Tell Us Your Story

talk-bubble_17-416124326[1]At this point, you know a lot about us. But we don’t know a whole lot about you.

So we decided to take a break from the usual this week to get to know you, our readers!

So tell us: what made you first decide an alternative education (such as The Garden School, homeschooling, etc.) fit the needs of your family? Was it a hard decision to make? What advice would you give to parents considering an alternative education for their children?


Guest Post: Feeding Good Behavior

fara_murata_307[1](For one of our first guest posts ever here at The Journal, we are pleased to present Fara Murata! Feel free to welcome her by leaving a comment or two, and make sure to read until the very end for a special bonus feature!)

    Feeding Good Behavior

      By Fara Murata

    We all know that eating right is important, but why is it so hard? When our children are infants we strive to give them the best–then life gets hectic.

    The day starts early and we’re rushed to get the children up and get breakfast. Who has time to make anything? Grabbing something from a box is easier and it can be eaten in the car. Let’s face it, quick food isn’t the healthiest, but it gets the job done. Look in your pantry and see how many things you serve out of a box. Every mom I talk to has good intentions. She buys the boxes that say “organic” or “no sugar added.” That’s good, right? Convenience food has become the norm of our society.

    What most people don’t understand is that what their children eat determines their moods and behaviors. Do they get protein, fruits, or vegetables for breakfast? What do they get for lunch? Are they irritable and fighting? When parents complain about afternoons being the worst time of day, they need to ask: when was the last time my child ate? And, what did she eat?

    Many children eat lunch around 11:00 a.m., so without a snack that means by 3:00 p.m. they will be driving you crazy. You might even feel irritable and crabby. You’ve been running all day, maybe forgot to eat lunch, you certainly didn’t have time for a snack, and now everyone is crabby. You’re all depleted–physically and emotionally. Adults should eat a little something every three to four hours and children every two to three hours.

    If you haven’t eaten in the last few hours your blood sugars are low and your brain is not being supported. Most of us know that food increases blood sugar levels that give us energy, but it also increases chemicals in the brain to support good mood.

    Serotonin is a feel good chemical that keeps us from being down; it also helps children have better behavior. Sugar and protein are foods that increase serotonin. Sugar, or simple carbohydrates, causes serotonin to increase quickly but it runs out quickly too. Protein sustains serotonin for a longer period of time. Sadly, we don’t eat enough protein and we certainly don’t choose it for snacks.

    Providing protein at every meal, and for snacks, is a great way to set your children up for success. Removing all sugary snacks and food is impossible, but decreasing them will help maintain the blood sugar and serotonin balance. Your children will have better behavior, will listen better, will be able to perform better on school tasks, and you will be happier. The extra time it takes will be worth it.

    Reading labels can be helpful in making good choices. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon, so if your cereal has 23 grams it is the same as putting six teaspoons of sugar on their food! The ingredients listed on the label are in order of how much is in the food, so if sugar or high fructose corn syrup is listed in the first five ingredients you’ll know that food is mostly sugar. Fruit, honey, and Agave will add to the sugar grams, but they are good sugars and won’t spike blood sugar levels, which can lead to poor behavior.

    Involving your children in preparing food for meals and snacks is fun and they will be more likely to eat what they help make. This can be a good way to transition your children into choosing better food. Some great snacks are breakfast burritos, egg muffins, cheese Quesadillas, and turkey rolled up with cheese. These are better choices for breakfast and snacks and children can help prepare them.

    Creating a snack drawer in the pantry and refrigerator with food that can be eaten without asking for permission will help create good habits for the whole family. Bagging your own snacks with nuts, fruit, and whole grain cereal are a must–the children will love it. Get out of the boxes and watch your children’s behavior improve. Are you willing to take the extra time and effort to improve your family’s health and mood? As parents, we can choose to feed good behavior with good food.

    Readers: Check out the “Freebies” tab up at the top of this page for a special Egg Muffin recipe from Fara!


      Fara Murata is the mother of two and grandmother of three. She and her husband share a home with her disabled parents and often have the whole family of 20 over. Understanding and implementing nutrition in her family’s diet has been important to changing their health. Fara also uses nutrition counseling in her private practice as a Social Worker to help children and families make positive changes. Follow Fara Murata on Facebook or her website

Two Roads Diverged…


    By Jennifer Marvin

Acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead once commented “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.”

Several years ago, my niece announced her intention to homeschool. Annie and her husband were traveling the country from one renaissance fair to another, performing Celtic music for a living, so it made some kind of sense for them to plan to educate their daughter outside the geographical constraints of a single county public school district. They also had a concern about guarding their daughter from bullying and values discordant with their shared faith…they were Wiccans.

Since all the other homeschoolers I knew were Bible believers, this perspective was jarring to me. What kind of support groups for homeschooling witches had my niece found? What kind of world view were they so committed to perpetuating in their offspring that they were concerned would be threatened by public school’s secular bias? I mean, they would have plenty of support for Halloween observance, reading Harry Potter, and concerns about the ecological protection of Planet Gaia, so what were they worried about?

Even though a professor of education quoted in Penn State News observes that “Most people who choose homeschooling for religious reasons are Christian fundamentalists” who “typically want more control over their children’s curriculum and socialization,” the homeschooling movement attracts families from all religions, races, and socioeconomic classes, as my unusual niece illustrates. Like Margaret Mead’s grandmother, some people choose to teach their children at home because they feel that the public school “dumbs kids down” by pitching to the lowest common denominator, using a cookie-cutter or assembly line approach, despite college teacher preparation programs that stress “individualizing instruction” (as if somebody with a classroom of thirty children can individualize anything!) Teaching at home allows parents to tailor curriculum and pedagogical approaches to suit their children’s temperament, interests, and abilities.

Others want a stronger family unit, want to spend their days involved with and growing close to their progeny. Some parents choose home instruction in order to address special mental or physical needs, while many do so out of concern about the safety of the school environment, with its widespread drugs, violence, or negative peer pressure.

Although homeschooling is a trend that has been on the rise for the last 30 years, and is legal in all 50 states with varying standards and requirements, every state has some form of compulsory attendance law requiring children in a certain age range to spend a specific amount of time being educated. There are still widespread notions that children educated at home are academically and socially handicapped, despite statistics showing the superiority of homeschooled students’ results on various measures of achievement, from spelling bees to college entrance exams. As for socialization, when I first attended a Garden School function and met students who looked me in the eye and spoke articulately and engagingly, that issue was laid to rest for me, at least.

Yet homeschooling does take a commitment of resources, time, and energy way beyond volunteering in a public school room. Is it worth it? Are homeschooling spouses still losing custody battles to a divorcing parent who will place the children in public school? What about’s account of purported police training exercises in some states where an anti-terrorist scenario is acted out against ‘fanatical homeschoolers” rather than, say, right-wing political or radical Muslim extremists? Is parent-directed education a practice whose days are numbered? Is it a choice for which you are prepared to suffer? Has your family experienced benefits from parent-directed education? Are there also legitimate benefits from public school exposure? Are there students for whom, or circumstances in which homeschooling is not structured enough, or is inappropriate for some reason? What are your reasons for choosing the conventional, or the unconventional, learning path?


    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.

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.

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

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.