A Thomas Jefferson Education: Principles and Stages

Over a year ago, I was able to hear Oliver DeMille, president of George Wythe College, speak about his “leadership education” idea. It seems to be an education system that marries a classical education with unschooling. There was a lot of good stuff about it. There were some definite things I didn’t like about his perspective, as well. I thought his book, “A Thomas Jefferson Education,” was weak. However, the ideas that were outlined in the paper that his wife, Rachel, authored, “A Thomas Jefferson Education in Our Home”, had some wonderful ideas in it (I have NO idea why they were not in the book, frankly!)

Anyway, one idea the DeMille’s talk about are “The Seven Principles of Quality Education”:

Classics, not Textbooks.
Mentors, not Professors.
Inspire, not Require.
Structure Time, not Content.
Quality, not Conformity.
Simplicity, not Complexity.
YOU, not them.

Most of these I do, but there were a couple that got me thinking . . .

Then, they presented the “stages” of learning:

The Core Phase (roughly ages 0-8). He talks about having no formal instruction during this time. He feels this is the time to learn things like: right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, relationships, family values, family routines and responsibilities, learning accountability, and the value and love of work.

The Love of Learning Phase (roughly ages 8-12). He feels this is the time when there is lots of fearless exploration. He feels home should still be the strong base from where they are learning everything and it is our job to bring in lots of opportunities for exploration.

The Scholar Phase (roughly ages 12-16). He feels this is when the person is starting to really get a feel for what he/she loves and starts to pursue learning heavily, on his/her own initiative. They can’t get enough of it. He encourages more outside the home mentors and opportunities at this stage.

The Depth Phase (roughly ages 16-22). He doesn’t talk about this one in this handout, but says it is the time when they “take on a serious mentor to prepare them for the Mission Phase.” It is also a time when they go into more depth in the fields of his/her choice.

The Mission Phase (beyond this). He doesn’t focus on this in the handout, but simply says that it is the time “where we each set out and accomplish our unique missions in life.”

When I contemplated my own children’s learning path, I recognized how similar it was to these stages they had delineated. As I continued to think about it, I came up with my own list of “stages.” I’ll explain why when I share them with you next, but I wanted to first share the source of “inspiration” from which they came.

8 responses to “A Thomas Jefferson Education: Principles and Stages

  1. I’ve heard of A Thomas Jefferson Education, but unfortunately my library system doesn’t have the book. Thanks for sharing this information — I just might have to request it through inter- library loan.

  2. I’ve attended at least four of the TJED seminars. All very interesting. I keep telling people TJED is like unschooling with a classical perspective, too! I like the idea of structuring a little time for my son and I to share ideas. We read to each other nearly every day and we play around with writing, math, puzzles, riddles, etc. I have found that while many children follow the stages, mine needed to return to CORE phase to get more play in. Actually, I needed a CORE phase and now I’m in Love of Learning–that’s my excuse for reading what ever I feel like and not finishing any book I don’t want. (I’m an English teacher, so I have finished plenty and written about them, thank you very much! LOL)

    I’m very anxious to hear about your own list of stages.
    Thanks, Saj

  3. What a timely post for me. I’ve just started reading about classical education, but have so far been more unschooling. I look forward to your list of learning timeframes and have to look into getting the supplement. Would you recommend reading the entire book also? My library doesn’t have it, so I’d have to probably buy it.

  4. Cindy, YOU ARE KILLING ME! I’m waiting ever so patiently (yeah, right) for your superb and fabulous list of stages… Now you’ve got me really curious!

    I’m right there with Karen, we’re very unschoolish but lately I’ve been thinking more and more about incorporating elements of classical education into our days. Thanks for mentioning this resource, I’ll have to check it out. I like the seven principals, they make pretty good sense.

  5. LOL, Susan! Now I’m feeling pressure for the stages to actually be good! I’ve been putting them together the past two days. It’s been harder to “package” it neatly than I thought, and I expect questions to arise from what I’ve got.

    Karen, I really didn’t like the book. I thought the supplement was definitely the prize. On the other hand, I misplaced it, so I can’t go over it to see if it would be a good “complete package”. I think the book spends most of its time justifying why the leadership education is better than others, versus just sharing what it is, how to apply it, and discussing its varied attributes.

    Alright, I’m ready to go re-read my list of stages one more time and then publish it . . . don’t expect too much πŸ™‚


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  7. I am loving diving in to your discussion of these learning stages. I was tempted to buy the booklet you mentioned, but shipping would’ve cost more than the book. πŸ™

  8. True, the booklet is only $4, but I got a couple of other books to stash away for Christmas so the shipping cost was less painful.