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SUMMER 2016 BONUS EDITION: My Response Was “Wow!”

by Oliver DeMille

(Review of a new book that will bring real learning magic to your home: Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin)

“The children should have the joy of living in far lands,
in other persons, in other times…in their story-books.”
—Charlotte Mason
(Give Your Child the World, p. 45)

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Do you like reference books? I do. I’m like a kid in a candy story when I come across a new reference book that piques my interest. For example, I love the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). It contains many words that aren’t even used anymore, but they teach us so much about ideas and where our language came from.

GiveYourChildtheWorldMartin I love Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary as well. It combines the words of our founding with little stories, vignettes, and examples that teach us a great deal about our culture and history. I love geography books with maps of the world, especially the ones with maps that show how borders changed as history unfolded. I love to go to big university libraries and read through biographical encyclopedias—and learn about so many people hardly anyone has heard of anymore.

I used to think this enjoyment of reference books made me pretty strange. But as I’ve mentioned this interest to various audiences over the years, I’ve been surprised by how many other people love a good reference book as well. Like scriptural concordances that show all the places a given word or phrase is used in the Bible. So fun!

Give Your Child the World. Literally.

But here’s the really exciting news. This week I got Simple Homeschool founder Jamie Martin’s new book, Give Your Child the World, and a few days later I sat down to read it. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of the best reference books I’ve ever read.

It contains a number of book lists—the best books about other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Oceana, Australia, and so on. In fact, it’s a lot more detailed, with lists of the best books on China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Ecuador, etc., etc., etc.

Not only does Give Your Child the World outline the best books for each area on the map, but it provides an introduction to each book so you know what it’s about—and what to expect when you read it. As the title of the book promises, it really does allow you to “give your child the world.” Literally.

The truth is, this is the best-written reference book I’ve ever seen. The prose is seriously gorgeous. Here are a few examples from the book:

“I sat by the edge of the island, watching God show off. If you’ve ever had the chance to visit Hawaii, you know that’s what he likes to do there.” (p. 17)

“Children don’t let the darkness of the world overshadow its beauty. They don’t make judgments. They just try to love—whatever and whoever stands in front of them.” (p. 18)

“All those voyages around the world between the covers of a book had kindled my empathy…. ” (p. 19)

“Good books make good neighbors…” (p. 41)

“An ancient Chinese legend states that an invisible red thread connects those who are meant to be part of each other’s lives. The thread may tangle or stretch, but it will never break. About a year after Elijah settled in our family, we started to feel a tug, a pulling, on our spirits. That tug led us all the way to India.” (p. 22)

Like I said, it’s the best-written reference book ever—probably because it provides so much more than reference lists. Truth be told, calling Martin’s newest masterpiece a “reference book” is only half true. Wholly the first third of the book is a fantastic introduction to great education, and how to offer it to your kids.

Indeed it’s part epic, part guidebook to a truly global education, part reference material, and part magic. The magic doesn’t just weave the other parts together, it also points the reader in many directions around the world.

A Teacher’s How-To

Perhaps most importantly: This new classic teaches readers how to introduce their kids to the big, wide world in practical and fun ways. Then it gives them the exact books to make the journey enjoyable. It tells us what to look for, and what to avoid in the process. Here’s another example from the book:

“I pick up our latest title and sit down in my favorite gray chair at the dining table. Noisy spirits, sibling squabbles, and daily distractions disappear as fiction transports us to another place and time.” (p. 35)

Did I mention that Give Your Child the World is also part primer to the best classics? Here’s another excerpt:

“Whether we’re reading about the enchanted wardrobe of Narnia or the blizzard-threatened prairies of Minnesota, the power of story plants us directly in the middle of the action. As the characters’ struggles become our own, we root for good to win, and we grasp more deeply the story we are writing with out own lives.” (p. 35)

Just to be clear, this book is a must-have for your bookshelf. You simply must have (and use) the booklists of great classics and key stories for each part of the world. No home that truly values reading can be without it. Seriously.

But there’s more. It’s also a must read.

It teaches so much that is so important about great education in a family. For example:

“Ten Ways to Build a Story-Solid Foundation For Your Family

  1. Use the Library in a Way that Works for You
  2. Don’t Feel Tied to Bedtime Reading (read in the morning, and any time that works)
  3. Invite the Whole Family
  4. Drop a Book if it Isn’t Connecting
  5. Talk About What You’re Reading Personally
  6. Use Audio Books
  7. Go With the Interruptions When You Can
  8. Get Dramatic
  9. Take Turns Reading
  10. Don’t Stop When the Kids Get Older” (pp. 38-41)

This is brilliant. It’s perfect. And the book is full of such profound advice. In fact, it also includes numerous quotes and suggestions from parents around the world who are helping their kids get a great education.

Like I said, it’s a must-read. Every home needs it. Every parent should read it—right away! I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Read it and you’ll find out what I did: It really is magic

Check out the Summer Reading Program at Simple Homeschool! >>

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One of the more common (and most urgent) questions I hear is “How do I start from scratch with an older child?”

tollbooth This is indeed an urgent question; the clock is ticking LOUDLY.

We look at the [apparent] lack of preparation for adult-level experiences such as college, work, relationships, independent living, having a family of their own – and it’s enough to induce panic in a mom or dad!

Because preparation for successful/joyful life-long learning is distinct in the various phases of development, I’ll touch briefly on each – and give the majority of my focus to the oldest students.

Littles (0-8ish)

When little kids don’t exhibit scholar-like behaviors, I’m not too worried. In fact, I’m feeling pretty good about that when I know that the environment and modeling are in place, and I’m doing what’s mine to do. The Phases of Learning have worked pretty faithfully, in my experience, to predict and facilitate a successful transition from learn-from-play to learn-from-study, as the child matures into adolescence. (Click those two in-line links for more information on that process!)

Middles (~8-13 or so)

When middle kids don’t act like adult scholars, again: I’m not worried. It’s important to know what success should look like at each phase, and use the right measuring stick. Flitting like a butterfly from flower to flower, following rabbit trails of interest and inquiry, creating and exploring, beginning the efforts toward learning skills and habits that will later be mastered when the student has more maturity – these are natural and even ideal. However, if  “Middles” are dull and uncurious, I look immediately at two things: 1) Do they have negative associations with education from an environment or process that shut down their natural love of learning? 2) Are there things in their life that sort of suck the air out of the curiosity-room because they’re either too stimulating/addictive, or too time-consuming to allow them to show initiative and wonder? Those things are pretty easily resolved with deliberate and patient effort. The Family Reset works wonders!

Bigs (adolescents and above)

When healthy, normal older kids (who don’t have some neurological, developmental or emotional deficit or challenge) persist with a lack of motivation, I consider it a pathology; meaning, there’s something amiss — there’s something “infecting” their natural desire to learn and progress. Good news! When that infection is removed, and a healthy environment is established, they heal pretty quickly. I have seen this over and over, and the testimonials of others whose families have followed this course of healing and renegotiating lost phases, and have unlearned or re-scripted bad assumptions about themselves, their learning, their potential, etc., attest that the “miraculous” course corrections bring relief and delight.

Toxicity; or: Too Much?

Fairytale-Simplicity copy If you consider the picky little details in the 6-Step Plan for Family Reset or Detox, you might discover that there is something in their educational “diet” (something that perhaps society or even your family’s habits calls “normal”) that is doing violence to their love of learning and ability to commit to the rigors that healthy youth/young adult learning normally leans toward:

  • Too much (or wrong kind of) friend time?
  • Electronics as play or personal entertainment? (as opposed to using technology for scholarly pursuits, family bonding, etc.)
  • Dietary stimulants/toxins that have them foggy/moody/edgy/otherwise compromised?
  • Nutritional deficiencies?
  • Sleep interruptions or deprivation?
  • Emotional setbacks unaddressed?
  • Divergent learning style being dismissed or underserved?
  • Unique developmental timeline needing attention?
  • Poor modeling of self-education in the home?
  • Lack of peer modeling?
  • Lack of adult mentors/heroes that support or exemplify educational ideals?
  • Lack of clear, shared family education culture?
  • Family routines and/or parental expectations get in the way of study time?

You get the idea. Once you know what’s going on and why, once you know what the right question is, you can make the hard and productive choices to remove the infecting element(s) and prepare to be amazed at how they heal.

Deficiency; or, Not Enough?

There’s another side of it as well. Once you’ve considered the toxicity that might be “infecting” their educational growth, it is time to take stock of the proactive elements.

For example (using the infection idea), when you’re trying to heal a wound, it’s only half the battle to remove the sliver, the gravel, and/or the bacteria. You also need sufficient hydration, rest, calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and sometimes the mineral zinc. Without these key elements, healing may take much longer, or be suspended entirely. The worry of a wound that won’t heal – when you thought you had dressed it properly – is frustrating and fear-inducing. It’s so important to deal with not only the “toxicity” but the “deficiency.”

In educational terms, there are also “nutrients” that lead to healing:

  • Fairytale-yearn copy Solid core values
  • “Playfulness” with learning
  • Exposure to first-hand examples of people who love learning and do the hard work to learn, and achieve excellence
  • Access to high-quality resources (this doesn’t have to be TONS, and it’s literally better if you keep it relatively simple)
  • Social support from peers who share the study-with-a-life-purpose ethic
  • Inspiration from heroes who exemplify the value of education and personal mission, etc.
  • Time to be thoughtful, meditative, creative, bored, innovative, experimental, etc.

There are other details that can help, and TJEd does attempt to codify and simplify best practices and strategies to enable the ethic of family-centered, mentored self-education.

For example, for new homeschoolers or families who want to improve the education culture in their home:

For those who work with older students (or who are trying to get a great education as an adult):


next right thing But you don’t have to internalize all of it at once to make meaningful progress. And you don’t have to have everything precisely.exactly.perfect in order to make meaningful progress.

Remember: the youth have a role to play in this process too, and they can do amazing things when they choose to — no matter what obstacles or disadvantages they have to work around. Think about it.

Really, think about it: this is so true!!

So what leads to them making such a choice?

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to release a series of posts that deal with our worst homeschooling fears and nightmares, and the tried-and-true process of empowering excellent self-educators – at any age, and even when you start “late.”

Not only do we have 7 youth/young adults in our own immediate family who are head-over-heels in love with learning, effective at writing, speaking, teaching and mentoring, conversant in the Great Ideas, etc., but I am in a position to hear the success stories of thousands of other such families – so I know our experience isn’t mysterious, or isolated.

If you’re interested, here is one example of what I’m talking about:

Testimonial Audio Button


Students get a great education when they put in the work to effectively study great things.

Leadership Education/TJEd is all about how, when, and why students make that choice, and what parents and mentors can do to facilitate it. Stay tuned for more!

xoxo rd

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The Shift

cup-battle When American founding father John Adams realized what the split between Britain and the thirteen colonies in America would mean to the world, he exclaimed that humanity had entered “a new epoch!”

Today the same is happening in education.

It’s a new era. Changes in the national and world economy are real. Recent trends prove that the old, rote-based, “memorize, obey, and be on time” approach to education isn’t preparing students for success in the rough-and-tumble new economy of the 21st Century.

Global competition for jobs and contracts is simply too stiff, and a number of nations are far ahead of the U.S. in effectively educating students with the skills that are actually marketable in today’s careers and job market.

American graduates are falling further behind, largely because much of the educational establishment in the United States hasn’t yet responded to the reality that a big change is occurring. They’re still educating with many of the same principles, practices and methods that were used in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s.

Some educators “…have recently embraced the idea that character strengths are the key to success in the classroom and beyond—and that these strengths should be taught as skills.” (Paul Tough, “How Kids Really Succeed,” The Atlantic, June 2016) Most schools haven’t made this shift yet, but some are trying.

Strengths and Demands

What are these “character strengths” that bring success in the careers and marketplace of the new global economy? The answer can be summed up as: “resilience, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control, and grit.” (Ibid.) In other words, today’s students need to learn initiative, innovation, ingenuity, tenacity, self-directed progress, and other traditional leadership skills. (See Paradigm Shift: 7 Realities of Success in the New Economy, 2016, pp. 45-96)

The old industrial age lessons of “be on time, learn to do repetitive tasks with a good attitude, find and fit into your ‘place’ in the system” are outdated employee values, and the new economy is demanding a tougher set of skills. (See Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave) The lessons of “grit and resilience” are as important now as “addition and subtraction.” (Op Cit., Tough)

In short, we have a math problem. As the spending years of the Baby Boomer generation wane, the North America economy is naturally entering a new phase. Fewer houses will be needed, fewer products and services will be in demand, and fewer jobs will be available. Corporations are shifting resources to places where increasing populations will require more products, services, and jobs—particularly China, India, and other parts of Asia.

In these regions, higher demand will mean more jobs for decades to come. Such high-growth nations will naturally experience more demand for employees trained in the conveyor belt style. However, in nations where the number of such jobs will decrease for decades ahead, such jobs will be scarce, and easily filled. The growing demand in North America is for leadership-thinking, innovative, entrepreneurial types who know how to successfully start things, build them, and overcome challenges along the way.

Thus most current American education is training young people for jobs and careers that will exist mostly in Asia during their adult working years. Only a few forward-looking schools, teachers and parents are now educating their youth for success in the kind of economy we actually now have—and will increasingly experience—in North America and Europe. Such education is personalized, individualized, and nimbly changes monthly, weekly, or even daily—to meet evolving needs.

What Works Now

In the United States, old-style learning systems like Common Core and standardized multiple-choice testing need to give way to what really works—quality education that builds each child’s innate leadership potential in a personalized and individualized way, under the guidance of a committed mentor. This is the premise of TJEd, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and of many great parents, teachers, homeschoolers and other educators.

This new approach is also the emerging view of what is needed to prepare young people for success in the 21st Century global economy. Those who stick with the educational systems of the 1950s will continue to fall behind. As L.P. Hartley wrote in 1953: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” If we want the rising generation to succeed, we need to do things differently in the face of new realities today.

Of course, math and science, language arts, and knowledge of history and social studies are still very important. But the one-size-fits-all conveyor belt approach of teaching these subjects, and the standardized list of what their mastery consists of, are generally failing to bring out the leadership, risk-taking, creativity, tenacity, and innovative skills that are necessary for career success in the new global economy.

Today’s parents need to take this seriously.

(Highly recommended reading: A new 2016 book, Paradigm Shift: 7 Realities of Success in the New Economy, available from the TJEd Bookstore)

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Seasons and Lessons

my-family-coloring-page-2 I recently saw two different ads in the same magazine that immediately made me think of TJEd. More to the point, they made me think of TJEd parents, youth, and kids, and what they are planning for the summer ahead. Here’s what I learned, and what I did about it:

  1. The first ad simply read: “This summer I…”

The rest was left blank. People had to fill in the answer for themselves.

“What a great way to get us thinking,” I thought.

Try it for yourself, and for each of the young people in your home:

  • This is the summer I need to…
  • This is the summer Johnny needs to…
  • This is the summer Mary needs to…

Seriously, try getting out a piece of paper and writing this down. It’s powerful and effective mentoring. [Do check out that link to avoid common pitfalls in “summer assignments!”]

When I applied this to each of our kids who still live at home, the results were spectacular! This will be a very different summer for Meri, Abi, Hyrum, and Ammon—just because I asked this question, found answers, and got the kids engaged in a dialogue about what they feel their summer should be about.

Of course, I didn’t just announce decrees to them. That’s not the TJEd way. Just discussing what I felt when I asked the question, and asking each young person to answer the same question for themselves, has each of them really excited about major summer learning.

Give it a try! It works.

Leaving the Negative

  1. In a second magazine ad I read the following: “It’s time to break up with your belly.” The ad was selling diet drinks that are full of sugar, but the catchy line got me thinking.

Specifically: What is it time for you to “break up with” right now? (You know, that thing that’s holding you back from having the greatest homeschool in the world. That thing that just keeps getting in the way. That thing you know you should have changed a long time ago.)

Likewise: What is it time for your kids to “break up with” right now?

Whatever it is, just asking the question and knowing the answer will make a huge positive difference. Breaking up with things that have outlived their usefulness will make it so much easier for Abi, Meri, and Ammon to do item #1 above!

Warning: This can be sensitive for some people, including children and youth, so proceed prayerfully and positively. I didn’t just inform Ammon that he needs to break up with something. I asked him what he thinks he needs to “break up with” right now—what it’s time to put behind him for a while.

He was very thoughtful about it, and asked if he could get back to me in a few days. I’m excited to hear what he decides.

Upgrading Life

These questions are so simple. Yet they are exactly the kind of mentoring questions that great mentors pose (like the mentor questions in the appendix of The Student Whisperer). Asking and answering them can greatly help make this a much better summer for our kids.

This doesn’t take a lot of work, and it doesn’t cost anything. But simple mentoring questions like these—and a little bit of follow up—can make a huge difference in the lives of those we mentor. It’s often the little things that have the greatest impact, after all.

Try these two simple questions with your kids. Ask them directly:

  • For you, Mary, this is the summer you should…?
  • What is it time for you to “break up with”?

These are really just another way of doing “The 6 Month No” and “The 6 Month Yes” ingredients in our book Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning. But for your kids, these catchy questions will probably seem a lot more fun. They certainly did for our kids.

By doing this (It’s so simple! Just ask each of your kids to answer two simple questions, and then make some plans based on their answers!) you’ll create a significant Summer Upgrade this year!

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Aloha! At this very moment Oliver and Rachel DeMille are keynoting the Hawaiian Homeschool Convention in Honoka’a on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

In honor of our new Hawaiian homeschool friends we’re reposting the content below, which includes a coupon code to purchase the e-book The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Homeschoolers for 99¢ See below for coupon code.


Diagnosis and Remedies: 8 Steps to Homeschool Bliss by Rachel DeMille

Compass-TJEd-meme Ever wondered why some families seem to do so well with homeschool? Why some kids just seem to take to stuff naturally, while yours are freaking you out?? Here are some questions to consider, to help set the environment and remove any needless obstacles:


Have you ruled out vision impairment or muscle imbalance that affects focus? Schedule an eye exam. Is hearing an issue? Find out. It’s worth it!


Have you ruled out nutritional issues, like sensitivities that create problems with mood, behavior, attention, emotional equilibrium, sleep, etc.? Common triggers are sugars, additives, grains, dairy, processed foods, etc.

Obviously, all of us do better when we make healthy choices; but some kids (and adults) literally cannot function normally with these things, and more “extreme” care must be taken to remove allergens and triggers from their diet and environment.

If this is an issue in your home, it’s life-changing to make the special effort for these accommodations!

3) REDUCE DISTRACTIONS Fairytale-Simplicity copy

Have you removed distracting/addictive elements from your home and schedule? Common issues include too much: TV, video games, friend time, scheduled classes/clubs/lessons/sports, etc. For some kids, some families, some years – ANY amount of these can be too much.

Consider a 6-Month “No” to clear your time and take back your family learning life! (For help in owning your life and time, see Phases of Learning, Ingredient #7 and “Start the New Year Right“)


Is your home environment somehow disruptive to the learning and family relationships you idealize? Common issues include: too many toys, too much clutter, too many dishes/clothes/belongings that take too much time to care for or don’t have a good place where they are stored.

Consider a 6-Month Purge to take back your space, time and peace of mind! (For help on how to carry out a Purge, see Phases of Learning Ingredient #6 and “Start the New Year Right“)


Are you trying to copy “school at home?” It’s really easy to rely on the habits and experiences that are familiar to us, especially when we’re under stress or trying out new things. And yet, family learning is ideally a place for a different form to flourish. Invest in your own learning to lead out, by reading a classic book alone and/or with the family.

Do your homework by daily seeking inspiration in TJEd books and audios to help you stay focused and gain new insight on how it can look, feel and be in your home. (For pointers on how to take the lead in your Leadership Education home, see “Kindling, Carrot Sticks and Kidschool” and “TJEd and Riding a Bike“)


Are you comparing your worst day with your concept of someone else’s best day? Are you trying to implement a vision that’s not compatible with your reality (new baby; caring for an elder; lots of little kids no big kids; health issues)?

Take stock of what matters most to you (Really matters. Not the things that nag you, or make you feel crumby, but the things that you actually are willing to go into the fire for!), and fashion a new ideal that you can actually succeed in. (For a nourishing and nurturing look at how to homeschool in a crisis, see “Chaos and Measuring Sticks; or, Gorillas and Cats. Whatever.”)


Have you and your family successfully reconnected and detoxed? As with Step 6, whether it’s a renovation in your school format, a new move, a new baby, an illness, a loss or a big change in any area of your life, reconnecting the family in Core Phase helps to synchronize your energy, re-define your ideals and help each individual thrive in their areas of needed focus.

This is sort of a healing time that brings back a more natural harmony in the home, and restores the child’s (and parents’!) natural love for life and learning. (For details and examples on how to detox and reset, see “6-Point Plan: Advice for Newbies”)

5-habits-cover 8) NEW HABITS

If you found these helpful, rest assured – these are just the beginning! Effective and happy homeschooling is absolutely within your reach. With all of the other stuff out of the way, you’re ready to cultivate new habits – 5 Habits, to be exact! These “secret” habits aren’t really secret – and as you cultivate them, your family and homeschool will thrive, your stress will diminish, and you’ll feel clarity and joy in your family education journey.

Download our e-book, The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Homeschoolers – normally $5.99, and available to our readers for just 99¢ when you check out with coupon code 5Habits-FIX at our Leadership Education Store. http://store.tjed.org/


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by Oliver DeMille

The Goal

next right thing Getting the simple things right can be really hard. But when you get them right, everything else thrives and flourishes—in almost every arena or endeavor.

That’s worth repeating. It can be difficult to get “the simple things” right.

This is true in relationships, nutrition, government, etc. And it’s definitely true in education. Or great parenting.

But however challenging it is, this is our goal. It’s the ideal:

To get the simple things right!

Parents who focus on this, even though most of us fall short over and over, usually see the best results. In contrast, isn’t it interesting that so many educational systems and programs that emphasize complex things end up mediocre?

Focus on the simple things. The things that really matter.

Specifically: Reading. Discussing. Learning. Thinking. Applying.

If your children learn how to learn—really, truly, deeply learn—you will have accomplished something great. If they also learn how to think—creatively, independently, deeply think—and effectively apply what they learn and think, you will have mastered education.

The Answer

think read 3 Think about those words: “You will have mastered education.” But nobody ever does this unless they focus on the simple things.

The opposite is also true. Show us a school where less than 90 percent of the students learn to passionately and consistently learn, think, and apply—and truly love learning and thinking so much that they keep doing these things long after they care about grades or assignments—and we’ll show you a failing school.

That’s a high bar, to be sure. But every home school can exceed it, simply by mastering the simple things.

  • Reading
  • Discussing
  • Learning
  • Thinking
  • Applying

The other skills (like writing, calculating, etc.) naturally follow in the course of doing these things well and consistently. But without these simple basics, great education seldom occurs.

Now for the fun part: How does a parent, any regular parent who wants to master learning and build a great home school, go about doing so? Most give up with the words “master” or “great.” What’s a parent to do?

Answer: Show Them.

It’s the oldest (and usually still the best) way of learning. Set the example. Just show them.

Remember: You, Not Them

F-YouNotThem-day When was the last time your kids saw you reading? For families who use TJEd, this is probably an easy answer.

When was the last time your kids saw you discussing what you’ve read? Again, if you use TJEd, they’ve probably watched you discuss what you read many times—often directly with them.

(By the way, if they don’t see you reading and discussing many times a week, that’s where you want to start. Very simple. Very powerful.)

Now it gets just a bit harder: When was the last time your kids saw you learning?

Think about it. How would they even know if you’re learning? Answer: you learn, and you tell them what you learned. And where you learned it, and what you were thinking about when the learning came to you. You share what you learn, day after day after day. There is no better method of teaching. None.

When was the last time your kids saw you thinking? They see you applying things you know all the time, but when did they last watch you struggle with important ideas and experience a “Eureka!” moment?

If that’s not something your kids see you doing a lot, they probably aren’t doing it either. Again, show them. #TJEdShelfie

These are the simple things. The short summary of this idea is “You, Not Them.” If you focus only on your kids’ education, you won’t show them what will give them a great education.

If you focus on your education—on truly reading, discussing, learning, thinking, and applying what you learn—you can show them how to find their own greatness. Along the way, you’ll find more of your greatness as well.

What books are you reading right now? Really thinking about, discussing, and learning from? Show your kids how you’re doing this. Week after week. Month after month. Year upon year.

As they watch you, they learn the most important educational lessons of all—what to do, and how to do it. There are no substitutes for these incredibly valuable (and simple to deliver) lessons.


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By Freeborn DeMille

The Class

freebs-bio This was a really fun three months! But it was exciting for a surprising reason. The Harvard Class I took online was so enjoyable.

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I’ve always enjoyed reading a lot, and doing other projects and assignments in home school. And I really loved acting in Shakespeare plays, and taking classes with our home school groups. But this was different.

I loved it. But I’m jumping to the end of the story. Here’s how it all began…

The Hungry Phase

It happened to me this year, just like this great event happens at some point in every young person’s life: This year I got hungry. It was the year that I turned sixteen, and being a teenage young man, I got hungry in more ways than one. Physically, I am now always ravenous. Mentally, I am no longer content being a little boy.

I am anxious to be given new privileges and pursue new opportunities. I am hungry for greater knowledge and understanding. I am beginning to see some of what our world is facing, and I am determined to be among the heroes who save it. I am making new mistakes, and learning new lessons everyday.

I recently explained to my mentor what my dreams are, and what impact I want to have in the world. I told him that I didn’t have any specifics figured out for sure, but I am very passionate about freedom, and I intend to make a positive difference by serving people.

We made a planned reading list, like we usually do, and outlined studies for several important subjects I want to learn about more deeply. Then he asked if I had ever taken an online course.

“Like what?” I asked. “I’ve researched a lot of things online and watched lots of educational YouTube videos…. But not really a full class.”

He had me look up courses on EdX, Coursera, Khan Academy, and others, and I found a lot of exciting options. We finally settled on an online Harvard class on American Government. I am so glad we did this!

What I Liked About the Harvard Class

  • The Content. Each video (two per week) covered an aspect of how our nation, and governments in general, function. The course was filled with principles of freedom, human nature, politics, power, and so much more. I loved the commentary.

I learned about many things I had never even considered. I learned new ideas about reasons our country was founded the way it was, and why it is headed in the direction we are today. True, I’ve already read a lot about this topic. But there is still so much more for me to learn.

Learning so much new information, some of which I thought I already understood, made me realize how much I don’t know.

  • Each lecture began with the professor on video at some location of consequence, like the Supreme Court, Boston Harbor, the White House, the Senate or House, the IRS headquarters, etc. He explained the significance of each location and what role that organization plays in American government or history.

He asked lots of questions that made us think. He used historical examples to illustrate his points, and visual aids such as pictures, graphs, and written quotes to better teach the material. At the end of each lecture he took a few minutes to summarize.

Though we couldn’t literally be in the classroom with him, the format of each lecture easily made up for it. The way the camera moved, the visual aids, and the questions made it feel interactive and engaging.

  • Post Scripts. Sometimes the lectures left certain questions unanswered, or certain ideas unexplored. The professor’s solution to this was to make a small 2-5 minute video at the end to address any extra topics. He also talked about personal experiences (my favorite part of the class). I often learned more from the postscript than from the entire lecture.
  • Online Group Discussions: There is so much we can learn, and just listening and gathering as much information is one of the best ways to do it. I have found, however, that the information in our head isn’t actually very helpful until we apply and share it. Knowledge gained is worth more once it has been shared.

The online forum allowed us to discuss our ideas with other members of the class. A lot of what I learned came from my thoughts as I pondered and shared my ideas in these discussions. I enjoyed reading the ideas of the other students. I could tell the other people taking this class cared very much about America (even many of those from other nations), freedom, and the different challenges the world is facing right now.

  • The Professor: Perhaps the part of this course that truly made it great more than anything else was the instructor, Thomas E. Patterson. I will forever remember his final postscript at the very end of the course. He took time to thank all the students for teaching him. He explained that it might seem strange for him to say this since the class was done largely through video lectures. But because of that very thing, he had to deeply consider what we might be thinking.

He had to ponder what questions we might have asked, what comments we might have made. He knew that if he were to make a mistake it would probably not be corrected, so his teaching skills were sharpened, and he covered certain details that he might have otherwise left out.

He especially thanked a few key individuals in American history that made all the difference. In this video he took us to the Old Granary Burial Ground. Buried there are Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere, among others. His words left me feeling deeply about America and freedom.

I didn’t always agree with his views or what he said, but by the end of the course I had come to respect him. He managed to inspire me to care about freedom even more than I already did. He is truly a great man, and a great teacher.

What I did not like about the course

  • The Readings: When I first started the class I was excited to do all the readings. I had high expectations for them after seeing other portions of the course. But I was disappointed. A few of the selections were really good (excerpts from the Federalist Papers, for example), but mostly they were redundant. Overall, everything found in the readings was covered more effectively in the lectures.
  • The Quizzes: After each lecture the course provided a small quiz. These were set up in a multiple-choice format. I didn’t like this because though I usually did well on the quizzes, I knew I could have made strong arguments for some, and often all, of the possible answers. The quiz format limited the true discovery of truth—and that’s not good for learning.
  • The Writing Assignments: I was thrilled to participate in the writing assignments, and was excited to get some constructive feedback. I was disappointed to find that the students were in charge of grading each other’s essays. (Many of them didn’t even bother to respond.) I would have much preferred for the professor, or some other advanced thinker, to grade my paper and make recommendations.

Fortunately, I took my paper to my personal mentor and he spent hours helping me with both the content of the paper and with my writing skills. (But I doubt most of the students in the Harvard course did it this way. Anyone who takes such online courses should get an in-person mentor to help them!)

Final Thought: Salience

Possibly the most valuable new thing I learned in the course is the importance of what the professor called “salience.” I didn’t know what the word meant, so luckily he explained it. “Salience” basically means being prominent, intense, and passionate—even as a minority or “less important” group.

When I mentioned salience to my personal mentor, he pointed out that “salience” as a word comes from the root word “sal,” which means salt. So salience is like salt in food. There is only a little bit of salt in a plate of pasta, for example, but it makes a huge difference to the flavor.

Another example: say Congress tries to pass a law and 90% of the nation supports it, but the 10% who don’t support the law care about it much, much more than the 90%. This passionate 10% is a lot more likely to act on their beliefs and to spread their influence.

Thus, there is a good chance the law won’t get passed, because of the major involvement and actions of the 10%.

This applies to those of us who love freedom. We don’t require everyone to be involved in order to make progress. We just need the true dedication and efforts of people who care enough to make a real difference. I am one of those people. I invite you to be one of them as well.

FreebsTurnsthePage Freeborn DeMille is the sixteen-year-old son of Oliver and Rachel DeMille. He is passionate about freedom, education and entrepreneurship. He has a black belt in Karate and enjoys reading, cooking, talking to girls, going to dances, and discussing ideas with his peers.

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by Rachel DeMille

TSwift_Kitchen_Helper-TJEd_Meme As mentioned in our previous post (on how to celebrate your kitchen as the heart and hub of a lot of great learning), there is a whole genre of literature that is worth exploring: literature-based cookbooks!

Understand, I love all kinds of cookbooks from the word go, so this isn’t a hard sell for me. I find them to be homey, personal, inspiring and encouraging, artistically fulfilling and just all-around nourishing to heart, mind and soul (oh – and the belly, too!).

That being said, it’s worth noting that there are scads of books specifically created to enhance and extend your family’s engagement with stories you already love – in a way that’s equally expanding as you consider the history, culture and other elements of the recipes. Lit-cooking is such a fabulous springboard for rabbit trails!

For example:

  • What is turkish delight? (Narnia)
  • What kind of tea did colonists drink after they “refused” the British tea? (Felicity, An American Girl)
  • Can Oyster Stew honestly be the best thing Laura ever tasted? (Little House series)
  • What is Deeper’n’Ever Pie? (Redwall)
  • Doesn’t Lamb Stew with Dried Plums served over Wild Rice sound amazing? (Hunger Games)

Learning about the availability of certain ingredients – because of farming, climate, the austerity of the time – due to poverty, war or natural disaster – opens one’s mind to thinking about the human experience. It invites us to be more conscious of our own abundance, our own choices. It urges us to be more adventurous in trying new things, and finding the pleasure in it that others do (even our fictional heroes) – when normally we might not give it a second thought.

So, in the spirit of inspiring rabbit trails and good eating, here is a starter list of literature-based cookbooks that have been reviewed as good-to-excellent*: littlehousecookbook

If you don’t see your favorite listed here, simply use the search window on Amazon or your internet browser and type in “[book title] cookbook”. Like: Betsy Tacy Cookbook, or Les Miserables cookbook.

Do watch reviews for cues on the things that will appeal to you – some cookbooks are pretty lame, depending on what you are looking for. But when you find a winner, it’s so worth the time spent!!

And just for good measure: I have to share with you this recipe that I’m going to make for dinner tonight. It looks so amazing!!!

Share your favorites in the comments below….

*Links to amazon provided for your convenience. Use the “Look Inside” feature and browse the reviews! Any purchase on amazon originating from these links may result in TJEd getting an affiliate benefit. Thanks so much for your support!

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TJEd is a sensation – and a revolution.

For two decades Oliver and Rachel DeMille have been urging families to apply the 7 Keys and the 4 Phases, and often the question has been posed:

But what does it look like in the end?

Does it really work?


Come hear the Next-Gen DeMilles in an open panel discussion – with questions from the audience – discuss the principles, application and results of a Leadership Education home and lifestyle. Earnest, inspiring, funny, practical and relevant.

People from all over North America and beyond will be joining us. We’d love to see you there!

January 30, 2016, Ogden Utah. Click here for details >>

Use coupon code “TJED” to get $10 off your ticket! www.winterhomeschoolconference.com/


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Kitchen_sacred-TJEd_Meme So much of what happens in a great homeschool takes place in the kitchen.

Of course, you may already have your schoolroom, and/or a living room where everyone reads together, and various other places where learning takes place.

In our book The Phases of Learning we outlined a number of other TJEd appliances for every home, including the TJEd-style Bookshelf, the TJEd-style Closet, and so on.

But somehow we never made the kitchen a key part of that—or any other—book. We did outline 55 Ingredients for a great homeschool, but we didn’t focus on the important role a kitchen can play.

It’s time to change that oversight, right now.

Why the Kitchen? The Heat!

Harry Truman famously said:

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Often, when we invert such a declaration we can discover an equal and opposite truth. Let’s see if that works:

If you want to heat things up, get in the kitchen.

In our experience, this is absolutely true! The amazing “heat” in the TJEd Kitchen transfers energy in several powerful ways.


With convection, warmer air rises, while cooler air falls. In the TJEd sense of the heat, time spent in the kitchen together – preparing meals, washing dishes, things we do several times each day – can create memories, bonds and moments where the high-value experiences rise and the harder or lower-value things become less front-and-center in our relationships, experiences and learning. Great ideas rise. Great conversations rise. Great moments rise.


With conduction in the TJEd Kitchen, the “Heat” is transferred from one to another. The love, interests, curiosity, humility, courage, gratitude and more of one person can be shared by direct contact in the kitchen.

Radiation tjed_kitchen_Mazar-Meme

Radiation is the heat we feel emanating from a source. In the TJEd Kitchen, the parents in particular can emanate the “Heat”: a passion for learning, an interest in a variety of subjects and skills, a character that is pure and kind, etc. And everyone can have an opportunity to share their warmth in this way, being a source of “Heat” that others can be warmed by as the dynamic needs of the family ebb, flow and change.

In addition to these, consider also what the following statements might mean about your Kitchen interactions:

  • Heat is a catalyst.
  • Heat forges bonds.
  • Heat promotes movement on a deep level.
  • Heat tempers metal.
  • Heat releases impurities.

When the kitchen becomes a hub of activity (not just for cleaning or getting food onto plates) it can become a heartbeat in the home. It generates a “heat” that forges bonds, animates deeper thinking and sharing, and facilitates the transfer of ideas, values, experiences and vision.

How is this done?

Kitchen Magic

Kitchen_special-TJEd_meme Let’s be clear. Any great education intersects with the kitchen. A lot. If you don’t eat, you don’t learn. (Obviously.)

But the connection goes far deeper. The truth is, as important as reading and studying are to a quality education, there is something even more central. Something even more at the core of great learning.

This something is simple: Conversation. Dialogue. Discussion. And it makes a huge improvement in any home or educational setting: chatting, listening, and just plain talking about things.

The quality of your discussions with the children and youth you mentor has a direct, lasting, powerful influence on how much they learn, how much they like to learn, and how much they actually want to learn. Conversations and dialogues are a key part of any excellent education, and for homeschoolers this means that at least one (and preferably two) of the parents are actively engaged in ongoing discussions with every child and youth.

This may all sound obvious, but too often it falls by the wayside in the busy modern lives of most families. Parents who spark a lot of conversations with each child are going to see learning occur at a much higher level than those who don’t. Period.

And few places in the world, not to mention in your home, are as perfect for fun and educational conversations as the kitchen! This is a big deal. Yet it is so simple.


Kitchen_Celine-TJEd_Meme For homeschoolers, especially parents who help their kids experience classics and mentors, washing dishes never needs to be just washing dishes. It can include an informal discussion about the latest book you’re reading. Or one the young person is reading. It’s amazing how fast dishes seem to get washed when the kitchen is filled with thoughts about Where the Red Fern Grows, Little Britches, or Pride and Prejudice.

Time will fly. And learning will increase. Time to prepare lunch, or cook dinner? Add in some Les Miserables music and talk about the themes it covers. Or play a fractions game while you cut up oranges or tomatoes. Laugh. Talk. Discuss.

Just talking about learning is incredibly powerful in such an informal setting. Ask your son what his top 3 interests are, and listen to his thoughts and feelings as he ponders and responds. Ask you daughter what her favorite books are, and you’re often in for a wonderful treat. Talking together is a lost art in the modern world of mobile phones, sound systems that take over your cars as you travel, and busy schedules.

Talk more in the kitchen and during meals.

If you can’t think of the perfect thing to discuss right off the bat, keep a list of books everyone in the family is reading right now posted on the fridge. Just glance at it and start talking about one of the books—meal after meal, day after day. Add another list of projects/topics each person is working on, and talk about one of them while preparing breakfast. Say, “Johnny, I was thinking about you last night, and…” Just start talking…

Make it fun. Do it over and over.

The kitchen is a fantastic TJEd schoolroom. Just don’t make it formal. Keep things fun, light, informal, and keep doing it. Or, if this feels big to you, just do it today. Try it at lunchtime and again at dinner. See how it goes. You’re going to like it.

Food and Proverbs TSwift_Kitchen_Helper-TJEd_Meme

If you’re eating on the run today, pass out the tacos to everyone in the car and say, “Hey, I’ve been reading Farmer Boy, you know, from the Little House on the Prairie series, and I love how it discusses food. In fact, I noticed how in Little Britches and Laddie and a lot of kids’ books the topic often turns to food. Why do you think books do that?”

[On a side note: Some of your favorite books to read with your children have dedicated cookbooks! Check out our followup post here >>]

Or, think of whatever is on your mind from your readings and bring them up. In a series about one of Oliver’s favorite fictional characters, Milo Talon, author Louis L’Amour discusses how the parents always talked at Milo’s dinner table while he was growing up. They discussed all kinds of important things, from books and current events (gleaned from newspapers) to history and stories about various kinds of leaders, inventors and explorers from the past.

The children were encouraged to join in, and the discussions were an important way for the parents to inspire, teach, and motivate. The kitchen and dining room are great parts of a quality homeschool learning environment. All it takes is for the parents to look around and start discussing things.

Try it. It’s fun. And it will boost and bless the whole family.

As the old saying goes: “Time in the kitchen is a terrible thing to waste.” (Actually, this isn’t really an old proverb at all, but maybe it should be.)

Your kitchen can greatly improve your homeschool. And it takes less effort than just working silently and trying to convince your kids to finish their chores.

Seriously, have some fun by turning your kitchen into a great learning kitchen, a TJEd kitchen, a fun kitchen where family members do a lot more than necessary chores—and bond, learn, and connect a lot more than most families even imagine. “The kitchen? Really? Are you kidding?”

Not at all. It works. Give it a try. (Now, honestly, it doesn’t work every day, but it’s amazing how often our kitchen is full of happy, working adults, youth and children talking in depth about the latest book or interesting idea.)

Lead out. Set the tone, get it started, and the results will make a truly positive difference in your home.

TJEd-YA-Panel What’s Cooking?

With all that being said about the almost-intangibles of relationships, attitudes, and honest-to-goodness connection with the joys of learning, there are also some really practical academics that are naturally taught in the kitchen; some would say they are taught best in the kitchen!

  • Chemistry
    • What makes a good recipe work? How does leaving certain things out change it? Why?
    • How do the bubbles form in bread?
    • What makes water boil?
    • Why doesn’t oil boil?
    • How can you fix a recipe with too much salt?
    • Why do apples turn brown, and carrots not?
    • What happens in the pan when veggies start to get translucent and caramelize?
  • Biology
    • Why does salt make sweet things taste better?
    • How do taste buds work?
    • How do you smell the “done-ness” of something?
    • What are all those things in the chicken thigh we’re cutting?
    • Why is it safer to eat uncooked this than uncooked that?
    • How long does this stay fresh, and at what temperature? Why?
    • What changes in a fruit that ripens on the counter? Why don’t all fruit ripen after they’re picked?
  • Math
    • The dozens in eggs
    • The fractions in measuring cups
    • The multiples in cooking for many
    • The divisions in modifying a recipe when one ingredient is scarce
    • Working the timer
    • Working the clock
    • Learning about temperature and degrees
    • Planning, organizing, and multi-tasking meal preparation and cleanup
  • Language Arts
    • Reading a recipe
    • Creating a shopping list
    • Making place cards
    • Preparing a menu
    • Inviting people to a party
    • Greeting cards and thank you notes that accompany treats you share
    • Learning the language of cooking
    • Foreign pronunciation and vocabulary
  • Geography and World Cultures
  • Experimentation
  • Artistic Expression
  • …and on, and on, and on


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