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We had several reports of problems with our coupons. The combining issue has now been resolved, and to thank you for your patience with us, we’ve extended our Cyber Monday deals! Now is a great time to stock up for gifting, sharing or hoarding – don’t miss out!

Check out our November Deals….



  • All purchasers will be given free access* to our TJEd Implementation Course mentoring sequence [7 Keys Certification].
  • Up to 1/3 of our purchasers (chosen at random) will receive a bonus book of our choosing – excellent for lending or gifting!

* Delivered via email to the address you provide when purchasing on our store website. You can change your delivery preference, or unsubscribe from the service, at any time. We respect your privacy; your information is never shared.

Through November 30, 2016, we have the following additional promotions. Don’t miss out!! These deals won’t last!

You asked, we delivered. Here is a brief, simplified guide to some of our best-loved and highly acclaimed offerings. And, at the bottom of the page you’ll find a list of our free resources!

Each entry has clickable emblems to let you know who these offerings are recommended for (see detailed explanations for these in the Key at the foot of the post)

Directory nest-back-to-homeschool-meme


Homeschool Starter Pack >>

learning-garden-meme When your garden isn’t doing well, you don’t immediately think that the plants are doing it all wrong and need fixing. You assume that they’ll thrive when you have the environment right! Leadership Education can help you get the environment right so that a natural love for learning and educational excellence are blooming brilliantly in your home and family.

What is it?

A powerful 5-Pack of downloadable content, this product kit contains e-books that are graphically rich and beautifully illustrated, and inspiring audios that speak to both the mother heart and the common concerns that dads have. The Homeschool Starter Pack contains practical and inspiring tips from master mentors to help you create your ideal homeschool!

Who’s it for?

newbie-meme late-start-coffee-meme dad-friendly-meme parent-mentor-scholar-oak-meme large-family-meme

What does it cost? Our already deeply discounted price of $15.75 has been reduced to just $9 through November 2016!

Use Coupon Code “NOV-STPK-9” at checkout.

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7 Keys Certification >>

7KeysCert_03_0 The 7 Keys Certification has been developed to meet the needs of newbies, veterans, professional educators, grandparents and more. The 7 Keys Certification assists the parent/teacher to:

  • Develop a personalized vision of how Leadership Education applies in their situation
  • Become conversant in the language and riches of the classics
  • Achieve mastery in the skills and techniques of effective mentoring
  • Overcome stress and overwhelm
  • Gain insight into those you teach and how to best meet their needs
  • Create a powerful culture of learning and excellence in your home or classroom
  • Engage a life-long process of learning and application of timeless principle of happiness, success and leadership

Who’s it for?

newbie-meme late-start-coffee-meme parent-mentor-scholar-oak-meme large-family-meme community-builder-meme dad-friendly-meme scholar-sapling-meme

What does it cost? $185 Free with purchase of a Homeschool Bundle

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Homeschooling for Dads Bundle >>


  • Seminar Session I
  • Seminar Session II
  • Seminar Session III
  • What’s So Great About the Classics: TJEd for Dads e-book, high-graphics version
  • What’s So Great About the Classics: TJEd for Dads e-book, printer-friendly version
  • What’s So Great About the Classics: TJEd for Dads audio book
  • BONUS AUDIO: “Goal-Getters and the Path of Success” by Oliver DeMille
  • The Family Reading e-book
  • E-book: “The Future of American Education: 8 Trends Every Parent Should Know” by Oliver DeMille
  • Free sample of The Student Whisperer (the Bonus Audio has content that is complemented by this book)
  • And, because I asked our TJEd moms what they wanted me to include for bonus content, here’s something I think you’ll love!
    • Mentoring in the Classics, Intro to Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down
    • Mentoring in the Classics, Study Guide for Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down
    • Mentoring in the Classics, The Gatto Debriefing

Who’s it for?


What does it cost? Our already deeply discounted price of  $45 has been reduced to just $18 through November 2016!

Use coupon code DADSROCK-15 at checkout.

Take me there >>


Mentoring in the Classics >>

MIC-badge This award-winning offering is ideal for adults, youth, parents, book groups, Commonwealths, teacher training – anyone who’s ready to experience the classics with master mentor Oliver DeMille as your guide!

Click here to read our participant’s glowing, unsolicited praise for MIC >>

Our goal with this product is to help as many people as possible to get into the classics in a way that is truly transformational for their family education culture.

Who’s it for?

parent-mentor-scholar-oak-meme large-family-meme community-builder-meme scholar-sapling-meme late-start-coffee-meme dad-friendly-meme

What does it cost? $20/month $1 first month then $10/month for the duration when you subscribe before end of November 2016!

Take me there >>


Young Statesmen/Stateswomen Society (YSS) >>

YSS-badge Inspired by our young daughters who LOOOOONGED to have the goals and awards that they saw happening in their brother’s scouting activities, YSS is now a complete program for girls and boys to assist them in broad knowledge, skills acquisition, refinement of talents and character development. YSS can be run: 1) As a full-fledged club in an emerging or established community of families; 2) In a single home, with parent mentors. A unique feature of YSS is that it it is built on an agile and interactive process whereby the child and his or her parent/mentor or club advisor collaborate to set the specific goals to earn each recognition. It is not a pre-set “checklist.” This makes the process customizable for age, phase, interest, aptitude and resources.

Who’s it for?

lol-seedling-meme large-family-meme community-builder-meme late-start-coffee-meme dad-friendly-meme newbie-meme

What does it cost? $11 (total!) for a single family. Group pricing also available.

Take me there >>


This Week in History >>

TWIH-badge_250 Multi-award winning program authored by mother-daughter team Rachel and Sara DeMille. Each day’s resources are an adventure in math, science, language skills, geography, current events, the arts and so on – all tied to events in history. Easily tailored to single-child, large-family and classroom use. Boasting rave reviews and high user loyalty, this inexpensive program beats others that cost hundreds more!

What is it ?

This Week in History is provided as a weekly online bundle of resources that you can access in either of two ways: 1) Via an email sent directly to your inbox using our secure email service; 2) On the dedicated TWIH blog feed at TJEd.org. The content is searchable by date, topic and key word, and the whole year’s archive can be accessed by subscribers at any time.

Who’s it for?

acorn-core-meme lol-seedling-meme scholar-sapling-meme   large-family-meme late-start-coffee-meme dad-friendly-meme newbie-meme

What does it cost? $9.99/month. Just $1 for first month, $9.99/month thereafter.

(Promotional introductory rate expires end of November 2016)

Take me there >>


How to Mentor Course >>

HTM-Badge This class is a practical, hands-on course on how to be a great mentor. Veteran mentors as well as new mentors–and everyone in between–will see their mentoring significantly improve by completing this exciting class taught by Oliver DeMille.

Course Outline:

Session 1: How to Teach How to Think!
Session 2: How to Teach How to Think II, How to Run Transformational Colloquia
Session 3: How to Run, Teach and Debrief Fantastic Simulations
Session 4: How to Teach and Mentor Writing, Part I
Session 5: How to Teach and Mentor Writing, Part II
Session 6: How to Teach and Mentor How to Think, Part III!
Session 7: How to Teach and Mentor Math Excellence the Leadership Education Way

Who’s it for:

parent-mentor-scholar-oak-meme large-family-meme community-builder-meme late-start-coffee-meme dad-friendly-meme

What does it cost? 3 options:

  • Regularly $259
  • also available in 6-week installment plan
  • For those with budgetary constraints: CHOOSE-YOUR-PRICE donation option – REALLY! We want you to take us up on it. We want you to pay what you can, and have nobody that needs this course pass on it for financial reasons.

Take me there >>


Black Belt in Freedom >>

BBF-Square-Badge A One-of-A-Kind Freedom Learning Program Participants prepare to become founding fathers and mothers of freedom in the 21st Century!

What is it?

There is no other program like this in modern America. It is a 20-month, detailed, intensive, founding fathers-style learning program. If you resonate with freedom—NOW is the time to prepare!


The course content will be delivered via our email service. Each month you will receive several audios (usually two, sometimes as many as four or more – at the mentor’s discretion) specific to the course readings for that month. Course content is progressive, meaning that each month builds on the previous ones. You may join at any time. Each month follows this pattern:

  1. Complete the readings listed here on your own
  2. Listen to mentoring audios (which you receive via email) specific to each title listed
  3. Discuss with your book group and/or with the online forum

Who’s it for?

parent-mentor-scholar-oak-meme community-builder-meme dad-friendly-meme scholar-sapling-meme

What does it cost? As low as $10/month. See product page for details.

Take me there >>



“Who’s it for?” Key


acorn-core-meme Resources with this emblem might be a good fit for families with young children up to around 8 or 9 years old. Core Phase is special, and has its own unique agenda: Good/Bad; Right/Wrong; True/False; Work/Play; Read/Sing/Love/Live. To learn more about Core Phase, click here >>


Love of Learning:
lol-seedling-meme The Love of Learning emblem signifies that this resource might be a good fit for children between the ages of 8 and 12 (give or take). Love of Learning is a special time for exploring and gaining confidence, skill and experience in learning new things. For more on Love of Learning Phase, click here >>


scholar-sapling-meme Youth in Scholar Phase (somewhere between 12 and 18-ish) may benefit from these offerings, which inspire deeper commitment to study, character and personal development, with an emphasis on skills and knowledge that empower achievement and service in one’s life-purpose. Learn more about Scholar Phases here >>


Parents/Mentors, Mature Scholars:
parent-mentor-scholar-oak-meme This category of offerings is especially designed to facilitate continuing education for parents, mentors, older youth and young adults. As we come face to face with greatness through mentors and classics, and join the Great Conversation, we model for our children the value and joy of self-education.


newbie-meme Whether you’re new to homeschool, new to TJEd, or a seasoned veteran looking for a fresh approach, resources with this emblem will give you guidance to become a self-guided learner, design your ideal family education culture, become conversant in the language of the classics, and really *own* the principles of Leadership Education so you can be your own expert.


Large Families:
large-family-meme As parents of 8 children of our own, plus a household that seems to be a magnet for other children and youth to join in our learning, we have a particular interest in providing resources that address the special challenges and gifts that large families enjoy. Resources with this emblem are large-family approved!


Late Start:
late-start-coffee-meme Nothing compares to the overwhelm of the newbie or fresh-starter whose kids are older. “Is it too late? How do I ‘fix’ this and still make up for lost time?” Never fear! We promise: We have seen many, many, MANY families with a “late start” find their way to a path of confidence, success and renewed relationships. These resources are recommended to help you do just that.


dad-friendly-meme After long years of experience, we have come to find that there are some common questions, concerns and issues that fathers often have, and that Dad’s special contribution to family learning is a GREAT benefit! These Dad-Friendly resources help remove the obstacles that Dad sometime has with the homeschool process, and empower him to a Great Homeschool Dad!


Community Builder:
community-builder-meme Certain of our offerings are especially well-suited for helping create connections with others who will support and inspire your success. They lend themselves well to shared experiences that elevate the thinking and communication of friends and family, and help attract others to your fellowship who will add to and benefit from the learning experience. These offerings are marked as “Community Builders.”

Free Resources:

Browse our blog for even more stuff, and check out the Dollar Menu at our store!


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Weekly Online Youth Discussion Group with Freeborn DeMille

Purpose: To empower and inspire the youth of our day to get an education to match their mission.

This class starts November 15th! Please enroll today, and check the calendar below to get going on next week’s reading!

Freeborn Ammon DeMille, age 17
Son of Oliver & Rachel DeMille

Who is it for?

Youth in Scholar Phase who are able to read one selection per week (in addition to their other studies) and come prepared to discuss it.

How does it work? download-button

We meet weekly for approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours to have a discussion on the book from the previous week’s reading. The discussions will be held online through Zoom.us. Specific time to be determined once class cohort is enrolled and we can agree on what works best for the group. To apply for the class, complete the downloadable form and email it to me at the address listed on the form.

What will we study?

Every week we will read a “classic” book or article. The titles are listed below on the calendar. We will explore ideas and principles from these works, and talk about challenges, dreams and goals within our own lives. Tangents, personal connections, and new ideas are strongly encouraged!

What does it cost?

To ensure the best experience for all of us, participants need to be committed and come prepared. To promote this level of “buy-in” and to cover our costs, we ask for a $20 month tuition. Ideally, the youth themselves are responsible to pay for the class. For anybody that finds this amount a hardship, some other proposal will be happily considered. (Use the contact form above to submit a proposal.)

Is it any good?

Never underestimate the power
of a small group of committed individuals
to change the world.


In these discussions you can expect to experience something powerful.

  • You will come face-to-face with greatness as we delve into the thoughts and works of some of the greatest authors, thinkers and world-movers in history.
  • You will be inspired by the unique genius of your peers.
  • You will be amazed to find that you have unique gifts and strengths yourself.
  • You will find yourself challenged to push your limits to measure up to the awesome youth you rub shoulders with.
  • You will be humbled to learn that they look up to you and respect your ideas and potential.

There is nothing quite so empowering in Scholar Phase as the opportunity to connect with and learn with other youth who share your goals and vision of working hard to prepare yourself to make a difference for good.

While society often seeks to tell us WHAT to think, in these discussions we will put into practice the key principles of HOW to think. Those who participate in these discussions will be inspired to develop themselves as leaders: individuals who hold themselves accountable to live with integrity and compassion, and who pay the price to gain an education to match their mission. We will make a freedom shift happen.



eliza-bio-pic There’s something special about youth coming together sharing ideas and beliefs and being lead by a powerful mentor. Taking part in the discussions Freeborn DeMille leads will be life changing for anyone, just as it was for me.

I highly recommend it for any youth who is looking for a push in their education, or who is seeking fellowship on the path to greatness. You will find it here!

~Eliza DeMille, age 19


ashlyn-bio-pic Discussing the classics has been crucial in my education. Sharing thoughts in a mentored environment is the best way to really understand and come to know classics on a deep and personal level.

I have been in many colloquiums with Freeborn and he consistently brings depth and intensity to the discussion. I absolutely recommend participating in this course, it will change the way you see the world, and most importantly, it will put you on the path to changing the world!

~Ashlyn Craven, age 18


My name is Jayden Holcomb, I have known Freeborn for a long time and I have had many opportunities to study with, and learn from him.

jayden-bio-pic In the summer of 2015 I had moved away from our class/study group, and was really missing the great discussions we would have; so I called up Freeborn and we started an online discussion group. Getting back in the groove was a very nice breakaway from the normal stuff-and-fluff conversations that seemed to surround me daily. Having these group conversations helped me to keep my goals straight. It helped me to remember that good grades don’t always mean a good education, but that great thinking is what really matters.

Freeborn was very good at leading the group. He would listen to what others had to say and had a talent to see others perspectives. He is a smart young man, but even better, he knows where to go when faced with something he is less knowledgeable in. I would highly recommend Freeborn for any TJEd experience you’re looking for.

~Jayden Holcomb, age 19


emily-bio-pic Freeborn is an amazing and incredible leader and mentor. He is the type of person who will always put others before himself. He is always looking for ways to help out those around him; whether that is encouraging them when they feel inadequate, or personally helping them step by step along the way.

Not only that, but he has an immense understanding of TJED. He understands the importance of thinking for yourself, being educated, forming your own opinions and beliefs, and the overall importance of leadership and being a good leader. He applies this knowledge in everyday life. He’s an amazing and incredible leader, and I look up to him in so many ways. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.

~Emily Osborne, age 17


chrystal-bio-pic Freeborn DeMille is one of the most amazing, intelligent and inspirational people I have ever had the privilege to learn from.

He is wise beyond his years, strong in his beliefs, and full of integrity.

I have learned so much from him, and I can honestly say that he has change my life through his guidance.

~Chrystal Logan, age 18


carolyne-closeup I have known Freeborn DeMille for many years and have been in many classes with him. I love discussing with him books, articles and thoughts in general at any opportunity I can. He truly knows how to think and communicate. He has the ability to make connections where I never dreamed there was one.

Every time we get together there is powerful talk and ideas. If you have the opportunity to pick his brain don’t hesitate to do so. He is well educated, articulate and passionate about what he does.

~Carolyne Simmerman, age 18



Fall 2016 Schedule

Week Title
15 Nov TJEd for Teens
22 Nov Turn the Page
29 Nov Power of Four
6 Dec The Lonesome Gods
13 Dec The Inner Ring
20 Dec Alas, Babylon
27 Dec Animal Farm

Winter 2017 Schedule

3 Jan Declaration of Independence
10 Jan Bendigo Shafter
17 Jan The Chosen
24 Jan We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident
31 Jan Abolition of Man
7 Feb Romeo and Juliet
14 Feb Paradigm Shift
21 Feb Anatomy of Peace

Spring 2017 Schedule

28 Feb Mistborn I
7 Mar Mistborn II
14 Mar Well of Ascension I
21 Mar Well of Ascension II
28 Mar Hero of Ages I
4 Apr Hero of Ages II
11 Apr LeaderShift

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C. R. says: I’m working through The Phases of Learning and am wondering how to structure/assist the learning if they’re young Love of Learners. I have a 7yo girl and a 2yo girl. Say, if the 7yo wants to learn about “George Washington”, where do you go from there? I find myself not being able to think past taking her to the library to get books!

Also, what are your go-to, every-child-should-have educational environment items to provide the “rich environment” the books talk about?

Rachel responds:

Cocoon-Core-meme Well, for starters, I would definitely say they’re both in Core Phase. I think the ideal “structure” for a 7yo would be having a routine that has her taking care of her personal grooming and belongings, helping you with household things, entertaining her little sister, etc. A daily devotional time is great. You can learn songs together, read stories, maybe visit the library once a week. Perhaps an afternoon time when they can get into messier or more elaborate projects that require some supervision and cleanup.

C.R.: I think this is what I needed to hear! I stress myself out with feeling like I’m not doing “enough”!

Rachel responds:

To answer the specifics of your question:

This is a great age to learn nursery rhymes and cute little poems. They are super helpful for phonemic awareness, and teach a lot of cultural literacy. Folk tales and fables start you in the habit enjoying stories as a spring board for discussion, and thinking about relevance, application, meaning–and how to draw lessons out from the experiences in our own lives.

Playing with simple, open-ended toys like Lincoln Logs and Legos, or dolls without tons of elaborate features or accessories, help to fortify their creativity and their independent thinking. Core Phase parents

Games like Candyland, Old Maid, Go Fish, checkers and the like can be fun at this age, and reinforce lots of social and intellectual skills – but be advised that 7yos often don’t have the maturity to lose with grace, and this is a developmental thing. Don’t give it a lot of energy. If yours is super sensitive to this, avoid a win/lose situation and celebrate the fun in the journey. If it’s handled well, this hypersensitivity will pass as she matures!

Helping in the kitchen can be a great introduction to math and science, and there are TONS of storybooks and projects that support mathematical and/or scientific thinking and exploration.

Start to observe her to get clues on her gifts, aptitudes, learning style and love language. These insights should not confine your approach to what you expose her to at this age, but will inform your mentoring in the long run.

In other words: relax, and enjoy it! She’s young, she’s little, and she will likely not be in a rush to move on to Love of Learning since her younger sibling is so much younger. This is not a bad thing at all. Treasure the time in Core Phase. It will be a great strength to your family to have her so grounded and peaceful in the long run.

F-YouNotThem-day Meanwhile, this is a FANTASTIC time for you to sort of set the course for your family education culture by investing in your own education! The more you model self-education, the easier it will be for them to own it, too. It’s amazing how fun and easy homeschool is when everyone loves learning and puts in the effort to make it happen. So much more fun and less stressful than the “Sergeant Mom” plan, or trying to do “school at home.”

An investment in yourself will pay huge dividends in your kids’ learning, long-term.

xoxo rd

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canstockphotojapanesemother Sometimes reading a certain article, book, blog, tweet or other idea just … sticks. It resonates. It’s memorable. It makes you think. Or laugh.

Maybe it causes you to frown. Or shake your head in surprise.

For example, I recently read an article published in a national magazine that keeps coming back to me in my daily thoughts. More specifically, a few of the quotes really stood out. Here they are (along with my thoughts—pro and con—about each):

“28 minutes: The average time first-graders spend
on homework—nearly three times
what education experts recommend.”

(See Erin Zammett Ruddy, “How to Help Kids With Homework,” Parents, September 2016)

Right on! This taps into a major problem we often struggle with in modern education—we frequently give too much homework to Core Phase kids (age 8 and under), while the average high school student studies far less than she should and could.

The fact is, many parents don’t realize that for very young children less homework is often better for their learning.

The second quote, however, is puzzling:

“Despite studies suggesting that homework doesn’t even
benefit grade-schoolers, it’s here to stay.”

My response was: Really? Why? Homework doesn’t benefit them, but let’s make them do it anyway…

Why would we do that?



No answer.

Or: “That’s just the way things are.”


Which brings us to the next quote:

“The purpose of homework is to
help kids become independent learners.”

Now my mind is really churning. On the one hand, as studies show, lots of homework doesn’t really help gradeschool-aged kids, and on the other hand, there are things they could do with their time that would help them—a lot. But we give them homework anyway because we want them to learn to be independent learners?

At first blush this sounds reasonable, but here’s the thing: Most kids were already independent learners before they went to school. They were constantly questioning, exploring, considering, and asking “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” A lot of kids asked “Why?” so frequently that parents got tired of trying to answer and told them to quit asking so many questions.

But once they’ve been inserted into schools, they need some kind of enforced daily activity called homework to make them independent learners once again? “Well, yes…” we’re told.

Clearly something is very wrong with the system itself.

But the best part of the article, at least for me, was this sentence:

“Put your kid in charge.
Homework is as much about learning responsibility
as it is about grasping fractions.”

walter-scott-meme-self-education I agree. The mother who wrote the article gets it. And I think this quote gets to the heart of many modern educational assignments. On the surface, we give such assignments in order to teach fractions, historical dates, punctuation rules, scientific facts, etc., but in reality the bigger goal is often to help young people gain real learning skills—the kind of skills that will help them in real life, and throughout their lives.

This is true of rote learning like “fractions, punctuation rules, etc.” and also of vital skills like learning how to think, working well in teams, communicating effectively and persuasively, taking initiative, taking responsibility, pushing through when things get hard, and so on.

It’s very important to realize that such skills are just as essential as learning the historical dates, mathematical functions, scientific formulas, etc.—or in many cases, even more crucial. In all this, the advice to “Put your kid in charge” is the crux of any great education. Everyone who ever obtained a truly great, high-quality education, at some point took charge of his/her own learning—and really sought after excellence. People who have never done this haven’t yet gained a superb education.

More and Better

Finally, the following quote is one of the most important I’ve ever read. It is true of so many mothers, and though it wasn’t written directly to homeschoolers, I believe it perfectly describes so many of them:

“American mothers blame themselves for
what falls through the cracks—
when they should be basking in their awesomeness.”

(Cara Birnbaum, “Is Work-Life Balance BS?,” Parents, September 2016)

I recommend that you re-read that quote three times! Right now…

It’s true.

And it’s about you.

The things most mothers (and fathers) do right are so much more important than any so-called weaknesses. In fact, one of the most effective and immediate ways to significantly improve your homeschool and overall family/home environment is to simply do even more of what you’re already doing well!


Hopefully this thought will stick in your mind for a long time to come.

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My youngest (of 8) has been “almost reading” for 5 years. At just-turned-eleven, it’s finally clicking for her. Shouldn’t shock me (although I kept thinking/hoping/chanting “this time will be different”), because several of her siblings, and her father, were all on that same timeline. (Divergent learning style/timeline runs in his family.) Hasn’t held them back at all, but still – it’s just so much more … *comfortable* … for me when sooner happens, rather than later. But then, it’s not about me, is it?

Just last night my 89yo mom, who is with us for six weeks, asked me in sotto voce if I had spent more time on her education than the other kids at her age. Nope, not really. Feels like less to me, to be honest, all things considered. Mom asked, it turns out, because Miss Eleven seems to her to be SOOO smart and aware and knowing so many things that are beyond her years. I have to wonder if something’s wrong with me, because, while I love Abi to pieces, I hadn’t seen in her what my mom is seeing. Or, rather – more accurately, I hadn’t imagined that what I see in her was so readily seeable on the surface, to others.

Oh, sure – she casually, confidently and correctly uses words that aren’t “normal” for her age. She is my day planner, keeping me on top of where I’m supposed to be, what I was supposed to drop off where, when the next appointment for this or that is. She has magic hands for art and healing, and sings like somebody on the radio. She wears thick nerd glasses that actually favor her because her small-side eyes then take center stage on her face. Sometimes I can’t decide if she’s fearful or brave, because she has so many worries, but she is so good at pushing through them in the crunch.

Not for the first time I was grateful that my kids know that if they’re waiting for me to hand them an education, they’ll be waiting forever. They know that I am their cheerleader, exemplar, facilitator and pocketbook for learning, and that I am anxiously engaged in projects that stretch me and give me a chance to offer up my gifts and efforts to try to make the world a better place.

They look to their older siblings as competitors, critics, friends and mentors – each at different times, and sometimes all at once in a complicated relationship, as the younger ones seek their place among the adults, the adult children seek to grow up for real and nurture the youngers not as littles, but as bigs-in-training.

They all perceive our family culture as one where each one has something unique to share, and the expectation that we support and love one another, and do what’s ours to do in the world.

With our family and professional life being so involved and intertwined, I rarely get such an intimate, objective eye on our life as Mom offered yesterday, and it was a welcome invitation to step back and see, not from the trenches, but from more of a bird’s-eye view, how things are going in my home.

Not gonna lie – I have a peaceful smile on my face right now. It’s not all perfect. There are things I need to do less of/more of/better; the kids – same. But somehow those little insufficiencies and excesses aren’t of the sort that divert us from the path we mean to be on, and this journey is SO rewarding.

Good morning, TJEd! Just wanted to share my morning exhale. <3 <3

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genius Question:

TJEd sounds good to me… But how to you actually do it????


Mentoring in the Classics 
Oliver DeMille!

If you want to lead out, establish a family culture of excellence and learning, experience the mentoring of youth through family discussions, find the treasures and transformation by coming face-to-face with greatness – then Mentoring in the Classics is the answer for you.

This multi-award-winning subscription series is ideal for adults, youth, parents, book groups, Commonwealths, teacher training – anyone who’s ready to experience the classics with master mentor Oliver DeMille as your guide.

Just yesterday, on our TJEd Facebook group, we received these unsolicited remarks from our subscribers:

K.P. said:

“Can I rave about Mentoring in the Classics again? I’m from New Zealand, and although American culture has certainly found its way over here, I didn’t see any reason for little ol’ me to bother with your politics, let alone read The Declaration of Independence* . I even thought about skipping it, or at the very least quickly reading through it and moving on. HOW WRONG WAS I!!!!! Apart from being fascinated by the document itself, I’m LOVING the study guide, the audios about it, and the much broader picture that it’s showing me, and the people rabbit-trails, and the dots it’s connecting of the times and places I’ve read about in other books/novels. And that’s just one month, all the others are amazing too! Thank you again Rachel and Oliver DeMille – you are broadening my horizons and enriching my life, I thank God for you so often!!!”

*[this is the title for Month 7 of the subscription. Click here for a list of all the titles.]

In response, C.R. said:

“I, too, love the Mentoring in the Classics. It’s been one of the best investments to our family’s education.”

Click to read more of our participant’s glowing, unsolicited praise for MIC >>

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See. Learn.

pick1_math One of the keys to great education is to raise children in a “print-rich environment” (see Maya Thiagarajan, “are asian kids really better at math?” Parents, September 2016), by surrounding them with access to books and examples of parents, siblings and others reading a lot.

Without such immersion to the world of words, it’s more difficult for many children to get excited about learning. Indeed, Montessori taught that such a learning-rich environment is among the very most important facets of promoting quality education.

In Leadership Education/Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) we recommend reading to young people from the time they are very small all the way into adulthood. Reading aloud is even more important than having lots of books on hand, since it gets the child actively involved. And both are crucial.

We even recommend that every home set up at least one TJEd Bookshelf, which consists of children’s books and materials on the bottom shelf, teen books on the middle shelves, and more advanced classics on the higher shelves. Children raised near such bookshelves naturally read what they can reach, always looking upward to the next phase—knowing it will someday come, and enthusiastically looking forward to it.

Knowing vs. Doing

Sadly, while many Westerners use books and other printed materials “in all of their decorating,” to quote the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, a lot of people are less prone to also raise their children in a math-rich environment. That’s too bad, because just like a home where prints of fine art are present on the walls, or where quality music is part of the day-to-day experience, what we focus on tends to grow. Homes where the topics of math and science are introduced only when children formally study them are less helpful in encouraging and supporting math learning.

Consider the following excerpts from an article on math education by best-selling author Maya Thiagarajan:

  • When “we moved to Singapore …. I was struck by how focused parents … were on giving their kids a strong math foundation. It quickly dawned on me that parents in Singapore seemed to be doing for math what American parents do for reading.” (ibid.)
  • They “integrated math into their daily life by talking to their kids about numbers, shapes, and patterns right from the get-go.” (ibid.)
  • “They played math games in the car and at the dinner table.” (ibid.)
  • “They taught their [children] chess and they spent money and time on Lego sets, blocks, tangrams, jigsaw puzzles, origami, and [math-based] board games.” (ibid.)
  • “One mother described how she used the elevator in her apartment building to teach math. ‘Riding an elevator is like riding up and down a number line,’ she said. ‘It’s a great way to get your kids thinking about math.’” (ibid.)
  • “Another mom described how she engaged her pre-school age son in conversations about the math all around him. She introduced him to shapes on the playground. ‘There’s an isosceles triangle!’” (ibid.)
  • “Kids [in Singapore] consider math-related activities to be a normal part of childhood …. Just as good readers are kids who read a lot, good mathematicians are kids who do a lot of math.” (ibid.)

And their parents do a lot of math—which makes all the difference. It’s the key educational principle of “You, Not Them.” Of setting an example. When parents who read a lot tell and show their kids how great reading is, the kids flat out believe them. They’ve already witnessed the proof of it for years. The same is true with parents who make math an open and valued part of daily life.

In fact, math-based games, puzzles, stories, youth-oriented biographies of great mathematicians , manipulatives, and a parent with a pen and paper and even the barest love of some new math idea, can make math extremely fun. For example, the magazine Family Fun dedicated an entire article in its August/September 2016 issue to the benefits of the Rubik’s Cube in teaching mathematical thinking to the rising generation. (Patty Onderko, “Puzzling it Out,” Family Fun, August/September 2016)

Cubes and Sheets

If this seems like a blast from the past, a lot of math does. It’s classic, after all. But it’s still fun. As Patty Onderko put it: The Rubik’s Cube “is an awesome way to practice the logic and problem-solving skills that are crucial to [math and science] education.” (ibid.) It also strengthens the skills of pattern recognition and “if/then” reasoning, both of which are vital to math success. (ibid.)

Put this old-fashioned toy (the Rubik’s Cube) in the hands of today’s young learner, and add in a new-fangled educational revolution called YouTube, and you’ve got something sensational on your hands. (ibid.) “Turns out there are rules for solving the Rubik’s Cube”, Onderko said, “and plenty of online tutorials.” (ibid.)

She continued: One of the “biggest benefits of” the Cube is that “gratification isn’t immediate—kids have to pull from their reserves of persistence, determination, and resilience to be successful.” (ibid.) It’s a natural gateway to working math problems, building spreadsheets, and completing math worksheets and story problems. It even has direct application to learning how to create and understand algorithms, which are key in computer coding. (ibid.) For example, the nation of Estonia has now made learning algorithms and computer coding required subjects in elementary and high school. Other countries are considering the same.

One of the most important things a parent can do to teach mathematical thinking is help young people learn to build and use spreadsheets. This is not only great for problem-solving, reasoning skills, and pattern recognition, it also teaches the learner to use mathematical innovations and ingenuity. Again, any parent (or youth) wanting to master spreadsheets can find numerous online tutorials.

Experiencing Math

Three great books about math to read aloud to children (ages 8-13) include the following, in this recommended order: Archimedes and the Door to Science, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Rithmatist. Of course, the key is to read these books aloud with the kids, go slowly, and stop to discuss ideas and principles that come up. Parental involvement in this process will drastically increase how much children learn. [click here for math classics for kids! >>]

This one choice (to read these books together aloud and discuss them) will drastically improve the math-richness of your family, home, or classroom environment. For students who are already prolific readers, you can read these same books more quickly and engage in 1-2 hour discussions about what everyone (students and parents) has learned.

In addition, to get some really exciting math quotes, fun stories, and inspiring ideas to share with your kids, read the following book on your own: A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe. (Two TJEd audios are available that discuss this book in even more detail, and they are really fun and will take your reading to an even higher level). Take good notes as you’re reading, and this book will provide lots of material for creating a math-rich environment in your home.

(If you already have a strong math background, read A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe and Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality—both will help you map your advanced knowledge to more fun and effective math activities with your kids. Then read Capra’s Tao of Physics.)

The truth is that parents who help children and teens experience math principles, words, phrases, ideas, shapes and stories as part of everyday life are creating a math-rich environment for their kids. This will make a huge difference for them when it comes time to engage math textbooks, problems, proofs, etc. And it is a fun process for both kids and parents along the way. Really fun!

Do try this at home.

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Living Inspiration

great education is inspired education The word “inspire” is one of the most powerful in the English language. It contemplates major improvement, massive personal change, and real societal progress—because when a person is inspired, he does things at a whole new level, frequently in entirely new ways. If not, he’s not actually inspired.

One of the great core principles of learning is that inspiration is central. When a person—of any age—is truly inspired, in the flow, deeply connected with the universal, truly “in the groove,” so to speak, learning always brings depth, wisdom, punctuated leaps, and even profound epiphanies.

Without this essential part of education, less learning occurs. Indeed, parents, teachers and other mentors and leaders who effectively inspire those they serve are the most important catalysts of great, quality learning. Nothing can take the place of inspiration in education.

With that said, inspiration in learning isn’t just lofty, stirring, or memorable. It doesn’t only bring shouts of “Eureka!” It is also incredibly basic. Foundational. Fundamental.

Specifically: The root of the word “inspire” is the Latin spirare, which means, simply, “to breathe”. (See Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2016, 109) This is incredibly profound. The opposite of inspire is “expire”, a synonym for death. Thus to be inspired is to be truly alive. To be breathing.

An old ad for a respiratory therapy stated: “When you can’t breathe…nothing else matters.”

Words to deeply ponder.

Freeing Inspiration

The root meaning of “inspire” applies to education in a direct and breathtaking way. How often does the system modern society uses to deliver schooling actually lead to the opposite of inspiration? For example, many people describe graduating from high school as “being free—finally being able to breathe, not being stifled anymore.”

Put another way: Is the way your child or youth experiences education at all stifling? Or suffocating? Many young people feel this way. More to the point: Is there anything you can do about your child’s/teen’s education that will make her smile, sit back, and breathe more deeply?

Does she need a change from the way she’s been experiencing education? If so, inspiration (real breathing) is lacking. In the martial arts and the healing arts (meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, etc.,) the focus is frequently on learning to breathe more consciously, more deeply, more often, and with more purpose – to take in the essential, life-giving force that sustains, motivates and empowers us. This is, literally, what inspiring means.

When you as a parent or mentor inspire those you teach and serve, you improve their educational breathing—their connection to truth, goodness, personal purpose, and love of the things that matter most. If this isn’t a central part of their learning, their education will suffer. They need to breathe…

They need to be inspired.

Breathing Inspiration

Indeed, this is one of the most important reasons that TJEd and indeed all quality education often emphasizes inspiring over requiring. Requirements that cause constriction, tightening, narrowing, and shrinking of the student’s educational breath also trigger constriction, tightening, and shrinking of great learning. They smother the best things about truly quality education.

This doesn’t mean that learning shouldn’t sometimes be challenging, difficult, even arduous, but rather that such challenges should occur at the right times (less than our current modern educational system demands in Core and Love of Learning, and much more than the modern norm in Scholar and Depth Phases) and in the right ways (with mentors who set the right example and infuse the whole experience with meaning, relevance and purpose.)

After all, running hard—with proper training, rest, and repetition—gets the body in shape, while an out-of-shape body is often out of breath. The right educational exertion, done the right way, improves the mind as well. One way to clearly know if it is being done the right way is if the student is increasingly happy—deeply breathing in the joy of increased knowledge, wisdom, skill and learning just for the love of it.

If this bright, cheery attitude is lacking, breath (inspiration) is too thin. It needs to be boosted—immediately and consistently.

On an even more basic level, students who take a good, deep breath before they read, study, and learn, and breathe well throughout, learn more effectively. Thinking burns up a lot of oxygen. This applies in test-taking as well: Breathing properly and amply during tests is the natural result of consistently breathing well while learning in other ways.


To inspire greatness in learning, teach yourself to notice if a student’s current projects, assignments, topics, schedule, or other things about his educational experience and habits are more stifling or liberating. Do they quicken the breath with tension and anxiety, or with anticipation and excitement? Do they cause smiles (naturally lifting the diaphragm), or frowns (weighting down and slowing the diaphragm)?

Over the years as we’ve promoted the great importance of inspiration in education, and of parents and teachers becoming truly inspiring with every child, teen and student, a lot of people have asked us how to inspire. We’ve written a lot about it.

But nothing makes it easier than to simply link the word “inspire” and the word “breathing” in your mind.  This is part of Emotional Intelligence, and a great tool for parents, teachers, mentors and leaders. (See Daniel Goleman’s bestselling book Emotional Intelligence)

As a mentor, watch how your student is “breathing.” This will nearly always tell you her level of feeling inspired. If she needs to be more inspired (and who doesn’t? truly!), watch to see how your effort to inspire her influences her breathing. This is a powerful clue about what kind of learning she is experiencing—the kind that stifles her and brings hate of learning, versus the kind that inspires her and catalyzes an even greater love of learning.

Great education, like breathing, brings life, energy, and liveliness—and fuels passion for learning. If learning isn’t inspired, your child/student is slowly dying educationally, and at some point he’ll be gasping for air—or, in this case, gasping for the kind of learning that has real meaning to him. That matters to him. That he can truly care about.

Breathing is life, and in education inspiration is as important as breathing.

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by Oliver DeMille

Like the 3 words on quality education I shared last week, these 5 additional words can be very helpful to parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and others who work with young people. Have fun with them!

I. Protopia

next right thing The process of becoming better as time goes on. This is the opposite of “utopia” (where the ideal or the perfect has supposedly already been reached) and also of “dystopia” (where the supposed “ideal” is decidedly not ideal). “Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination…. The ‘pro’ in protopian stems from the notions of process and progress.” (See Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable, 2016, 13)

The idea of protopia is to focus on today. Make it the best you can. Educationally, this means doing the things today that will help you learn the most effectively. Or, if you are the teacher, parent or mentor, help your student do the same. Forget about yesterday. And don’t waste your learning time planning for tomorrow. Once in a while (weekly works best for most people), sit down and brainstorm ways you can improve your learning—or your student’s learning.

Then, each day, look over your list of ideas, quickly add to them if new ideas or opportunities arise, and decide how to best learn today. Your home, family, learning and life don’t need to be perfect (utopia), and you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or give up on improvement (dystopia—the disease of frustrated perfectionists). Focus on the now. Today.

How can you (or your students) learn the most, the best ways, today? This is the key.

II. Screening

Screening is the act of learning from the various screens in our lives—smartphones, tablets, smart watches, computers, televisions, electronic billboards, etc. (Ibid., 88-89)

This is actually a warning word. Screening can often distract from experiential learning (really “being present”). It’s one thing to read about Cape Canaveral, or the Jefferson Memorial (apply this to the Parthenon, Pyramids, ocean, etc.), but it’s quite another to be there, to touch the marble, to feel the breeze and look out at the view while the sun beats down and the breeze ruffles your hair. Sometimes learning is much more effective when we are doing something real. Likewise, visiting Valley Forge is great; visiting in the dead of winter is profound. Try walking barefoot for three minutes.

think read 3 As author Kevin Kelly put it: “I am happy to read a digital PDF of a book, but sometimes it is luxurious to have the same words printed on white cottony paper bound in leather. Feels so good. Gamers enjoy fighting with their friends online but often crave playing with them in the same room. People pay thousands of dollars per ticket to attend an event in person that is also streamed live on the net”, often for free. (Ibid., 71)  Sometimes really “being there” makes a big difference.

In the Digital Age, “experiential” also means reading in a book, looking at art in a museum where the pieces are original and you can see the depth and contours of oils on the canvas, or attending a play or concert in person. These days we get so much of our input from screens that these more tactile experiences heighten our learning.

As Kelly wrote:

“Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts, and half-baked ideas. It is a flow of tweets, headlines, instagrams, casual texts, and floating first impressions. We should properly call this new activity ‘screening’ rather than reading. Screening includes reading words, but also watching words and reading images….

“Neurological studies show that learning to read changes the brain’s circuitry. Instead of skipping around distractedly gathering bits, when you read you are transported, focused, and immersed…. One can spend hours on the web and never encounter this…. [Online, a person] gets fragments, threads, glimpses.” (Ibid., 88-91)

This kind of immersion, or flow, that can occur while reading books is an essential part of quality education—and it seldom happens while screening. It happens even less with mobile screens than on a fixed television or computer station.

Of course, screening is also an essential skill in the Information Age. But people who learn to truly read—closely, analytically, creatively—can access this skill when they’re screening. They hardly ever learn it by screening, however.

For example, even with all the increased activity on electronic devices over the past two decades, “The literacy rate in the U.S. has remained unchanged in the last 20 years…” (Ibid., 89) Still, “those who can read are reading and writing more.” (Ibid.) If you have a quality reading education, screening is a powerful tool. If you don’t, it hardly ever gives you the thinking, reasoning, or creative skills that are needed.

“Book reading [strengthens] our analytical skills…. Screening encourages rapid pattern making, associating one idea with another…” (Ibid., 104) Both are needed to deal with the many new ideas expressed so frequently in our modern world, and to simultaneously be able to effectively discern, think about, and see the ramifications of such ideas. Fast is good. But wise is crucial.

Quality learning involves both real-life experiences and also reading and writing (which require real thinking), that are removed from screens. Both reading and screening are important. But without moving well beyond screens and classrooms, education will tend to be fairly shallow, narrow, and limited.

III. Frictionless Entry

Okay, this is a phrase, not a word, but it’s still important. Frictionless Entry is a technology term, and means “the ability of [people online] to quickly and easily join a platform [like Amazon, eBay, Facebook, PayPal, Kayak, etc.] and begin participating…” (Geoffrey G. Parker, et al., Platform Revolution, 2016, 25) If a given platform doesn’t have frictionless entry, this means it is difficult to engage. Football-endzone

Likewise, wise educators and parents make learning to learn, and loving learning, as frictionless as possible. If you want your kids to read the greatest books, for example, have copies of them in your house—on shelves low enough that the kids can reach them easily. If you really want frictionless entry to great learning, go a step further: read from the great books aloud with your kids, starting from a young age.

Use children-friendly classics at first, and other great age-appropriate books, and build up to the heavier classics over time. Also, set an example by personally reading classics a lot—this makes the act seem natural, simple, and easy. All of this increases “frictionless entry” to great learning.

Montessori taught that a key part of helping young people get a quality education is having the right kind of materials close at hand for each child—and also setting a visible example of reading such books (or engaging such activities – be it mathematical learning, historical research, poetry memorization, public speaking, refining a performance art, etc.) routinely. When parents and other adults provide these two powerful things for children and youth, students naturally embrace learning with more gusto. And it usually lasts.

IV. Curation

Another word widely used in the technology world is “curation,” which occurs when the managers of a website or platform set parameters that everyone must follow. (Ibid., 26-27) For example, Facebook doesn’t allow hate speech, and you can’t buy certain items like firearms on eBay. By setting such rules, the designers of a site establish the culture they want in order to accomplish their goals.

learning-garden-meme Parents have great power of curation. They can set a curfew, for example, or keep the gaming equipment locked up except on special occasions, or make it “off limits” except on Saturdays and holidays. Another example of curation would be to hold a quick family meeting at the beginning of each morning and have an inspiring quote or song, a prayer or devotion. Then everyone can engage their projects, learning goals and mentor plans, and meet back at 12, or 3, or whatever, to briefly report on what they’ve worked on, discovered, learned, etc.

This little curation is usually best when kept short. Even five minutes can be great. It sets a powerful tone of learning for the entire day, and children become accustomed to launching right into their learning projects instead of letting distractions, chores, TV, or anything else take over their time.

The act of coming back together to share what’s been learned can be incredibly effective—as long as you keep it brief, fun, and remain mindful of the differing learning and reporting styles of the kids. Having this check-in time can remind the learners why they are doing what they are doing (to learn!), and the simple fact of asking them to summarize their learning later often increases retention. If you find that it’s a stress to one child, rather than a positive motivator, allow him to opt out of giving daily reports—let him just come listen to the others. In such cases, find different curations that are more inspiring for him.

For really great results, take some time brainstorming what kind of curation would help in your home. Don’t announce a bunch of rules at once. Just one or two at a time are usually most effective. Additional curation can be added later. And select curations that fit your family and culture—or what you want it to be—not things you think some expert says “all kids must do.”

Be flexible—if a certain curation doesn’t work, change it. If one turns out to work wonders in your home or school, give it time to really become part of your family or class culture before trying to add more. Giving a little thought to the right curation, and then implementing it, can make a huge educational (and relationship) difference in your home or class.

V. Technium

“The modern system of culture and technology…” (Kelly, 273) This is like “pop culture”, but in the Digital Age our lives are molded as much by social media, smartphones, wearable tech, and soon biotech as by Hollywood, iTunes, or TV. The very fact that we can list iTunes as a “place” to get music, as opposed to Motown (Detroit) or Nashville, illustrates how big Technium has become.

chess-meme Compare how often people now recommend finding something on Amazon versus the old suggestion to search the library, or getting something at the mall versus Googling it. In the 1970s social commentators worried about television and Hollywood culture having more influence on our youth than parental, school or community role models. Today the worry is about what niche they’ll fall into online—the mean girls?, bullying?, a predator?, the fan-group of a certain recording artist or band (which can be good or bad, depending…)?, ISIS? What happens online doesn’t always stay online.

There is, of course, much good online, and quality education usually includes at least some technological skills. Wise parents review their kids’ browsing history, chat groups, social sites, and keep track of their interests and passions. They use curation as needed to create guidelines and rules that keep the technium under control for their kids.

For example, some parents we know have blocked all texting or sending of photographs on their teenagers’ devices. The teen can send a photo on mom’s or dad’s phone if he needs to. And some parents have their teen’s phone (including texting) blocked between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. Others routinely read all their youth’s texts every Saturday.

This isn’t censorship, it’s parenting. It’s also curation. Teens don’t really need frictionless entry to every screen under the sun, all the time. The technium is real, and it can be a dangerous place.

The technium is also a powerful tool and can be used for much good. People who keep up on the latest technology and culture know what’s happening in the world. It’s easy to waste time on this, but it’s not a waste to stay informed and connected in healthy ways.


Finally, the thing about new words (or reviewing words if you already know them) is that they can help us remember core principles of good education, parenting, etc., and implement them. To improve education, try posting these 5 words, along the 3 we introduced last week, somewhere you’ll see them a lot. Like on your bathroom mirror or the hallway to your family room.



Frictionless Entry






With each new word we learn, our minds are opened to a new body of thought and application. How will these words inform your approach to education in your home, family or classroom?

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The New Purpose

Family-hearth-geoffroy Here are three words that can make a wonderful difference in your family’s education! Please don’t do what many modern Americans do when they’re reading and come across an unknown word and either skip it or stop reading altogether.

Instead, read even more closely to really understand it. Learning new things is key—if not, we’re not really learning!

So really think about how these 3 cool words can help your family! And have fun with them:

  1. Autotelic (Definition: Doing something for the value of doing it, for its own merit, for its own sake. (See Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, 67-70))

For example, you are making autotelic choices when to take a job because you love it, study a topic because it fascinates you, spend time with someone because you enjoy being with them, or participate  in an activity because it’s fun.

Compare the opposite. Your child is having an exotelic experience (the opposite of autotelic) when he does something for some secondary or third-rate reason: like spending time with a “friend” because he wants to be introduced to the friend’s pretty sister, or reading a book because he wants to get a good grade in a class or doesn’t want to get in trouble with the adults in his life.

In the modern world, the large majority of what passes for “education” isn’t autotelic at all. It is done with an agenda, not for the sake of great learning.

Here’s the principle: For the most part people get a lot more out of autotelic experiences than from any other kind. In the case of children and youth, most of their life should be based around autotelic experiences. They learn better this way, and they’ll be happier through life.

Indeed, children who don’t spend nearly all of their time before age 17 living and learning autotelically are often said to “never have experienced childhood.”

Truly high-quality education is almost always autotelic. Period. This means the most successful life-long students study what they study because they love it—because they love learning. When this is missing, the quality of education drastically decreases.

The New Connection

  1. Eudaimonia (Definition: Connection with your true self, the real you. From Greek roots, meaning “the flourishing, happy, you.” Knowing who you really are, what your life is truly for, and living in harmony with these things each and every day. (See Matthieu Ricard, Happiness, 108))

family As one author put it: “After sorting through piles of data, the researchers have concluded that pursuing happiness can backfire, but pursuing eudaimonia rarely fails. Eudaimonia is the Aristotelian idea of human flourishing, pursuing long-term goals that give meaning to life, rather than short-term happiness that delivers a [fleeting] jolt of dopamine.” (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Life Re-Imagined, 7)

At first blush, many people jump to the conclusion that only adults are really mature enough to find their eudaimonia. But the facts show the opposite. Most toddlers have it—all the time, all day, every day. They know their purpose—they seek happiness. And they do so autotelically as well.

Few teens have eudaimonia (a clear and passionate purpose in life), except those actively involved in sports, theater, music, or some other driving passion that they chose to pursue. Even fewer people in their middle years have it. Some elderly people get it back. But to have eudaimonia in your middle years, from 20-60, is rare. Still, that’s the goal.

Individuals who know who they are, what their life is for, and that they are fulfilling their life purpose each day are a lot happier than everyone else. (Gallup says that in the U.S. less than 20 percent of adults like their jobs.) Part of educating our children effectively consists of teaching them about this—so they can live happier lives. If they go after a career, instead of a life calling and purpose, they’ll most likely be part of the unhappy 80 percent.

The opposite of eudaimonia is “attachment,” where you have been swayed by other people or other things in life away from your true purpose and connection with your authentic self—and spend much of your life doing things to try to impress others, or because you think they require it of you. Unhealthy attachment thrives on connections to things that aren’t your genuine life calling. (For a lot of people, this includes their career and work life.)

This was the theme of the movie Dead Poet’s Society—deciding whether schooling and work life is more about eudaimonia versus unhealthy (and often forced) attachments. Quality education isn’t “attached” to all the problems in the world. Instead it’s fresh, exciting, and focused on helping each learner be himself/herself. Truly. Fully. Without fear. We don’t approach education this way very often nowadays, but we should.

Fact: “Anti-depressant use among Americans of all ages has increased over 400 percent in the last decade.” (Emma Seppala, 2016, The Happiness Track, 7) For those under 22, the depression is mostly about school; for those over 22, it’s mostly about work. Something needs to change!

We’re a nation tragically disconnected with our true inner dreams (autotelics) and life purposes (eudaimonia). We spend almost all of our time on other people’s priorities for us, and then wonder why we’re not very happy.

The New Calm

  1. Wuwei (Definition: A Chinese word meaning literally “non-action”. A more accurate translation into English is “calmness” as we pursue life. (Ibid., 86-87) )

Emma Seppala notes that wuwei-style expressions “like ‘live in the moment’ and ‘carpe diem’ sound like clichés, yet science backs them up robustly.” (Ibid., 24) For example, research shows that people who learn to focus on doing one thing well right now—instead of constantly multitasking—are happier and more productive in life, relationships, and work. (Ibid.) In fact, studies show that students who do this frequently actually test better than other students. (Ibid., 25)

sara Here are some additional traits exhibited by young people who were raised by a parent or parents who emphasized calmness in learning (rather than being driven in schoolwork):

  • They are better at concentrating.
  • They perform better on tasks that require memory.
  • Over time, they have more charisma.
  • They aren’t “permanently anxious,” like many other young people their age.
  • They are demonstrably more creative than their peers.
  • They exhibit more empathy—the ability to see things from the viewpoint of another person.
  • They are better listeners.
  • They have more self-confidence. (This list from Seppala.)

Seppala shows that modern education often “buries natural creativity.” (Ibid., 102) The way our schools operate focuses on convergent thinking (“getting the ‘right’ answer, learning what to think) and frequently undermines divergent thinking (creativity, and learning how to think).  She wrote:

“George Land, author of Grow or Die, suggests that this kind of training [provided in our schools] dramatically reduces our natural creativity…. He found that between three and five years of age, 98 percent of children ranked as ‘divergent thinking geniuses.’ Between eight and ten years of age [after most of them started school], that number had dropped to 32 percent. Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, the number had dropped down to 10 percent.

“When Land tested a group of twenty thousand twenty-five-year-olds, he found that only 2 percent could think divergently. Land concludes that while creativity is naturally present at a young age, we unlearn it through our education system.” (Ibid., 103)

Another study, by researcher Dr. Kyung-Hee Kim, found that “since 1990 there has been a steady decline in creativity scores while IQ scores have risen.” (Ibid.) This corresponds with school curriculum changes from a broad learning program to national-test-based areas of rote emphasis. Seppala wrote: “Kim concludes that ‘people in general are becoming less able to think creatively, and they are less tolerant of creativity and creative people.” (Ibid., 103-104)

Seppala concluded that as a society we now seem to have “no time for non-linear thinking,” and that our schooling is now almost entirely focused on the so-called “‘important’ stuff, like the requirements of career…” (Ibid.) Her point is that this is a very bad development.

The New You

All three of these words highlight how much parents need to take a serious look at the education of their children. If we mindlessly stick with a model that ignores our children’s passions, interests, needs and potential, our kids won’t get the kind of education they deserve. They’ll get something much less–something tragically insufficient.

The new economy is focused on innovation, creativity, and ingenuity—while most schools (Kindergarten all the way up through university and graduate studies) are stuck in the 1960s models of rote memorization and multiple-choice national test scores.

That’s sad. Yet too many people are simply afraid to look for and adopt something better. They know the old school model is failing our kids, but they just keep using it anyway.

With that in mind, here’s one more excellent word to chew on:

Resilience: “When you stop being afraid and start being yourself.”
(Victor J. Strecher, Life on Purpose)

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