Thursday, January 31, 2008
The VanDamme Academy, a K-8 school in Laguna Hills, California, has an unusual way of giving students a better foundation of knowledge.Read the whole thing, and since the Heartland Institute's web site seems to be partially down this morning, here's an alternate URL.
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.
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.
"A student's motivation is completely killed if he's not challenged to the level of his capacity," VanDamme 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.
"Nobody's pushing them or requiring them to do that," VanDamme noted. "These were kids who were chomping at the bit to accelerate in math, and we certainly gave them the opportunity to do that."
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]
It is very good to hear in such concrete terms how successful Lisa VanDamme has been as an educator, and encouraging that her methods are finally getting some major publicity.