In Memoriam: Marquelle May Miller

(For those of you following this blog who do not live nearby, the founders of The Garden School-Dave and Renee Miller-recently lost their eighteen-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident. In light of these events, we ask that you give us some time as a community to mourn this loss. Today’s post will focus on honoring the memory of Marquelle May Miller-a beloved daughter, sister, and friend to many. Next Friday we will have a special guest post, and two weeks from now on Friday, March 8th, we will resume our regular posting. Thank you for understanding, and please feel free to share your love and support by leaving a comment or prayer for the Millers’ or by sending them a private message at Please also feel free to leave a comment describing one of your favorite memories with Kellie.)

Marquelle Miller

    Marquelle May Miller ‘Kellie’
    Sept. 22, 1994-Feb. 15, 2013

New Castle native, Marquelle (“Kellie”) Miller died in a tragic car accident in Denver on Friday, Feb. 15. Daughter, sister, and good friend, she was 18. A private burial was held Tuesday at Highland Cemetery.

Kellie is survived by many friends and family whom she dearly loved: parents David/Renee (Talbott) Miller; siblings Mackenzie (Christopher) Leader, Reid, Madeleine, Sophia, and Grace; grandparents Ross/Ramona Talbott and Joel/Frances Miller; and enough aunts, uncles, cousins and friends to fill a book.

Beautiful and talented, Kellie’s exuberant nature was a delight to all who knew her. Her legacy at the Garden School community as a student and in her roles in school plays will live on. Kellie attended New Hope Church and had a strong faith that her friends couldn’t help but catch. She was active in the Glenwood Center for the Arts, and last November sang and danced in Aspen Community Theatre’s production, “Crazy for You.” We only got to be with her a short time, but her dancing spirit will be felt in our valley and beyond forever.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” –Winnie-the-Pooh

As for Me, I Trust in You

If I had the silver wings of a dove,
I would fly away from this earth,
Fly away to your Kingdom, Lord
From this broken world we live in.
Your love is like a dove within me–
My peace, my innocence,
My soul, I give you to keep
Safe and pure in your strong embrace

    –Marquelle Miller, 2011

    Fly away, sweet angel. See you soon.

    –Mom and Dad

Memorial service is Saturday at Coal Ridge High School at 1 p.m.

Memorial gifts may be given in Marquelle’s name at Alpine Bank.


Grammar Stage: Little P Explores the Old Upright Piano

    By Dave Miller

    Kid at PianoMy tenants moved out and had no room in their new apartment for the old upright piano. I told them I’d “buy it” for $200 as I had no stomach for rounding up the manpower to move the behemoth. Besides, I thought, it just might be a selling point for a new tenant. It was.

    A new set of tenants moved in as the old ones moved out. In the transition, I’m doing repairs and remodeling, and casually listening to 2 year-old little P get acquainted with this musical piece of furniture. In the classical model of education, the beginning of learning is called the Grammar Stage (followed by Logic and Rhetoric). Lasting until age 7 or 8, children learn the “grammar” of the world in which they crawl, toddle, walk and run. They learn the ABCs of just about anything they can. They love nursery rhymes, learning things by heart, parroting back what they — “Little pictures have big ears.” Patterns are established that will last a lifetime.

    Little P is exploring what the piano does. He pushes on the pedals. Nothing happens. (One of those pedals will make the note he plays sustain, but he’ll learn that later.) He tentatively pushes down on a white key. It makes a sound! He presses it again with a little more force. Again, a sound, this time a bit louder. Now he presses several keys with his right hand. If one hand can make sounds like this, what can TWO hands do?! Cacophony! Like chickens cackling in a henhouse at feeding time he goes Bang! Bang! Bang!

    So this is when mom or dad or older sibling has a choice: Scream at Little P to STOP THAT RACKET! or firmly remind him that a piano is an instrument and needs to be treated gently (while demonstrating a few pleasing chords). I’ve found that a two-year-old banging on the piano really doesn’t hurt it. After all, didn’t Jerry Lee Lewis make a whole-lotta money banging on a piano? Great balls of fire! I’ve just found that saving my sanity is important, too. Besides, screaming at Little P to stop is likely to squelch the exploration process.

    (This is a good place to interject that “re-directing” rather than “squelching” the discovery process is almost always the best tack to take in parenting a child. You could even use a little Cline-Fay Love and Logic, “Now Little P, I love to take little boys to the park to swing who know how to treat the piano like an instrument without banging on it.” Or something like that.)

    Now, Little P resumes his exploration. He presses two keys next to each other down at the same time with one hand. Then two separated by a key. Hey, that sounds better. He wonders what the skinny black keys sound like. He bangs on them with his fist. Mom says, “Gentle, Little P.”

    There’s so much to explore on this instrument when you’re two. Wise parents or siblings will allow for some dissonance in their life in the hope that Little P will move on to the Logic and Rhetoric stages of making music.

    The scope of this blog is not to show you how to teach your child piano. There are lots of books and methods on how to do that. In fact, in the comments section below, would you list any resources that you’ve found helpful in teaching your child to not only learn to play but to LOVE to play?

    Another quick story to illustrate the Grammar stage of learning, this time in drawing:

    My wife Renee decided to take a beginning art class at the local community college when she was in her 30’s. The instructor pretty much told the class to take up their pencils and create something. Not having any formal art training (Grammar level), she didn’t have the slightest idea where to start. Visions of stick figures danced in her head. How do you even hold the pencil?

    When the second class proved to be as dismal as the first, she called the instructor over and asked, “Do you play the piano?”

    “No,” he answered.

    “I do,” she said. “If I sat you down in front of a piano and asked you to ‘Just play something that sounds good,’ do you think you could do it?”


    “That’s exactly how I feel when you tell me to ‘just draw something.’”

    “Oh, I had no idea.”

    Unwilling or unable to change his methods, Renee did not return for a third class.

    Since then, she has found some very good Grammar stage art books that have helped her become pretty decent at drawing:

    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards
    Drawing Textbook, Bruce McIntyre
    The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron

    Feel free to add to the list in the comments section below.


A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

You Homeschooling Types

    By Elizabeth Veldboom

    homeschoolAs I thought about writing a blog post for this week, I have to admit I felt a little unnerved. After all, this is a place for homeschooling/alternative schooling parents. Considering I’m twenty one and single, I don’t really fit that description.

    I wondered, “What can I offer to homeschooling parents? I’ve never been one.” I worried I wouldn’t have anything of interest or importance to say.

    But then I realized, hey-I’ve spent twenty plus years observing these people. I got this.

    Being homeschooled myself, I’ve watched both Garden School parents and my own mom tackle this whole homeschooling thing. And trust me-there are some stories I could tell on you people.

    Yeah, that’s right. I know stuff. In fact, you wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff I got on you. I know what goes on behind closed doors.

    You homeschooling types are absolutely, 100%, without a doubt: some of the most amazing people I know.

    Surprised? Me too. But it’s true.

    If twenty one years of observing has taught me anything about you, it’s taught me this: you are some of the greatest people. You are so selfless and loving and smart. You’re brave and strong in a world that tells you you’re doing it all wrong. You’re kind and generous with your time. You would do anything in the world for your kids, and half of the time they don’t even know you exist.

    You’d sacrifice just about anything to see them succeed. You spend hours at night trying to learn Latin, or Algebra, or Quantum Physics, just so you can teach it to your kids in the morning. You cook and clean and parent and teach, and then you get up and do it all over again the next day.

    You might feel invisible. Unappreciated. On really bad days, maybe even unloved.

    But as a former homeschooled student, let me offer you some hope.

    There were many times my mom went unseen by me, too. But you are teaching your kids some of the greatest lessons they will ever know in life, and it doesn’t come from a book, but from the heart. You’re teaching them how to care for another human being with all the strength they possess. To selflessly sacrifice and give of themselves for the well-being of another. To love, and give, and give again.

    One day they’ll see. One day they’ll be old enough to tell you how much it meant. But if they’re not saying it yet, let me: you are making a difference. You are so loved, honored, admired, and cherished. It’s not easy what you do. And you can’t always see the reward.

    But dear Mama or Daddy, allow me to let you in on a secret: you are the reward.

    Yeah, I know about you homeschooling types all right. You are some of the craziest, most masochistic, insane people I know.

    And I want to be just like you when I grow up.

    Your Turn: What inspires you to keep going on days when it’s tough?


    Elizabeth V. PicElizabeth Veldboom is a 2009 graduate from The Garden School, and a student in Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She has previously been published in places like Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters, and She has a huge heart for homeschooling families and would love connecting with you, so visit her blog anytime at

Teenage Adults

    By Patrick Koschak

TeenagersTeenage men. Teenage women.

Do these phrases sound a little funny to you?

I like these phrases.

I like them because I coined them.

I like them so much, I’m getting shirts made.

Look for them in stores. They’re going to be huge.

What? You don’t think these will catch on? Why not? Because teenagers aren’t men and women yet? Really?

Okay. I’ll grant you that until they are eighteen, they are not legally considered adults. Sure. However, is legal adult status to be confused with being a man or a woman? Geez, I hope not.

Why can’t we call these young people men and women?

Before you decide I am way off the deep end (I probably am) and you dismiss this article (please don’t), allow me to explain. I am not aiming for widespread cultural change (that would be cool though.) I am asking you, individually, to consider how you look at teenaged people. How are you helping them to see themselves as men and women?

These questions are most important for parents of teenaged offspring, and that is who I am aiming at with most of this. However, all of us interact with teenaged people, so I hope this would be important to those of you without teens, as well. After all, it takes a village to raise a child… or a Viking to raze a village… or something like that… I digress.

How do you see teenaged people? Are they just awkward, overgrown kids? Are they hopelessly, excusably childish? Is it okay that they contribute little to those around them? Are you supposed to just kind of put up with them until they (hopefully) move out? Be honest.

The way I see it is that the end informs that beginning. In other words, the goal we have in mind as parents will determine the way we treat teenagers. My thinking is that we are in the business of producing successful adults-not just tolerating teens. They are not boys and girls, but young men and women capable of making adult choices and learning adult responsibility. No, seriously… they really can.

My observation has been that most parents don’t expect enough from their teenaged progeny. I suspect a part of this problem is the thinking that they are not ready to make adult choices. They are still kids, and not really men and women yet. The fact is that they will act like children as long as we allow them to.

teen-girl-driver[1]The danger here is to mistake “wishing they would act like adults” with actually expecting them to function as adults. The former is hollow frustration, the latter takes a lot of consistent effort. The former is common among parents, while the latter might seem strange. But remember: we are trying to train men and women to handle adult responsibilities.

Let me offer a few examples.

Money. An awful lot of adult life has to do with financial responsibilities. When you consider how to teach teenage adults, do you give them money, or do they earn what they receive? Kids get an allowance, while adults earn a wage.

As a general rule, give them nothing if they can earn it for themselves. This goes for stylish clothes, a cell phone, a car, a laptop, or even college. This might sound harsh or unrealistic at first. But let them own the challenge and grow from their successes or failures. You might be surprised!

Earning and spending money is only half the battle, though. Knowing how to do so responsibly is another facet of being an adult. Hold them accountable for using their car, laptop, or cell phone responsibly. Help them with a budget. Just like any other adult privilege, these can be revoked or lost if abused.

My experience is that if you talk to teenage men and women as if they are adults, and if you offer them adult challenges, they will grow into the role. If they are allowed to take responsibility for their own lives, they will. Isn’t this ultimately what parents want to see for their children? Absolutely!

On the other hand, if they are consistently given that which they have not earned, their esteem and self-confidence will be stifled. If they are allowed to hide behind flimsy excuses, they will learn to avoid personal responsibility. Adulthood will continue to fit them like an ill-tailored suit. This is the kid who never moves out of mom and dad’s basement. (Eek!)

So… back to the question… why can’t we call these young people men and women? How do we perceive them and their abilities? Who do we want our teenagers to be in ten years? In twenty?

Think about it.

I’ve got shirts to make.


Patrick K.Patrick Koschak has enjoyed more than 15 years of marriage with his high school sweetheart, Rachael, and they share three children, ages 9-13. Patrick studied Biblical Studies and Greek at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon.

Mr. Koschak has been teaching Humanities since 2008 at the Garden School, where he is affectionately known as “Mr. K.” Mr. K’s teaching is occasionally unorthodox, often cerebral, but always heartfelt.

“Teaching has been one of the deep joys of my life. I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to influence and inspire these young leaders. I am very blessed.” – Mr. K