Jillian Melchior has written an excellent piece titled " VanDamme Academy Shows Value of Choice" in The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News. Here’s the opening:
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."
Read the whole thing—and for more on VanDamme’s revolutionary philosophy of education, read her articles in TOS:
- “The False Promise of Classical Education” (accessible for free)
- “Teaching Values in the Classroom”
- “The Hierarchy of Knowledge: The Most Neglected Issue in Education”
The most important aspect of a child's development—and the best hope for the future of the West—is proper, hierarchical education. VanDamme Academy provides it.