My Brother, My Son

    By Patrick Koschak

journey-1[1]Is my son actually my brother? Is my daughter my sister?

No, I don’t live in a shotgun shack in the Appalachians with my wife and the hunting dogs. This is a real question that has been stuck in my craw for some time. Allow me to explain.

Since I began the journey of parenthood over 13 years ago, my attitude about parenting has evolved. When my offspring were very small, I tended to consider them much like pets. They made strange noises, broke things, and just generally needed the basics of discipline to mold their behavior into something more “human-like.” As they grew out of this stage and gained more forms of intelligible expression, I began to think of them more as carbon copies of my wife and I. They parroted back much of what we said, and I saw more of myself or their mother in their actions and words.

The carbon copy stage passed, and my kids just kept growing. I have tried not feeding them, but their pant legs and sleeves just keep getting shorter. Their personalities are growing as strong as their abilities to express them. My kids are more and more distinct from their parents with each passing day. Because their hearts and dreams are still so tender, I find myself acting a lot more like a cheerleader now, encouraging them in their own interests and talents.

I think I can see the next evolutionary stage, and this stage is where I wanted to focus. This phase is the brother/sister thing I was alluding to above. Follow with me here.

The Scriptures tell me that I have a Heavenly Father. I am a new spiritual creation and this relationship with Him is at least equal to, and in many ways greater than, my biological relations. It’s not spiritual incest; it is a relational redefinition. As my children grow in body and faith, they have the same Father in Heaven. They are as much the Father’s as I am. They are my siblings in Christ. I feel this is especially impactful as they journey through their teen years with me. Let me offer a picture of what this “siblings” relationship looks like to me.

As they begin to wrestle with their burgeoning adulthood in earnest, I am not burdened trying to act like I have all the answers. I am freed from feeling that I must always be “above” them somehow. They have transitioned from seeming like possessions, to my parental responsibility, to disciples, to friends.

I can talk to them as a fellow traveler on the Way. I can talk about my failures, past and present. I can tell them what I learned about God’s grace in those times. I can share the things I love with them, and learn to enjoy the things they love.

Now, all of this is not to say that all of parenting completely evolves into being friends. I am not advocating that parental responsibility dissolves into being pals who wear the same clothes and play the same video games every day. Frankly, that is lame. Every child needs a parent, no matter what age.

What I am offering is another facet of the relationship I hope develops between parents and their teenage adults. As adulthood descends on us, adult thoughts and concerns come with it. Parents know this, but don’t always recognize it in their kids or know how to assuage it. I hope that as we interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ (those that are our offspring), these interactions will bring more understanding as equals.

I think Dad would approve.

What are you looking forward to as your own fellow travelers begin to journey into adulthood?


    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


Further Up and Further In

    By Shilo Bartlett

I looked up the phrase “carpe diem” the other day. I was curious since I’d been pondering other phrases such as “live for today,” and “you only live once.” I was thinking about the fact that tomorrow isn’t a given for some of us. Not in the morbid sense of dwelling on loss, but on the prospect of the good that is in store for us once we leave here. That it only gets better!

So the Latin meaning of the phrase “carpe diem” is as follows: Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero – “Seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in the next (day)[/future].” There have been many interpretations of this, one being what I quoted before as the “carpe diem” seize-the-day mentality. It seems to be the concept that “you only live once,” so live now! Because tomorrow might not come!

However, I have a different thought on this.

I have read The Chronicles of Narnia many times, both on my own and with my children. The last book in the series is a type or shadow of the End Times, when the earth will fall apart and we will be with the Lord. As you read this book, there is a phrase that Aslan uses several times when talking about where the children are headed: “Further up and further in!”


They have left the old behind and are heading into the “new” Narnia- i.e. heaven- and can run faster than eagles. He encourages them to just keep going “further up and further in.” When they do this, they discover that the land doesn’t just stop, it literally keeps going as they discover it and unfolds as they go. They can’t see what is beyond, but they trust that they will find the new as they go further in.

This was very intriguing to me. It applies to so many areas of our life. It doesn’t just seem that we should live “for today,” but maybe trust that while we do live today, tomorrow will be taken care of. We can’t see what is over the hill, or around the corner, or over the mountain, but that doesn’t mean we should stop, does it? It just means we run faster at it! That unknown is not a bad thing; it is discovery, life well lived.

It is the challenge of life – when you run up against that unknown of tomorrow, or the next big problem, what do you do? He says “further up and further in”! That in itself is living, isn’t it? You are right here and now, living “the moment,” but yet looking ahead without fear. consciously choosing to move in the direction you are heading without wavering.

With our children it is easy to be afraid, to question ourselves as well as the paths and decisions we have chosen for them. The huge choice of what their education will be like is one that every parent faces. But instead of fearing that tomorrow is uncertain and you should hide from the challenges they are up against, maybe we can gain confidence from the fact that we can choose the path, then go “further up and further in”! Knowing that today we live by what we know, preparing for what we can’t see, and not being concerned that it will bring the unknown with it. Being confident that whatever tomorrow is or will be, we are here today, and we can enjoy that! To enjoy what He has given us right now, and looking forward to tomorrow. Not living as if it won’t come – living knowing it will!

And that to me is very, very “carpe diem.”

What areas of your life could use some “carpe diem”?


    Shilo_BShilo Bartlett is a super organized, over reaching, strong-willed mother of three. She loves having the hands-on time with her kids that homeschooling and The Garden School have allowed her. She grew up in the Colorado River Valley, and went to public school until 6th grade. Her mother homeschooled her and her three siblings through high school, and then she attended CMC graduating with a degree in Applied Science in the Veterinary Field. She has always read voraciously, and written throughout her life for many publications. Her family is her passion. Her driving motivation is to encourage a love of learning.

Crafty Corner: Embroidery Hoop Birdfeeder

Welcome to the Crafty Corner! Join us the third Tuesday of every month for fun craft and project ideas courtesy of your host, Nicole Wenger! Today Nicole teaches readers how to create Embroidery Hoop Birdfeeders. We hope you enjoy, and will look forward to seeing you on many a Tuesday to come!

    Spring Prayer by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “For flowers that bloom about our feet,
    For tender grass so fresh and sweet,
    For song of bird and hum of bee,
    For all things fair we hear or see,
    Father in heaven, we thank thee!

    For blue stream and blue sky,
    For pleasant shade of branches high,
    For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
    For beauty of the blooming trees,
    Father in heaven we thank thee!”

    My childhood during the spring season was nothing short of magical. Outside my mother’s kitchen window are tender-hearted memories of crocuses and tulips pushing up from the snow encrusted ground. Memories of tree buds ready to burst with excitement, and the sound of the dawn chorus welcoming morning’s early light.

    Birds in particular have always held a special place in my heart. Their brightly colored feathers, the endless energy of flickers and woodpeckers drumming on chimney tops, the sweet songs echoing throughout deep woods, and the freedom to fly far away are just a few of the reasons why I loved birds as a child.

    I was an adult before I had the opportunity to hold the tiny body of a wild Black-capped Chickadee. I felt its restless heart beating against the palm of my hand and the soft silky plumage between each finger. Looking into her deep brown eyes, I was humbled by her divine Creator and every detail He’d designed into her being.

    Over the years, my passion for birds has passed on to my children. Every spring we plan a special “Welcome Home” gift for our beloved friends. We hope this month’s craft will inspire you to take a closer look at the birds outside your window.

    I usually search the thrift stores for embroidery hoops. For this project a plastic colorful hoop is fun. Applying paint to a wooden hoop will add color and splash. Seed-eating birds don’t care how decorated the hoop is, but the kiddos always enjoy a little bit of paint.

    Materials: Embroidery Hoop (wooden or plastic), beads, fishing line or hemp, window screen, hook, scissors, and bird seed.

    pic 1

    Lay a piece of window screen under the embroidery hoop. Measure an extra 5 inches around the hoop and cut. Treat the screen as fabric and place between the two hoops. Tighten the hoop and cut away the remaining screen. Measure three to four pieces of fishing line to the same length. Tie the fishing line under the hoop and through the screen. For this project I used four lines. Using three lines in the shape of a triangle works well too.

    Pic 2

    Once the lines are tied, start beading. There are many different items to use for beads (colored plastic beads, wooden beads, buttons, pasta, bottle caps and much more). We used plastic beads for this feeder. My son, Grant, counted the number of beads on each line and arranged his colors and shapes to fit his own patterns.

    Pic 3

    Depending on your child’s attention and age, stringing the beads may take a couple of sessions. I enjoyed watching my kids design their own patterns and talk about each color and shape.

    pic 4

    Each line is colorful and unique!

    pic 5

    Once all the lines are filled, tie the ends together. Make sure to adjust the lines for stability and balance or you could have a lopsided birdfeeder. Fill the feeder with seed. We use Black Oil Sunflower seed.

    pic 6

    Find a place to hang the feeder. If a bird feeding station is not already established, always hang the feeder near trees or shrubs. Birds need a place to perch and fly to when not feeding. If this is the first feeder in the yard, be patient and allow up to two weeks for the birds to find it.

    pic 7

    This is Grant’s birdfeeder! Isn’t it beautiful?

    What crafty ideas are you creating to welcome back spring?


Nicole WengerNicole Wenger is the mother of two spunky boys and the wife of her best friend, Chris. She is the founder and director of Science Quest: a science education company which introduces students, parents, and teachers to interactive and affordable science learning. Nicole is the Preschool Director and the Director of Development at The Garden School. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bridgewater State University and a Master of Science in Environmental Studies/Conservation Biology with an emphasis in Ornithology from Antioch University. You can keep up with Nicole, her family, and their adventures in home education, crafting, birding and loving the outdoors at

A Return to Chivalry

    By Renee Miller

Many of us are lamenting our culture’s quick descent into coarseness and vulgarity. How do we even begin to slow this free fall so we can inject some civility? One area we’ve given some thought to as a school are rites of passage for our teens.

One rite of passage most of us are familiar with is High School Prom. I’ve begun to wonder: when did reasonable parents decide it was okay for their daughters to dress like street-walkers, spend all night in the company of a boy of questionable morals (or even a boy with impeccable morals), and have the school hire cops to police the craziness? Having worked with teens for years, I can assure you most of the fun has gone out of the event. I think it’s time to take another look at what these events could be like for our children who are coming of age.

Here are a few examples of how we’ve tried to do this in the Garden School community:

First, we teach the teens how to dance. We have some people in our community who have been willing to teach them how to swing, waltz, folk, and contra dance, all while interacting with several different age groups. This has the added bonus of teaching lifelong skills that will give them confidence at things like weddings and other social and cross-cultural events.

Next, we encourage them to learn manners. Yes, the young men open the doors for the young women, pull out their chairs for them, learn how to ask someone to dance, and even how to hold their forks. The girls learn to be gracious and how to dress so as not to scandalize everyone present and even be comfortable when dancing. Indeed, it is the ancient beauty of chivalry that has currently been thrown aside-and for a poor substitute.

And then we take them out to a classy community event. Our local symphony has a yearly fundraiser where they play big band music. The dinner is first-rate. Once our students experience dancing to a live orchestra, dressed to the nines, it is pretty hard to beat. We call it promenade. And not just the students attend, but their parents, too. We all look forward to this yearly event.

Garden School's promenade on March 19th, 2013. Image courtesy of Rachael Koschak.

Garden School’s promenade on March 19th, 2013. Image courtesy of Rachael Koschak.

What are your ideas for bringing civility back into our communities?

    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School.”) Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.

On Excellence and Good Spelling

    By Renee Miller

Scrabble-words[1]Spelling does matter. It is a discipline our children should be expected to learn from a young age. Charlotte Mason says that if a young child spells a word incorrectly, cover it up. Learning something correctly the first time saves the student from the extra effort of breaking a bad habit later. This flies in the face of the current prevailing wisdom, “It doesn’t matter how or what they write, as long as they write.”

Much has been said about how overzealous correcting can ruin a child’s desire to write. While there is some truth to this, I have seen far more damage done by teaching filled with false praise and low expectations. Lack of fluency in writing is often owing to the lack of confidence in one’s ability to write or spell well. Actually knowing how to spell and write with assurance frees up a student from worrying about mechanics, and allows them to focus on his or her thoughts and convey them effectively.

Good spelling is not a sign of intelligence, but poor spelling does give the impression of a lack of education or attention to detail. While good spellers are typically detail-oriented people, those of us who don’t fit into that category can still learn and at the very least keep a dictionary on hand if we need to.

Although easiest when learned early and correctly, it is never too late to become a proficient speller. The factory system of government schools has given us the impression that learning happens in yearly increments, and if you miss the time when a particular skill is taught, you will always be behind or need years of remediation to catch up. This thinking is never helpful. A great number of things can be learned in a short time with attention, diligence, and a belief in the worthiness of the endeavor.

The old-fashioned spelling bee was beneficial with this in that it reinforced the sequential nature of spelling. Time in the car driving can be put to good use reviewing the Ayres 500 Most Frequently Used Words List, and the one-on-one nature of homeschooling allows for quick correction in context and individualization for each student. As the student progresses to learning inflected languages like Latin, spelling is imperative.

We need to expect excellence from our children and ourselves in every area of education, including spelling. As we raise up this next generation of leaders (our children), let’s equip them with the skills and tools they’ll need to communicate with clarity and power.

What has been helpful for you in teaching your children to become good spellers?

(As one final tip, check out the “Freebies” tab at the top of this page to find out the unique way Garden School/homeschooled student Elizabeth Veldboom learned to spell!)

Some outstanding resources:
The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa
The Writing Road to Reading, Romalda Spaulding


    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School”). Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.