Veritas Press epistula



Feature Article Outside the Comfort Zone by Marlin Detweiler

Educational Helps by Laurie Detweiler

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October 2007


Feature Article


Outside the Comfort Zone


We are creatures of habit. And we don’t handle changes in circumstances very well. So when Laurie suggested we head up into the mountains of western North Carolina for some rest and relaxation following our busy season—summer—I was, shall we say, not thrilled. Neither was Parker, our youngest child. Yet, I knew this would be a good place to start the homeschooling year with Parker. I also knew how depleted I was from the time and effort given to developing the Veritas Press Scholars lesson plans these past several months. So, commit I did.


Parker and I knew that the activities of western North Carolina—fishing, hiking, white-water rafting and hunting—were not our typical activities of choice. And spending some time resting was even less to our liking. I am frequently accused of not being able to sit still and just rest. Guilty as charged. Parker shares my inability. So it was with fear (of boredom) and trepidation we packed the car and headed out. 


The trip did make sense in some ways. Brandon, son #2, had just transferred to North Carolina State University. He shipped out by himself for his new school in late August because we could not go with him then. Travis, son #3, was to begin college at North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA) in Winston-Salem. The school is on a trimester system and starts a bit later than most. He needed to be there on September 5th. We thought we’d help him get settled and then we would head up into the mountains, which are only a couple hours drive away. With the busiest part of the Veritas Press summer season behind us, two cars packed to the gills with two boys, a dog, my wife and I and enough clothes so Travis wouldn’t have to do laundry until Thanksgiving, we headed out from Lancaster.


The drive was scenic and uneventful. Interstate 81 is one of the prettier drives I know, and we enjoyed it. We arrived in Winston-Salem and found the town to be a nice size with some interesting history. Be encouraged to visit Salem Village, the recreated 18th century Moravian settlement near the NCSA campus. Remember John Huss, the 15th century reformer? The Moravian Church was actually the renewal of the United Brethren started by John Huss in the 1400’s in Czechoslovakia.


Travis found his element quickly. As is typical of young men starting college, he had little need for our help. So, after making the requisite purchases from Bed, Bath and Beyond, stocking his refrigerator with acquisitions from the local grocery store and attending a parent orientation meeting with the dean, we headed up into the mountains.


Our first stop was in Ashville at the Biltmore House. You probably need not be told how incredible the place is. The Vanderbilt family gave us a real national treasure when they built it. Another stop that we commend to you. It’s a great place to show children the major changes that occurred during industrialization.


From there we backtracked east and north to Valle Crucis, a tiny little town founded in the 18th century by the Mast family. Valle Crucis means Valley of the Cross. It is a tiny (no traffic lights) town south of Boone. Laurie had found a cabin to rent meeting three criteria; 1. a great view of mountains, 2. dogs were welcomed and 3. high-speed internet. In case the third criteria raises a question, internet service is not contrary to the resting objective, even if it may be a compromise.


We arrived late on a Saturday at the real estate office and picked up the key and directions. They weren’t there so the keys were left out for us. I like this trusting environment already. We had been warned of the need for four-wheel drive, but nothing could have prepared us for the three and a half mile drive up the mountain on unpaved roads that could only pass two cars if each car welcomed the outside ditch with two tires. The steepest climb was reserved for the driveway of the cabin. Developing a different approach to driving was a must.


And there it was. What a beautiful, sleepy place. And we were going to be there for nearly two weeks. Two whole weeks. What would we do for two whole weeks?  


I had brought some books. We had planned some local activities. But we’re talkin’ two weeks—that’s a long time to sit still or at least slow down. That is way, way outside my comfort zone. Laurie just shook her head. She knew the challenge it would be for Parker and me.


And then, little by little, day by day we’d discover really cool stuff or learn really interesting things.


Just the week before we arrived, Appalachian State University, the small mountain university in Boone, had beaten Michigan in football. That’s like David felling Goliath or Frodo making it from the Shire to Mordor. The town was still both unified and giddy. Sports miracles have a way of doing these things, and they are fun to behold.


We spent time hiking, fly fishing, off-roading, rock-climbing, white-water rafting and mining for gems. We took in a football game. We visited with friends and customers. We worshipped with people we had never met. The trip was generously sprinkled with things from outside our comfort zone.


Yet, there was still more time to fill.


And the town had a couple really cool things to explore and experience. The original Mast General Store ( is a must see. It is the oldest general store in America. And it is filled with kid-friendly stuff. It also sells the best bacon I’ve ever eaten. You name it,  you can probably get it there.


But, by far our favorite spot was The Mast Farm Inn ( . It’s not adequate to call it a bed and breakfast. It is really a full-service country inn. A Frenchman by the name of Henri Deschamps, along with his wife and daughters, moved to Valle Crucis to purchase, renovate and run the inn.


We really hit it off with them. It started by driving by and thinking the place was charming—a nice place to have dinner. We stopped and made a reservation. We did not get a chance to stay there, but they were most hospitable and let us see many of the rooms. To say the least, they were very impressive.


At dinner our first impression was how incredibly reasonable the price was for a truly gourmet meal. What was even more impressive was how good it was. But the coup de grace was the fact that the menu was customized. They cleverly wove various aspects of the patrons’ lives into the dinner item descriptions on the menu. Give Henri your name and high-speed internet and you never know what he will learn about you to weave into that evening’s menu. We laughed the whole way through dinner. And we came back a second night.


Henri joined us for dessert both nights. As we sat on the front porch of the inn, we learned of his wonderful family and vision for the Mast Farm Inn. We learned of the history of Valle Crucis and his neighbors. We learned of his Porsche rental business. But that’s another story, entirely. Even the people in the mountains who are driven to accomplish know how to relax. We learned a bit about that, too.


Quite honestly, we love cities and all they have to offer. We enjoy playing golf and many other sports. Yet, stepping out like this was a remarkable experience. Scripture teaches us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.


For us, stepping outside our comfort zone was a great way to reflect on the expanse and beauty of God’s creation, providence and goodness. It was also a means to learn how to better love our neighbor. If all we do is the same thing day after day, season after season, year after year, we can end up rather stale and narrow in our exposure and relationships. Exposure like this for our children seems quite important to their education—especially at a time when they need to learn of the expanse that God has made and to relate to others who are quite different than they are.


So, if hiking is your thing, consider a hike through a city. If you live in Denver, visit the ocean. If books are your thing, try a basketball game. Step out and learn how other people live. The Christian community will be much better for it.


And, in case you were wondering, we did rest some, too. It was much better than I thought.


Marlin Detweiler


Educational Helps


Many times we think of summer as the time to enjoy nature, but fall is a wonderful time to see the beauty of the universe. As you have probably already read in Marlin’s article, we have just gotten back from being in the mountains of North Carolina. It is hard not to look out over the mountain ranges as the sun is coming up and not want to shout about the glory of the Lord. It still amazes me that people can look at the creation and not see the Creator. It is important for us to realize as we are educating our children that one of the things we need to do is to enjoy God’s goodness and beauty in His creation.


When our children were younger, they would often collect “treasures” as they played outdoors. I would have them place their treasures in a decorated shoe box to use later. When one of those rainy days came along we would pull out their boxes and come up with a craft from what they had in their box and a few staples that I kept on hand. We still have many of those treasures hanging on our Christmas tree or in frames around the house.


We have created some fall projects to make use of the treasures that your children find. Click here to access our download page. Then click on the Nature Walk Crafts link under Free Helps. I hope you have enjoyed the start of your school year and have fun making these projects.


Laurie Detweiler


Free Offer


Free Tea from Abondante Living

You may have three ounces of loose tea from Abondante Living with orders of $100 or more during October. That’s enough for more than 30 cups. Here’s how it works.

1. Click here to go to the Tea Section of the Abondante Living web site.

2. Find the six digit item number for the loose tea you would like. There are several pages of teas listed from which to choose. (Note the term loose must be in the description of the tea.)

3.  When placing your order, tell us you would like the free tea offer and provide us the six digit item number from the Abondante Living web site.




Q. Your curriculum seems advanced compared to many we see. Is it a good thing to have my children ahead of their peers?

A. We frequently hear that our curriculum is advanced. It seems we should ask, “Compared to what?” or “By what standard?” It is certainly advanced compared to many educational institutions in America today. We think that historic standards and some international standards help answer these questions. We recently heard from a customer who had a German exchange student. When the student returned to Germany she was required to repeat her senior year because her education in the U.S. was so lacking. Incidentally, she could already speak five languages proficiently and write proficiently in four of them. Children can do so much more than most systems expect of them. We hope to help change that.


Q. My child is in 5th grade and still struggling with spelling. Do you have any suggestions? It seems like they take a spelling test and get most of them right, but then when they write a paper they spell the same words incorrectly.

A. One of the first questions I would ask is, what are you using for a spelling curriculum? The main reason that we chose the Phonetic Zoo for our spelling curriculum is that it meets the needs of a variety of learning styles. In order to spell well, children need to learn to retrieve sequentially stored bits of information. The Phonetic Zoo teaches the children to spell the word out loud, letter by letter, ensuring the correct sequencing in the brain. When we only look at a word, we only see it as a whole, but when you spell a word it does not come out as a whole word; you must put it down in parts. That is why learning it in sequential order in parts is the best way to accomplish this. We would suggest starting your fifth grader  on Level B and then completing Level C.


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Prospective Student Weekend at New Saint Andrews

October 19–22 the folks at New Saint Andrews College are hosting a prospective student weekend. For more information contact Aaron Rench at NSA was recently featured in a New York Times Magazine article. Click here to read it.


Free Pizza from Pizza Hut

Aren’t free offers supposed to be in the free offer section? Well, yes, if they are from us. This one is just FYI: Pizza Hut has a free pizza offer connected to reading. While there are any number of disclaimers that might be advisable, we will trust you to use your good judgment. Just think of this as a friendly attempt to have one beggar tell another beggar where he can find free . . . pizza. Click here to learn of their children’s reading incentive program.


Build and Grow Program at Lowe’s

The large, home improvement chain Lowe’s has a cool program we thought you might like to know about. It’s called Learn and Grow, and it’s free. The program is held on Saturdays in many of their stores. It’s a great place to expose younger children to working with wood and a great activity for dad to do with his children. Click here for more information.

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