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


Cultivating Confidence

    By Renee Miller

self-confidence[1]A while back, a teacher at a local dance studio commented that our Garden School students show a lot of self-confidence. She said they’re always “game” and willing to try new things. I’ve noticed this, too, and was reflecting on what helps to instill this quality in our children.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

We try to keep a lid on kids ridiculing each other. This is often their first response when they feel nervous or afraid themselves. It is also common in most of our own school experiences. So it takes a concerted, conscious effort to develop a school culture where the students respect each other and support one another’s efforts. We give our students lots of opportunities to succeed in a supportive environment, and that builds their confidence.

This is not to be confused with the “Oh, Johnny, you’re so amazing” nonsense when, in fact, he’s not, and we both know it. Truth must always under gird any culture where we expect respect. Boys especially can’t stand empty falseness. This means there is a time when a student’s effort is questioned and he or she is encouraged to do better.

Also, we are of the opinion that every child is uniquely gifted for a purpose in this world. This powerful idea intrigues children. We aren’t expecting them to excel at everything. Instead we ask them, “What has God given you a passion for?” and, further, “How can you encourage another student to discover his or her areas of giftedness?” This is quite different from the notion that you can be anything you want to be.

Another thing we do is to foster an environment that has rich, multi-age interactions. A group of thirty 13-year-old girls just don’t behave as well as a group of thirty girls from the ages of 2 to 80. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time with groups of junior high girls. It tends to bring the best out in people to be aware that they are setting an example for someone else or being admired by a younger person.

This brings us to keeping them from being raised in an environment where they learn to be peer dependent, or where they would only do something because it was “approved” by their group. I’ve found the best way to move children from this mindset is through significant time with family and the community at large. What makes a student successful in the local high school does not make him or her successful in life. Bill Gates is credited with saying, “Be nice to nerds. You will probably work for one.” This will become obviously apparent to our students as they spend time with other adults who are worthy of imitation.

While it’s difficult to put my finger on just what exactly fosters confidence in students, I hope the above thoughts will spur our readers to explore this topic further and leave comments below.


    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.

Books, Glorious Books!

    By Monica Cappelli

books[1]There’s just something about books. The weight, the texture, the smell. The feeling that they’ve been thumbed through before. The stimulation derived from communicating with great minds across the ages.

I am an avid Bookie. My children have inherited that passion, so some areas of our home are rather overrun with tomes from days gone by. All kinds of fiction, nonfiction, and those curious creations, Historical Fiction (how does one classify these?!)

A few years ago I was given a Kindle eReader (love it!) But still, my predilection for paper often gets the best of me. I’ve visited amazing libraries and bookstores over the years in many parts of the world. I’ve also visited countries where bookstores and libraries are extremely difficult to find, and literacy takes a backseat to more pressing concerns of life. That, to me, is terribly sad. Of all places on earth, those are where people have the greatest need for great ideas.

Still, while many tourists visit museums and famous sights, I hunt for the local bookstore or library. There, I meet real people: the locals, who are so often curiously similar to the characters dwelling within the bound pages.

If I were to write a book of my life, most of it would be about reading!

As a youngster I read copious amounts of literature, encyclopedias, as well as the dictionary to escape to worlds of wonder populated by both real and fictional heroes, villains, and my own imagination. During middle school and high school I discovered books were the gateway to broader horizons with subjects I would never learn about in school, but could plumb to my heart’s delight at the library.

Even now, my heart thumps with the same enthusiasm as my little girl when we call “Library Day!” Nowadays we declare Library Day rather liberally; some homeschool days start at the library and end when our eyes are crossed with fatigue. You see, I really am addicted-three hours of labor during my last pregnancy were spent at Borders! I didn’t leave until I really had to (when other patrons began displaying sympathetic labor pains.)

Some of my favorites?

From my elementary years:

Who Will Comfort Toffle?
The King’s Stilts
Hilty: The First Hundred Years

In junior high:

All Tolkien – everything he ever wrote.
Til We Have Faces
Gone With The Wind

In high school:
Sister Carrie
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Ethan Frome
Atlas Shrugged
East of Eden
The Count of Monte Cristo


The Kite Runner
Unaccustomed Earth

All of Francine Rivers’ novels.

What are some of your favorite books or authors?


    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.

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

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.