Plain of View

    By Shilo Bartlett

IMG_0065Our children as a whole are incredible creations. They have minds that were meant to be shaped and molded from a very young age into what they will eventually become as adults. I personally haven’t been a mom for an incredibly long amount of time (11 years to be exact), but I have observed enough to know that it is much better in the long run to encourage that shaping and molding than to push against it.

I say that because we are in a phase right now with our children where we are greatly appreciating our decision to homeschool them with the Garden School as our supplement. Our kids are shaping and molding every day, and we are watching this happen rather than observing it happen from a distance. The children imitate behaviors they see every day, and we are glad that we can have them watch us and then help change what needs to be changed. We understand that days are not to be thrown away; that every moment needs to be grasped, and that the little things in life matter very, very much.

I have had moments lately with my children where they have challenged me greatly in the area of discipline. They have chores every day that must be taken care of, and then their school needs to be attended to. And we have come to an agreement that they have to be somewhat self-motivated, as I am only one person, not five, and cannot be constantly following their little hands everywhere to pick up after them. But along the way, we have found a very nice key to life… something I have known, and yet hadn’t fully grasped until recently. Let me share a short story to illustrate:

We as a family were at the Sukkot festival at the school a few weeks back, going from booth to booth and enjoying the crafts. At one particular booth, I sat down with my girls on the grass to help them. A little one-year-old girl from another family came alongside us and started watching what we were doing. Pretty soon, we had her saying the words and touching the craft too. We moved to the next booth, and the same thing happened. She was right there beside us on the grass, watching attentively and trying to touch and say what we were doing. Now, the interesting thing is, the minute that we stood up (i.e., were above her plain of view), she would wander away and find something else that she could touch and feel. But the minute we were back down on the grass, she was right there.

Why is this important? Well, my kids and I get along much better when I am living in what I like to call “their plain of view.” Just like the little girl on the grass, she does not see what you see, or hear what you hear. She has her own little world going on at her level every day! Same thing applies to my kids. When I am on their “level,” I see things I would have never seen, hear things I would never have heard if I was just living in “my world.” My children are teaching me every day about all the new amazing discoveries they make, just by being them!

Now the neat part about this is that when applied to our school at home, this principle becomes (and has become), an integral part of how I interact with them. When school needs to be done, I take into account what they have been doing, what they are doing currently, and then how best to apply that to their learning habits. As a practical tool, it has meant the world to us.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little excursion into our world!

How do you apply your child’s learning into your school plan every day? Let me know in the comments–I would love to hear your thoughts!


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.


Raising Our Children to be Like Jesus

    by Renee Miller

Image by Stephen C. Weber.

Image by Stephen C. Weber.

One aspect I love most about Classical and Christian Education is introducing our children to the greatest minds of history and the heroes of the faith. Jesus says in Luke 6:40: “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

I believe this scripture is saying that no one is above Jesus, the ultimate teacher. It is my job as a parent and homeschooler to lead my children to be like Jesus.

The Bible instructs us to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord as we stand up, sit down, and live our lives. This gives me great motivation to continue to grow and learn myself. But it also worries me that I might be limiting my children. So as a humble mother who lives in a small rural town, I try to connect my children with both mentors as well as men and women throughout history who have walked with God and, “it was counted unto them as righteousness.” I’m constantly on the lookout for other mentors who can help my children be more like Jesus.

I find it interesting that who is teaching our children is given so little thought in our current culture. In a study done by the Barna Group Research Institute, upwards of 75% of children will leave the faith of their parents as adults. Is there a connection between who mentors/teaches them throughout their childhood and whether or not they stay faithful? I think so.

I’ve known a number of parents who haven’t left their children with even a babysitter until they turn five. Then they leave their vulnerable child with an adult they don’t even know for 40 hours, five days a week for the next 13 years. Somehow our culture has convinced us this is normal–even desirable–and to question this puts you out of the norm. And, honestly, most kindergarten teachers I know are lovely people, so it seems so reasonable at first.

This leads me to reflecting on comments I heard recently in a lecture by Voddie Baucham. He recounts how people always ask the same questions when they realize he homeschools his children. First, there is always the socialization question. (My answer: “I’m not sending them to school to become a socialist.”) The next question: Is it legal or approved by the government? (“Of course it’s legal and who made it the government’s job to teach my children?”) What struck him was the sameness of the objections. I’ve experienced these questions, too.

When the majority have been schooled by the government, we really do think more the same than we realize. This is in stark contrast to my experience working with our children. They rarely ask the same questions about anything. In contrast to the 75% of children raised in Christian homes but who attend government schools, 95% of homeschooled children will remain in the faith. These are the children who have grown up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, steeped in Biblical wisdom, and nourished by the great men and women of history.

It’s worth noting that the verse before Luke 6:40 reads, “[Jesus] told them this parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?’” Great mentors and teachers are to be found everywhere: in Scripture, in classic literature, in your community, in your home. These teachers will encourage our children to not only “keep the faith,” but to lead our children to be like Jesus.


    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.

The Tiger in the Boat


    By Monica Cappelli

The book The Life of Pi was amazing, fearful, thrilling and allegorical.

As I recently considered re-reading it, the idea for the following post occurred to me.

Energetic, graceful, nurturing, and fun on good days. Heartbreaking, rife with error, and full of regret on other days. My “Life as a Parent” is full of mountains, valleys, triumphs, and mistakes. These are the tiger’s contrasting stripes – faith and doubt, courage and fear, triumph and failure. The tiger is my life in this flesh.

How does one know if the sum total of all your years of parenting – your life poured out on behalf of beautiful, happy, strong-willed, challenging, flawed, adorable little persons (gifts!) – will amount to good in either your lifetime or in future generations?

Sometimes I am able to: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV.)

And for those other times: “Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. . .” (Psalm 19:12-13.)

What contrast!

Oh yes, we are temporal parents. Yet our God, the eternal Father, has a plan and a way that transcends our earthly triumphs and depressions. In that knowledge lies faith, encouragement, and strength – the life boat that carries us (despite our doubts and foibles), through the sometimes cruel waters of life.

Parenting with this perspective leads me to think: As a parent do I want to be remembered as a slave to my own stubbornness and sinful habits? Or on “those days” will I be able to submit to God’s calling on me and humble my heart in apology, then offer life-giving love and warmth to my family, coupled with sincere prayer to God for forgiveness, healing, and restoration?

The latter choice, trusting my Father, (e.g., climbing out of the storm-tossed sea into the lifeboat) is my only option for assurance and peace, given my faith. “Peace. Be still.”

The question is not whether I’m a perfect parent – oh my, I most certainly am not (I’m a tiger: striped with conflicting hues of flesh and spirit)- but rather, do I model faith, hope, love and forgiveness even after I make one of my numerous and inevitable mistakes?

I am glad (very glad!) that our sovereign God is perfectly perfect: loving, parental, concerned, protective, involved, just, strong, forgiving, generous, and completely tender-hearted toward me.

My job as a parent is to keep my lifeboat watertight and afloat – whether the “tiger” is having a good day or not.

Have you seen or read The Life of Pi? What did you think of it?


    Monica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

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.

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