To Everything There is a Season


    By Monica Cappelli

(Editor’s note: Please excuse us for the delay in posts. We’ve been having some technical difficulties and are working diligently to fix them. We’ll resume our regular posting as soon as possible.)

Autumn = Baking.

Muffins. Bread. Cake. Pies. When autumn days are crisp and a roaring fire warms the night, my circadian clock chimes the magic words, “Let’s bake!” My family agrees.

Autumn is a wonderful time to bring your kids into the kitchen. Yes, as a homeschooling mom and nerd, I appreciate the math lessons inherent in any baking project. As I parent two ten-year-olds, I love having a fun and delicious way of teaching basic homemaking skills such as planning a dessert to complement dinner (especially if you plan to eat dessert first), shopping for a recipe and, best of all, kitchen clean-up. Gifting baked goods is also a yummy opportunity to teach your child the Godly art of hospitality: Invite a friend for tea and scones; be a great guest and take along a treat when you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, and give baked goods to home-bound or sickly people in the community. And nothing says “geography” like preparing desserts or meals from other times and cultures. Most importantly, though, I love the creativity my kids experience as they measure, mix, adjust, embellish, decorate, and anticipate eating their yummy confections.

Over the years, strangely enough, I’ve discovered a happy truth: even ugly baked goods are delicious! Trust me, I’ve received several unappetizing custom creations over the years, and I have never ever turned one down. Lopsided loaves, rubbery rolls, fallen cakes, terribly “crispy” cookies, sunken cupcakes, and even sad-looking pies (private joke, dear Renee), can be redeemed with laughter and a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s — or a serious whirl of whipped cream! Moreover, a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar is like fairy dust to an ugly pie
crust! In other words, you’ll be able to survive with grace and encourage your child’s earliest forays into the world of baking. Know that friends, kind neighbors, aunts and uncles, grandparents and pastors (especially the last two) are willing recipients of even the most disastrous dessert gift when presented by your child with their very proudest grin.

Last week I posted some of the kids’ and my favorite bread recipes (yes, on Facebook! Yes, I spend too much time there. Yes, it’s a problem.) That post led to requests for gingerbread from friends. Those requests (slurping solicitations, really) led to this article. Which leads me to invite you all to post or link to kid-friendly recipes or some of your other autumn favorites!

P.S. Those ugly pie crusts? Yep. They’re mine. Somebody, help me, please. I could really use a good high altitude recipe!


    Monica Blog PicMonica 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.

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.

7 Ways to Conquer Your Morning Routine

Last week Monica Cappelli shared a few links to some great resources. Continuing in the spirit of that, we found an awesome article with some great tips about how best to maximize your mornings.

To read the article, visit “Joyful Mothering” here:

Time to Share Your Great Learning Resources and Ideas


    By Monica Cappelli

Reading. Writing. Math. Grammar. Vocabulary. Logic. History. Foreign Languages. Geography. Art. Science. Life-skills. Drama. Sports.




Science! Advanced math! Science! Advanced math with basket weaving?

Since you’re the “most” fun, active, patient, upbeat, confident, multi-talented, knowledgeable and energetic parent in the world you’ve probably never struggled or worried about teaching any of these subjects. Good for you! But since there can be only one “most awesome parent ever,” the rest of us . . . well, we need help!

Enter family games, online learning, co-op learning, apprenticeships/internships, field trips, travel, and community resources. It’s important to use these and any other opportunities you can find to insert variety, depth, experiential learning, and fun into your family’s learning journey. Burn-out, fatigue, frustration, boredom, resistance, and daydreaming can result from a dearth of variety. Beware: your children might begin to exhibit some of these symptoms, too. Hang in there!

Today I will scratch the surface of the world of digital enrichment opportunities. Following are a few of both the online and software resources I have found to be of tremendous help to my family.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courseware): Free college courses?! Yes! Moreover, they neither require matriculation nor discriminate based on age. MOOCs will issue certificates of completion, and some may offer limited fee based credit courses in the near future. These are great tools to supplement, enrich, or accelerate your student’s education, to sample college level work, or to “observe” and prepare before taking a similar for-credit college course. Another benefit is cultural enrichment, as students gain meaningful real-world insights by engaging in mandatory discussion forums with students from all over the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes I took last spring after learning about MOOCs from a homeschooled 8th grader in a local homeschool group – so parents, let’s go! These MOOC aggregator websites list and link to thousands of online class opportunities: or

Individual K-12 subjects, and even full curricula, are readily available online or on disc. Computers are supremely well suited for certain tasks. Typing instruction; flash card creation and review; computer programming (SCRATCH, and others); math drills (Reflex Math, IXL, or many free math websites); spelling/vocabulary exercises (Spelling City, Literacy Planet, Word Voyage [I LOVE Word Voyage!]); oral reading fluency (Reading Assistant, Fast ForWord and others); curriculum enrichment videos (Discovery Streaming, Brain Pop); and Theater (PBS online, and Digital These great tools can help alleviate concerns like eye-rolling boredom, “Am I covering all of the basics?” “How do I fill those aggravating gaps?” or, “Hey, I need a little help here!”

There are many on- and off-line resources available – please share your favorites in the comments section below. Go ahead and post your questions, too – I’m sure you’ve got a few!

Our blog readers look forward to sharing and learning about the great learning tools your family enjoys!


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.

You Might Be From The Garden School If…


    By Elizabeth Veldboom

1) You know that “The Rock” is more than just an ex-wrestler turned lousy actor.

2) You have ever had nightmares about forgetting your lines.

3) You know that Latin is not a dead language. It should be, but somehow they keep reviving it.

4) The names “George Grant” or “Paul Johnson” have ever struck fear into your heart.

5) An “Opportunity” means more to you than an amazing chance coming your way. Rather, it is a strategic plot designed to get you to ponder an early demise.

6) You’ve ever had class at a Starbucks and/or Target.

7) The Morley knows all. Period.

8) You could make the Guinness World Records for the most khaki ever worn on a single person.

9) You have seen at least one thing blow up during a 40-hour presentation.

10) You have ever spontaneously burst out singing.

11) You compare every grandma you know to Nonny. Maybe even your own. Or really anyone.

12) You know who Nonny is.

Garden School teachers, parents, students, and grads–what did I miss?! What would you have put on this list? I’d love to hear what you come up with!

And for our readers from out of state: What out of this list caught your curiosity?! Let us know, and we’ll give you the story behind it!

Have fun, guys! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.


    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

Come to the Quiet

    By Jennifer Marvin

It’s a noisy day in the neighborhood. Through the doors and windows, opened earlier to let in a rain-sweet breeze, the racket from landscape workers and their machines rattles my thoughts. Lawnmowers roar, weedeaters whine, leafblowers buzz, men shout and laugh, jackhammers clatter, engines clang…

I pace my apartment, sliding glass windows and doors shut, turning the outside volume down about 1/4. It’s not enough to let me think, and I begin to feel frantic. Maybe I should drive to the library? Should I complain to the management? Am I the only one in the building who feels assaulted by the sounds of lawn care?

The verse comes to mind “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10.) For about the thousandth time in my life, I wonder how to do that, how to be still. My parents taught me music, how to read, cook, do math in my head…they tried to teach me to be honest, to pay my debts, to respect the human dignity of each person…but I don’t remember them ever instructing me in how to be still. As far as that goes, did I teach my son how to be still? Like my parents before me, I taught my progeny to read – print and music – taught him basic piano, music theory, how to play a plethora of board and guessing games, how to cook; we read the Bible, prayed and sang and hiked and camped and dragged blankets out to the backyard at 2 a.m. to see meteor showers and identify constellations. But did we ever even talk about how to be still and know God? I asked him about this and, though he remembers doing yoga along with “Lilias” on educational TV, and “oming” along with the hippies at the Farm in Tennessee when he was eight, he assures me I didn’t talk to him about how those might help still the mind, and that until he learned to meditate from his own explorations of Buddhism and Tai Chi in his early 30’s, he lay awake till the wee hours with his mind racing.

As did I until my early 30’s.

The summer my son was nine he went to spend time with relatives in Wyoming, and I took time off from being mother and instructor to stay in a hut on the side of a mountain in a monastery where all kept a vow of silence. I discovered there that the constant barrage of aural stimuli from outside me was nothing compared to the noise between my own ears, where 17 radios of my mind, each tuned to a different station, muttered and nattered and waxed incoherent without let-up.

I learned a little bit that summer about quieting the internal racket. But I grieve that I imparted none of what I had learned to my son. Why did I not consider quieting the soul as important a skill as reading and making music? I had not yet heard John Michael Talbot’s soothing album of musical settings for many of the Psalms, “Come to the Quiet.” But I began reflecting on the Psalms. Psalm 4:4: “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” The word translated “still” there, Strong’s 1826, is translated in other places as rest (in Psa 37:7, “rest in the LORD”, cease, quieted (Psa 131:2 “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself/ my soul”), tarry, wait (Psalm 62:5, “My soul, wait thou only upon God”), forbear, and peace.

“Behold, I have stilled myself…” So this is not something that just happens, it’s something I can — must! — deliberately do, something that can be learned. I studied the Apostle Timothy’s counsel that women should “learn in silence 2271 with all subjection” and discovered that the Greek word translated “silence” there is not necessarily the same as “making no sound.” Another word — sigao 4601 — is used to mean “silence” in the sense of “holding peace” or making no sound. But 2271, hesuchia, is used to describe stillness, i.e. desisting from bustle and commotion. So it’s not that we should refrain from speaking in the congregation — it’s that we should refrain from being all stirred up, agitated, in the midst of worship, prayer, and the Word…

I discussed this recently with a homeschooling mom of 8 and 10-year-olds, and was excited to hear that she actually instructs them, explicitly, in quieting themselves. While reading Psalm 131 one morning, the youngest asked her “What does that mean?” After talking about being quiet within, as well as being noiseless, she put a 5-minute timer on, and invited her girls to be silent and “wait upon” God, with the expectation that when their own voices were stilled, their spirits would begin to be less “ruffled up” and they would hear God speaking to them. After the timer went off, her younger daughter reported that God had told her “Everything will be okay. You are God’s child and He will take care of you.”

Scientific studies have shown that just 5 to 10 minutes a day of meditation increases people’s happiness. Regardless of the specific faith in whose context the discipline of quieting the soul is practiced, a study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggests that meditating for just a few minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, happiness and empathy. This is an amazing idea: that we can do something that actually changes the structure of our brains and increases our capacity for compassion and happiness. “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the delightfulness of Adonai, and to meditate in His temple.”

The paths we take in search of happiness often lead to frustration and suffering instead. We try to create outer conditions that we believe will make us happy. But it is the mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. This is why we can be deeply unhappy even though we “have it all”—wealth, power, health, a good family, etc.—and, conversely, we can remain strong and serene in the face of hardship.

Do you believe that happiness is a skill to be cultivated? Are you able to deliberately let go of agitation, to still your soul? Do you have a regular time of specifically teaching your children how to quiet their minds?


With a degree in Modern Languages and Bilingual Education, Jennifer has taught Spanish, Russian, Latin, and Bible, coordinated weekly chapel, and tutored Hebrew at The Garden School. She homeschooled her son before sending him to Sarasota Christian School, and is an avid advocate of home cooking, home remedies, home birth, and home death as well.

On Being in Community



    By Renee Miller

Over the years many unique and interesting families have been a part of our community: Christian, non-Christian, gifted children, special needs children, above average children, below average children, families with means, families who sacrifice to pay tuition–the list goes on. With so much diversity, how do we handle so many people as they come into our communities? How do we even create community? For those of us who feel passionately called to Christian education–both at home and in the private school setting–one of the most difficult areas in which to find balance is between family and community.

Where is the healthy balance? After many years of homeschooling and private schooling, I can assure you that I do not have the answer. However, I think a continuing dialogue is important.

As we cast about for a vision of Christian community and Christian education, it will likely emphasize rebuilding paradigms around healthy families, raising abysmally low educational standards, and promoting Christian ideals in dress, courtship, and basic civility. Creating this kind of culture is a full-scale battle. So how are families approaching this community-building?

On one extreme, I’ve observed families who focus entirely on their own children’s gifts and talents, and see the community as a threat to raising Godly progeny. These families can be quite critical of the areas where community falls short. Somehow, the community never measures up theologically, behaviorally, socially or otherwise. They tend to have unreachable and naïve expectations of what can be accomplished with a group of sinful, fallen people awash in the sewage of our generation. Jesus can transform us all in amazing ways, but it is hard work on everyone’s part.

In the other extreme, parents rely on and continually seek other people to do the job for them. These families hope that the parenting thing will not be too costly or time-consuming. They are often more consumer-oriented, on board as long as it is working well for their children. Their commitment can be short and fun, and like our general consumer culture they move quickly on to the next bigger or better thing. They’re glad to benefit from other people’s hard work and investment yet very reluctant to sacrifice for someone else.

All families need people who will come alongside them and help create safe havens of community where they can be challenged and nurtured. Families need for us to not simply say we don’t have the expertise, money, or experience to deal with their difficult situations. We are keenly aware of the millstone around the neck story and the incredible challenge to bless children and not irrevocably harm them. So we need to be careful to not whisk by in our minivans with fish on the back and leave families lying bruised by the roadside.

Working with people and being in community is hard but rewarding. It is the very practical side of learning to work with people we can’t stand, who are merely reflections back to us of all the miserable things we don’t like about ourselves. It is about modeling for our children how to resolve conflict and develop the discernment to know what is of eternal significance.

Fortunately, we are mercifully in possession of God’s Word, which has the wisdom to help us navigate the rocky roads of relationships creatively–and sometimes miraculously! It’s in the Word that we can find solutions to the problems that come to us.

Our triune God exists in community. He calls us into community. He calls us into families. When we get it right, however fleeting the moment, it reflects the character of God to the world in a way that few other things can.

You are Invited to Respond: What’s a situation you’ve been in where you’ve seen a true community at work?


    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.