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


Coming to you August 9-31, 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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Giving Your Kids a Head Start

by Emma DeMille Cox

Listen While You Play

A few weeks ago, Ian and I traveled down to my parents’ house with our little boys, to do the month’s MIC recording on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.

We spent several days there, and as you can imagine, there was a fair amount of discussion about the two young lovers, both during and outside of the recording.

Never once did we sit Walter (our two-year-old) down and give him a lecture on the various plot points, themes, and characters of the play.

In fact, as far as I noticed, he was too busy running around with sticks, rocks, and aunties to be interested in any deep thematic analyses or technical deconstructions, even if it was about one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. Frankly, he was being a typical little boy, and having a fantastic time doing so.

Naturally, we didn’t mind the reprieve, as it allowed us to indulge in some fulfilling adult conversation.

In any event, the week came and went and we made our way back home and began to settle back into normal life.

***Romeo and Juliet SPOILER ALERT*** (as if you didn’t already know…)

Weeks later, my sister and I watched a movie where one of the main characters was named “Juliet.” When someone in the film said the name, Walter came running over from the project he was working on, and exclaimed, “Yesterday [he’s in that stage where “yesterday” is any day before this one], Grandpa was talking about Juliet! She died.”

This last part he said with such a sorrowful yet matter-of-fact demeanor, that it really was something. Then he continued with a question:

“But what happened to Romeo?”

Core Phase and You, not Them

Trying to hide my laughter and adopt the seriousness that his somber voice demanded of me, I informed him that, sadly, Romeo died as well.

At the time, his only response was a slightly mournful, “Oh. Yeah,” and then we both moved on with our activities.

Later, as I told the story to Ian, Walter came running up again and asked, “Are you talking about Romeo and Juliet?” At our nod, he informed us with proper solemnity, “They both died.”(spoiler alert)

Going forward, it was somewhat commonplace in our home for several days, to see Walter perform an epic death scene, in the manner of young boys, followed by the announcement, “I’m Romeo!” or, “I’m Juliet!”

On many other occasions, I’ve been astounded at the knowledge he’s shown and the truth he’s taught regarding God, our family’s core book, other classics, and many other topics that deeply matter to us, many of them things we’ve never specifically sat-him-down-and-told-him, but which he’s picked up from our many discussions–many, at times we thought he wasn’t listening.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids’ education is focus on your own.

Realistically, when we put all our energy into our kids’ education, it’s very easy to neglect our own, while​ the opposite just isn’t quite true.

In fact, when we openly focus on our own education in the home, it’s almost impossible for our kids to not progress and benefit from it. They really do learn simply from our learning, as we discuss and share our thoughts and epiphanies. And, at the same time, watching us get excited about our studies will inspire them to find the same studiousness exciting and fun.

Growing up in this environment, they’ll have a natural desire to pursue their own interests​ and passions, and they’ll know they have an ally-in-learning in you, so they’ll continually come back with questions and thoughts for your guidance and mentoring.

Today: Greatness

Children are really good at watching the people around them and copying what they see. They smile when we smile. They want to eat, because they see us eating. They learn to walk, because we walk.

This is true even on a more intellectual level: they laugh, make noises and even learn to speak the language we speak, all because they’re immersed in that environment.

Fortunately for parents who want to raise kids who pursue top-quality, classical, excellent education, this same parroting-of-parents effect applies when it comes to great reading, writing, discussing, calculating, experimenting, innovating and learning in general, as well as knowledge of important ideas.

To put it simply, it’s amazing what your kids will naturally learn when your home is an environment of learning. And, the simplest, best way to create such an environment is for you, the parent, to start getting a superb education right now. Today.

Start learning great things, and let them experience you doing it. Great things, great questions, great ideas, and great education will follow.

This is powerful. This is real. And it is so worth it.


Emma DeMille Cox (age 25) is the second child and oldest daughter of Oliver & Rachel DeMille. She is married to Ian Cox, and they are raising their two boys (and counting?) – Walter (3 in June ’17) and Timothy (1 in March ’17) in Southern Utah. The Coxes are enjoying the thrills and advantages of entrepreneurship, as he is a mentor of liberal arts and leadership, and she is a full-time mother, part-time writer. You can hear both of them share their wit and wisdom on the Mentoring in the Classics audio series >>

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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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whc-flyer-2017 Come join me and hear me speak live!

I’m so excited to be joining an amazing lineup of speakers at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 21, 2017 at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

People will be flying, driving and coming by mule train from all over. 🙂

I can honestly say I don’t know of a conference that is better conceived of and carried out than this one, and I delight to meet up with old friends (and new ones) every time I go!

I’ll be speaking on the topic of my upcoming book, “The 7 Questions of the Inspired Mind: How to Teach or Learn Anything – From Play in Childhood through Mastery and Innovation in Adulthood”.
[click here for a sample >>]

Awesome Lineup

Other speakers on the roster include many people I count as friends and look up to as mentors:

  • Chris and Melanie Ballard
  • Ali Eisenach
  • Adam Hailstone
  • Daniela Larsen
  • Nicholeen Peck
  • Tammy Ward
  • James Ure
  • …and many more!

The price for the event is $45/adult, $25/youth (age 10-17)

Now through Friday, 12/9/16: $17/adult, $7/youth!

Register now to secure these crazy low prices, and come get your shot in the arm for the coming year!

Click here to register now >>

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K.B. says: I’m so nervous to homeschool my daughter. She tested in GATE [Gifted and Talented Education] at school and I’m afraid I won’t be able to give her what she needs at home. Any words of wisdom, advice, etc.?


Giftedness is one of the very best reasons to homeschool! Not only can you personalize to meet your kids’ needs and interests, you don’t have to sacrifice their childhood to feed their mind or gifts.

Permit me to speak from my own experience. I will readily own that this is anecdotal, and your mileage may vary.

I was labeled “gifted” as a very young child. I started playing the piano by ear, on my own, at 3. I started reading (with my big sister’s help) at 3. I started kindergarten at age 4.

Everything academic came very easily to me, and I got awards at school and recognition at home. I enjoyed the attention and being labeled “special.” But as I got older I felt sort of lost in it, too. In some ways I felt like people defined me by the “gifted” label that was officially assigned to me when I was tested at age 11.

People would come over to our home to visit and I would be introduced to them with great pride using descriptions of my academic achievements or by showing off my musical prowess or mental feats.

It left me feeling unsettled; I was proud of myself, and I knew that the attention was meant kindly, as praise – but it also felt a little dehumanizing, and I was confused about who I was and what I was for.

As I grew, I found it difficult to “fit in” to the system that had goals for me that I didn’t understand or share, and increasingly I found that my best educational experiences were outside of the classroom–either through personal study, or with the guidance of caring and challenging mentors who modeled excellence in both character and achievement.

In some ways my high school and college career appeared anti-climactic by comparison with my early show of potential. I did not thrive in school beyond elementary and middle school years. My grades were inconsistent, as I focused on the areas of my interest and passion, and neglected things I considered busy-work. I tested in the highest percentile in every class, but did not earn the grade because I didn’t turn in the work. I was remorseful and disappointed in myself, and promised myself I would do better – only to continue in my pattern of putting my best efforts into my non-school learning, or the random assigned class project that captured my fascination. I was left with a stigma I had painted on myself as an “underachiever,” “lazy,” “flaky,” etc.  – simply because I didn’t do the expected thing. At that time, I didn’t consider the ways in which I was excelling; those things weren’t graded. They weren’t “approved.” It never, ever occurred to me that choosing one thing over another was not a moral question, and that my preferences were not only reasonable, but worthy. I persistently chose to get an education over being schooled, and I felt a great weight of guilt for it.

Luckily, I have a loving and supportive family, and I later came to see that my educational choices had actually been very much in line with the phases of learning, and that I had shown initiative in owning my role as a self-educator, in studying foreign languages, history, biographies, ancient texts, sciences, the arts, etc. My work with mentors and my study outside of the classroom was actually quite rigorous. And yet, it took me until I was over thirty years old to let go of the emotional baggage that I had chosen to carry with me, and more fully embrace the great lessons that had come with my challenges.

I hope that this foray into self-disclosure doesn’t seem self-aggrandizing; it is not intended to elevate myself, but rather to demonstrate that I speak from a very personal understanding of the complexities of the situation, and I feel I have some unique insight on the potential pitfalls and the opportunities that are entailed. The conveyor-belt is often faulted for allowing at-risk students to fall through the cracks. What is not seen is that even gifted children can be underserved and even (as my son-in-law said) “broken” by the system.

The Homeschool Choice

With homeschool, you can have a child be both precocious and immature, cuddly and brilliant. It’s lovely. The Phases still apply! In Core Phase they have needs that are best attended to then – even if they read at a high school level, or do mathematical calculations or compose music.

Don’t worry, mama! Set your sights on raising a great soul, keep the environment friendly to her emotional and spiritual well-being, and she’ll do a lot of the leading out in the academic stuff.

Expose her to people who achieve great things for the love of the subject so that she knows that 1) her gifts are not just carnival tricks, but have real-world application to make a difference for good; and 2) being exceptional doesn’t mean that your mind is more important than your heart. It should all be harmonious.

The Big Picture

Just have to say: Giftedness, like disability, is actually very helpful in the big picture, because it demands that you step off the conveyor belt and really mentor the child.

For example, our oldest is both highly intelligent, and has dyslexia. It was this amazing bag of wonderfulness that, in large part, helped me to see with greater clarity how the phases work, and how to aim for *individual* best results, which sometimes far exceed conventional timelines, and sometimes throw them out altogether.

This has served us well as our other children came along – some who had divergent learning styles, others who were natural “students” in the classroom-learning sense of the word, one with profound disabilities from brain injury. The truth is: Every child is exceptional. Our tendency to compare them and to try to make sure that they conform to arbitrary standards usually serves neither them nor us well.

Far less stressful, far more joyful, is to take each child as she comes, and, in a loving and inspiring environment, empower her to own her education in the end. That’s what TJEd is all about!

I actually wrote a longer treatment of how our life with TJEd unfolded, how the phases apply, and how to deal with several kids of vastly different abilities and styles. “A Thomas Jefferson Education in our Home” is available in our Dollar Menu! Enjoy. >>


I was about to get really deep about providing ideas and resources for homeschooling the gifted child, but I honestly don’t think I can improve on what Connie at LifelongLearners.com has done. I’ll link to her AMAZING post below.

For now, let me just offer a few final thoughts and ideas:

  1. Think Asynchronous.
    Since “giftedness” is often defined as asynchronous development, be sure that your approach is also asynchronous. In other words: Your child (and your relationship with her) will probably struggle if you emphasize the gift over meeting the needs of the phase – or vice versa. There is no need (and considerable reason not to) for pushing for the fastest possible development in the gifted area. And, your child likely needs special stimulus/opportunity/resources in certain areas. Our book The Phases of Learning does a really great job of describing how to work with the asynchronous child, including the important elements of moral and emotional development, in Chapters 1-6.
  2. Think Alternative.
    The public school model is perhaps ideal for a select few in our population, but the form is actually designed for the convenience of group learning – not for optimal individual outcomes. So don’t feel bound by what you experienced, what is commonly done, or what others expect of you. It’s one way to do things, and lots of wonderful people are happy with it – but it’s not necessarily (and probably not) the ideal for your gifted child to be in a traditional PS program full-time. Neither is it likely that “public school at home” is the optimal experience for your gifted learner.
  3. Think Hybrid.
    That being said, you may find that there are things in your community that really can contribute to your child’s optimal experience (part time PS in a class, club or offering with a world-class mentor; service opportunities; performing arts; special arrangements with working professionals like engineers, mechanics, artists, or others to get your child hands-on experience with the “real thing,” etc.)
  4. Think Mentors.
    Learning – no matter if a child has disabilities, is typical, has a divergent learning style, or is “gifted,” is best achieved when the child is intrinsically motivated and extrinsically inspired. Translation: The child learns when the child wants to; and the child wants to when there is a relationship of trust that invites and inspires him to engage the effort to learn. When considering options for your child’s learning, think in terms of the relationship with the mentor over the relationship with the information/skill/subject area. No kidding: I’ll take a mentor who excels in a completely different area than my child’s area of strength, and who has a passion for mentoring and constant personal growth – long before I’ll put her with someone who is strong in the subject area, but isn’t a great mentor. Hopefully you can find both. But don’t settle for a mentor who’s not progressing himself. The things such a static mentor teaches, by example, aren’t helpful – to say the least.
  5. Think You.
    It’s easy to be intimidated by a child who is precocious, and feel like you haven’t got what it takes to parent/lead/mentor her. And while this is especially understandable in the case of a gifted child, please – do a reality check. Rare indeed is the child who is easy in every way. Rare indeed is the parent who feels completely competent and confident, come what may. That’s just part of the parenting gig. Resist the temptation to let the “giftedness” factor be the scapegoat for your overwhelm. There are lots of ways to achieve parenting overwhelm, and this one just happens to be yours. (Sorry – a little bit of tough love, there.) So what is my point? YOU GOT THIS. Really. It’s okay to be in over your head; we pretty much all are, in one way or another. And let’s be honest: There’s nobody, not in your local public school, not anywhere, who is an expert on your child’s situation. Not when you consider everything. So this means that you are pretty much the very-best-qualified person to oversee this crazy ride! Just do what is yours to do. By leading out as a person who makes deliberate choices for your life, a person who lives with compassion and self-discipline, with curiosity and a will to learn, who makes consistent efforts to develop in ways of your own strengths while overcoming the deficits you choose to take on here and there – you will parent your child. There are lots of people who can teach her to play the piano at a world-class level, or do advanced mathematics, or [you fill in the blank]; very few (maybe none?) of them would be candidates to parent your child with wisdom and love that helps her find the harmony between her genius and her soul. That’s something you can do.


Parenting the gifted child is a challenge; homeschooling, in my opinion, makes it far more manageable. I mentioned above a fantastic, more comprehensive, treatment of homeschooling the gifted child. Check out Colleen’s blog post here >>

For help on how to lead out in your own learning, please consider the following:


What have you found to be helpful in
parenting and/or homeschooling your gifted child?
Please share in the comments below!!


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