My weekend in the middle of nowhere

About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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.)

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  1. Every time I read your posts, I feel like I’m hearing from an old friend! I would be so overwhelmed to meet Susan Wise Bauer. For what it’s worth, I’d be overwhelmed to meet you! :)

  2. What a wonderful way to spend a weekend. Thank you for giving us a glimpse. The Well-Trained Mind found its way into my hands not long ago and I’ve been eyeing Story of the World. Glad you got to spend the time surrounded by such beautiful, creative women. I always enjoy my visits here. Thank you, again!
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  3. I’m looking forward to Friday’s post! I love what you say about “outsourcing” parts of education. That’s exactly what my parents did, without even knowing that there would be a name for it one day – topping up what I learnt at public school with the things that they felt were important. It’s something that has really inspired me to be active in my son’s education.

    I didn’t know who Susan Wise Bauer was until now, but I will be sure to look up her work!
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  4. Glad you had such a good time. It’s always good to be reminded that regardless of how “together” someone is, they are still human. I’m looking forward to your post about your change in how you homeschool.
    Steph´s latest post: Just Go Mommy

  5. Yay you! How awesome it’d be to meet with Susan Wise Bauer! The Well-Trained Mind has been my guide through this first year of homeschooling. I absolutely LOVE The Story of the World, in fact I’ve been recommending it to my adult friends!lol Looking forward to reading more on Friday!
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  6. avatar
    Lacey Prewitt says:

    Good Luck with after schooling!

  7. I love everything about this post.

    My husband and I have decided to homeschool our kiddos…for at least the first few years of school, probably longer. And just this morning I was praying that He would confirm to me that we are making the right choice. Post after post today has been on homeschooling and encouraging me in it. Crazy. I’m unfamiliar with Susan….and her books…. I will be checking in to her resources! Especially ‘The Well Trained Mind’. Awesome…..thank you for sharing.

    You are one that I look up to here on the Internet by the way! And I’m certain I am not the only one! Blessings to you, Kate :)

  8. I loved this – your reflections on your weekend. Would have loved to have been there! But I take exception to the idea “we’re all homeschoolers, even those of us who send our kids to school”

    Huh? I mean I get what you’re saying. But what I think you’re saying is you’re being intentional about sending your kids to school, you’re taking responsibility for their education and making a choice to outsource it somewhere else. That’s fine, but it’s not homeschooling.

    There’s nothing better or worse about homeschooling but saying someone who sends their kids to school is a homeschooler dilutes the meaning of the word. Because actively homeschooling, even when you outsource certain courses and activities, takes a lot of parental involvement hour by hour through the day and is simply not the same as sending your kids somewhere else for 6 -8 hours (school, bus, extracurricular) a day to learn.

    So, no I don’t believe we’re ultimately all homeschoolers. And that’s not bad or a judgement, it’s just that if we are all homeschoolers the word has no meaning and those of us who actually do homeschool have to come up with some other word “full time” homeschoolers and that just seems silly.
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    • Well, it kinda took me by surprise, too, but SWB said that over the weekend, and I was mulling over what she said a bit. I think that ultimately, what is meant by that phrase is simply to encourage all parents that we do teach our kids, whether or not we admit or recognize it. It’s not meant to dilute the official word that explains how our kids are primarily educated.

      I don’t plan to really say that often as a way to define the word homeschool, all I really mean is that kids learn more from their life at home than they do anywhere else in life—school, outside activities, etc.—and this means, loosely, that they are homeschooled.

      That’s all. :)

      • Absolutely. We all home school (or home “teach”?) And I’ve been thinking about this all day, after my initial shock and surprise (& comment). Because homeschoolers outsource parts, large parts sometimes, of their kids learning. It’s not like we’re the ones actually teaching our kids everything – I know I’m not. So the definitions get muddy don’t they?

        Here’s to parenting, intentionally. And on that I can agree, wholeheartedly.
        (thanks for commenting back and engaging in dialogue about this).

        • Amen! And I can’t wait to meet you in person, Renee. You’re just so wonderful, in so many ways. :)

          • I think we as women need to spend less time trying to use labels to divide us and more time supporting each other.

  9. I love Susan’s books and use them with my children even though they attend a private school during the day. I’m glad that you are bringing up afterschooling, this is basically what we have been doing with our children. The term is not that well known.

  10. I’m interested in hearing more about what you mean by “afterschooling”.
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  11. I love this post. You are such a great writer, Tsh. Someday I want to write like you. Just saying. :)

    The Well-Trained Mind has been read through many times already in my home and my oldest is only four! I love everything I have learned from Susan Wise Bauer and I am looking forward to getting into Story of the World soon.
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  12. What a beautiful post! I love all the pictures of seeing you in them! :)
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  13. Mom on paper, Madeleine L’Engle wrote me back, genuinely, same voice which carries wisdom and love.
    Also, Ann Voskamp, writing back (although she’s got much more on her plate than I imagine L’Engle to have during her writing career. I’m just thinking. Six kids, the farm, compassion trips and published? Maybe it was grace of God’s timing to Madeleine that Wrinkle didn’t get accepted for ten years. You know? Trusting God for timing). Thankful when I hear from Ann personally, but really her posts are soul blessing rich.
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  14. My oldest son is a senior about to graduate HS in the next month. How the time has flown! Even though he’s been in the public school system since kindergarten, I’ve been very involved in his education. I think that is the key! Kids who are involved in extra-curricular activities they enjoy and who have parent involvement in their education seem to be the most successful in school.

    I’ve benefitted from the many teachers/mentors/role models/encouragers that have helped shape my son to the person he is today. I could not have done it myself. (not all his teachers have been great, but a few have been exceptional).

    Now as my son is about to graduate, and heading off to the Air Force special forces Pararescue Jumper program (whose motto is “That Others May Live”)…he’s turning into a real life hero. I am so proud of him!
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  15. Thanks for these great lessons and reminders. I’ve noticed that I’ve really been hoisting up the pedestals lately, for whatever reason, and it doesn’t help me or the people I’m setting above.
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  16. avatar
    Renay Hartman says:


  17. I know exactly what you mean about meeting someone that you admire. I met Jane Yolen at a writing conference for children’s book writers, and I was struck by how she looked, well…. normal. And she is. Wonderfully normal, and amazingly talented.
    Katie´s latest post: Creating Something New

  18. Wow, sounds like quite a trip! How cool Tsh! Thanks for sharing about Susan and all she does. This post was really, really helpful for me in understanding Peace Hill Press more (via Susan as their head :) ) and their bit on classical education. Thank you, thank you!

  19. Love this post and the experience you and the other women had – sounds amazing. Thanks so much for giving us a peak in.

    Is Susan’s Bed and Breakfast open to the public in any capacity? Just curious.

    Also, I found Renee’s comments to be quite compelling. As a parent who sent her daughter to a private school in Kindergarten and has since brought her home for the bulk of her education (sans an art class or two) I too find myself responding (i.e. slight, momentary rise in the blood pressure) to the notion that all parents “homeschool.”

    I am so on board with the idea that we as parents (regardless of how our kids are formally educated) have great potential to enhance this education. However, in my own experience the enhancement process felt VERY different from directing my daughter’s learning across the board. Again, as Renee pointed out there is not a right or wrong here but I do think that creating a clear distinction is key for all parties involved. On one level this feels like semantics but I think it may be an important one to consider.

    I recently came upon a blog (and book) called Playful Learning. ( that provides tremendous input for the homeschooling crowd as well as those parents who would love to enhance their child’s education in fun and exploratory ways after hours.

    Thanks Tsh.
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  20. Jealous!
    Thanks for sharing your pics and insights here :)
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  21. Love the comment about heavy bangs doing better in low humidity! It’s the story of my curly haired life.
    Welcome to Virginia!

  22. I read your posts. I love it. Thanks for sharing your pics and insights here.

  23. I just met Susan at the homeschool conference in Ohio a few weeks ago … I was struck by how human and approachable she was, but it didn’t stop me from babbling to her about how much I love all her work. :)

  24. It was so fun to share a little of this weekend with you, and friends, via Instagram. It’s such a new world where we can feel so close to people we don’t even know, especially in the blogging world where we share personal stories. As a smaller blogger, I always get excited when a “big” blogger visits. They are always super sweet and I always appreciate their encouragement. It makes this blogging thing a lot more normal.
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  25. Enjoyed reading about your time in VA. Colonial Williamsburg is one of our favorite places and even though I’m not a classical educator, I’ve always enjoyed and been greatly encouraged by SWB’s workshops…I too love how real she is!

    I found this post in my inbox after a particularly trying day of homeschooling…one of those where everybody woke up on the wrong side of the bed, much sibling bickering, etc. Everything was a bit harder than usual…lots of heart talks and character growth took place today for the kids and myself. I know this is probably just semantics, but reading that even if you choose to send your kids to school full-time you’re still a homeschooler took the wind right out of my sails.

    I do not believe homeschooling can be for everyone, and I have friends who are intentionally parenting there children through public and private schools and doing an amazing job at it. But for those of us who are in many cases making sacrifices to stay at home so that we can parent and educate our children full time, I believe it devalues what we do to say that all families homeschool. No disrespect intended, I just think a better term could be employed…intentional parenting, perhaps?

    Thanks for letting this tired teacher-mama vent a little. :)
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  26. What a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing it, and the lovely pictures.
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  27. avatar
    Lindsay Sledge says:

    I loved this post. I can’t wait to hear more about afterschooling. I’m a burnt out homeschooler who just decided to put my 8 year old in school for next year. But I love The well trained mind and still want to incorporate it into our lives. Also I live in Yorktown, I hope you had fun exploring the area.

  28. Hey! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
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  29. Love love love Susan Wise Bauer’s books! We use them (along with the audio for long car rides) in our home school. At first I was put off by the grammar/rote memorization thing. But then I realized (as she says in her books) that it is when students have these points of reference, THEN they can use them for reasoning/creativity/exploration. Not the other way ’round like most teach today.
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  30. Thank you for this — 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.”

    My husband and I have purposely chosen to public school because we have felt the Lord calling us to that. We have felt the heat and judgement over that decision. I know it’s right and I know we are still in charge of our children’s eduction. Bless you and thanks for the wonderful words.

  31. Oh, I think when you hit that age where you’re old enough to realize your parent (mom or dad) is really human in all ways, and not this plastic authority figure who can handle everything perfectly. That was big for me and I gained mounds of respect for them at that very eye-opening moment. It’s a relief, really, and a good reminder that we can’t assume we truly know what people are all about… family members included.
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  32. I used The Story of the World as part of my curriculum at a homeschool academy I taught at this past year (the children are educated in the arts in a specific time period of history one day/week). I always loved reading SOW as I prepped my lessons, and I was amazed at how often I’d hear kids say enthusiastically, “You brought Story of the World! I love that! We listen to the tapes in the car…oh, I know this story! I’m so glad you’re reading it again!” I got this from 6-year olds and 14-year olds. I’ve wondered who Susan Wise Bauer is and it’s fun to get to read about her. I also love your “afterschooling” comment and can’t wait to read more. I’ve spent the past year thinking I wanted to homeschool our children, but just this week there’s been a shift in our thinking, and I’m not sure it’s what we’ll end up doing. I’ve felt a sense of loss…and yet, I’m now feeling hopeful…I’m not going to give up educating my kids if we choose to send them to school down the street. I know you’ve read Simplicity Parenting and won’t be overscheduling your kids, so I’m excited to read as you go before me in balancing it all:)

  33. I just looked up Susan’s book website and must say I am thoroughly impressed! I knew pretty quickly in college that I was not being prepared to teach children to read and started searching out information on my own. I pieced together several different things to provide instruction that met the many different needs of my students. I continued my education to obtain a Master’s degree in reading including a reading specialist certificate. Susan’s book The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading is EXCELLENT! This is exactly what children need to be taught in order to become competent readers. And as Susan mentions, children who can read well do well in school regardless of their actual interest in other subjects. I wish every elementary school would adopt this book as required teaching. This would put an end to any need for government intrusion in public schools and also prevent years of unnecessary struggling for children. Seriously, promoting this book is now my mission!

  34. Hi Tsh!! I hope you don’t think of this as stalkerish, but when I met you at Relevnat (Allume) this past Fall I was having a bit of a bloggywood moment. I hope you composed yourself a bit better than I did when finally had the chance to talk to you. sigh. That entire weekend was a bit of an emotional and exhausting whirlwind. :)

    I’m very excited about you getting to meet SWB. I came across TWTM a few months ago. My husband and I have wrestled btwn homeschooling and private school for SEVERAL months. When I read SWB book I was having so many “aha” moments. It’s what I wanted to do as far as homeschooling goes, but wasn’t able to put it into words. Thank goodness I didn’t because SWB does it in a much more piognant way.

    Just this past week we sent off our four yr old’s registration form and enrollment fee into a local Classical Conversations group. I am so excited. During the info meeting about CC my husband leaned over and whispered in my ear- I don’t feel dumb, just uneducated right now.

    How exciting that you got to meet Susan. I’m sure you smiled a lot that weekend. I know you were inspired and spurned on to create a life long love for learning within the hearts of your children.
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  35. Je me suis demandé qui Susan Wise Bauer est et il est amusant de se rendre à lire à son sujet. J’aime aussi votre “afterschooling” commentaire et ne peut pas attendre pour en savoir plus. J’ai passé l’année dernière en pensant que je voulais homeschool nos enfants, mais cette semaine il ya eu un changement dans notre façon de penser, et je ne suis pas sûr que c’est ce que nous allons finir par faire.

  36. avatar
    Jenna Grimes says:

    I am so glad for you for that you had such a great time. It must have been a very wonderful experience you had that weekend. And the pictures are so lovely.
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  37. Hi there Tsh – I was SO jazzed at this post, and the post you did about afterschooling. We are blessed to be in a district with a really fantastic Title 1 school – super good instruction, super awesomely diverse community, both ethnically and income-wise. We love being involved with the community, would never consider leaving. Yet I love love love the love of learning promoted by homeschooling philosophies. I’ms super excited about Story of the World, and about the mp3 option. My kids do well with books-on-tape.

    Here’s the question (I know, “Finally!” you say!)… My eldest son just finished Kindergarten (My sons are 6 and 4). Is he old enough for the material in Story of the World, just in your opinion as a regular-mom-who’s-used-the-material? Is it too scary? Issues inappropriate to discuss with a recently-turned-6-yr-old? How ’bout if the 4 year old is overhearing? Are there other good materials I should focus on for now while the kids are young?
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  38. Here via the Peace Hill Press Facebook status update. Thank you for sharing this. I’ll now take a moment to be “a very normal person” and say…I’m jealous! Colorado is a long way from Virginia.
    Susan’s books are the backbone of our home education. Thanks again for a fun post.
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  39. Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!
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  40. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  41. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  42. Many thanks for sharing!

  43. I’ms super excited about Story of the World, and about the mp3 option. My kids do well with books-on-tape.

  44. Here via the Peace Hill Press Facebook status update. Thank you for sharing this. I’ll now take a moment to be “a very normal person” and say…I’m jealous! Colorado is a long way from Virginia.
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