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A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century Paperback – September 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


Oliver DeMille voices the need for a generation of leaders to be thoughtfully trained in our homes today. This is a message that homeschoolers need to hear! I don't know when I've seen another book that communicates with such clarity, purpose and vision the powerful potential of homeschool.
I find myself nodding my head and marking passages that sound like something I might have said--and DeMille says it so well. TJEd gives clarity and purpose to the decision to homeschool, and a template that can be applied by any family to achieve their goals.
I refer to it often as a handbook to help me further my own studies, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in quality education. Parents, teachers, and students alike will be energized by this exciting book. --Rebecca Kochenderfer, author of Homeschooling for Success: How Parents Can Create A Superior Education For Their Child; Senior Editor,, the web's #1 homeschool site & Forbes Best of the Web Top 45 winner

As a cofounder of Acton MBA, I believe our future rests on how we inspire the next generation of leaders to educate themselves safe from the meddling of assembly line schools.
Oliver DeMille's book, A Thomas Jefferson Education, has reminded me that master teachers believe that each child who walks into their classroom is a genius, waiting to be discovered. --Jeff Sandefer, Founder and Faculty Member, Acton MBA, A Princeton Review Top-3 Program

Like most homeschooling parents, I found it difficult not to fall into doing conveyor-belt education at home, using grades, grade-level materials, and checklists. After several years of doing this, I had successfully helped one of my children go from Core phase into Hate-of-Learning phase, where her main goal was to get the schoolwork done, as quickly and with as little effort as possible, so she could have her time back. It was awful.
As I discovered and began to understand the Seven Keys of Great Teaching as presented in the Thomas Jefferson Education book (and DeMille s presentation on the Seven Keys), I realized why I had been so successful at creating a hate-of-learning student. Her textbooks were so boring, even I could not stand reading them. We were focused entirely on content, not time. Home education had become so complex, there was no time for simplicity. The results were tedium and frustration. I found that it is very, very hard not to do to my children what was done to me by schools.
Now, having applied for several years albeit imperfectly the Seven Keys... , along with many other ideas gleaned from the TJEd book and related materials, my children are thriving. They really don t know or care what grade they are in, and they never say the word schoolwork (except by accident). We study as a family, and the Love of Learning phase is truly exciting.
My older children have been successful in Great Books programs in college, and I, myself, have taken time to read and study more than I ever would have thought possible. As you might imagine, I am profoundly grateful to Oliver DeMille and his co-authors for opening this world of educational thinking, life to me.
It is now my great privilege to be able to speak to parents and teachers around the world, and help them rebuild their education paradigm, pointing them to the same source of wisdom that I was so fortunate to find. --Andrew Pudewa, Director of the multi-award winning Institute for Excellence in Writing

About the Author

Oliver DeMille is a founding partner of The Center for Social Leadership, and the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift. He and his wife Rachel have eight children.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher:; First Paperback Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615399917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615399918
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oliver DeMille is a founder of The Center for Social Leadership, and the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education, 1913, FreedomShift and The Student Whisperer - among others.

He and his wife Rachel are the developers of Thomas Jefferson Education, an educational philosophy and methodology for building mission-driven leaders.

Oliver is a popular author, keynote speaker, and consultant. Presently, he devotes a majority of his time to writing. He and his wife Rachel are raising their 8 children in southern Utah.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Song Girl on September 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
As someone who used the TJED method for 4 years (and continues using ideas from this book) I feel that others ought to know the pros and cons I have encountered in following this homeschooling method. I had to rate it 4 stars because I like it and feel that there is a lot of valuable information here which can be implimented with any homeschool method, however, I wouldn't recommend using TJED as a method on it's own or following every idea to a "T".

The main ideas of the method are: "Inspire, Not Require" which means that we inspire our children to learn, instead of forcing them. "Read, Write, Discuss" which means that you will be active in their education, reading to them, reading the same books they read, using writing and discussion as the true test of whether they understand the material (no tests). "Lead by Example" which means that you ought to put forth an example of continually learning, yourself, whether that means reading enriching material, taking a class, or pursuing a degree. "The Child is the Text Book", which means that the child should be given choice in what they will learn and be able to pursue their interests. "Read the Classics", which means to use wonderful, appealing books in any given subject or topic, instead of text books.

The method is divided into 4 phases of learning, all of which are self-driven: "Core Phase" (ages 0 - 8), in which children's education is focused on family life, morals, creating and discovering. "Love of Learning Phase" (ages 9 - 12), in which children learn skills simply by pursuing their own interests (it is said that most children want to learn to read and start some math during this stage).
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220 of 270 people found the following review helpful By LDS Homeschool Dad on September 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this book Oliver DeMille sells a promise and a hope to parents that are dissatisfied with public education. DeMille argues that we need great leaders like Thomas Jefferson to be able to meet the problems of the 21st century, and the way we get those leaders is that we give them an education like what Thomas Jefferson had. DeMille claims to have discovered what nearly all great leaders in the past have had:

"Find a great leader in history, and you will nearly always find two central elements of their education - classics and mentors. From Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington to Ghandi, Newton and John Locke, to Abigail Adams, Mother Theresa and Joan of Arc - great men and women of history studied other great men and women." p. 37

This is the basis for everything else he espouses in the book. However, Joan of Arc most likely couldn't read. George Washington was not familiar with the classics and it was something that he was a little self-conscious about. In fact, if you look at leaders of the past, including the ones DeMille lists as examples, virtually none of them were particularly well-versed in any classics and had any significant mentoring, if any at all. But this is the proof DeMille attempts to use to convince the reader that what he will describe is not only what great leaders in the past have done, but what we must do now.

Reading the classics is fine and anyone would benefit from reading them. But DeMille isn't even consistent with what he considers a "classic." For Thomas Jefferson, it was Homer and Livy, for parents now, it's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and books by Cleon Skousen.

Part of the Thomas Jefferson Education approach is that there are six "Phases of Learning.
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68 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Heather in WI on December 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book, but it was horribly disappointing! A search of five minutes with Google will tell you that the kind of education advocated in this book is nothing like the education Thomas Jefferson received. Thomas Jefferson began his education at an English school at the age of 5 and then began studying Latin, Greek, and French at the age of 9. He began college at William and Mary at the age of 16 where he studied natural philosophy (physics, metaphysics, and mathematics) and moral philosophy (rhetoric, logic, and ethics). His five years of studying law with George Wythe, whose "mentorship" is the entire crux of the methodology in this book, did not begin until after he graduated college. Not only is this nothing like the education Jefferson received, it is nothing like the kind of education Jefferson himself advocated in Notes on the State of Virginia or in his founding of the University of Virginia.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Micah & Leslie Burnett on November 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a big proponent of the Thomas Jefferson education model. I believe students should learn from classical sources and have educated and able mentors who can inspire them to learn. I believe parents are the ideal, but not the only choice to be mentors.

I have found that the only way I can begin to implement this method is to let my children be bored (by today's standards). We allow very little T.V. and Nintendo. This, with our encouragement to explore and learn, has opened up a creative vista for our children -- something the book points out is quashed in the current rote public/government school environment.

The biggest reason I'm a proponent of this method is I believe in the freedom of the individual. I believe individuals with good examples and freedom to explore will soar in what their willing and actually do. More often than not their education is hampered than helped by a generation of adults that have passed through public school.

I really enjoyed the explanation of the principles of the TJEd model in this book.

What I wish was different

1. In a book about a Thomas Jefferson education, it would have been nice to have a referenced chapter or two on how Thomas Jefferson was educated. Often statements are made as facts with little evidence to back them up.

2. For the message that the book presents it seemed to me that the same could have been easily presented in a shorter and more concise manner. I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again.

This is not necessarily about the book, but an observation I have made is I find that many of the proponents of this method seem to develop an air or snootiness about them that is a bit of a turn off. They also seem to be afraid of conspiracy theories. In a generation that is required to fight the last fight against the reality of the New World Order, it would be nice not to have to put up with the arrogance.
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