Lisa VanDamme

Lisa VanDamme obtained her BA in philosophy from the University of Texas (Austin) in 1995. While pursuing graduate studies in education at Pennsylvania State University, she was invited to California to develop a curriculum for a gifted child who was not being challenged in traditional schools. She found that her program worked equally well for students of all levels of ability, and has had success educating students from 4th-8th grade for the past six years. VanDamme Academy is the product of her six years of devotion to developing and teaching this inspiring and systematic curriculum.

Literature and the Quest for Meaning by Lisa VanDamme

How classic literature can contribute to the vital quest for meaning.

Motivation and Education

Motivation and Education

The basic principles of motivation are really quite simple: the teacher must identify the value of his course, design the curriculum accordingly, and name the value explicitly. If he does this properly, he can dispose of the pizzas, gold stars, and rulers, and enjoy the radiantly eager response of children who really grasp what they are learning and why.

Tell Me Everything You Know

Tell Me Everything You Know

I have invented a new educational game. I call it "Tell Me Everything You Know." Here is how the game works in my grammar class: I write a sentence on the board, set a time limit, and then have the students write down every grammatical fact they can name about the...

The Real Math Magic: Understanding vs Memorizing

The Real Math Magic: Understanding vs Memorizing

These children are not treated like human calculators, they are treated like thinking beings. And when they truly grasp the concepts they are using, when they can explain them fully and articulately, when they retain them because they are not memorizing, but understanding–that is real math magic.

Yesterday’s Highlights: Stories From Home

Yesterday’s Highlights: Stories From Home

We at VanDamme Academy love hearing stories about things the students do or say at home that reflects their VanDamme Academy education. I recently asked parents to share some stories from home. Here are a few highlights: Calvin (5): I was talking to Calvin about the...

The Writing Process: One Step at a Time

The Writing Process: One Step at a Time

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (or NAEP), the average high school student is an incompetent writer. To evaluate their writing ability, testers asked high school juniors to write a paragraph based on notes they were given about a haunted...

The Failure of Field Trips, Part 2

The Failure of Field Trips, Part 2

In my recent article "The Failure of Field Trips," I explained what is wrong with traditional school outings. The typical field trip is irrelevant to the students' education, either because they have been unprepared to appreciate it by their schooling (e.g., City Hall...

The Failure of Field Trips, Part 1

The Failure of Field Trips, Part 1

Many educators stress the importance of field trips--opportunities to get students out of their desks and away from their books, and to give them direct, vivid, sensory experience with the world around them. Reflecting on my own education, these excursions off campus...

Life in Junior High, Part 2

Life in Junior High, Part 2

Last week, I contrasted the cliché junior high classroom--of raucous teenagers throwing spitballs, passing love notes, and giggling at lewd jokes--with a VanDamme Academy junior high classroom--of young adults in raptures over Cyrano de Bergerac. How we produce...

Life In Junior High, Part 1

Life In Junior High, Part 1

When I tell people that I teach literature to junior high students, the response is nearly universal: an expression of profound sympathy. Teaching junior high is regarded as a martyr's job, to be taken on only by those with such a selfless commitment to children and...

Writing and Understanding

Writing and Understanding

Several weeks ago, in my article "Pattern Recognition vs. Real Understanding," I stressed the crucial connection between writing and understanding: For the student to write explanations, in complete sentences, about every subject--whether history, literature, grammar,...

The Imperative of Lecturing

The Imperative of Lecturing

Every class in elementary and junior high school should be in a lecture format. The teacher must be an authority on the subject, he must grasp its basic purpose, he must carefully define the knowledge to be conveyed by reference to that purpose, and he must present...

Pattern Recognition vs. Real Understanding

Pattern Recognition vs. Real Understanding

Every year, when I give my first test in a grammar or literature class, some new student asks me whether the test will be multiple choice. Every year, I look him in the eye and say "I can assure you that you will never, in any class, under any circumstances, at any...

The Homework Lie

The Homework Lie

Every year, dozens of parents sit at my desk and describe to me the intense frustration they feel as they watch their children get churned through the public schools. One of the refrains of their complaints: endless homework. And no wonder: The work itself is largely...

P is for Pajama Party or Paragraph?

P is for Pajama Party or Paragraph?

Recently, I was visited by a mother frustrated with her son's education and looking for something more.She informed me that mid-way through his kindergarten year, they were still learning their letters--most recently, they had been studying the letter "P." And in...

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