Some Classics of Leadership Education

by Mary Ann on May 19, 2010

Some of you are probably wondering why I spend so much time talking about things other than The Spark Station itself. After all you have come to this site to find out where you can have a Spark Station, what is a Spark Station and what goes in it. Right?

Well simply and, I’m sorry, bluntly put, when I work with families I quickly realize that The Spark Station isn’t their problem. Their understanding of what makes The Spark Station work or not work is usually at the root of their discontent with how things are going in the home. It doesn’t seem to matter if they have a well stocked Spark Station, a poorly managed Spark Station or no Spark Station at all. The ills they feel in their home are rarely related to that and are most likely related to the health of family relationships, the environment, custom-made systems, how clear an understanding of the phases of learning they have (for information on the phases of learning see Leadership Education: The Phases by Oliver and Rachel DeMille), the freedom agreement and whether they believe in and trust the process.

Now if some or all of these terms are vaguely familiar but unclear to you then you fit right in with most of the parents I work with.What I want to help you get really clear on is that The Spark Station is only a tool, just one tool in a great array of possible tools that can help you in creating an environment of learning in your home. Even when it is perfectly understood by itself and is well stocked and well managed it cannot overcome the lack of understanding of what it takes to create a leadership home, and an understanding of the principles that make it work. If parents and grandparents are not clear that the principle of freedom in education work or that they have a certain realm of control and that their children also have a certain realm of control, then their efforts at creating a leadership home based on leadership principles of education will be tough.

One of the things that really amazes me is how many parents have not read some of the classic books on leadership education and how few more have actually studied them. And what is even more astonishing is that we all think we can be successful anyway.  I am going to make a confession here,  for the sake of taking you all off the hook just a bit; I hadn’t read them either, not completely, until recently.

When I took my two youngest out of public school and brought them home I had no idea what I was doing. My oldest was attending George Wythe University and great thoughts from that amazing school were trickling down to me. Then I did my Master’s there and got some more great thoughts for myself, first hand. When the book Thomas Jefferson Education came out I bought it and read it. I did these things while running a poor public school at home! This information helped me do a better job of homeschooling. Later I started and ran a Benjamin Franklin Academy in Montana. I worked with Aneladie Milne and taught some Key of Liberty classes when I moved to Utah. My last child and I participated in mock trials, freedom bowls, and many other great home school activities.

When she went back to public school I stopped thinking about leadership education altogether. I kept learning myself but in a conveyor belt sort of way. After all what else did I really know? I took a class here and there. I read good books like I always had. There was a book group occasionally. I even attended a number of seminars and workshops on Leadership Education because my friends were going.

My daughter Jodie and her friend Diann Jeppson wrote the amazing work The Leadership Education Continuum. I thought it was amazing and wondered how in the world they had come up with it. However, I did not translate it to myself or my family. I was so wrapped up with working for a living, trying to get my last child through the public school system and keeping up with life.

When Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning came out I read a bit of it. But I determined that since my last child was almost “done” with school that it didn’t really apply anymore.

Can you imagine trying to get off the conveyor belt with so little information and help?  If we really want to be successful at a thing then we need to study it. We need to have some depth to our knowledge. We frankly need to do some work!

Then I found The Spark Station concept. It was a topic that resonated so much with me. I wanted to know everything about it. The more I read the more entranced I became.

I read all the classics on leadership education that I knew about. I started talking about the concepts and principles to other people. I took notes as I read. I put in some work. I have learned so much.

I wish I had been wiser 17 years ago when I began. I wish I had read the books that would have given me an education on the thing I wanted to be an expert at, leadership education. I wish

But as my grandmother would say, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride! So I have stopped wishing for what only comes through work and practice. I have read and reread the classics in the field that I want to know about. I want you to do the same. Work is a principle of all true education.

That is why I talk so much about things other than the mechanics of putting a Spark Station together and running it, because the knowledge that parents need in order to effectively have a leadership home, they don’t have. I always hope that I can nudge you over the edge into being inspired to do some scholarly work on the topic you most desperately want to be an expert in, raising a leadership generation.

I encourage you to read the classic literature on this topic. I encourage you to take notes. I hope you will pray about the information and see how it best fits your family. Have your FEC meeting regularly. If that is not a familiar anachronism to you, read the classic Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning! I hope you will practice, practice, and practice the principles that you learn in these classics. Then I hope you will read them again as I am doing.

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