Saturday, January 29, 2011

Being a TJEDer

As most of my family, friends, and acquaintances know, I am a big (and loud) fan of TJED or A Thomas Jefferson Education, also known as Leadership Education.  It’s the philosophy my family uses for our home schooling efforts.  You can read about it in A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver VanDeMille and in Leadership Education by Oliver and Rachel DeMille.  You can also learn a lot about it at

I am working with parents and teachers in the Puget Sound area to build a local TJED Community.  I’ve had several conversations this week that have made me think about what it is to be a “TJEDer.”

I think the idea of being a “TJEDer” is widely misunderstood and the term is much abused.  

What TJED is
First, let me clarify what TJED is (my understanding of it, you are welcome to disagree with me):

TJED is a set of principles codified by Oliver and Rachel DeMille.  They (like me) like lists and have organized the principles into 6 lists:

  •      3 Types of Education
  •       2 Views of Childhood
  •       7 Keys of Great Teaching
  •       4 Phases of Learning
  •       5 Environments of Mentoring
  •       8 Education Trends of the 21st Century

The DeMilles call these the TJED Basics.  You can listen to them discuss the basics in 2 free lectures and a Q&A with Oliver and Rachel here.  In my mind this is it – this is TJED.  If you want to learn about TJED, find those lists in the books mentioned above and study them.  The 8 Trends is an article, not in either of the books.  You can get it free here, along with other TJED Basics info.   There are lots of additional articles, books, lectures, seminars and other vehicles people have used to share the TJED Philosophy and I find them helpful and inspiring but only if used as a toolbox of resources in helping me apply the TJED principles contained in those 6 lists.  These other resources have a lot of examples of how different people and families have successfully applied TJED principles. 

Principles vs. Methods
Too often, people confuse application methods for the principles themselves.  For example, one prominent TJED family has found it works well in their home to have their bookshelves organized in a specific way.  This method or application is rooted in the TJED principles but it is not a principle itself.  I’ve actually heard someone express the concern that because they don’t organize their bookshelves this way, they aren’t a “real TJEDer.”  What?!  I consider this friend of mine an experienced and very successful TJEDer.

Guess What?  TJED is Not a Religion.
Too many people have erroneously concluded that to be a TJEDer one must accept and agree with every single principle in the philosophy. You can be inspired by and apply just some of the principles of the TJED philosophy.   There are no TJED authorities to monitor or evaluate how much or how well you live the principles.  I don’t know anyone who lives the principles 100%, including those, like myself, who buy the whole philosophy.  I personally believe the closer I get to knowing and applying all the principles, the more my family will benefit but that doesn’t mean there’s no benefit if you just learn and apply 1 principle from the philosophy.

No “Inner Rings” for Me, Thanks
In terms of building a TJED community I don’t think everyone has to agree with all the principles.  The last thing I want is an exclusive community of people who label themselves as TJEDers and consider themselves better than non-TJEDers and compare their TJEDness.  What would be the point and what does that even mean?  Who honestly is qualified to decide who "does TJED" or who doesn't? That would be an "Inner Ring" in C.S. Lewis terms (read his essay “The Inner Ring” in The Weight of Glory) and I don't have any interest in that.  I think the principles of the TJED philosophy are inspiring and useful and could change the world, and I want to band together with anyone who appreciates and tries to apply any part of the philosophy so we can all help each other - that's what I mean when I talk about a TJED Community. Membership in the community is self-declared - no one else can decide who is or isn't part of it.  

Guess What?  You Don’t Have to be a Homeschooler to be a TJEDer.
Members of my local TJED Community (and I suspect the worldwide TJED Community) are lots of things besides TJEDers. Joining the community does not mean someone has to renounce their affiliations with other philosophies, schools or education groups.   For most people in my local area, I suspect our TJED Community is not going to meet all of their families’ education or home school community needs.

What it should do is help inspire, teach, and coach families who want to learn about and apply any of the TJED principles.  It should also be a community of friends.  There’s not even a membership fee or a registration form.  Joining is as simple as coming to a bookclub, class or workshop and saying, “Hi, my name is Jen and I’m a TJEDer.”

Update as of 2/1/11:  The TJED Community organization I serve with just launched our own website.  We are hosting an event on 2/19, TJED Basics Workshop.  Check it out!


Kathryn said...

I have been curious about TJED for a while. Since its not exclusive I do believe I will look into it. Thanks for the little look in and the links to get started.

Jennifer said...

Good Luck Kathryn! I hope you find it useful for you!

Cher_bear said...

The principles of TJed have changed my life. It has taught me how to be a better parent and friend to my children. I am so grateful for the DeMilles. They ROCK!!

tracy said...

I love your thoughts - especially about the Inner Ring. I have been building our TJED community in Idaho for many years and it is really thriving right now. It is so exciting to see youth studying hard, parents leading and mentoring, children looking forward with anticipation to when they will be scholars, and families having a powerful educational experience together!

Andrea Rice said...

Great post! Amazingly succinct and thorough overview.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Tracy! That is encouraging. I can't wait for the day when we have a robust TJED Community in the Puget Sound.

Kathleen said...

So great to read this. I think it's very easy to get into an "all or nothing mentality" and end up feeling overwhelmed. This was a good reminder to me of all the resources available, and of how influential TJed has been in my family's life, as we have found things that have resonated with us then tried them out in our home.