Educational Philosophies: Leadership Education

Leadership Education, also known as the Thomas Jefferson Education, is a philosophy, not a curriculum. As such, many (all) of the principles could be applied to most any curriculum.

The philosophy draws heavily on works by Jean Piaget and is based on the premise that children go through different stages of learning.

The 4 Phases of Learning:

1. Core (Ages 0-8): This phase of learning is done primarily at home. Academics are not yet introduced, but students are exposed to good literature and a good, informal learning environment at home. The objectives for learning are: moral principles, family values, value of work, family responsibilities through age-appropriate jobs, self-discipline, relationships, etc.

2. Love of Learning (Ages 8-12): According to the ideal, students that experience a solid core phase will naturally grow into the love of learning phase. In this phase, formal education is introduced, though certainly not in the traditional sense. Teachers are to inspire their students, follow their interests, and let them pursue any subject they would like. The study of the subject will last for as little or as long as the student has interest. In essence, you are giving them a smorgasbord of options and letting their curiosity and interest guide you. When they lose interest in one subject, you move on to another.

3. Scholar (Ages 12-16): In this phase, students transition to a love of learning that is more in-depth. Students will begin to have lengthy study days which will start out interest-led but will be filled in with studies their parent or mentor might feel they have gaps in. They should, at this point begin to have a specific interest in a couple of different fields. The scholar phase is sub-divided into practice scholar, apprentice scholar, self-directed scholar, and mentored scholar.

4. Depth (16-22): In this phase, students will move from their primary mentor (the parent, if home-schooled), and be mentored by experts in the area they have decided to pursue. Most of this stage will be done in a college or university setting, though private mentoring is still highly encouraged.

Leadership Education’s 7 Keys of Great Teaching:

1. Classics, not textbooks: Like Charlotte Mason and the Classical model, Leadership Education uses primarily classics to inspire students.

2. Mentors, Not Professors: The goal is not for a teacher to fill them with knowledge, but rather guide them. A mentor will know their strengths, weaknesses, passions, and talents, and will direct them in a path unique to them.

3. Inspire, Not Require: This is one of the main tenants of this philosophy. The mentor will have the view of finding a way to inspire a student to have an interest in a subject. This does not mean that it is purely student-led (unschooling would advocate waiting for the student’s interest). The mentor will actively find ways to inspire them in all the areas of studies. Providing enriching activities, taking them to a concert, leaving interesting books out on certain topics, etc., are ways that you can inspire a student to have an interest in a particular field. The focus is on what the mentor needs to do to truly inspire his students.

4. Structure Time, Not Content: It may seem that students are left to study whenever they please. This is not the case. Parents or mentors structure the times their students study. There are definitely “school” times set in place, but what they study is not structured.

5. Quality, Not Conformity: Any assignments that the student turns in should be thoroughly evaluated and given appropriate feedback. Standard grades are not given. Mentors should expect excellent quality and if it does not meet that, the student should do it over.

6. Simplicity, Not Complexity: Complex curriculum encourages students to rely on experts. Give them classics then discuss, have projects and writing related to those classics, and it requires the student to think.

7. You, Not Them: A very important part of this philosophy is that parents should mentor by modeling. If parents want their kids to be interested in the classics, they should be reading and learning themselves. Whatever the phase a child is in, watching his parents learn will inspire him to do likewise. The parent need only invite the student to learn along with them.


Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver Demille.

A Thomas Jefferson Education

A Thomas Jefferson Education Online

Have you had any experience or researched anything about Leadership Education or education in general? Please join the discussion.


  1. Hmmm….ed major, ed masters, and I don’t believe I studied this much at all. Love it. I want to know more!

  2. Is this also referred to as the montessori method?

    • Johanna says:

      No, it is different, though a few things overlap like the interest-led approach and the lack of formal textbook learning in the early years. Montessori focuses a lot on movement and tactile approaches to learning.

  3. Thanks! This is one I was/am not familiar with.

    • Johanna says:

      It has a lot of great thought-provoking ideas. I especially love the keys of great teaching.

  4. Jenni Naselli says:

    I had not heard of this one, either. However, it is very similar to the Reggio Emilia method that I was taught while teaching preschool. (Without the emphasis on the classics.) very interesting!


  1. […] in educational philosophies and contributed to my information overload. I gave an overview of Leadership Education awhile back. Up to this point I had only read articles and scoured their website, but reading this […]

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