the darkest paths in our lives.

  2. Ammon Nelson

    11 years ago

    I agree that in many homeschool models there is not enough taught about social responsibility. However this is not true about the philosophy of Leadership Education. One of the primary values promoted by this philosophy is public virtue, which I see as similar in meaning to what you call social responsibility.
    The thing is, social responsibility is best learned from parents who are socially responsible, and all children (and adults) need to learn according to the phase of learning they are in. In terms of psychological preparedness, a 3 year old is not typically ready to learn the lessons of social responsibilities outside of what they learn by interaction with their parents and siblings.
    That being said, I also see the weakness you address in our society of an avoidance of the “open clash of minds that produces the best ideas.” There is far too much reluctance to have civil discussion about things on which there is disagreement. The effort to come to a true consensus is crucial to gaining, as you said, the best ideas.

  3. Laura

    11 years ago

    I just finished the same book a couple of weeks ago and have been pestering my husband with many of the same “take-aways”. The focus on the structure of the family and enjoyment of life is truly inspiring. This book is a great way to have an inside look at another culture and find some great “aha” moments and principles for our own lives.

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