I don’t quite know where to begin this post…. How do I adequately write about a weekend shared with someone I’ve long admired; a woman who, unbeknownst to her, has acted as a mentor-on-paper? And to top it off, to have shared the whole experience with friends normally scattered across the country, and to have stayed with dear friends who’ve become like family to mine?
There really is no perfect, profound way to begin, so I’ll just jump right in. Right now, I’m on a plane headed back home after spending three days with Susan Wise Bauer, historian, author, and head of Peace Hill Press. Joining me were Mandi Ehman, Jessica Fisher, Stephanie Langford, and Heidi Scovel, fellow bloggers who’ve become dear friends over the years. And I stayed with Charlie and Sarah Park, the money contributor and resident poet of this blog, unexpected friends met over four years ago via the Internet.
I leave from this weekend full and happy. And to this day, I shake my head and smile in disbelief at how much the Internet has changed my life for the better, because of the people I find there each day in my laptop.
But I’m sure a few of you are wondering and want me to just jump to the chase…. What’s Susan like?
The answer? A very normal person. A mom. A wife. A farmer. A friend and neighbor. A worship leader at their church. A brilliant, brilliant woman who doesn’t have all the answers in the most delightful of ways.
If you’re not quite sure who I’m talking about, here’s the ten peso version: Susan Wise Bauer is a historian and professor at William and Mary who has written some of the best history curricula in the world (in my small opinion). It’s called Story of the World, and it’s brilliant—four parts, divided in to four periods of history, from ancient to modern time. Most kids who know SOTW can’t get enough of it.
She’s also writing about, well, the history of the world, and plans to wrap up The History of the Renaissance World during May so she can celebrate its completion in France with her husband. This series is geared towards adults, and makes for perfect high school curricula.
She’s also written books about writing, and her mother, Jessie Wise, writes books about grammar and teaching children to read. Collectively, along with a few other works, these make up the books found at Peace Hill Press.
Susan has also succinctly-yet-specifically collected her thoughts on how to classically educate at home in The Well-Trained Mind, now in its third printing. This book is more or less my education Bible, the spine used to guide me as I guide our kids (no matter how we educate, be it at home or through the use of a school).
So you can understand why I might have been a little intimidated at the idea of meeting her and getting to ask her any questions we wanted. And you can probably understand why I wanted to meet her in the first place.
It was my delight to find her a mother who wrangles shoes by the front door, who tears up when she talks about her kids, and whose pride and joy are her baby goats and her mother’s strawberries. Her family has crafted themselves a little slice of heaven in rural Virginia, and it was an honor to be there with her.
I’ll share more over the coming days about our time with her. But my biggest takeaways were these:
Most people—even those you admire and esteem—are pretty normal.
I know not to put people on a pedestal, I do. But I really was reminded of it when I dropped off Susan at her house from my rental car, calling “See you tomorrow!” when she retrieved her bag from my trunk. I backed out of her ambling gravel driveway thinking, “I just dropped off THE Susan Wise Bauer at her house.”
Remember this as you read blog posts or books written by people that seem to be light years ahead of you. Don’t get me wrong; Susan has her act together. But in a wonderfully human way.
Homeschooling means that you’re ultimately in charge of your children’s education. But you can still outsource everything.
Parents are given the responsibility to educate their children, but that doesn’t mean they have to teach it all. So long as they’ve made a deliberate, thoughtful decision, they can outsource all of it to someone else (read: a school).
And in this way, aren’t we all ultimately homeschoolers? Education begins at home, no matter where our kids learn how to add or write in cursive.
Friends are great online. But they’re even better in real life.
I’m so thankful for the Internet, for the way it’s connected me to the best of people. But by golly, it’s really great to see these people in the flesh. No Facebook conversation can beat holding Stephanie’s newest baby in a Colonial Williamsburg tavern as we dine on Welsh rarebit.
Heavy bangs work a lot better in lower humidity.
I’m just saying.
Parents of all kinds—homeschoolers, those who outsource their kids’ education to a school, and everything in between—could benefit from Peace Hill Press curricula. This Friday on Simple Homeschool, I’ll be sharing what we’re using in our family next year as we try out something new to us… afterschooling.
When have you been pleasantly surprised that a superhero is actually a normal person, in the best of ways?
(Peace Hill Press provided our weekend stay at their Bed & Breakfast and gave us complimentary curricula for review.)