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Podcast | 21 Minutes

End of Year Gathering: You Don't Want to Miss it!

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
End of Year Gathering: You Don't Want to Miss it!

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How do you reward your students (and yourselves as parents) for all of the hard work put in during the school year? Veteran homeschool parents David and Leann Erickson share how their family’s end-of-year celebration has evolved over time and give the inside scoop about what the End of Year Gathering at Veritas Press looks like.

If you’ve ever wondered how to meet like-minded homeschool families who you’ll be friends with for a lifetime, the Veritas End of Year Gathering (or EOYG) is the place to be! Want to learn more or sign up? Visit https://veritaspress.com/eoyg


Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode for better readability.



Marlin Detweiler:

Welcome to Veritas Vox, the voice of Classical Christian Education, our podcast. Today, Laurie is joining me. I'm Marlin Detweiler, as are David and LeAnn Erickson.

We're filming this in midday for us in the east and there in the West. Laurie, I know you've gotten to know them they’ve been to many End of Year Gatherings, but why don't you ask some questions to get other folks more familiar with them?

Laurie Detweiler:

Well, when they asked us to come up with somebody to talk about End of Year Gathering and Bob and Marlin and I were talking, you guys were at the top of the list. So you've been around for a while, lots of kids involved and probably are what I'd call a poster child for Veritas. So do you want to tell us a little bit about yourselves and your family and children and how you got to know Veritas?

David Erickson:

Yeah, sure. So, yeah. We're David and Leann. We started our kids off of classical Christian education back when, oh, boy, 2003 or so there was a local brick-and-mortar school we were involved with, and they did that for we did that for a handful of years. I mean, six or seven years. And then the school closed, sadly. But then we said, what are we going to do? Let's do homeschooling.

So I remember we were up in a bedroom, like we converted a bedroom to a school room and I was teaching math and Latin in the morning and Leann did all the heavy, you know, everything else. And we did that for a year and we thought, Wow. We have four kids. So we did that for a year and we said, you know, we need to look and find some help here. And we had already heard about Veritas through -

Leann Erickson:

The curriculum.

David Erickson:

Curriculum, ordering books, and then we found the live online classes and we said, let's give this a try. And also, I think we just some Self-Paced.

Leann Erickson:

Yeah. Self-paced history.

David Erickson:

So we did that for the next year and we said this is working. So then we went on into the Diploma program and then the year after that we went all in with our oldest student and then we were, you know, signing up for classes. And the younger ones were taking more classes as they were able. And that's how we got involved with Veritas, with VSA ten, some ten years ago, 12 years ago?

Leann Erickson:

2010. Yeah.

Laurie Detweiler:

Man, that's hard to believe.

David Erickson:

I know. Yeah. And then, and then at that point it was just all four of our kids rolling through it, all the rooms in the house going with different classes and it was great. We really loved it.

Marlin Detweiler:

Tell everybody what you do for a living because some people might wonder about bandwidth for something like that.

David Erickson:

Yeah, I'm a software engineer living in Southern California, so I work on cable and satellite set up boxes. You know, I work all right, like embedded systems and device driver programming, software.

Laurie Detweiler:

Well, I know what you mean by different rooms of the house. We had our first experience this year because our oldest grandchild is doing her first online classes. So I've always seen it from other parents' perspectives. Now, I've gotten to experience it. So Bob's phone is ringing off the hook - “Bob, have you thought about this? Have you thought about this?”

David Erickson:

So I'd go, I'd go into the office, you know, get everybody, you know, rolling. And, you know, Leann was running the ship here, you know, day in and day out. I go in the office and everything was fine. I'm doing my work, but then it'd be like a 10 a.m. phone call. The Internet is down. What do we do?

And it didn't happen that often. But when it does happen, it's like, you know, all hands on deck, because I know all these, you know, all these wheels are rolling. But yeah, generally it worked great.

Marlin Detweiler:

Give us a little bit of background on where your children are right now.

David Erickson:

Oh, yeah, we have one that's living in Phoenix and working in Phoenix, another one that lives in Boston is married and working in Boston and we have two that are in college in Grove City College in western Pennsylvania. So our youngest just started just two months ago. So we're just two months into the empty nest, which is, you know, a strange new phase is kind of nice, actually.

Leann Erickson:

We're enjoying it!

Laurie Detweiler:

Yeah, soon you'll have grandchildren and you'll go right back to it again!

Leann Erickson:

So we hope!

Marlin Detweiler:

Now we have something that you know about because you have been in Lancaster for nine of those events. We celebrate the school year with something we call the EOYG or for those that may not know what that means, the End of Year Gathering. The school year always ends on the Friday before Memorial Day for the live online classes, and the following week then is dedicated to things like graduation and other things like that. And as I understand it, you have been to the last nine End of Year Gatherings, is that right?

David Erickson:

That is right. We counted it up ourselves. It was nine.

Laurie Detweiler:

Wow!

Marlin Detweiler:

Tell us about your experience in doing that. I know that graduation has been a big part of it, but it's a lot more than that.

David Erickson:

Oh yeah, let me tell us let me tell a little story about how we got it going. And then, Leeann, can you can describe her experience as well. When we started homeschooling, it was obvious to us we needed to plan some events to make it special, to kind of mark the time. And that first year we said we're going to go to Washington, D.C. So we did our own family tour of D.C. It was great.

And the next year we did a California history tour. Went to Sacramento. And then we discovered EOYG. I don't know. We didn't come to the first one, but it was kind of -

Leann Erickson:

It was the first year that our kids were full-time in the Diploma program. That was the first one we came to. Yeah.

Marlin Detweiler:

By the grace of God, just, I don't know if you know this, but by the grace of God, there was a suggestion the first year we offered classes, there were only two sections of one class and someone suggested we ought to invite everybody here to celebrate this. So we did. And that was clearly the highest percentage of participation because there were only I think we only had 16 students in each class, but they were full so they were closer to 32 total. And I think we had like 28 of the kids come.

David Erickson:

And so when we were in the diploma program and then we decided let's go out to EOYG. And it served exactly the purpose we were hoping for, which is an end-of-the-year, something that the kids look forward to. We got to meet the teachers, there were fun things, and we just had a great time and we came back from that. I think we said -

Leann Erickson:

Well, it wasn't even my memory. The kids were at some student-teacher event and David and I were sitting in the little living room area of our hotel at the Eden Resort. And he says, LeAnn, this is wonderful. We need to come here every year. And I said, okay!

David Erickson:

And we did! By God's grace, we did.

Marlin Detweiler:

It is remarkable. We haven't done the demographics on it every year. But I remember one year, maybe 2018 or 2019, we checked on where people were from, where people had come, and people had come from 35 states and 12 countries that particular year.

Laurie Detweiler:

I think it was more.

Marlin Detweiler:

It might have been. Yeah, I don't remember that data. Tell us what it is that made that exactly what you were looking for.

Leann Erickson:

I think my memory of the feeling when we first arrived, so personally, as a mom, the first time I hadn't met anybody in person, I would maybe recognize some of the teachers, but not because I had met them. I had just seen them over my shoulder on the screen. But I remember our first event was a field trip to New York.

We were going to see the Phantom of the Opera. And one of the moms, other moms, just like me, came up and just introduced herself so warmly. And we hit it off. And I felt that again and again and again, meeting other moms that were doing very similar things that we were doing, just the warm-heartedness, the fellowship was almost instant.

And I think I said to David, “David, these are our people!” And I think we feel also where we are in Southern California, we were feeling a little bit isolated in what we were doing because we weren't in a local co-op or something like that. We were really so interested in the education and the academics that Veritas offered that I wasn't really interested in all the other options that weren’t going to we're going to connect with what we were doing at Veritas. EOYG was just magical for us.

Laurie Detweiler:
So how did the children feel about it?

Leann Erickson:

The very first time we get there, my daughter sees somebody. I don't I won't remember who– a little girl she had met in her class. And it was like they already knew each other. They were friends. They knew each other.

Marlin Detweiler:

I have occasionally described it as best friends finally meeting.

David Erickson:

Yes, absolutely.

Leann Erickson:

Yes. It was very much like that for our kids. Yes.

David Erickson:

And all of them have continued you'd friendships and relationships out of Veritas and so it's like it helped them get going and then it has this long benefit in their lives. We have friends that we’ve met at EOYG. We sometimes fly across the country and get together. We certainly text and call. It just facilitates all that.

Laurie Detweiler:

When I tell people that marriages have come out of this, they're like, “There is no way that that is possible!” And I’m like, “Oh yes, it is!”

Marlin Detweiler:

So in the nine years, tell us some of the highlights from your perspective and from the kid’s perspectives. You mentioned going to the Phantom of the Opera, which, as you know, we tend to on Wednesday, the first day is almost kind of a pre-day for people that come early enough. And we tend to do a trip like that, some special Philadelphia, DC, or New York frequently and that sort of thing.

But tell us about some of the highlights and some of the things that you've really enjoyed in terms of events and then maybe some of the additional anecdotal or story experiences that you've had that have made it continue to be something that you've really you've found it a good connection for everybody.

David Erickson:

So there's like loads of fun, like you say, let's take the New York trip this year. We went to Philadelphia another year. Those are great memories, like the school just plans events around town that are, you know, somewhat simple but like really fun, like ultimate Frisbee or the scavenger hunt. Well, we've gotten to know you guys by going over to your house for the barbecue. It's really great.

So amid all that fun, though, I think the thing that's probably the most meaningful event is coming to the graduation, whether you have a graduate or not. Seeing the end result, like this is what we're aiming for here. And I think the first year or two we went, we did not go to the graduation because we didn’t have a graduate. And then we realized, oh, wait a minute, let's go and see this thing and just see this is what the end result of this is. And then, of course, later on, suddenly our kids are graduating. So yeah, I think for me, graduation is the highlight, whether your kids are graduating or not.

Marlin Detweiler:

Leann, how about you?

Leann Erickson:

Oh, my. It's hard for me to pick just one. One thing in particular. Oh, this is what comes to my mind. I don't know if I did this the first year, but I started to realize, Oh, wait a minute, my kids are going to have teachers next year that we haven't yet met and they might be here in person.

So at the EOYG, we would have already registered for the next year's classes. I would have a little cheat sheet on my phone of what student had what class with what teacher, and when we would arrive, I would look and see, are these teachers here? And I would just assert myself and go introduce myself to the teachers and have my students meet them. That maybe was more meaningful for me than my kids, but I really enjoyed that.

Marlin Detweiler:

It really gives you a relational head start. It's probably important to note that not even half the teachers are able to attend. We currently have, I think, 159 teachers and I think we will do well to have 30, maybe a few more, but around 30 of those teachers here in Lancaster, that is this year for the End of Year Gathering. So that's probably a typical percentage somewhere in the 20% range.

David Erickson:

I just realized we're like listing all these things that were great events and we didn't mention the dinner dance.

Leann Erickson:

Oh, I was just thinking that!

David Erickson:

Actually it's the pinnacle of the whole thing.

Leann Erickson:

If we ask our kids what was the best thing, they would have all said the dinner dance.

David Erickson:

It was great.

Laurie Detweiler:

The thing I think that's so wonderful about that, you know, I and I talk to lots of moms and dads and, you know, most high schools have prom, right? So your kids are going off by themselves. And people when I tell them that this is a family event, they're like, what? And it is so wonderful to see the generations there.

The older students are off doing their own thing, but to watch the camaraderie of the older students with the younger students and their parents, it's just it's a wonderful time, but it's very different culturally than what most high school students experience today.

Marlin Detweiler:

I think also as we think about the dinner dance, of course, we're trying to have a very nice meal and people dress up for it, sometimes even costumes and outfits that are so a great imagination. But I think one of the things that helps me realize we're accomplishing what we want to is to have music that spans the generations.

We have a band in Lancaster that has, I think, roughly 16 pieces. It depends a little bit on who's available. There are amateur musicians that get together and play swing dance music that appeals to a broad group, and to see the kids and the parents dancing together is so inspiring to the band that they tell us how much they love doing this. And don't tell them this, but they don't charge enough. They are so excited to be there.

David Erickson:

You're absolutely right. The swing dancing is great. Now here’s a tip for you. So Leann and I actually like to go dancing and that's one of the things we do now that we have an empty nest, as we go down to the ballroom dance studio. And we're learning, you know, waltz, foxtrot, whatnot. Go down to some dance studio and take a one-hour lesson on a little East Coast Swing, just a little technique. And it's, you know, it's it'll help you prepare for the dinner dance.

And then you can take your wife and your daughters out dancing, and then your sons will, you know, they're going to look better and, you know, just invest a little bit of effort there. And it's a big payoff.

Marlin Detweiler:

Since we're encouraging people in connecting, tell us what you hoped to accomplish with your homeschooling and how you know you did. And maybe if you're so inclined, how Veritas has helped with that.

David Erickson:

Yeah, I would say chiefly we wanted our kids to know the, you know, the love of God and to know Christ, to know that we follow him. And He's our he's our guide for not only how we live, but how we see the world. And Veritas just comes along and it helps you have teachers that are thinking the same way and, you know, to know that your children are walking with the Lord, there's just no greater thing than that.

And then secondly, we wanted our kids to be just exposed to good academics, like, you know, you don't have to, like, be the next literary scholar, but, you want to know great literature or you want to know some science and have fascination in the world God made. And so, you know, robust academics that teach you about the world through a Christian worldview. That's what we wanted. And that's what VSA helps achieve.

Marlin Detweiler:

Leann, do you have anything to add to that?

Leann Erickson:

We've seen lots of fruit in different ways. Maybe not always the way we expected. When our kids were in college, went to college and we'd hear back that a lot of the books they were assigned to read in their literature classes, they had already read part of it or all of it. And, and I know one of my daughters even noticed some of her peers in her college class, even though they had had a good education, they were less exposed to some of these, they were new titles for some of those student, like some of the ancient literature. So I was very encouraged just to see it wasn't the first time they were encountering some of these ideas when they went off to college.

David Erickson:

I'll give one particular without mentioning our daughter's name. But she's a very bright girl and she was always good at humanities. She could read and I mean, she's like she, she could write an awesome paper and she was like just very bright.

Leann Erickson:

She could do it in very little time to.

David Erickson:

But she was not so interested in math and science. She preferred humanities.

Leann Erickson:

During high school.

David Erickson:

And then junior year she took an anatomy class and she loved it. And suddenly late in her high school career, she realized, I think I might actually be more interested in science. And she's off in college now studying biology, taking organic chemistry right now and doing it. And because she wasn't big in math and science in high school, she had to do a little bit of catch-up, but she had the ability to do it. So it's like it just gave them abilities to go to discover what they wanted to do.

Marlin Detweiler:

And so you mentioned wanting them to have a heart for God and wanting them to have a good sense of good taste, of rigorous academics. And of course, we're following a classical education model of pedagogy of classical Christian education that includes Latin logic, rhetoric and, of course, reading the great books of Western civilization. I'm going to put you on the spot here with this question a little bit.

Tell us how those two actually worked together as opposed to being two separate initiatives. What's been your observation and experience about how that content helps to produce godly kids?

David Erickson:

Yeah, so sometimes I'll meet, Christians, fellow believers who will say they only read the Bible and you know, like, look, I'm only going to go for the good stuff and I'm not going to get bogged down in all these other things. The problem is you don't actually read the Bible very well. Like you don't understand how story works.

You don’t understand history and you don't understand like how the world works. And the Bible kind of actually assumes that you understand these things to give you a better understanding of what God has spoken. So yeah, I just I think you to be an educated person to know something about, you know, human nature, history, culture, it allows you to then understand the gospel.

Like what has, what has God spoken in his word? So, yeah, you, you don't want to be ignorant. If God has given you the ability to learn and to study, you want to use your God-given abilities to the best of your ability. And it turns out that God uses that in your life.

Marlin Detweiler:

As I have become familiar with the content of classical Christian education through our work at Veritas and our kids education, when you read Paul carefully, you see the context of ancient Greece and ancient Rome. And an understanding of those things that we study from the ancients is incredibly significant in understanding the context of the New Testament. And it brought a whole new level of appreciation for the world into which Christ was born and the impact then and how that carries forward to today, those are significant things. I'm glad that you saw that, too.

David Erickson:

One of our daughters, another daughter we have one of her favorite classes was the Veritas poetry class. And did she do that as a summer class?

Leann Erickson:

Yes. And she didn't even need to, it was an extra.

David Erickson:

It was an extra.

Leann Erickson:

“Mom and Dad, can I please do summer school?”

David Erickson:

And when she got married, she invited the teacher to her wedding. I mean this relationship, your ability to delight in poetry. The Bible is full of poetry. Do you want to understand it? Do you want to delight in it? Take a poetry class. It helps out quite a bit.

Marlin Detweiler:

But we have seen some very significant things happen in the world in the last few years. And the thing that you may have seen, the book written by Pete Hegseth and David Goodwin, A Battle for the American Mind. And in it they're talking about how significant the need is for classical Christian education. And it was really reinforcing to us to reinforce our mission and thinking of what we're doing and how important it is.

You guys are really living examples of that in terms of what you have wanted for your kids. And what I've been impressed with very recently is how hard it is for us to really appreciate that in light of the fact that it's not the kind of education that we got. It's been gone for a multi-generation time period and that puts us so far removed that we don't know what we don't know and it's a very dangerous place to be.

What can you say to parents that might help them appreciate how significant that deficiency is so that they will understand the value of not only what we're doing, but others doing similar things and how significant it is to the next generation.

David Erickson:

Oh how significant it is, I'll tell you a little story to give you an answer. My mom was born and raised in rural Minnesota. She went to a one-room schoolhouse and one of the last one-room schoolhouses in Minnesota. I think they are I think my aunt was one of the last students in the building.

And she attended a small Lutheran church there in that small town. When my mom asks me, “David, tell me, what is the schooling that you're doing? Like, what is this Veritas thing and homeschooling?” I try to explain it to her and she's a very bright woman, so she understands. But one of the ways I explain it to her as a mom, what we're trying to do actually is recover some of the basics that were just assumed in the in the way you would learn, because she learned Latin in that one-room schoolhouse with 20 students. And she learned literature. They read the Bible. That's what you do. And yeah, we're trying to recover some of those things that modernity has swept in with all these new things. The thing that really boils my blood is new math. You’re messing you are messing with the basics here. When it extends to math, like give us give us foundational basic math instruction. That's been developed over centuries of time. We don't need to innovate on this. So anyhow, the recovery of those things, I see it and it’s really valuable.

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, I hope that this episode will cause dozens of people to come to the End of Year Gathering, seek you out and say “Thank you. You got us to come.”

Laurie Detweiler:

Now that they won’t come this year, they don't have any kiddos anymore.

David Erickson:

We don’t.

Leann Erickson:

But there is a Broadcom office in Lancaster, so David will have to take a business trip right at the same time.

Laurie Detweiler:

There you go. That could be fun.

David Erickson:

That's right. That's true. Yeah. Every every year when I'm out there, I get together with the guys in our office. And it has other purposes as well. It’s nice.

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been great. It's been great to connect with you all. Of course, we've had we've developed over these ten years or so a good and wonderful personal relationship and then a chance to play golf and have you in our home. And do things that have gone beyond the End of Year Gathering and your experience with Veritas and we've really been grateful for that relationship. Thank you so much.

David Erickson:

You're welcome, Marlin.

Marlin Detweiler:

This is the Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian education. Thank you for joining us today.