Some Background

My wife and I decided to homeschool our kids from the beginning and we have been doing it for several years. The most important factor in our decision, I'd say, was that we didn't think the public education that our kids would receive was good enough and wasted too much time. My wife was the one who first brought up the idea, and I think I was not really on board with the idea, but not really opposed to it. It mattered to her so I was willing to look into it.

We read several books on homeschooling approaches and my wife attended many seminars. We agreed with many of the complaints about public schools. My wife and I had both attended public schools and didn't have many bad experiences with our own educations. But around the time we were looking into homeschooling we were also start to read the "better" books and we realized how our impression of what "educated" meant and how to be successful in life was largely due to the ideas we had adopted in public school. I thought it was a shame that Latin and Greek and the classics were almost nowhere taught anymore. There were several things we really wanted our kids to learn, and decided that we should homeschool them in order for them to learn them.

We went through the process of figuring out what to teach, and how to teach, before our oldest was even school age, so we had time to investigate and come up with our own plans and expectations. We checked out lots of different philosophies of education and different teaching methods. Our philosophy and our approach is partly the best out of all approaches, and partly our own ideas.

Learning classical languages, and learning about the ancient world, and the classical works from that time are part of the education we are trying to provide for our kids. Periodically, when other homeschoolers learn this they have asked us why we aren't doing Thomas Jefferson Education. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Homeschooler: "Why don't you Thomas Jefferson Education?"
Us: "What do you do as part of Thomas Jefferson Education?"
Homeschooler: "You read the classics."
Us: "Ok. We do that. I guess we do Thomas Jefferson Education, then"

We had read the Thomas Jefferson Education book, but it doesn't really have much on methods at all, just philosophy. So, we thought, we include the classics in our homeschooling and we understand the points about the "conveyor-belt education" in most public schools. but we wondered what exactly people thought we should be doing differently in order to say that we are doing Thomas Jefferson Education. We never said we were doing Thomas Jefferson Education, but people always seemed confused that we were reading classics and learning ancient languages and history, but weren't "doing TJEd."

Over time, we started to see more and more Thomas Jefferson Education groups, and more people asking us about whether we do it. We would go to homeschooling conferences and see that classes were being held on it. At some point it reached critical mass that we knew we weren't doing Thomas Jefferson Education like other people were that were really doing it, and we also felt no desire to. We had some friends and some family go to some Thomas Jefferson Education seminars and were involved with it in different degrees, and it seemed that most of the LDS homeschoolers were "getting into TJEd."

So, finally, I took a formal approach and said, 'Let me see what this is all about." I bought the new version of "A Thomas Jefferson Education" by Oliver Van DeMille, and the Companion book, and a book on the Phases of Learning by the same author. I went to the Intro to TJEd class at a recent homeschooling conference. I read information on the website of George Wythe College. Now I am writing this blog to explain to people why I don't do TJEd.


Redneckliber said...

I love this Blog. Thank you for realizing you are not on the "TJed" conveyor belt. I have many of the same feelings you do.

porcupine said...

I agree with your evaluation 150% If I had continued on the prescribed TJEd path, my daughter's learning disability would remain undiagnosed because the only advice that TJEders ever gave me was "well, Oliver didn't read until he was 10, when she's ready, she'll do it, just keep inspiring her" TJEd is nothing more than a high-pressure MLM for a bogus miracle pill.

Truth said...

But Redneckliber, your blog profile says you're a "home schooling mother who whole heartedly embraces the principles and philosophy of Thomas Jefferson Education or Leadership Education." I'm confused.

Alison Moore Smith said...

Finally. A thorough and thoughtful analysis of TJEd.

JLL, I sincerely think you should post some of the conversation that ensued on the Ut-HS yahoo group. It was informative while it lasted. In particular, I think the defense of Joan of Arc, et. al. is telling.

Truth said...

JLL, you may be interested in the discussion of your blog going on here:

J.L.L said...

Thanks for the link, Truth. I read the article. This is what TJEd supporters don't seem to get: TJEd is not a teaching method. It is an ideology. It is a worldview, a way of life. It is different than practically all other teaching methods or approaches I can think of. They have their guy that showed them the light to all of this and that's Oliver DeMille. TJEd really is all or nothing in terms of whether you believe in "Leadership Education" like DeMille describes, or not.

So the author tries to say that other great men have been criticized so if DeMille is being criticized then that must mean he is great also. Of course the author did nothing to show how my criticism were wrong.

But you know, I think the whole comparison to Joseph Smith really backfired on the author. I really like the first commenter who asked if TJEd was a religion or a church. Is it? I argued that it comes close in some regards. Imitation is the great form of flattery, or deception.

But also they need to remember that the stated purpose of George Wythe college is to train statesmen "that are so badly needed now" (to paraphrase DeMille). That's not the goal of the LDS church, to create leaders or scholars or statesmen.

But check out this from that author:

"Right now, the Government, Business, and Media has taken so much control of society that any candidate for office that comes in espousing significant changes in how things should be run would probably not be very popular.
A George Wythe University trained Statesman would not be very popular in this environment which makes getting into elective office more difficult, really."

So now wait a minute. We can't have great statesmen from George Wythe because they would be "unpopular." But then the author writes:

"Sometimes being a leader means taking an unpopular but correct stance and not just being an elected official. J.L.L. does not seem to appreciate this difference."

Self-contradiction there.

So we need statesmen now, but they would be unpopular so we can't have them, so that's why there aren't GWC-trained statesmen...and I'm the one with the problem of not being able to see the difference.

I think TJEd really hasn't been challenged hardly at all, and my blog is one of the few that is actually giving TJEd a challenge. And when they try to challenge it they just dig themselves a deeper pit. It's like when you have a great business ideas in your head, but then when you try to write a business plan or explain it to someone else you realize that it really is not such a great plan. I don't mean that people don't believe in your plan. I mean than when you hear the idea coming out of you mouth or when you try to serialize your thoughts into words on paper you see that you haven't actually thought things through enough.

Thanks for the link. The author said something about his "last response" to me. Are there others somewhere?

Truth said...

J.L.L said...

Why do these guys keep thinking historical examples prove their points? Did Joseph F. Smith make a contract with his parents? No. Did Isaac Newton or Martin Luther? No. That proves my point, that you shouldn't have to create a written contract with your teenager for them to act like adults.


Mandy said...

Thanks J.L.L. for giving me a little validation to my own hesitation to join the TJEd bandwagon. There are so many wonderful women who swear by it, I thought there was something wrong with me. I've had a lot of the same concerns that you have addressed, but I'd never heard any opposition to TJEd until now. Thanks, you've given me a lot to think about--in a good way!

Brian W Baker said...

You were right when you said TJed was a way of life. For me, it has been a beautiful way. It is a world view, one that the world needs.

I am working hard to educate myself this way. I have seen the results. I am a leader. And nothing can change that.

I just finished my first year at George Wythe University. I have not seen any of the negative things you or your commentators have mentioned. I love TJed. It has deepened my life, shown me who I am and what I need to do. Everything you have said are words of the misinformed.

Steve said...

I was doing TJed before I knew it existed. It works for our family and our children (we have 8). I have never understood why someone like you would devote so much time trying to destroy something that works for other people. If what you said were true, then no one would have any success with TJed. I personally know many families that use the method with great success. Therefore, what you say cannot be true. I think you need to get a life and find a new project.

J.L.L said...

Steve, I don't see how you could have done TJEd before it existed. Maybe you had your kids read good books and found people for them to model, or maybe you didn't push them too hard when they were little and then let them read a lot as they got over, but that's not TJEd. I don't think you really know what TJEd involves and you are assuming that TJEd is something it is not.

Read the TJEd books and them confirm again that you were following what they say to do, especially all the things that are "essential" and "very important."

Many people think TJED is "reading the classics" and "mentoring kids." It's not, and if that's all it was I doubt many people would have any problems with it. But people hear a lecture or attend a meeting and then they think they are "doing TJEd" but they aren't.

And I wrote why I created this blog. I kept running into TJEd. People kept asking me if I was doing it. So I finally looked into, and it concerned me. So I created a blog about it. Since then some things have gotten worse, others better. The TJEd philosophy has continued to evolve for the worse, but number of adherents seems to be down. I frankly think TJEd has done a great disservice both to families and to the general homeschooling movement. I know so many people who know someone who "homeschools" and their image is very bad. People are not impressed at all with those "homeschoolers." But when I press them for more information, they are most likely doing TJEd, or something close enough with similar philosophies.

I don't know why DeMille and all the other TJEd folks can make whatever claims they want without challenge, why they can criticize public schools and other methods without response, why they can mess up family relations with a bunch of pseudo-intellectual modern philosophies, and just be allowed to do damage the reputation of homeschoolers. Not on my watch.

Anonymous said...

On the Well-Trained Mind Parents' Forum (K-8 Curriculum Board Forum) VLSHORT posted the question "Would you talk TJEd with me?" with the comment "I have been reading TJEd materials for the last few weeks. Very excited! I've begun educating myself, by reading classics on my own. However, tonight (this morning!) I've read some very disturbing reviews/posts about it.
Anyone willing to re-visit this topic with me, and offer more discussion?"
Maybe it was your website! Thank you for offering another viewpoint. Frankly, in anything, you must always follow the money. If the one giving advice is going to profit from you it should be considered with less credibility than one that won't. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for outlining everything I've felt was wrong about TJEd and so much more I hadn't even considered. It's sad watching so many of my friends adopt this untenable, unclear method for educating their children. Amazing how our own insecurities about our ability to educate our children effectively drive us to believe anything -- even when it's illogical and impractical.

Momma2Angel said...

If one reads about the 9 different intelligences, not just academic, one would understand that TJed is NOT flexible enough and promoting a one size fits all education is WRONG. If one wants to stick with classical education don't reinvent the wheel as TJed has done!! Homeschooling is about INDIVIDUAL attention. TJed reads like Ezzo's Babywise (cult) books for kids/teens and it turns my stomach the damaging info it presents!!! Sure you can glean something that may work for you, but it is less helpful for most families. LDS have a real problem with a false reach for perfection (missing the mark of line upon line) and TJed does NOTHING to alleviate that anxiety for me and others around me. Thank you for your blog JLL!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I am glad I am not alone. I have been having so many doubts. I first read, "A Thomas Jefferson Education," because, like you, I kept running into people who wanted me to read it and learn about it, and do it. I also noticed that there was a lot of exclusivity. I feel like if I don't "get into TJED," or "unschool," I am a weird-o. Other homeschoolers are so negative about "school at home." I still don't understand why my teaching the Utah Core Curriculum to my kids will harm them. Now I am reading, "Leadership Education," because I still didn't "get it" after reading the first one. It just didn't add up. I am reading this one to understand it better. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around a kid not being taught arithmetic, but, instead, reading about Einstein and Pythagorean, and expecting them to jump from no schooling to, "You need to study 2 hours a day now. Now, study. Sit here, and study." Then, of course, you still, at age 12, don't teach arithmetic. You have them read classics, which, BTW, he does define. "Classics are books you want to read over and over again." His own definition, of course. I do agree with a lot of what he says, but a lot of it is not for me, and I think some principles of unschooling are cool, too, but I don't like a lot of it. I am an Alfie Kohn style school style homeschooler. I love whole language, teaching kids to cooperate, teaching kids to negotiate, teaching kids to debate and argue, and teaching kids Constance Kamii math. I am someone who teaches the Utah Core Curriculum. I do like reading the classics and teaching my kids to love good books, just like you.