The Secret to Success

    By Elizabeth Veldboom

Today I’d like to take the time to look at the varying means of higher education, and just what it takes to succeed.

I know a lot of parents who are worried about the “post-high school phase” for their children, and though in today’s culture we are very blessed to have more than one option available to us, those same options can also be very overwhelming. Traditional colleges, trade schools, online schools-how do you choose?

There are many arguments surrounding which course is the best one to take, but I’m not here today to shove a bunch of statistics at you or plead any one path.

Success, I believe, comes down to the individual. Can a 4.0 student from a prestigious college do very well and succeed in a career? Absolutely, yes. Conversely, can another student attend that same college and leave thousands of dollars in debt and no better off than when they first arrived? Yes.

Same college, different experience. Why?

Because education is and should always be unique to the individual. What works for one person will not always work for another.

For me personally, the right choice was an online school for writing. Not only would a traditional college have been financially difficult for my family to maintain, but my focus was also in one very specific area. I didn’t see the point in trying to get a degree in creative writing and then be required to take numerous other classes that actually had nothing to do with writing.

Although the school I ended up choosing is not technically accredited and recognized by the majority of people, so far not a single editor has worried about that or even asked me if I have a degree. Instead, they look at the product: is it good writing?

I have another friend who graduated high school and started her own clothing store without taking a single business course. You might think that would spell disaster. Instead, her store took off and has been named “Local’s Choice” for three years running.

A family friend failed to graduate from high school by one credit, and yet, within a year’s time he was promoted to a high-paying managerial position. How did he do that when he didn’t even have a high school diploma? His work ethic. He was good at his job and he didn’t stop until the job was done.

Another friend found her life’s calling through attending a local college and getting involved in a nonprofit organization, and yet another started her own photography business after taking just a few classes.

All that to say this: success is not defined by the education or lack of education you receive. It’s what you choose to do with the education you’re given.

It’s not the college you go to, the degree you receive, or even pursuing higher education at all. Although our culture would have you think differently, I believe it’s much more simple than that.

Benjamin Franklin knew the secret. So did Albert Einstein. The pioneers and inventors and founding fathers knew it, and this is the “it” that we’ve got to get back to: be good at what you do. Know how to work hard. Learn how to learn, and have integrity in your work.

It may be a simple formula, but it’s a formula that’s been tested and proved.

So if I can encourage you at all today, maybe I can encourage you by saying this: don’t worry about training your child into a certain model of education the world says they should fit into, but rather, focus on training a hard worker of good character. Do that, and you’ll have trained them how to succeed in any situation they’re given.

And as just one final thought? “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3, NLT.)

Commit your child to the Lord’s loving care, and you’ll see them soar.

How do you define success?

(Dear readers: I just wanted to let you know that my devotion “No Higher Love” will be appearing in the July/August edition of “The Upper Room Magazine”! If you’re interested in ordering a copy, you can find out more at their website: You will also be able to view it online at the same place on next Saturday, July 6. Thank you, and I can’t wait to see you there! -Elizabeth)


    Elizabeth 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


Selling Your Kids

    By Patrick Koschak

sales-success1[1]Sales training of all kinds will tell you that sales is not about giving your prospective client your carefully prepared spiel. It is not about lecturing them on your product or service. It is not about demanding a sale every time you see them. This is how a lot of “salespeople” approach the selling process, but the fact is most salespeople are not very good at their jobs.

When I started out in sales, I have to admit I was not very good at it. I did a lot of those things I am criticizing now. I wanted to bowl over my prospects with impeccable logic, and if I could have, I would have dove over their desk and throttled them until they gave me the sale I was chasing. I was overly aggressive, and nearly bulldozed some clients into giving me an order. Looking back, some of them probably gave me orders just to get me out of their offices.

The irony is that the lessons we learn usually apply to more than just one part of our lives, don’t they? Yeah, life is kind of integrated that way. For instance, I found that a lot of sales concepts readily applied themselves to being a parent. Sales are actually about connecting with people, and the best sales are about building relationships. A parent is “selling” their kids on something every day, aren’t they?

Let me throw a couple of these “sales rules” past you and see what you think.

“Always get a customer talking about themselves.”

The idea is to express interest in them as human beings and to encourage them to open up. You don’t try to pry it out of them, but you do want to engage them where they are. You get a person to begin talking about something they enjoy, and before you know it, an hour has passed. They get enthused and maybe even excited.

The hard part of doing this requires you to “let go of the reins” in a conversation and let your customer take the lead. With your kids, this means you have to refrain from always telling them about your opinions or what you like to do. Maybe you will have to engage them in a chat over a video game they enjoy, or a new craft project, or something that you don’t find very interesting at first. I would bet that you will actually begin to catch their excitement if you give it a chance.

“Ask a lot of questions and listen.”

This is related to the above since sometimes you have to prime the pump for more open conversation. Questions are how you can get them to that point so you can let go of those reins. This works the best when you are not trying to follow a particular agenda apart from just getting to know them. If you are, it will most likely dissolve into an interrogation. Do not feel that you have to come to some kind of resolution with every question. Do not answer your own questions.

“Show a client you are interested in their success, not just your own.”

father_daughter_telescope[1]You will really struggle with this one if you have not done the previous two. The reason is that if you are not listening or encouraging their open interaction with you, you will most likely just impose your own desires, hobbies, or definitions of success onto your kids without knowing it. You will try to mold an idol in your own image, and not necessarily into what God has chosen for them.

Being captivated by God’s plan for them might mean helping them to pursue a calling that you yourself do not enjoy or honor. You might be helping to build up a painter, engineer, banker, video game designer, author, homemaker, professor, graphic artist, athlete, politician, preacher, or even a salesperson. The point is to honestly show your kids that you are sold out for their dreams and not yours.

“Always consider the long-term.”

Are you in it for the quick sale? Is it all about getting them to obey right now? Do you think your job is done when they turn 18 or when they are done with college or when they get married? Where have you drawn your finish line? When are you aiming for?

All of our interactions with our kids should be with eternity in mind. Just like the best sales relationships are long-term, our parental relationships should be life-long endeavors between friends. If we are too preoccupied with today, and lose track of the long tomorrow, it is more likely this relationship will not be very fruitful.

So tell me; when was the last time you tried to sell your kids?


    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

The Garden

    By Shilo Bartlett

cover-gardening[1]We have just finished planting our first “official” garden this year. It includes the usual tomatoes, basil, watermelon, onions, parsley and peas. It has a small fence around the climbing tomatoes so they can have a nice sturdy fence to climb up. It has a ground cover to keep the weeds out. It also has a drip hose with an automatic timer so that the seedlings don’t dry out in the sun. It has all this, and we are ever so proud of it. Small as it may be, it contains months of planning, thought, and hard work.

This small garden contains everything essential to the learning process, in my opinion. I grew up watching (and sometimes helping 🙂 ) my mother plant an enviable garden every year. It was one of our favorite things to do as kids to run out and just eat as much as you could – sweet peas being the favorite. We would just pick and eat! I remember thinking, “What an amazing part of nature that we can just put a small seed in the ground, and voila! You have food!”

The lessons I learned from my mother while watching her dutifully plant, water, weed, and care for that garden has shaped the way I look at many things:

1) The dedication to a goal – that is essential in the gardening process.

2) The strict accountability to no one but the plants; to take care of something that will not respond or talk back, but will show you results if you are patient enough.

3) The ability to see the future. To not look at what is in front of you now, but look forward to what will come.

4) To plan for your family’s needs outside of what the world and society have provided.

5) To want to give your children the best food you can possibly provide.

These are all lessons that I strive to achieve in my own life today. I am devoted to the ideals that my mother and her garden gave me.

This is why my small little plot that my children have helped put together in these past few weeks is such an amazing part of our little lives. I am looking forward to the late summer and fall harvest when I’ll watch my children run out to eat those fresh tomatoes and peas, just like my mother before me.

Happy summer everyone!

Do you garden? If so, what is your favorite part of gardening?


    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.

Of Hope and Hope Chests

    By Dave Miller

For this special Father’s Day blog, I would like to start with a big hypothetical high 5 to all the dads out there who are doing what you’re called to do. And, if you’re not getting it done as a dad, fix it! After all, you’re a dad—that’s what we do: fix things!

I will also spare you the usual platitudes about being a father–leave that to the Hallmark cards you’ll hopefully get next Sunday. And I’m not going to tell you how wonderful you are or how rotten you are. You probably have a pretty good idea where you stand anyway. Instead, if you have been blessed with a daughter or two (or in my case, six!), I have one practical piece of wisdom to impart: By the time she’s thirteen or so, be sure your daughter gets a hope chest.

You may not even know what one is. I didn’t really until my wife Renee told me about them and, “Didn’t I want my daughters to each have one”? (She’s good with ideas like that.) I learned that hope chests are a special place where my daughters can start secreting away the things they will need one day to start their own families. Things like bedding, china and silverware; books, diaries, and family photos; and the mementoes of their growing up years. Hope chests are usually lined with aromatic cedar to discourage moths. This gives it that distinctive scent whenever it’s opened.

You can Google “hope chest” and find many examples in all different price ranges. I paid a friend of mine to make my daughter Kellie’s hope chest. It came out beautiful. Better yet, if you have the skills, make it yourself. Your daughter will treasure it forever.

A hope chest casts a vision for your daughter. It says to her, “Your mom and I have great hopes for your life. You’ll be out on your own soon, maybe even starting a family of your own. These are the things you will need and want.” This is such a positive message to give our daughters as they begin to think about their future apart from us.

Moms: What would you suggest your daughter puts in her hope chest? If you had a hope chest, what did you keep in it?


    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.