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Part I: Flying Puzzles and a Whole Lot of Cuteness

One thing I love about children is how often they teach us about themselves. Seriously, they say kids don’t come with an instruction manual, and I totally see where they’re coming from. Yet, the more I pay attention to my little ones, the more I come to believe that they’re their own instruction manual.

Most recently, my little boys taught me how to raise them to be great men, and, shockingly enough, they did it by hurling blocks at my head.

Timothy’s Scheme

A few days back, I had a project I really wanted to get through so I went to the school closet to detect something that would—hopefully—occupy the boys long enough for me to make some real progress.

I decided on a large tote full of fun things and opened it up in the middle of the family room, before retreating to my corner to write.

It was fairly shallow tote, but not small otherwise, and within a minute, my almost-one-year old had climbed in and was sitting happy in one corner of the tote. It didn’t take long for his brother to see the wisdom in his decision.

I found myself slightly annoyed as I looked up from my computer and noticed brain games, blocks, puzzle pieces, plastic rings, etc. being thrown about without consideration for my freshly cleaned room or my own safety. Then I noticed what was happening.

Not five minutes after the tote came out—the tote that was filled with the funnest, the most exciting, the most “educationally stimulating for a two year old” things I could find for those boys—it had been completely emptied and converted into a perfectly serviceable boat, and both boys were sitting in it and sailing the seven seas to their hearts’ content.

The Kids Don’t Care!

They didn’t even care about all the extra work is put into preparing it, or all the really cool stuff I had stuffed into their lives. They went straight for the simplest fun and drank it up!

In fact, after they had worn out the fun to be had with the tote, they took up the lid and enjoyed it’s mysteries as a slide, a carriage, and a bed, one after the other before they decided they need the next thing in their lives.

This made me realize in full force that sometimes the simplest answer really is the best.

Sometimes, in trying to give our kids the best experience possible, we overshoot and forget what really matters most.

It’s almost scary how often this happens when it comes to our children’s education. From curriculum, to scheduling, to grades or milestones, we so often, with the best intentions, and a willingness to sacrifice any amount of personal comfort in order to make it amazing for them, miss the very point of education.

Making the Point the Point

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t seriously and prayerfully discuss and decide what they need next from us in their learning, or even that curriculum, schedules, and scoreboards don’t matter and can’t play an important role in the way we raise the next generation of husbands and wives, moms and dads, leaders and heroes. But they can’t just play a big role; they have to play the right role.

It’s not enough to fill up their schedules and dictate their study plans. In fact it’s often not even that helpful, and almost always a lot of work.

Sometimes the clubs, classes, study guides, and even study plans are just extra fluff—things that we as parents and mentors use to make ourselves feel fulfilled in the process, but which aren’t really important for a great experience.

This is especially true in Core Phase, but it remains very true and relevant in Love of Learning, and also has its place in the later phases.

When He’s Ready

Frankly, I know there will come a time when Walter wants more than just a tote-boat to keep him happy.

He will eventually prefer the puzzles and blocks, and even later he’ll want something more—books, math problems, music lessons, karate class, and a hands-on mentor to push him and help him to tackle the hard stuff that he doesn’t quite want to learn, but really wants to know. He’ll want more, and that’s okay. This is completely natural and so very simple.

And that’s the thing: when you leave the phases simple and let them happen naturally, they naturally lead to scholar phase and beyond. They really do.

When you get everything else out of the way, learning stacks upon learning until you find you’ve raised children who’ve gained a superb education, and who are ready to change the world with their unique personal mission.

Simplicity’s not Boring

Keeping things simple and using the blank page system to make sure you’re hitting all of the actually important milestones in your child’s development, is not only simple but truly fulfilling for everyone.

In all honesty, when it comes to learning, it’s actually a good thing to leave your child wanting more every time. In TJEd, we call this the right kind of vacuum, and when it happens, it’s truly powerful. It’s when this happens that they learn to go out and find their education.

That is great mentoring.

And it only happens when we keep things simple and let the Phases progress naturally.

We may go through times of complexity as we learn the new dynamics of each phase, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always simplicity on the other side of complexity. We just have to be willing to be persistent, stay constant, and trust the process.

At the end of the day, great education happens when we’re willing to let the puzzles be set aside, and watch the boys sail happily off into the horizon.

For more on the Phases of Learning >>

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(A Review of Two Books Every Family Should Read!)

Childhood Connections

Recently I shared the story of a lady who lived in the Orient for a time and noticed that children were frequently familiarized with math and science symbols and ideas the way most young people in Europe and North America receive a lot of ambient support for reading and writing. She noted that this surprised her at first, but over time she realized that such attention to math and science during the formative years can greatly help young people grasp and then master these subjects.

The last two weeks I’ve had the joy of reading a couple of books that can help our children do the same thing—connect with math in ways that are natural for young children, and a lot of fun for the parents as well as the kids. The first book is Math & Magic in Wonderland by Lilac Mohr, and the second is its sequel, Math & Magic in Camelot.

Getting Your Own Education

In fact, the author set out specifically to write novels that incorporate math in a way the really engages children. During the second grade, she got excited about reading the biography of her hero at the time, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and as a result wanted more than anything to learn long division. When she told her teacher, the response wasn’t what she expected. She was informed that she’d have to “wait until the fourth grade,” and instructed to be quiet during “reading time.” It reminds me of a story my wife Rachel shares of telling a teacher she wanted to read The House of Seven Gables only to be lectured that she wouldn’t understand it and should stick to the textbooks.

There are a lot of great teachers in the world, but some teachers can be downright dense. When a child is excited to learn, that’s the time great teachers sit forward and go to work. Quality education inhabits such moments. It’s what Connor Boyack calls Passion-Driven Education.

Even though Lilac’s teacher missed a great opportunity, the little girl didn’t just give up her excitement for math. She writes: “I felt dejected but not defeated and decided that if my teacher refused to teach me long division, I would have to simply teach myself. It was not easy (since I didn’t even know multiplication at the time), but with determination, I pressed through and mastered the skill on my own.”

Love of Learning for Everyone

This little story illustrates much of what is wrong with modern many educational institutions—they too often put schooling ahead of learning. Mohr continues: “Now, years later, I still recall my teacher’s rejection as the moment I realized that curiosity should not have age restrictions. I wrote this book [Math & Magic in Wonderland] with the intention of making the magic of math accessible to everyone regardless of age, gender, or background. All you have to bring on this journey is a love of learning.”

Guess what? She did it. Both of these books are engaging, fun, and chock full of math. They also throw in a lot of history, poetry, science and literature connections as well. Read them with your kids, and everyone will have a great time. These are excellent for family reading aloud, and stopping to discuss fun ideas.

One thing, though. With these books you’ll definitely want to read with pen in hand. In fact, you’ll want paper and pens for everyone who reads with you. Read aloud, and stop to play with the math ideas on paper as you go. The whole family will love it.


[Note: If your child is a teen, try the same thing with The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, then A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider. Still, have your teens read the two Math & Magic books on their own and discuss them with you. They’ll make reading Rithmatist and Beginner’s Guide even more effective.]

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Who’s it for?

  1. Youth, aged 13-18 who are prepared to do weekly readings and discussion at a basic level.
  2. A “Super-charged” honors level with additional readings and mentoring content is available at no additional cost for students who want to challenge themselves to even more depth and rigor.

What Does it Cost?

For Fall of 2017 only, we are offering the following low introductory rates, secured for the duration of your continuous enrollment:

  • $45 per month >>
  • $55 per month in the MIC-High Bundle >> (more than 20% off for those who lock in this pricing during the first semester of TJEd High!) This Bundle includes our award-winning parent training/family learning series, “Mentoring in the Classics”. We highly recommend this option for the family’s best success in Leadership Education, so that everyone is benefiting from a great learning trajectory!

[For families who have multiple students or who have financial concerns, please contact us here to inquire about special arrangements >>]

How does it work?

Participants in TJEd High! receive:

  • A study plan with weekly readings and assignments designed by Oliver DeMille, I an Cox and Emma DeMille Cox
  • Weekly video mentoring content (approximately 1-2 hours, pre-recorded so that students can view on-demand in any timezone)
  • Midweek Bonus video mentoring (a brief, up-to-the-minute check-in, with one of your mentors giving feedback on the online discussions, sharing an epiphany, relating the week’s studies to current events or personal experiences, sharing a “Transformational Model,”, and otherwise amping you up to help you stay focused, inspired, and effective in your studies)
  • Moderated online discussion throughout the week, in an exclusive environment accessible only to mentors and students enrolled in the course [THIS ONE IS HUGELY IMPORTANT! Watch for our videos on this topic in the TJEd Online Convention >>]


There will be weekly reading assignments for students, with additional, optional readings for those who want more rigor. Each Monday morning the week’s Video Mentoring Content [VMC] will go live in our private online learning environment. This VMC will present special insights into the week’s readings, and will include exposition of a “Transformational Model”. Then, later in the week, participants will receive a short Mid-Week Mentoring with additional content to feed their excitement, keep them engaged and add depth to their studies. Examples of topics for Transformational Models and Mid-Week Mentoring planned for Fall 2017 include:

  • Education for Career
  • Economic Symbols in Literature
  • How to Read Like a Leader
  • The Wall, and The Dip
  • When 1+1≠2
  • Great Learning Secrets 1-7

Click here to review the current Fall 2017 syllabus >>

What if I’m already enrolled in another program?

Students who are enrolled in public school, online high school, private or charter schools, Commonwealth schools, homeschooling co-ops, or other structured programs can use TJEd High! to be more inspired, study more passionately and effectively, and add increased depth and skills to their other studies.

Who are the mentors?

  • Ian Cox, Lead Mentor
  • Emma (DeMille) Cox, Lead Mentor
  • Oliver DeMille, Lead Mentor
  • Eliza (DeMille) Robinson, Mentor
  • Oliver James DeMille, Mentor
  • Missy (Nelson) DeMille, Mentor
  • Freeborn DeMille, Mentor

Ian and Emma Cox [aged 28 and 25] are young, energetic, and very much in tune with the experience of gaining a great education in youth. They are a husband and wife team who are both personally mentored by Oliver DeMille in their now post-graduate level of studies.

Ian and Emma are passionate about helping youth step up to the Love of Study, so that they spend their hours learning and refining their skills, broadening their exposure and deepening their understanding.

Subscribers to our Mentoring in the Classics series have raved at how their depth and insights not only speak to the parents, but motivate and inspire their children and youth! The TJEd High! online discussions will be moderated primarily by the Lead Mentors, with others from our TJEd team chiming in. The TJEd High! Video Mentoring content will be presented by our Mentoring Team.

Join us for TJEd High!

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TJEd.org is pleased to announce our biggest online convention yet!


Coming to you August 9 – September 15, 2017, you will have full, on-demand access to more than 25 hours of video and audio content* to help you on the path of Leadership Education!


  • Keynotes, Workshops, Q&A Panels
  • Adult and Youth Conference Tracks
  • Core & Love of Learning Track
  • Scholar Phase Track

Think about it: homeschool conventions usually cost a LOT more; and you only hear maybe seven presentations. This convention costs far less than most, and:

  • you can access it from the comfort and convenience of your own home
  • you don’t have the added expenses of childcare, travel, etc.
  • you can watch favorites over and over
  • you can share the experience with your family
  • you get more than twenty presentations

PLUS! Nowhere can you get this much content specific to Leadership Education, with its focus on developmentally-empowered, mission-focused, classics-based learning!

Click to see the list of speakers & presentations >>

To register, complete this online transaction using credit, debit or PayPal (from the button below) and then watch for an email to come to you with details on the convention. If you don’t see it, please check your spam filter, or “Promotions” tab (gmail). [Please contact us HERE if you don’t find the Welcome Email.]

Click here to register now,
and check to be sure that you
receive our Welcome email! >>

Contact us here if you don’t get our Welcome email >>

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What are you doing right now to both make it a better summer and a more successful homeschool in the fall?

[MIC is 1/2 off right now!]

Here in the Northern Hemisphere**, the traditional school year has just ended and families are gearing up for a new summer routine. For homeschoolers, the summer schedule varies widely. Some “do school” right through the summer. Some continue to have learning priorities, but the way they go about it shifts to take advantage of seasonal opportunities. Some follow a more mainstream approach and take a total break for summer months.

Whatever your plan, however you describe yourself, now is a perfect time to look ahead and make some preparations that will leverage your success for next year.

I’m not talking about ruining your summer by skipping it altogether, trying to get a jump on the next thing. I’m talking about using this time to its best advantage in a way that’s natural and works with the rhythms of family, nature and life.

What if…?

What if, just three short months from now, you had more clarity, more focus, more confidence, more depth to draw from, more inspiration to share….

Well, you can. You really, really can. Our Mentoring in the Classics subscription is 1/2 off right now (just $10/mo!) to help you have an amazing, soul-nourishing, heart-inspiring, mind-elevating summer, so that when Fall comes around again you’re in a great place to lead out in your family education culture and have the tools and resources to do it well.

Join Mentoring in the Classics right now and spend a few relaxing, delightful hours each month getting your heart/head/home primed for amazing progress right around the corner.

Here are some comments from our subscribers you might find interesting >>

Click here for more information on MIC >>

Click here to subscribe right now for 1/2 price >>

Here are some other comments (within the past week!) from some of our subscribers….

I loved the lively discussion between the group. I just want to climb into the speakers and pop out in the room where the discussions are recorded and be part of that! But, kidding aside, it so inspiring to hear the playfulness happening as the discussions take place, as well as the way new ideas are dug out and held up for everyone else to see and think about. I am so excited to keep reading, listening, and discussing!!


I have loved Mentoring in the Classics! I currently teach high school English online, and it’s changed the way that I teach. I find that I gain so much from listening to the MIC discussions, and I’m learning to be a better teacher as well.


I am sure I can not even begin to express the full emotions I feel on a daily basis toward TJEd and all it has done for me. I love all your words of inspiration. I just discussed (for the second time, with a different group) Gift from the Sea… Gearing up and helping inspire and prepare me, I listened again to the Debriefing of this book… It was just a few months prior I discussed this in our MIC group. But, wow, I think I *need* to read this book every month and listen to the debriefing… Such insight and such wisdom. As I walked into my home, following the discussion, a flood of emotions came to me of how truly grateful I am to have come across TJEd, and MIC. They have forever changed my life and continue to do so on a day to day basis. I can only imagine the whirlwind we would have been in had I kept going down the conveyer-belt homeschool style… oh man… don’t even want to think about that! THANKS AGAIN.

Ready to Inspire? Be Mentored?
Feast delightedly on the Classics?
Check out MIC  – 1/2 off right now!

**If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, the need for inspiration and “teacher prep” is no less significant right now. Hit the ground running with MIC!

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(A Review of an Excellent New Math Book that Every Family Should Read!)

By Oliver DeMille

A Start and A Stop

A while back I read an article written by a woman whose family moved from the United States to spend some time in the Orient. I forget which country they were in, but the woman was amazed at how much time and effort the people there spent on math. She compared it to the way our American culture focuses on reading for toddlers, children and young people.

For example, she noted how often Americans hear that they should read aloud to their kids, or help them with their reading. “Can you read yet?” is a frequent question for children, and parents discuss how to help kids learn to read. In the country this family moved to, she saw none of that. Instead, people were constantly talking about how to help children with their math.

When books were gifted on birthdays or other holidays, they weren’t children readers (like Dr. Seuss or Are You My Mother?), but beginning math readers—teaching numbers and early arithmetic, with fun pictures and stories. Mothers at the playground sat on benches and talked about how their kids were learning to count, multiply, and calculate—rather than read.

The mother concluded that it was a very different experience than what she was accustomed to, but she wondered why more cultures don’t combine these two—reading and math, instead of just one or the other. Reading child-level math books and stories aloud as bedtime stories, she recommended, just makes sense. And talking about numbers, not just the alphabet—well, why not?

I agreed with her article, and I shared it with a lot of people. Then I did what most of us do: I forgot about it and went back to old habits.

Until now.

A New Approach

It all changed when Rachel got an email from Shelley Nash, a long-time TJEder, who recommended a math book titled Avoid Hard Work!…And Other Encouraging Problem-Solving Tips for the Young, the Very Young, and the Young at Heart, written by Yelena McManaman, James Tanton and Maria Droujkova.

Rachel asked me to read it and tell her what I think. I did, and I was floored. This book is exactly what that article I once read was talking about. Avoid Hard Work is the perfect way to make math a part of every child’s daily life. It’s excellent. And it makes it easy to bring math culture into your home in a way that pretty much every kid will enjoy.

After I got really excited by the book, I went back and reread it—this time more carefully, considering each detail. When I gushed to Rachel about how great this book is and how every family should have it, she told me: “Go write about it.”

So here we are.

First off, I have to say that I don’t much like the title. I think “avoiding hard work” isn’t really the best way to inspire great education. But I do get that for a lot of people, this is the perfect title for a math book. Too much of math is presented as boring, rote, irrelevant to everyday life. Math is an art, and a joy, for those who learn it the right way. So, yes, in our current world, this title makes sense. Plus, I’m sure it will be intriguing to people—including children and teens—who think they don’t like math.

Overall, this book is a fabulous read—for parents, and especially to be read and talked about with the kids. If you have a youth who doesn’t like math, or is scared of it, or bored by it, this book is an excellent jump-start. And for those who love math, it will increase the fun. That’s the thing I noticed most about this book: it makes math fun. It really does.

Right = Right

If you come across things you don’t quite agree with, skip them. Or discuss them as a family or class. Just like with any other classic you read. But put this book at the top of the list for math classics that will help young people—and their parents—really get excited about math.

But enough of my commentary. I want to share some quotes directly from the book, so you’ll see just why I like it so much. Here goes:

1-“Do the improv exercise called YES, and…put up the giant YES on the table or the wall to remind you. Whatever it is the child says or does, (1) say yes to it (2) accept that it means something (3) brainstorm what you can add to the meaning. Maybe your child’s claim that 2+2 = 1 is an analogy, or a math joke, or a novel way to count. Exploring jokes, analogies, or funky counting will be more fun and will teach more math than the simple-minded, generic claim, ‘You are wrong.’”

I love this advice. It’s so TJEd, so “Inspire, not Require.” This is real mentoring, not rote lecture. To repeat: When the child gives an answer to a math question, don’t just say “right” or “wrong.” Say, “That’s right…” or “That’s right if…” Then use their answer to explain the situation.

This is a whole different way of thinking about math, and about mentoring. And it works. It’s the discussion model. Not the lecture model. It’s all about learning, not schooling. And that makes a huge difference. This is leadership thinking, not rote.

2-“Also, be prepared to change topics completely! Don’t force a problem or an activity if the mood of the room, the ‘feeling in the air,’ just isn’t right. Always keep a few extra activities ready, in case the original plan does not work. And make it clear, in a fun way, that you are changing topics, so that children learn this technique from you. You can always return to the original challenge at another time.”

Again, this is “inspire, not require.” It’s mentoring, not mere rote-lecturing-and-testing. Help the student get there by making it fun and exciting. This book is full of examples of how to do this.


A: Let the child do the teaching, so you are surprised and excited by the unexpected. Suggest they re-design math problems and teach them to you or other children or adults. Record their lessons and play them back to the child. Or take pictures of your children teaching and show them the pictures. Seek exciting math media, such as stories, videos, posters, or art….

“Read other people’s math stories, such as Alice in Wonderland or The Cat in Numberland. Invite children to create their own stories about math…in words, or in pictures, or by pretend-play with action figures and toy animals. Children often like to be heroes in the stories…. Only put math into stories with good reasons intrinsic to your story’s world. A hero may count friends and enemies, or prepare enough supplies for a quest. No hero ever wonders, out of the blue, what you get if you add two horses and three horses….

“Recount your personal stories too. What was the first mathematical activity you ever remember doing? Did you know it was mathematics at the time? Ask your friends and colleagues about their first encounters—before schooling!—with mathematics. People often have delightful first stories….

“Make it social. For a child, working one-on-one with an adult can be intimidating, but when kids talk about a problem with friends, they may become more confident. Also, encourage children to make up their own puzzles and problems and pose them for adults and other children to solve. This maker stance produces confidence….

“Problem-solving is like research or exploration: there are a lot of blind valleys! Make sure being stuck, trying wrong methods, and making mistakes is the norm in your daily math life…. But it’s okay to try and try again.”

Like I said, this book is fun. It gives advice like this, and then it shows you examples of how to do these things.

4-Once again: “Validate any mathematical comment, even if it looks wildly ‘incorrect.’ At the very least, say: ‘Oh, what an interesting idea! That makes me think that maybe if we tried…’ This way you give a nudge to the conversation, and also illustrate how all ideas, even wild ones, can inspire new routes of thought.”

This is just scratching the surface of what the book covers. But if you liked these quotes, you’ll love the book. In fact, Avoid Hard Work is even more fun than these quotes because it comes with examples, pictures, stories, and so on.

This is a book for the whole family! Use it to make math more part of your everyday culture. It’s easy, and fun. In fact, I believe it can be a cure to the modern math “blah’s” that infest so much of teaching about math—at school and at home. Give this book a try! It’s a life changer, an easy and truly fun way to bump your math learning to a whole new level.

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It’s reprinting season at TJEd, and we’re offering huge savings to our TJEd friends on paperback editions of our three most popular titles:

It’s worth noting that our flagship title, A Thomas Jefferson Education, has been in continuous print since its release in pre-publication manuscript in 1999. It was first printed in paperback in the year 2000, and we stopped counting after we topped 100,000 sold several years ago!

Likewise, these other titles have sold in the tens of thousands with multiple printings, and there is no sign that they’ll slow down.

Now through the month of March, get any of these titles at 25% off retail price. Use Coupon Code MARCH17PRINT to claim your discount. The discount will be applied in the final step at checkout.

  • Stock up to lend or resell!
  • Gift to friends, family members, music teachers, sports coaches, community leaders, etc.!
  • Create a resource center for your homeschool support group!
  • Donate to your library!

 Click here to shop now >>


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Rabbit Trails


This last week the Super Bowl was in the news quite a bit, and due to our particular interest in it, my kids and I got sucked into a YouTube vortex exploring various renditions of the national anthem of the United States.

Which, of course, led to us breaking into singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at random times and places all week.

Which, of course, led to a discussion of the lyrics and their meaning.

Which, of course, led to questions about the historicity of the story, the way things look when lit at night, and lots more.

Which led to me saying, “Hey – this would be a great thing to study in Kidschool!”

Kidschool: That’s what we call it when I actual do some sort of specific sharing or instruction by me, with my kids as my students. That’s not the way we spend the majority of our time, as we do a lot of independent learning, project learning, group learning, spontaneous rabbit trails, or reading aloud together–as opposed to me doing a more traditional instructional lesson/lecture.

But I digress.

Good Intentions

I said: We should study “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Kidschool.

In fact, it came up several times. But we still haven’t done it. No particular reason why; just – it doesn’t come up except when we’re out and about and I can’t really get into with the links and the videos and the props that I have in mind, so we sort of dance around the topic from what I know without help, and move on.

Which led to us lamenting that we lose track of lots of great ideas like this one because we don’t have a strategy for capturing them.

Which led to….

Abi’s Idea Box!

I’m looking forward to doing a better job of follow-through on our great ideas, thanks to Abi’s Idea Box!

xoxo rd

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Welcome to the Journey

Kiwi-egg-OTCB-meme Homeschooling is a big change for most people! It’s different from what we were raised in, and different from most of the people we know and are surrounded with.

Like with any lifestyle commitment – from weight loss, overcoming addiction, religious conversion, getting physically fit, etc. – homeschoolers do well to find support from others who are sharing the same transformational journey. They might find it helpful (especially at first) to minimize influence from those who might constantly challenge their values or compete with their choices.

We build tribes to help us stay focused on the things we’re trying to do to break old patterns and form new habits. It’s a good thing! That being said, not all things in our life are or need to be defined as “homeschool vs. not-homeschool”.


community-builder-meme I mean, think about it: You have other important values, projects, etc., that include you in tribes that also support you. People who are conscientious about parenting. People who are devout about their faith. People who love horses/crafting/running/cooking with whole foods/etc.

When speaking with someone new, consider first what tribal values you share, and resist the temptation to automatically define the potential relationship in terms of a tribe that they are not currently a part of.

I think learning diplomacy – the ability to build bridges of rapport and cooperation among good people of differing viewpoints – is invaluable. And my guess is, you’re more diplomatic and edifying about sharing your certain things you love and value than you realize – like maybe something as deep as your faith, or as simple as your love for a certain a cappela group. You’ve had longer to consider it, more practice at doing it, and more models on how to do it. You can get good at the homeschool conversation, too!

Peace, Strength, Friendship

Winnie-The-Pooh-Friendship So when you’re asked about your homeschooling – whether it’s a question of why you chose it, how it’s going for you, or how your children are progressing, the first recommendation I have is: speak from a position of peace, strength and friendship.

Don’t assume your asker is trying to talk you out of homeschool. And, even if you have reason to believe that they are judging you harshly, there is usually nothing to gain from responding to that aspect of the question. You can emphasize how personal the choice is: “I love the challenge, and I feel that this is the best way for us.” You might find that other words entirely suit your need.

Keep in mind that, often, the reason for the confrontational posture on the part of the questioner isn’t because they are judging you for your choice, but because they are wondering if you are judging them for theirs. Really!

It’s important to realize that – even if you have spiritual reasons for making your choice to homeschool – homeschool isn’t a religion, of course. I’m sure that there are circumstances under which most of us would feel totally right about some version of “not-homeschool,” so it’s not a strict, absolute, moral question. I’m sure you don’t assume that all parents who avail themselves of non-homeschool options are either corrupt, ignorant or lazy. It’s just not that cut-and-dried. This really is about what you feel is best for your kids this year, or for now, or whatever. And by softening your approach to be more explicitly inclusive and respectful of others’ choices – even if you don’t understand them –  you open the door to understanding and mutual support. After all; isn’t that what you’re asking for from others?



Say you’re at a park day with a group of moms, and they all start talking about their kids in public school. Rather than being contrary and comparing the differences between their kids’ experience and yours’, look for ways to build rapport.

  • If they talk about a certain teacher being hard on the kids, simply empathize, and maybe nod in agreement – thinking on how a certain experience in your own history was similarly challenging.
  • If they talk about the struggle a certain child is having in a particular subject, ask for them to share any ideas they have about supporting the child through the struggle.
  • If they talk about social issues (bullying, friendlessness, peer pressure), be a true friend and put yourself in their position. If you had to deal with those circumstances, how would you feel? What kind of support at home would you hope to give a child with these struggles?
  • If they ask about what you do in homeschool, focus on the things that you love, and don’t try to explain things that take a long, drawn-out treatment (they’re not really asking for that).
  • If they are concerned for your child’s academic achievement, explain briefly, in terms they understand (processing delay, divergent learning style, etc.) that your child’s progress is on your radar and you are working with them to address the situation. **(see below for a list of articles that can help you get your bearings on optimal timelines and approaches, in language that is sound and credible)
  • If they ask what your child is doing for Subject X, speak of the things they excel at and enjoy. Relate a recent experience (like a field trip or a project). Tell what you’re doing for a family readaloud, or what routines you follow for morning devotional, or exciting rabbit trails or accomplishments. Tell about the resources that you find most helpful, and maybe even the things you’ve decided don’t work for you.
  • Don’t worry about answering a question precisely as asked if it doesn’t suit you to do so. You’re not on trial; you have no need to outline your child’s deficits or struggles (remember: EVERY child has them!), or to brag about how far ahead they are (only grandparents actually appreciate this), and you get to discuss your children in the terms you prefer. Period.
  • …and so forth.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when you can ask for ideas from your non-homeschooling friends on how to be a better parent or mentor, and they’re interested in your thoughts as well. Then you’ll have a parents-who-teach tribe, rather than simply a homeschooling tribe!

Rest assured, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to build community and share your love of homeschooling as people come to you with specific interest. And, if you can successfully position yourself as a true friend to all who are trying to do their best with what they’re dealing with, you’ll be a better person, a better friend, a better parent, and a more credible advocate for the socialization and success of the homeschooling choice.

Again: Even if you have reason to suspect that there is some sort of judgment in the asker’s mind, it’s smart not to respond to that in the slightest – and even to act as if you assume they respect your choice. You can actually reframe the conversation more positively if you present yourself as confident and unthreatened.

Thing 1 and Thing 2

thing1_and_thing2 It’s a funny truth that [Thing 1] some people look at non-conformity and wonder if they’re supposed to “fix” it. And, it’s another funny truth that [Thing 2], given any reasonable “out”, most people will content themselves with staying out of it.

In other words [Thing 1], if they have concerns that your children might be under-served by homeschool, they feel some obligation to investigate. That’s not being evil; that’s just being an advocate for children – a neighbor. Even if they’re ill-informed about the prospects of homeschool, their hearts are ultimately in the right place, and you do well to give them credit for that. It’s not personal. They’re just feeling unsure about what they should do as a good citizen. 🙂

But [Thing 2]: once they are given half a reason to believe that you’re not off your rocker, they’ll be more than happy to give you the space to do your thing. They just want to know that they’re not on the hook for not stepping in if you were, you know, delusional or incompetent.

If you assure your questioner that you feel strongly about what you’re doing, and you’re happy with how it’s going, most will be content to respect your choice and let things be.

When asked specific questions about your homeschooling, or your children – don’t assume that the asker thinks you’re doing a bad job. Don’t assume they think your kids are failing, or going to fail. Treat it as if it were genuine curiosity about something that they haven’t ever had a chance to ask about from someone they trust.

Most answers require very little in terms of detail, as the questions are not a deep scrutiny of your life and home. They’re superficial in nature, and then the asker moves on. Don’t obsess about the conversations after the fact, and wonder what more they are thinking about you. They’re almost certainly not. 🙂

Time to be Proactive

There is a time when it might be a good idea to initiate the homeschool conversation yourself. When you have a child in a group learning situation (such as clubs, scouting, Sunday school, etc.), you might want to consider taking the first step and sitting down with the leadership who have direct oversight on and contact with your child, and over the teacher/advisor.

You might also meet separately with the teacher or advisor as well. Explain your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and the way you’d like these adults to be a part of her “team.” If, for example, your child doesn’t read (or write) with the same facility as some of the other kids in the group, open the discussion yourself. That way you can discuss your options and let the teacher know if you want her to:

  • treat her the same as the other kids
  • allow her to work through it with extra time
  • make different plans so that the group activities don’t highlight the differences between the kids
  • contact you in advance if there is something your child can prepare (like, to read aloud in front of the group, or complete a written exercise)
  • …. whatever.

This needs some forethought, and perhaps a discussion with your child. Some kids aren’t bothered in the least by the ways in which their homeschool experience differentiates them from other kids. Some feel worried about it, and need help to navigate the program successfully without feeling singled out in a negative way.

It’s been my experience that the very act of making this kind of advance and opening the conversation promotes a level of respect and trust that makes for a good relationship and a positive experience for all.

The 5%

cat in the hat

Bottom line: Being a nice person who treats others with respect and kindness, and responds to questions with brief and positive responses, will get you 95% there. And the other 5% who really do want you to feel cruddy about your choice don’t get a vote – so you can politely avoid that conversation with either ignoring it or setting explicit boundaries: “This is our decision as parents, and we would appreciate either your support or your respect.”

In very rare cases you might need to limit personal contact with an individual that will remain in your life, and build the relationship from a distance – with cards and letters, phone calls, emails, gifts – whatever love language is most meaningful. Seek solidarity with your spouse, and shore up the children against any subversive efforts such persons may make to undermine you. You can coach your kids on how you’d like them to respond. Be careful not to put your children in a position where they are left feeling judged/defensive, and are required to either think badly of that person, or of themselves. If that means limiting certain kinds of contact, seriously consider doing just that.

But again: this is a small (albeit emotionally-charged) portion of the questions we answer about homeschool.

dr_seuss2 Conclusion

Focus on the positive, and starve the negative. It’s amazing how, when you act with kindness and confidence, most people don’t feel inclined to challenge you. Be a friend, support your friends in their educational and parenting choices, and assume that they do the same for you.

xoxo rd



Here is a list of articles that can help you ponder deeper questions on alternative timelines/methodologies/practices that are actual shown to be helpful for kids who don’t thrive in the early-learning-desk-pencil-teacher-and-blackboard model. Use these sparingly in sharing with others; they can seem argumentative and cause friction when applied in a situation where the asker is not really asking for this. 🙂

This list will also be shared in an upcoming blog post.




1. Two TJEd Products Recognized as Top Educational Resources!

We’re pleased to announce that our This Week in History and Mentoring in the Classics subscriptions have been analyzed by a corps of independent reviewers, and as a result, TJEd.org was named one of the Top 100 Educational Websites of 2017 by Homeschool.com and one of the 2017 Top 101 Websites by Educents!

And! This is the fourth year in a row we’ve received such honors!

To celebrate, we’re offering:

No coupon is necessary – just use the subscription button on the product pages I’ve linked to!

2. Our TJEd Discussion Group on Facebook recently surpassed 11,000 members. (*Coupon Alert!!)

Yes – that’s eleven with a comma and three zeroes! There’s a reason why it’s grown so fast. We hear over and over and over again that it’s the best group on Facebook – it’s the friendliest, most positive, most inspiring, with the least drama, least trolling, etc.

Lots of our users bookmark directly to the page and don’t even use Facebook for anything else.

Check out these testimonials:

“This group is my source. I know if I have a life-building question I can come here and will get great and helpful response. The people in this group share things I would have never thought of before. It’s made me a better parent and teacher/guide to my children. This group is always calm and considerate of others in a way that builds each other up and encourages the very best. I am so grateful to have found such a wise, insightful and generous community. I recently cut my Facebook down to friends only except for this and two other groups. I wanted to make Facebook more personal to me and this group is one that feels like family!” ~Jessica Hanneman

“This group keeps me grounded and centered throughout my homeschool journey. It feels like a true community of loving and accepting parents who know that mentoring each other is just as needed as mentoring our children.” ~Dannika Valenzuela

*To celebrate this growth in our online community, we’re giving 11% off  all downloadable products through the end of January 2017! Just enter coupon code FCBK-11K and your discount will be calculated on the final checkout page on Store.TJEd.org.

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This is more of an “Inspiration Minute” — a quick snippet I’m sharing that started as a conversation on our Facebook group.

Don’t Try This At Home

I just googled “freak accident conveyor belt.” I don’t recommend it, but I’m sure you can imagine the kinds of things I found.

conveyor-belt-bottles-iStock_000017136073XSmall Conveyor belts are mindless, emotionless, reason-less. Their job is to interact with uniform manufactured products, and to keep up the momentum, no matter what else gets destroyed.

Think about that for a moment.

It’s my strong belief that the conveyor-belt model neither defines nor supports the success of my family’s educational goals.

And yet, because of what we call the “conveyor belt hangover” [definition: our allegiance to and comfort/security with the system that we are acclimated to in our early years], we still, almost beyond reason, give special credence to that system that just keeps on pushing, pushing, pushing on, without any regard for genius moments that need more attention, struggles that need more time or a different focus, dealing with triumphs, grief, changes, opportunities, etc.

We try to re-create that kind of mindless, unresponsive momentum at home to our peril. The rhythm of home is very, very different from the conveyor belt, and we probably shouldn’t try to compete with it. We definitely shouldn’t panic or guilt ourselves when our vision and efforts don’t conveniently match up with the model and system we’ve decided against.

So how do you judge your success, if not by uniform and consistent, conveyor-belt-like forward momentum?

BEWARE INSTITUTIONALISM-keep your focus For me, there has to be a hierarchy of success. Like, you can’t compare success in peacetime to success in wartime, you know? And as a family, we cycle through seasons that have different priorities. [I’ll write more on this in an upcoming post.]

Here’s a post I wrote some time ago that sort of captures the essence of working with learning more organically: A TJEd Fairy Tale >>

Browse the blog for other gems that help set the tone for life-long learning and educational excellence. And enjoy the links below for practical helps to ease your stress and inspire your own vision of what you want your family education culture to look like.


Related FAQ:

Here’s How YOU to Lead Out:

Practical Resources for How to Homeschool Your Kids:

How to get off the conveyor belt:


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