I was recently urged by an adoptive mama friend and fellow homeschooler to read Oliver DeMille’s A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century.  It’s been on my wish list for quite some time, so it seemed like a perfect time to review it.  It was a fairly quick read for me, though I think that’s partly because I found the material so fascinating.  I’ll share a general overview:

The goal of a Thomas Jefferson education is to inspire greatness by training leaders how to think.  A unique, personalized education designed to meet the specific needs of each student is employed.  The core foundation of this education philosophy is fairly simple – inspire greatness through the classics and great mentors.  The mentor must be “someone of high moral character who is more advanced than the student and can guide his or her learning.” (pg.39)  Classic books, the ones that have stood the test of time, not textbooks, are used to prepare children to think and lead.  Discussion of the books teach ideas of greatness and lessons of humanity that can then be applied to the student and society through questioning, probing, pondering and writing.  It’s incredibly simple, yet powerful.

DeMille is also very clear that the student himself is responsible for his education, not the teacher.  The teacher (or mentor) has only the job to inspire, not to educate.  A passion for education in the mentor, he claims, is contagious.  The student must be the primary educator because he will only learn when he chooses to learn.  DeMille suggests a simple “Three Rs” curriculum that is coached by the mentor using classics to “read, write, and discuss.”  There is a philosophy of “great work” or “do it again,” with no mediocre or unsatisfactory work being accepted.  The general theme is that the teacher guides, while the student educates.

I really enjoyed comparing DeMille’s “TJEd” model to the classical education model that we employ almost exclusively in our homeschool studies.  Though I didn’t agree with some of his points, I found similarities to my personal education philosophy.  I would not follow every idea in this book, but I do think it offers a lot of merit.  DeMille inspired me to consider organizing a great books discussion group for older children, so I’m processing through what that might look like in the future.  Some of my favorite memories from high school were our small group discussions of The Great Gatsby, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, A Separate Peace, Catcher in the Rye, The Sound and the Fury, A Farewell to Arms, Heart of Darkness, and I could keep going on.  I did not receive a classical education, but my private school offered a very strong “great books” education.  My love for the classics has stuck with me, which is probably one reason I feel so confident in the classical model.

I would certainly recommend this resource to all homeschool parents or anyone interested in education.  Oliver DeMille offers an intriguing argument for his leadership education philosophy, and I think most everyone could take away at least a few ideas.

The boys went away to another fishing camp near the Catoctin Mountains last weekend.  If you remember from last year, they go with a group called the Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock once a year.  It’s a for-real thing, google it.  They had so much fun together last year, so they had been counting down the days until this now-traditional event for quite some time.  I absolutely love this for them.  Aside from doing manly outdoor stuff, the bonding time that comes along with this weekend is truly special.  DH has always been very intentional about pouring into the children and spending quality time with them when he’s home.  He loves to play with them and almost always says yes to whatever adventures they ask him to accompany them on.  He is such a good, encouraging, strong daddy.  I’m so grateful for the message he sends the children that they are loved, worthy, and important.  I know how significant that is, especially because my daddy gave me the same message.

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As of Monday, Bridges Classical Community is officially out for the summer!  It was such a rewarding year, but we are all looking forward to the break!  I’m planning on reading quite a bit with the children this summer, as well as drilling memory work.  We also have a small amount of math to catch up on for everyone, and a few reading assignments left for Lovebug and Sunshine.  Overall, I feel like we finished the year out strong, especially compared to last year.  So we are going to relax most of the summer, while we soak in these great classics.  I may utilize a few audio books while we drive back and forth to the beach, especially for Johnny Tremain and Carry On Mr. Bowditch.  But generally, I plan to read them myself.

What are you summer reading plans?


  • May 21, 2016 - 12:46 am

    Ruth - Looks like some fantastic books you have planned! :-) If you (or your kids) haven’t read any of the Redwall books before, I’d recommend starting with Mossflower. I know Redwall was written first, but the story of Mossflower is better (in my opinion.) The villain is better, the motivations make more sense, the story is clearer. And then, if you (or they) read Redwall, or other books in the series, later, you’ll already have a good part of the background.
    Anyway, that’s my completely unsolicited advice. :-) (Longtime reader, but I don’t comment often and don’t know you in real life, so feel free to ignore me. I think I came here way back from a link up about Sunshine’s cleft surgery.) I’d love to hear what your kids think of it, as it’s one of my favorite series from growing up.ReplyCancel

    • May 21, 2016 - 8:44 am

      Nicole Renée - Thank you so much Ruth, so terrific to hear from you! This is valuable feedback! We haven’t read any of the other ones yet, somehow I totally missed this series growing up! I love sharing all of the classics with them though, there’s something very special about sitting and reading aloud to your children! I will add Mossflower the the list first upon your recommendation!ReplyCancel

  • May 23, 2016 - 3:17 pm

    Danielle Jones - We are just finishing “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” so we will likely continue with that series through the summer. I also want to introduce some N. D. Wilson to see how that goes. I just put 100 Cupboards on hold at the library. I have enjoyed his non-fiction and his interview on The Read-Aloud Revival was fantastic. Both of these are fantasy series. Some say his are quite scary. I don’t know how they will be for my kids.

    We listened to “The Courage of Sarah Noble” over last school year and Johnny Tremain is probably going to be on our list for next year.ReplyCancel

We’ve grown together a lot over this past year. These precious souls have made up my Bridges Classical Community class, and I have to say, it has been pure joy to tutor them every Monday.  Some days were a little crazier than others, but we laughed a lot and learned even more.  Though I enjoyed introducing memory work, I had the most fun with our music and art curriculums.  I especially loved sharing music with them from the Middle Ages up through the Modern Era.  They openly listened to and discussed each piece – I loved hearing their opinions!  I think they all learned that they really do enjoy some of the past musical eras!

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I’m so thankful for the opportunities that leaving Classical Conversations afforded me.  I would never have attempted to tutor a class otherwise, or create and teach a classical music or art curriculum for that matter.  I’ve been stretched immensely over this past year as a homeschooling mama.  And these little people, who are blossoming in magnificent ways, gave me more than I thought possible.  Getting to know all of their personalities, strengths, and preferences has been a super special experience.  Though I don’t truly enjoy the 5am alarm on Mondays, the tiredness always melts away once class begins.  It’s easy to feed off of their energy and selfless love for each other!

Next year will look quite different when we add 11 more students to the group, but I’m confident I’ll love them just as much.  Though I must admit, this first class of students will always be especially imprinted on my heart.

I’m usually not the best example for capturing events with my camera.  In fact I’m pretty terrible at it, and my camera typically stays right in my bag.  But we made some time on Mother’s Day to grab a few shots with my brothers and my mom.  I’m so glad we did.  I <3 them.

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  • May 11, 2016 - 3:56 pm

    Danielle Jones - Funny, I’m the same way. I think since I’ve done photography as a JOB in the moment of an event I just like enjoying it for what it is.ReplyCancel