Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Congrats VanDamme

Posted by Jerry on January 28, 2008

Lisa VanDamme’s unique approach to education, which has proven to be a great success among students, parents, and educators, was featured in an article in The Heartland Institute’s newsletter.

The VanDamme Academy, a K-8 school in Laguna Hills, California, has an unusual way of giving students a better foundation of knowledge.

Founder Lisa VanDamme said the students learn incrementally, not moving forward in concepts until they’ve mastered the one at hand. Moreover, teachers encourage them to make connections within and between the subjects, and between school and life.

“[We’re] teaching in a very deliberate, planned, incremental order that provides for real understanding on the part of the child,” VanDamme said. “They’re starting on the small, simple steps and building on it, so at each new stage, they thoroughly grasp the material.”

Using a carefully planned curriculum, teachers help students build core knowledge and hone skills necessary for their future success, VanDamme said.

VanDamme developed her teaching method when she began as a homeschool teacher to an exceptionally gifted child about 11 years ago. She drew on the experience of highly educated friends and the educational philosophy of Ayn Rand to put together her curriculum.

The school emphasizes science, math, history, and language arts, which VanDamme considers universally necessary for all mature, informed adults.

Students must demonstrate a thorough understanding of each topic, often writing essay questions to explain everything from scientific theories to vocabulary.

“Something can pass as knowledge when it’s really just memorized gibberish,” VanDamme explained. “We only consider ourselves successful if [students] can explain to us what they’re doing in complete thoughts of their own.

“We don’t give multiple choice or true/false [tests] at any time,” VanDamme continued. “We put a big emphasis on writing. We want them to really, fully, completely understand what they’re doing. We want them to grasp and be able to explain everything.”

VanDamme’s curriculum advances students without putting them in the traditional K-8 grade classes, letting them progress in subjects as quickly as they learn them and constantly challenging each student, she said.

Of the 25 students who have graduated from the six-year-old academy since 2005, one-third had made their way partially through calculus before entering ninth grade.

Other students are just as successful: One seventh-grader recently scored a perfect 800 on the writing portion of the SAT. VanDamme’s first student, now in his early 20s, is in his fifth year of graduate studies in physics at Stanford University. [bold added]

Read more here.

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