Feature Article – A Warm January by Marlin Detweiler
Educational Helps – by Laurie Detweiler
A Warm January
Depending on where you live, January is the dead of winter—the coldest month of the year. But not for us this year. My in-laws, Laurie’s parents, live in Bonita Springs, Florida. They gave us maybe the best Christmas present we’ve ever received—a month with them in Florida in January! I know what you’re thinking, “A month with the in-laws sounds like something very different than what I think of as my best Christmas gift.” Let me explain.
First, we didn’t stay with them. Not that we would have minded, but their two-bedroom home would not fit our brood of six. Secondly, they paid for everything. Only when we put our foot down did we even have the opportunity to pay for something, let alone return the favor.
So, at noon on Christmas day we left Pennsylvania and headed to Florida with a sedan, a van, two adults, four teenage boys, a border collie, more luggage than the Queen of Sheba brought to visit Solomon and, of course, golf clubs. Driving on Christmas is great—no one is on the roads.
Our five weeks in Florida seem like a blur as we look back. They were filled with golf, jet skis, air boat rides, airplanes and meeting some of the most interesting people imaginable. We knew this would be an enjoyable and much needed break for Laurie and me. What we didn’t anticipate was the real learning and discovery that would occur through the various blessings we were so graciously granted.
I feel a little like I’m asking you to watch my home video of our vacation and for that I apologize. But bear with me. All this self-indulgent testimonial talk will make a point in the end.
One of our main interests in spending an extended time in Florida was so Brandon, son #2, could play golf during the winter to prepare for the upcoming season. He is planning to attend Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., on a golf scholarship next fall, and this seemed a great way to begin preparations. He and I played five to six mornings a week, and as we expected, it was very good. None of the others play much golf, and golf is commonly played in foursomes. We did not anticipate the opportunity this created.
Every time we played we were put with some of the most interesting people. For those of you in Rhode Island, you might be interested to know we played with Patrick Little, the TV Sports Broadcaster. Probably the most interesting person we met was the 88-year-old World War II general. Tears came to his eyes as he related stories to us of his days as a fighter pilot. He’s putting together his memoirs. Maybe we’ll have them in the catalog someday.
I could go on and on, because there were literally dozens of folks, every one with a story, every one fascinating to listen to.
Parker, my youngest, made me proud. He’s had an interest in collecting Nike Air Jordan Basketball shoes and has a web business selling them. Through a whole host of aligned circumstances he found himself talking to Steve Francis, the Orlando Magic point guard. Steve ended up buying twelve pairs of shoes from him, had him as his guest at an NBA basketball game and bought him dinner afterward. Selling basketball shoes to a professional basketball player is a bit like selling ice makers to Eskimos.
Travis probably made me proudest. Late last year he expressed an interest in learning to fly. He researched flight schools, read up on the whole process and dove in. He had not spent one minute behind the yoke of an airplane when we arrived in Florida, but by the time we left he had flown solo. Flying solo means that he flew the plane by himself. The instructor and his parents were left on solid ground—praying. And he did all of this with his own money that he had earned and saved.
As a family we also spent considerable time exploring God’s creation. We visited Everglades City, a throwback fishing town with more airboat captains than school teachers (maybe a slight exaggeration, maybe not). We enjoyed shelling on the beach, visited Sanibel and Captiva, spotted numerous dolphins, manatees, alligators, eagles, osprey and wild boar. Speaking of bore I should probably stop. I’m sure you get the point—we had a blast as a family that will not likely be forgotten.
Now I told you I had a point in all this. Actually there are two.
First, I want to honor my in-laws, Dan and Dianne Killian. They have been wonderful grandparents, have raised up the best imaginable daughter and have always been a terrific pair of in-laws. Their generosity and helpfulness have been a model for my family, and by sharing a bit of this experience, I hope in some small way for yours, too.
Secondly, although each of the boys spent considerable time keeping up with their school work while we were gone, such was not the most effective aspect of their education during this brief period. We cannot expect to manufacture such experiences that last indefinitely, nor should we. Education is first and foremost the grind of working through a math text, wrestling down the sequence or doctrine of Scripture, reading the wonderful primary sources from the past or immersing yourself in the study of Latin or logic. Nevertheless, that is not all that is comprised in an education. A breadth of experiences drastically different than our norm is a good, and maybe necessary, ingredient to a truly liberally educated person. I am so grateful that we have had these kinds of experiences and trust that you will find great value in doing the same with your students and children.
Having grown up in Florida, I have many fond memories of the ocean and the incredible wildlife that inhabits the sea. As you read above, our family has just spent the last five weeks in Florida. I greatly enjoyed sharing some familiar things from my childhood with the rest of my family. Marlin and the boys are very used to my dragging them from museum to museum seeing the historical sights, but most of our time outdoors is spent on the golf course, not out in the wild. Now don’t think that I don’t believe you can enjoy God’s creation in the beauty of an 18-hole golf course, but this was a very different kind of adventure.
Having decided that the boys should experience a ride on an airboat, I got on the internet and researched to find the one that was the least touristy. The boys were good sports and willing to make mom happy, but spending the afternoon riding an airboat in the Everglades was far from their first choice. We arrived at our destination and I was happy to see an experienced (read crusty) man standing on our assigned boat. One look at him and I knew that he was what the natives refer to as a good ole Florida cracker.
We hopped onto the airboat, and as soon as we did, a pelican flew right to the front of the boat, where he not only landed but then proceeded to walk right toward us. He was obviously used to people feeding him and not afraid of anyone.
Soon we left the no-wake zone behind. Our captain opened it up, and off we went, flying through the water. He obviously knew what teenage boys liked, as he careened and flew through the water. He gave the privileged position of boat pilot to Travis until his boss, returning from a tour with a full boat, scolded him.
You may not know this but airboats do not require any depth of water and can come very close to the shore. Our first stop involved taking the boat right up onto a small island where a man named “Ttoch” used to live. He is known for a book that he wrote about life in Florida before it was very inhabited. The boys were able to see the cabin he lived in and got a glimpse of life before running water and electricity. Then we were off to the back country. Our first sight was a nine-foot alligator. True to form, our cracker captain teased the gator into coming up next to the boat. Now at this point the boys began thinking this airboat trip was not such a bad idea after all—pretty cool stuff. Next we went to an island that housed wild boar—dozens of them. If you don’t know anything about wild boar, suffice it to say that they are not the friendliest of creatures. They fascinated our teenagers, too. The rest of the afternoon was spent viewing birds and other animals living in the wild. I don’t know about you, but whenever I am in a situation like that, I always find myself asking, “How can people look at this and not believe there is a God?”
I’ll spare you the details, but another day’s adventure involved jet skis and a dolphin adventure. How wonderful it is to be out in God’s creation enjoying his goodness.
When the boys were younger, and we did trips like this, they always wanted to collect things: shells, rocks, sticks, etc. In fact, our second child, Brandon, is the one who taught his mother that you need to check boys’ pockets before washing their clothes or you might find a very clean lizard floating in the washing machine at the end of the cycle. I used to make boxes for them before our trips in which they could collect their treasures. During our last move I came across one of these treasure boxes full of rocks and dried leaves, and we spent some time that afternoon reminiscing about where they came from.
We are making available a Nature Booklet and materials for making a simple Collector’s Box. Click here to go to the page where you can download the file. You may want to use the items your students collect in a nature study later on and learn more about them by doing some research. Or you may just want to enjoy them for the treasures that they are. Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy spending some time together as a family. I can’t believe I’m saying this but sometimes the best lessons don’t involve books.
Free Sea Shells
We brought back quite a stash of nice sea shells. While our supply lasts we will give you some with any February order upon request. All you need do is ask when placing your order. Or, if you place your order on our web site, simply enter item number SHELLS on the Express Order page and click Add to Order.
Free Sounds of Sanibel CD
Our pastor, Rev. Gregg Strawbridge, has a degree in classical guitar. While serving at a church on the road to Sanibel Island in Florida, he produced this wonderful collection of soothing tropical sounds. You may have one FREE if you request it while placing an order of $50 or more in February (while supplies last). If you place your order on our web site, simply enter item number SANIBEL on the Express Order page and click Add to Order.
Q. Can you refer us to any internet discussion groups of homeschoolers, schools, homeschool co-ops, etc., who use your curriculum as you intend it to be used?
A. If you search the web you will no doubt find some. Unfortunately, we don’t have a handy list of them. Fortunately we will now make one. So, if you would like to have your discussion group, school or homeschool co-op listed on a special page on our web site, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your interest in being listed on this web page.
Q. I have a second grader who is really struggling with learning all of the new vocabulary and pronunciations associated with the history and Bible cards. Do I just keep drilling and drilling and hope he can absorb as much as possible, or is this an indication he is not ready for second grade work?
A. It is not unusual for second graders to struggle with the pronunciation (and some aspects of writing on the worksheets and tests, for that matter) on the history and Bible cards, particularly at the beginning of the year. Just keep plugging along, helping them to sound out the words, and eventually it will click. In the long term this will make for a better reader. We actually expect the first couple months of second grade to require more hands-on by the teacher when dealing with some of these issues.
Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to email@example.com.
7th Annual Pittsburgh Classical Christian Education Conference
Marlin and Laurie Detweiler and Jay Wile will be the keynote speakers at the Pittsburgh Classical Christian Education Conference on Saturday, February 25, 2006, at North Park Church in Wexford, PA. Details and registration information are available at www.blackburnstudycenter.org.
Another Employee Needed at Veritas Press
Several months ago, through an announcement here we found a new key employee who moved here from Nebraska. Now we are losing Sara, who has served us faithfully through her college years and a few beyond. Now she’s moving to Chicago to get married. Why would she want to do that? Anyway we really need to replace her. This is a Customer Service/Clerical position requiring good computer skills. A delightful, patient personality is a must. Inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veritas Academy Open House
Veritas Academy has two remaining open houses planned—Feb. 23 at 7:00 PM and Apr. 4 at 9:00 AM. Each open house provides parents who are interested in considering sending children to the school an opportunity to see the school in great depth. Numerous families have relocated to the area to be part of Veritas Academy and the Christian community here.
Parish Life A Conference on Thomas Chalmers
Noted lecturer George Grant will speak at this conference on February 24–25, 2006 at Christ Community Church, Franklin, Tenn. Dr. Grant leads this weekend conference about the life and influence of the great Scottish pastor, educator, theologian, social reformer, economist and intellectual. Chalmers provides an inspiration for all who yearn to see how the Church should operate in culture by caring for the poor and the community, supporting families in education, leading in the arts and sciences, and providing for the structure of relationships in a true Parish Life. For more information, contact King’s Meadow Study Center at email@example.com or visit www.kingsmeadow.com.
Prospective Student Weekend at New Saint Andrews College (www.nsa.edu)
The more educators discover and appreciate the classical Christian resources at Veritas Press, the more they become interested in learning about New Saint Andrews College. Many of the faculty at NSA have written for Veritas. New Saint Andrews is known for provoking lectures, demanding readings, and personal interaction with professors every week in Oxford-style small group “recitations.” To learn more about their integrated liberal arts degree in the classically reformed tradition, contact Director of Admissions Aaron Rench at (208)882-1566 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Moscow, Idaho-based college has a limited enrollment, with only 140 students from more than 30 states and five foreign countries. The next Prospective Student Weekend is scheduled for March 31–April 3.
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