The Precious Advantage of a Tutor in Home Education | Notes from the Letters of James Adams, Part 1

The Advantage of a Tutor

This multi-part series reflects on some of the ideas, insights into the time period, and beliefs about education and the world found in the letters John Adams.

The Education of John Quincy Adams

In this letter (full letter below), John Adams is writing to his son about his education, its importance, and the subjects that should be the focus of his attention, which were “Your exercises in Latin and Greek” which “must not be omitted a single day…”. He also encourages him to plod steadily, staying that “a regular distribution of your time is of great importance.”

The Precious Advantage of a Tutor

Adams was very personally invested in his son’s education and upbringing, and in this letter and others references his library, pointing his son to particular books or resources. But this letter makes a special reference to a tutor, who was a special ally in the home education of his son.

“The Advantage you have in Mr. Dumas’s Attention to you is a very prescious one. He is himself a Walking Library, and so great a Master of Languages ancient and modern is very rarely Seen. The Art of asking Questions is the most essential to one who wants to learn. Never be too wise to ask a Question.”

A trusted, learned tutor is a precious asset to parents and their children in home education.

Modern Christian Homeschooling and Tutors

Modern Christian parents often lean in one of two directions. One direction is to recognize the need for help in specialized subjects, and the parents therefore send their children to a traditional or online school where they have little or no say over who teaches their children, what curriculum is used, or even the pedagogy or approach (apart from choosing the institution as a whole). The other direction is for parents to not take advantage of outside instructors at all, relying solely on their own expertise. This can have mixed results based on the parents, their education, and the learning style of the children. Especially with the aid of good curriculum, this can work well for most subjects and ages. But even John Adams, thoroughly educated and trained in the classics, and heavily involved in his children’s education alongside his wife Abigail (many of his letters reference their homeschooling) called the relationship his son had with his tutor a precious advantage.

Kepler Education and Choosing Teachers over Institutions

The mission of Kepler Education is to democratize a personalized tutor-style relationship between teachers and families. Kepler is the only classical Christian platform where parents can choose teachers who are free to teach the curriculum and style they desire, thus allowing parents to directly choose the style that best fits their own family. In other words, at Kepler you don’t choose the institution. Rather, the institution (Kepler) exists to facilitate relationships between teachers and families. Choose a class (small classes capped at 12), or commission a class. But always with a “choose your teacher” first approach.

Kepler allows parents to give their children the precious advantage of a “Mr. Dumas.”

John Adams: To his Son on his Education (Full Letter)

Paris May 14. 1783

My dear Child

Mr. Hardouin has just now called upon me, and delivered me your Letter of the 6 Instant.

I find that, although, your hand Writing is distinct and legible, yet it has not engaged So much of your Attention as to be remarkably neat.1 I Should advise you to be very carefull of it: never to write in a hurry, and never to let a Slovenly Word or Letter go from you. If one begins at your Age, it is easier to learn to write well than ill, both in Characters and Style. There are not two prettier accomplishments than a handsome hand and Style, and these are only to be acquired in youth. I have Suffered much, through my whole Life, from a Negligence of these Things in my young days, and I wish you to know it. Your hand and Style, are clear enough to Shew that you may easily make them manly and beautifull, and when a habit is got, all is easy.

I See your Travells have been expensive, as I expected they would be: but I hope your Improvements have been worth the Money. Have you kept a regular Journal?2 If you have not, you will be likely to forget most of the Observations you have made. If you have omitted this Usefull Exercise, let me advise you to recommence it, immediately. Let it be your Amusement, to minute every day, whatever you may have seen or heard worth Notice. One contracts a Fondness of Writing by Use. We learn to write readily, and what is of more importance We think, and improve our Judgments, by committing our Thoughts to Paper.

Your Exercises in Latin and Greek must not be omitted a Single day, and you should turn your Mind, a little to Mathematicks. There is among my Books a Fennings Algebra. Begin it immediately and go through it, by a Small Portion every day. You will find it as entertaining as an Arabean Tale. The Vulgar Fractions with which it begins, is the best extant, and you should make yourself quite familiar with it.

A regular Distribution of your Time, is of great Importance. You must measure out your Hours, for Study, Meals, Amusements, Exercise and Sleep, and suffer nothing to divert you, at least from those devoted to study.

But above all Things, my son, take Care of your Behaviour and preserve the Character you have acquired, for Prudence and Solidity. Remember your tender Years and treat all the World with Modesty, Decency and Respect.

The Advantage you have in Mr. Dumas’s Attention to you is a very prescious one. He is himself a Walking Library, and so great a Master of Languages ancient and modern is very rarely Seen. The Art of asking Questions is the most essential to one who wants to learn. Never be too wise to ask a Question.

Be as frugal as possible, in your Expences.
Write to your Mamma Sister and Brothers, as often as you have opportunity. It will be a Grief to me to loose a Spring Passage home, but although I have my fears I dont yet despair.

Every Body gives me a very flattering Character of your Sister, and I am well pleased with what I hear of you: The principal Satisfaction I can expect in Life, in future will be in your good Behaviour and that of my other Children. My Hopes from all of you are very agreable. God grant, I may not be dissappointed.

Your affectionate Father
John Adams