A Thomas Jefferson Education


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  1. Description

  2. Chapter Outline

  3. Reviews

  4. About the Author

  5. Free Sample Download


Is American education preparing the future leaders our nation needs or merely struggling to teach basic literacy and job skills? Without leadership education, are we settling for an inadequate system that delivers educational, industrial, governmental, and societal mediocrity? In A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, Oliver DeMille presents an overview of a new educational vision based on proven methods that really work! Teachers, students, parents, educators, legislators, leaders, and everyone who cares about America’s future must read this compelling book.

Note: This volume is a philosophical overview, and not a step-by-step guide for implementation of the Leadership Education model. For additional help on application, see Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion.

Product Details:

  • Published by TJEdOnline, September 2009.
  • First paperback edition. Perfect bound, 198 pages.
  • ISBN 978-1615399918
  • Product dimensions and shipping weight: 6 x 9 x 0.5 inches, 9.6 ounces.

Click here to download a free pdf excerpt from A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century.

Chapter Outline

Chapter One: Two Towers

Preparing for Leadership * Is Mediocre Education Enough? * We Must Do Better * Genius in our Homes

In the wake of a poignant session of simulations with his George Wythe College students on the morning of the 9/11 attacks, Oliver DeMille considers the path and process of modern education: Are we doing enough to prepare our youth for their generational role of leadership?

Chapter Two: Education Today

Two Types of Teachers * My Children Deserve Better Than This: But This Is All I Know! * Finding A Mentor * Teachers Teach; Students Educate * Problems versus Difficulties * Education For The Twenty-first Century

Almost everyone agrees that American education needs to be “fixed,” but almost nobody agrees on what the remedies should be, or how they should be implemented. With conflicting ideals regarding what education is, and how it is achieved, no hope of a meaningful solution is in sight. The truth is, no matter what other solutions are tried, nothing will make a difference unless students actually study. Some few in history and today actually have, and do. What is their secret? What can parents and teachers do to duplicate historical successes today?

Chapter Three: Three Systems of Schooling

The Coming Renaissance in Education * The Three Types of Education * The Phases of Learning

Today, and throughout much of the history of the world, there have been three primary models of education: The Conveyor Belt System, The Professional System, The Leadership System.  Each of these has distinct goals, methods, and outcomes. Which type most significantly contributed to your education? Which is most influential in the development of your children/students? The key to Leadership Education is that it is individualized–not just in content or method, but also in order to optimally support the development of a great soul through the Phases of Learning: Core Phase; Love of Learning; Scholar Phase; Depth Phase. Each of these are essential in the development of the individual, and the lessons and methods of each is distinct. How can we harness the power of doing the right thing at the right time, in the right way? What are the consequences of forcing an unnatural or untimely process on an unprepared heart and mind?

Chapter Four: Mentoring

The George Wythe Method * The 7 Keys of Great Teaching * Apply Lessons to Life

Find a great leader in history, and you will nearly always find two central elements were present in their education: classics and mentors.  A great mentor defined. The negative lessons internalized through compulsory learning. The lessons inspired through leadership education. Coming face-to-face with greatness. The 7 Keys of Great Teaching:

  1. Classics, Not Textbooks
  2. Mentors, Not Professors
  3. Inspire, Not Require
  4. Structure Time, Not Content
  5. Quality, Not Conformity
  6. Simplicity, Not Complexity
  7. You, Not Them

How are the 7 Keys of Great Teaching applied?

Chapter Five: Classics

America’s National Books * Study the Classics * Six Reasons to Study the Classics * Your National Book

What are your companion books in life? A religious text? A television? Learn the powerful implications of a society’s “national book.” Learn also the Six Reasons to Study the Classics:

  1. Classics Teach us Human Nature.
  2. The Classics Bring us Face-to-Face with Greatness.
  3. The Classics Take us to the Frontier to be Conquered.
  4. The Classics Force us to Think.
  5. The Classics Connect Us to Stories.
  6. Our Canon Becomes Our Plot.

As we read the classics, we learn vicariously, and we become with the Hero. All great societies unfold as they explore a frontier; our next frontier lies in discovering ourselves and our missions as we experience the classics. What frontier awaits you?

Chapter Six: Great Teaching

“But How Do I Actually Do It?” * The Five Environments of Mentoring * Teaching Tips by Subject

As noted previously, great education takes place when students set out to educate themselves and follow through. This process is inspired–usually, and best, through mentors and classics. Learn the process of great education from the point of view of the student, and the teacher. This chapter also expounds on The Five Environments of Mentoring:

  • Tutorial
  • Group Discussion
  • Lecture
  • Testing
  • Coaching

Tips on teaching writing, reading, literature, history, math, science, foreign language, the arts and other subjects.

Chapter Seven: Thomas Jefferson Education in the Public Schools

The Recent History of Educational Reform * The Outcome of Educational Reform * The Two Myths * Putting Teachers First * DO IT

In spite of the lengthy and complex debate over how to “fix” education in America, one thing alone will make all the difference: Putting Teachers First. Trust the process: students will study when they are inspired by great teaching. Education reform through the 80’s and 90’s; the free market and non-traditional solutions: charters, vouchers, private management of public institutions, homeschool, online education. Revisiting the myths about education. How to have a Jefferson-model classroom in a formal institution.

Chapter 8: Thomas Jefferson Education at College

Four Trends Away from Founding Colleges * Back to the Future * Warning One: Pride * Warning Two: Superficiality * Warning Three: The Mundane * Searching Out a College

In 1636 Harvard was founded, starting the Founding Phase of American education. It was followed by Yale in 1701, Princeton in 1746, and William and Mary, Columbia, Brown, Rutgers and Dartmouth, among others, by 1769. These schools trained the Founding Fathers, who established this nation’s Constitution and safeguarded its freedoms. How did they do it? What has changed since then? How do we recapture the process that yields such greatness? The shift to job training and institutionalized models. A return to classical education. Warnings to graduates to stay on the path of their mission. Criteria for a leadership education at the college level.

Chapter 9: Leadership Careers

Your Career Plan * Harvard Skills * Princeton Skills * Wythe Skills * Mentors, Classics and Career Success

Education, not degrees or diplomas, will be the key to success in the coming economy. The three systems of education have different outcomes and career paths. Whatever your desired vocation, leadership education is necessary for personal fulfillment and the future of freedom. Harvard School of Law defines 10 necessary skills for the twenty-first century job market. Princeton lists the goals of undergraduate education. George Wythe students define 8 additional skills–not only for career “success,” but for life success and happiness. The combined 30 skills prepare an individual for effective leadership and relationships, to fulfill a life’s mission. Statistics on successful individuals, from the kind of books they read, to the type of marriage they have.

Chapter 10: Statesmanship: Making a Difference in Society

What is a Statesman? * The Need for Statesman * Unknown Statesmen and Stateswomen * Become a Statesman

Jefferson, Adams and Madison before the world new their names: Were they a breed apart from us, or should we answer the call to become great as well? Statesmanship as more than a political avocation: men and women of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage, who inspire greatness in others and move the cause of liberty. Where are statesmen trained? How? The Five Pillars of Statesmanship: Classics; Mentors; Simulations; Field Experience; God. Jefferson, Madison and Adams were a lot like us ten years before they stepped up to challenge the greatest empire on earth. Where will we be ten years from now?

Epilogue: A New Golden Age

Franklin pondered whether the carving on the president’s chair was a setting or a rising sun. Two centuries later, many experts and intellectuals again wonder at our future. Will the twenty-first century be America’s epilogue, or a New Golden Age? One thing is certain: Tomorrow’s leaders will determine whether the flame of freedom and prosperity lit by American Founders two hundred years ago continues to burn brightly or is extinguished. These leaders are being prepared today. Is the education of our youth up to their potential? Is it equal to the challenges before them? It is time for a new generation to get A Thomas Jefferson Education.


  • A: 100 Classics
  • B: Classics for Children and Youth
  • C: Sample Discussion Questions
  • D: Where to Find Classics
  • E: Recommended Readings
  • F: Putting Thomas Jefferson Education to Work (A 10-Step Plan for Getting Started)



This is a message homeschoolers need to hear!

“I have read TJEd twice, and I LOVE it! Oliver DeMille voices the need for a generation of leaders to be thoughtfully trained in our homes today. This is a message that homeschoolers need to hear! I don’t know when I’ve seen another book that communicates with such clarity, purpose and vision the powerful potential of homeschool. I find myself nodding my head and marking passages that sound like something I might have said–and DeMille says it so well.

“TJEd gives clarity and purpose to the decision to homeschool, and a template that can be applied by any family to achieve their goals. I refer to it often as a handbook to help me further my own studies, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in quality education. Parents, teachers, and students alike will be energized by this exciting book.”

~Rebecca Kochenderfer, Author of Homeschooling for Success: How Parents Can Create A Superior Education For Their Child, Senior Editor of Homeschool.com

The Thomas Jefferson Education materials improved my life…

Like most homeschooling parents, I found it difficult not to fall into doing “conveyor-belt” education at home, using grades, grade-level materials, and checklists. After several years of doing this, I had successfully helped one of my children go from Core phase into “Hate-of-Learning” phase, where her main goal was to get the “schoolwork” done, as quickly and with as little effort as possible, so she could have her time back. It was awful.

“As I discovered and began to understand the “Seven Keys of Great Teaching” as presented in the Thomas Jefferson Education book (and DeMille’s presentation on the Seven Keys), I realized why I had been so successful at creating a “hate-of-learning” student. Her textbooks were so boring, even I couldn’t stand reading them. We were focused entirely on content, not time. Home education had become so complex, there was no time for simplicity. The results were tedium and frustration. I found that it is very, very hard not to do to my children what was done to me by schools.

“Now, having applied for several years— albeit imperfectly—the “Seven Keys…”, along with many other ideas gleaned from the TJEd book and related materials, my children are thriving. They really don’t know or care what “grade” they are in, and they never say the word “schoolwork” (except by accident). We “study” as a family, and the “Love of Learning” phase is truly exciting.

“My older children have been successful in Great Books programs in college, and I, myself, have taken time to read and study more than I ever would have thought possible. As you might imagine, I am profoundly grateful to Oliver DeMille and his co-authors for opening this world of educational thinking, life to me. It is now my great privilege to be able to speak to parents and teachers around the world, and help them rebuild their education paradigm, pointing them to the same source of wisdom that I was so fortunate to find.”

~Andrew Pudewa, Director, Institute for Excellence in Writing

…helped my wife and me create a better learning environment for our children.

“Oliver and Rachel DeMille have inspired me as a teacher and a parent. Oliver’s book, A Thomas Jefferson Education, has not only helped my wife Laura and I create a better educational environment for our children, but has constantly reminded me that master teachers believe that each child who walks into their classroom is a genius, waiting to be discovered.

“As a co-founder of Acton MBA (as well as the recently launched Acton Academy for children and youth) I believe our future rests on how we inspire the next generation of leaders to educate themselves –- safe from the meddling of ‘assembly-line’ schools. It’s only through the efforts of educators like Oliver and Rachel DeMille that we can hope to safeguard our freedom and prosperity for the next two hundred years.”

~Jeff Sandefer, Founder and Faculty Member of Acton MBA

Tells us how to see what the Founders saw…

“We have known for a long time that it was the extraordinary, far-reaching vision of America’s founding fathers that produced the freest and most powerful nation on earth. What we have not understood, however, is the rigorous educational experience that gave them such remarkable vision. The loss of that knowledge poses a clear and present danger to our generation, because liberty cannot perpetuate itself.

A Thomas Jefferson Education tells us how to see, in our own day, exactly what the founders saw, and thus how to safeguard and build upon what they created. It’s not a quick or painless prescription, and DeMille doesn’t sugarcoat it. But he does show us, honestly and authoritatively, the price we must pay to remain a free people. “If you are willing to find out what that blessing will cost you and your children, read this book.”

~Andrew M. Allison, author of The Real Thomas Jefferson

Mentors and Classics

“When I was young, I had the benefit of having two great mentors: my grandfather, Earl Millett, who was a High Priest in the Mormon Church, a teacher, a farmer, and a businessman; and Larry Austin, who was a Presbyterian Minister, a teacher, and a philosopher. The education I gained from these two men was offered not in classrooms, but in barnyards and offices, in their homes reading the Great Books and playing chess, and talking – often over the drink we all loved, Vernors’ Ginger Ale.

They taught me how to think for myself, how to make choices, and how maturity and leadership meant learning to be responsible for those choices. But more, they taught me how to think ethically; to understand and appreciate values; and to learn how to approach new ideas with passion and joy. They taught me to be proud of my strengths, and to use those things in which I excelled to learn to overcome my weaknesses. They taught me how to become a leader – and I hoped that I would be able to do so for my own children when the time came.

“To me, the concept of the Thomas Jefferson Education which resonates most strongly is the one I learned from these men: that of classics and mentors, wherein the course of study is customized to the student, utilizing the greatest works of inspiration and learning, and guided by mentors of great integrity and strength of character. To have access not only to others who share this philosophy but also to resources, teaching tools, and most of all, the shared pool of knowledge gained as we all move forward in our education is invaluable.”

~James A. Owen, author, The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica

2009steveclose Infinitely more than a curriculum…

“‘Curriculum’ is an educational buzz word, especially with home education. My wife and I wanted more than a simple, regimented curriculum — we sought sound and timeless principles. We wanted a coherent methodology to provide insight and direction, while allowing us to personalize education to the interests and abilities of each of our children.

“We yearned for keys to liberate the natural gifts of our children to prepare them to succeed and to have lasting impact. We wanted to be active participants in and hands-on facilitators of the educational process, rather than strict rule-makers and curriculum-imposers.

“Leadership Education, as outlined by this book, has been our answer, our relief, our guiding light, and our key. It’s given us everything we knew we needed–and far more than we ever realized was necessary.

“It’s pushed us as parents to make education a lifelong process for ourselves — we’ve learned to lead by example, rather than force by dictate. Infinitely more than a curriculum, Leadership Education is a worldview and a way of life that teaches us and our children that, yes, we can and we must make a significant, positive difference in the world. Because of Leadership Education, our family is stronger, happier, more confident, and more at peace.

“Our children are self-motivated with their education and they enjoy learning. Because of this book, we’re more sensitive to their needs and better able to facilitate their growth. We understand better how to guide them with patience and wisdom.

~Stephen Palmer,  Founder of Life Manifestos, Co-Founder of The Center for Social Leadership, Best-Selling Co-Author of Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths that are Destroying Your Prosperity

Home more peaceful; children independently creative, more family unity

“I am so grateful for the principles taught in A Thomas Jefferson Education! Because of that book, I’ve had five of my children home with me for the last two years now, and the ‘detox’ process has paid off tremendously.

“Our home is more peaceful, and the children have learned to be independently creative, finding fascination in the simplest things. I feel that if the world were to fall apart all around us today, I’d be at peace knowing I followed my own instinct, and because of it, our family has developed a greater feeling of unity, and a higher awareness of God’s greater purpose for our lives. To me, that’s leadership training.”

~Leslie Householder, Author of The Jackrabbit Factor

Completely revolutionized my home

“As a home schooling mother of four girls, I am always interested in great books on education. The discovery of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century by Oliver DeMille, has, without a doubt, completely revolutionized my home. The recommendations it contains are so substantive and directly meaningful that as I read it the first time I felt I had arrived at the answers to my most basic questions about superb education.

“In our home, we have seen the results of patient and sustained efforts to provide a leadership education environment for our children. I feel an ever-increasing sense of being grounded. In addition, it is fascinating to observe the methods employed on younger siblings by youth who have been raised with the leading hand in their own education. Being inspirational and applying other keys of quality education comes naturally to this second generation. I can hardly wait to observe the education of my grandchildren!”

~Diann Jeppson Co-Founder of TJEd Marketplace

We have learned the difference between well-trained and well-educated

“Leadership Education has completely transformed not only our individual learning as parents, but our entire home. It has helped us decide what truly is “foundational” learning. We have also learned the stark difference between being well-trained and well-educated. We have been inspired to become truly educated and discover our personal missions and in turn hope to inspire our children.

“We recognize stages of growth in our children and are ready to help them move to higher levels of independence and empowerment in their own lives. In the short 8 years that we have practiced leadership education in our lives, we have truly embraced the principles it teaches.

“I want to bring up thinkers and leaders. I can’t imagine going back to the old way.”

~Rusty and Becky Bastian

I feel much more confident that I’m doing the right thing…

“We took a spur-of-the-moment decision to homeschool for our 5 and 7-year-old daughters after last Christmas while living in Jordan. I found TJEd this past summer after spending a semester trying out workbooks and other materials I came across. I’ve read TJEd and the Home Companion, and love the philosophy behind TJEd!

“I am now starting to read through classics listed in both books. I never thought I’d be so engrossed with reading the classics. I’m LOVING them! Since homeschooling is unheard of here in Jordan, I’m constantly bombarded by moms to put our girls into school, but now I feel much more confident that I’m doing the right thing and why. I want to bring up leaders and thinkers. I can see much better now that the principles of Leadership Education are the way to foster this.”

-K. M., Amman, Jordan

Few books have resonated so profoundly with me; …given me the courage to take charge of my education…

“The principles in this book and the resulting subsequent journey have deeply changed me and the course of education for me–and my children. The path at times has been difficult, but few books have resonated so profoundly with me, that I could not abandon what I knew to be truth.

“I will forever be grateful that I found this book and that my heart and mind were open to what it had to teach me. It has given me the courage to take charge of my education and to walk an unfamiliar path that has been the salvation for my two special needs children.”

~Janiece Sloan

It’s easy to love this book and its sensibly simple solutions

“If you’re thinking of home schooling or UNschooling, if you’re thinking of what sort of college you want to go to, if you’re thinking of what really matters in education (certainly not standardized tests, sitting in straight rows, or walking single file down the hall under the watchful eye and ready ruler of the teachers) this will jump-start you into TRUE education.

“It’s a shame it is not required reading for every incoming school board member in every public school in every town in the nation. It’s easy to love this book and its sensibly simple solutions to the educational problems that beset us. Money won’t solve them. More workbooks won’t solve them. More assembly line education won’t solve them. This book will.

~Gwynn C. Spencer

If I had the money, I’d buy a copy for everyone I know…

“After reading this book, my husband and I decided to implement a Leadership Education in our own home and it’s been exciting to watch our children respond and get excited about learning. Even if you can’t homeschool your children, you can learn from the philosophies in this book and make their education the kind you only dreamed about growing up.

“If I had the money, I’d buy a copy for everyone I know, every college student and every parent walking aimlessly around at homeschool fairs. Enrich your life and your grandchildren’s…leave the legacy you want to leave…BUY THIS BOOK!”

~A. Taylor

For me, these books are classics

“Several years ago I picked up a copy of TJEd after listening to Oliver DeMille speak at a homeschool conference in Williamsburg, VA. My family and I were truly impacted by his words. We cried on the way home as all felt the need to move to a leadership education model in our home.

“Eleven months later our family moved overseas. After arriving in Qatar and finding that we didn’t have libraries or book stores available as promised, I panicked and went back to school at home. We were miserable.

“On our first vacation, we attended a TJEd two day seminar hosted by Jodie Palmer and Diann Jeppson. It was another life changing moment. I learned how to implement TJEd in our new environment using the information from Thomas Jefferson Education Companion, the seminar and inspiration. For me, these two books are classics. The information is invaluable in our walk to follow the path of leadership style education.”

~Darla in Qatar

This is a must-read for all parents.

“This is a must-read for all parents. It is inspiring. It has made me motivated to educate not only myself but also my children differently. I am dedicated now to truly becoming educated.”

~Jen Nigbur

Changed the course of my life

“This book changed the course of my life. As a mother, I was plodding through life in survival mode, with little hope that there could be anything more. “Reading A Thomas Jefferson Education gave me hope that there could be more, and courage to do it. The changes that have transpired in my home are immense, and I owe it to the spark that this book ignited inside my heart. Thank you.”

~Rebecca Tobiasson

Life-changing philosophy

“What an inspiring and life-changing philosophy! Thank you for such insightful information! I particularly appreciate the distinction of the Three Systems of Schooling. The direct and easy to understand style gave me the opportunity to step into creating a Leadership Education environment for myself and my family!”

-Nanette Baker

Transformed the lives of my family

A Thomas Jefferson Education has transformed my life and the lives of my family. This is truly a “classic” to be read over and over again. I learn so much more each time.

“Just this morning, a friend that is new to TJEd and I were discussing how the information in this book hits home. We both felt as if this is what we have been searching for. “We want our children to be prepared for the future and whatever they are meant to do in this life. I really believe that TJEd is the best way to accomplish this. Thank you, thank you, for taking the time and effort to spread this to those across the country!”

-Bente Rodriquez

This will help your marriage, your children, your life

“Proceed with caution: this book is life changing!–for the better, of course. You will want to highlight practically the entire book; but what is more, it is easy to take bits and pieces to implement into your family routines and culture right away. This will help your marriage, your children, your life.”

-Vivan Milius

Gave my rushing motherly mind a swift calm…

A Thomas Jefferson Education was the book that stopped my rushing motherly mind and gave it a swift calm. I no longer am reading and searching for that philosophy that is right for my family. This one is it.”

-Tabitha Leighton

I never knew learning could be so fun…

“This book has not only changed my homeschool, but also changed MY life. I never knew learning and education could be so fun, not to mention the fact that these principles are so greatly needed in our society. Thank you for your message and for getting so many of us off the conveyor belt!”

-Jennifer Pate


About the Author

bio_oliverOliver DeMille is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education, The Coming Aristocracy and other books on education and freedom. He has taught graduate courses on the complete writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Federalist Papers, Aristotle’s Politics and other great classics of liberty. Oliver is a popular keynote speaker, writer and business consultant.
Presently, he is active as a founding partner with The Center for Social Leadership and he devotes a majority of his time to writing. Oliver is married to the former Rachel Pinegar. They have eight children.

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