Use code COMPLETE100 to get an additional $100 OFF 2nd-12th Complete Grade Packages or COMPLETE50 for $50 OFF K-1st Grade Packages

Veritas Philosophy | 21 Minutes

The Veritas Press Story

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
The Veritas Press Story

In May 1992, I was on a business trip to Miami. Living in Orlando at the time the trip was only a simple, yet tiresome four hour trip down the Florida Turnpike. I had been making this trip weekly for the past several weeks, but this week would prove to be different—very different. In fact, it would be life changing. Staying in Miami was easy. I stayed with my in-laws who had lived there all their lives. My wife was their only child and they took me in as their own. Staying there without her was handled every bit as hospitably as when she was with me. I had been awake for some time but it was still quite early, six o’clock as I recall. My wife called on my in-laws’ home phone—as early as she dared. Cell phones were not yet as common or inexpensive as now, and their use was avoided when possible. My mother-in-law answered. Her words still ring clear, “Marlin, it’s Laurie, she wants to talk to you.” I expected that. I did not expect her first words. “Honey,” my wife said, “We need to start a school.”

Some background is in order. In the weeks leading up to this we had interesting, and what would prove to be momentous, conversations. At the time all four of our sons had been born. Jameson, our eldest, was in first grade at a local private preparatory school. We were near the end of the school year. Just a few weeks before this trip I had gotten another phone call from my wife during which she explained—with no small horror—a letter that had been sent home with Jameson. This expensive private preparatory school had deemed it wise to educate my first grade son, and all his classmates, on the topic of sexual abuse.

For emphasis, I’ll repeat some pertinent facts: private school, expensive, local. The young, inexperienced, first grade guidance counselor apparently had come upon a book that taught young—very young—children how to recognize the signs of being abused. She had concluded that my son and classmates needed to be “protected” against their siblings, parents, grandparents, and who knows who else. To the best of our knowledge, she had done so without a single incident to substantiate the need to “protect” my first grade son and his classmates. It obviously didn’t matter to this counselor that the parents had chosen the school and were paying top dollar for the education of their children. Nor did it occur to the school that they could be the ones abusing their students—not protecting them. Given the possibility that such an approach could potentially be very disturbing to young children, wisdom and prudence would seem to indicate a better approach might be available.

I was livid. I first spoke to the guidance counselor. I got nowhere. We asked for a meeting with the headmaster. We were not the only ones. He was gracious. The meeting happened quickly. The first statement of his was clear. “We will not be reading the book to your children to teach them about sexual abuse.” His wisdom and clear decisive action had diffused the tumultuous past few days in a moment.

Prior to that meeting I sought counsel on how to handle this regrettable circumstance. I was quite fortunate to have access to some very wise counsel, not the least of which was from R.C. Sproul, the well-know author and theologian who had relocated from western Pennsylvania to the Orlando area. We shared a passionate interest in golf, which led to a very close friendship between us and which had subsequently extended to our wives.

You may RC a staid sober theological type. Be assured he has is far more. One time during this period in our lives Laurie and I had invited R.C. and Vesta to dinner in our home. Shortly before the dinner they called inquiring on the dress for the evening. I simply responded “golf clothes.” In more common parlance I might have said “casual,” but I figured one meant the other—another golfer would understand. At the dinner hour the door bell rang. We greeted our dinner guests at the door to find his interpretation of my dress-code answer. He was wearing knickers! That’s R.C.

So I’m driving down a highway talking with R.C. Sproul on my cell phone explaining the letter we received from Jameson’s school. The intent was to receive wise counsel in preparation for our meeting with the school’s headmaster. What would follow was the beginning of a series of events that would prove to be life-changing.

After hearing my concern, in classic R.C. style, he cut to the chase. “If you think you’re going to get a good education for your children in Florida, forget it. What you need to get them is the least-bad education you can.” He was baiting me. I knew he was baiting me. He knew I knew he was baiting me. And I knew that he knew that I knew he was baiting me! Yet, we played it out and, being cooperative, I asked, “So where does one get a good education?” I was expecting a more complete answer than I got. Yet, R.C. gave me more, much more, than I realized at the time. He simply said, “I’ve got a book you need to read.”

He had recently been given a copy of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson. Ty Willis, from Austin and a board member of R.C.’s ministry, had recently given R.C. a copy of the book. Ty had read it with others in Austin. He and other Austinians were so moved by it that they started Regents School of Austin. Apparently he thought R.C. would enjoy it and that the educational principles in it would benefit the teaching fellowship that was core to the projects and ideas contained in R.C.’s work.

Having recently completed the book, R.C. was willing to lend me his copy. That evening I was headed to Miami on the aforementioned business trip. I knew his teaching schedule at Reformed Theological Seminary which, at the time, was domiciled near our home. He had a three-hour class and I knew when the break was. I showed up then and asked him for the book. “I mailed it to you,” he said. Little did I realize the fateful nature of those words.

I headed to Miami—one book lighter for the ride. Of course, the next day the book arrived at our home. Now you may not know this, but my wife is a reader. When we are preparing a catalog for our business, Veritas Press, she reads and reads and reads. It’s not unusual for her to read four to six books … a day. This book was different. She read it, pondered it, and reread it well into the night. And the very next day, as early as she dared—around six o’clock, as I mentioned in Part 1—she called and greeted me with those fateful words, “We need to start a school.”

What’s a husband to do? My characteristic response would be something bordering on sinful—at best. In this instance, by the grace of God, I was a little more kindhearted. It went something like, “Well, let me read the book and then we’ll talk about it.” Read it I did, and wow! I was convinced. We did indeed need to start a school.

Just a few years prior to this we were faced with a terribly important and difficult question: How and where would we educate our children? At the time, we were part of a large church with roughly 1,200 members. The church had a large school. Even though I was an officer in the church, we concluded that the church’s school was not for us. It was not particularly rigorous academically. And we wanted the best for our children.

At that time we believed that education was morally neutral. The modern notion that math, science, let along history, can be taught in a “just the facts” way—in a way that supposedly has no bearing on worldview presuppositions—is terribly mistaken. But we did not know that then. We believed that math, history, literature, etc., are all educational disciplines best done by well-trained educators. More importantly, we believed that their worldview would not impact the teaching, content, or perspective conveyed to the student. We could not have been more mistaken. Of course, we have come to understand things much differently now. We are now well aware of the religious nature of all education. Wilson’s book had a lot to do with a great change in our thinking about education, and it profoundly impacted our priorities.

So, here we were planning to do something we never thought we’d do—start a school. The first thing was to gather like-minded folks. And the first call? You guessed it—R.C. He had gotten us to this point. We thought he could continue to help, and help he did. There were others, too.

On May 26, 1992 R.C. Sproul and his wife, Vesta, Bob and Marjean Ingram, Mike and Barb Malone, and Laurie and I gathered in our family room to discuss this new school idea. We spent maybe the first 10 minutes discussing whether or not to start a school. Done. We then spent the rest of the evening planning it. The eight of us became the original Board of Governors. Laura Grace Alexander joined us shortly thereafter.

No moss grew on us that summer. We recruited students and teachers, and we found and prepared a facility. It was hard work. It was long work. It was good work. Of course, it didn’t hurt having R.C. to be our speaker on open-house nights—aptly named because the facility was not identified for early meetings and not presentable for later ones, so we met in our house. The dining room became the place to display the curriculum. Later, it would become the board room for school board meetings. This was a small operation.

On August 26, 1992, three months to the day, The Geneva School in Maitland, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, opened. I think 37 children made up the first year’s student population. They were fairly evenly spread across kindergarten through fifth grade. Two were ours: Jameson in second grade and Brandon in kindergarten.

During the summer we had many talks with Douglas Wilson, whose book had catalyzed all this. His assurances that we could do this, along with his frequent counsel, have led to a long-standing friendship. In fact, in our first conversation, which was shortly after reading the book and shortly before the meeting of May 26, he told us of a conference intended for folks like us. He and the folks at the school he had started—Logos School in Moscow, Idaho—were hosting it in just a few weeks. Many of us planned to attend.

It was a great trip. The Ingrams, Malones, Detweilers, and Laura Grace traveled to the little town in the northern part of Idaho to learn how to do what none of us had dreamed of doing before. We came back with our plans more fully developed. Many delegates at a conference like this would seek to meet with the faculty, administration, and board members of the hosting school. We did some of that, but not as a first priority. What we wanted was to meet the students, and we went straight to the founder’s kids. Our first day at the conference, we invited Wilson’s three children to lunch. Rebekah was a high school senior at the time, Nathan a junior, and Rachel in eighth grade. We wanted to see the product. We were not disappointed. They were winsome, engaging, and very well-spoken. They were not heady, showy, or self-absorbed. It was a great confirmation.

Their education at this wonderful school in this tiny little town had been a very well-kept secret. Now the word was out. Our contingent was fortunate enough to be part of the first group of beneficiaries. We learned much from them. Yet, we didn’t take everything they did to implement it thoughtlessly.

We developed the curricular objective of teaching history and the Bible in an integrated way. It was also important to us to teach history from the beginning. Most educators have focused on American history in grammar school. We were committed to teaching more than that. Teaching history from the beginning—Creation to the present—was always important to us. We also knew that history taught separate from the Bible was a mistake. Learning about ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, or ancient Rome and not being able to relate such learning to biblically recorded events has created and continues to create children with a tragically bifurcated understanding of history. It seemed crucial to us to understand the effect of Greco-Roman culture and ideas on the world into which Christ was born. The more I learn about the New Testament, the more I realize how important this is.

Another problem this integration mitigated was sequencing. Biblically literate children can tell you many of the great biblically recorded events and keep them in order—they learned their Sunday School lessons well. But ask them which came first, Christ’s earthly ministry or the pyramids, and you will frequently be told “Christ’s ministry” because it’s in the Bible. I was never much of a history student, (and I have the transcripts to prove it!) however, it has become increasingly clear to me that a good working knowledge of all of history—especially who, what where and when—is invaluable for any number of things. Not the least of these is to avoid repeating those parts of history that ought not be repeated. Our educational endeavors have continued to bear this out in the lives of the students we have worked with. Biblical understanding in a historical context is no less important.

We went looking for curriculum that would meet these objectives and found nothing that did all we believed was important. So Laurie developed the idea, and some very helpful school parents developed some lists of events to use. It was a very rough idea of what would become the foundation of Veritas Press, the Veritas Press History and Bible curriculum that incorporates flashcards, projects and music.

The first year of a school is an exciting time. This was never truer for us than at The Geneva School. To be sure, there were bumps in the road, but they paled in comparison to the education and the joy of coming home with our children each day. The year sped by. The summer after the first year included another trip to the conference in Idaho. This time our delegation included just three of us, Laurie, me and Michael Eatmon, our first hire. He was the Academic Dean and a teacher. Mr. Eatmon was no taller than some of his fifth grade students. But what he brought to the school was enormous. The relationship he developed with his students was exhilarating. Imagine a young jock knowing nothing but sports coming home and saying, “Mom, we listened to Pachelbel’s Canon in D at school. Would you mind getting me a copy so I can listen to it at home when I read?” He managed to develop that love for learning referred to earlier that had every single parent shaking their heads. It was magical.

The second year of the conference was much like the first—except bigger, much bigger. Word was getting out, and the popularity of what has become known as classical Christian education was growing exponentially. We found ourselves right in the middle of it. Shortly after we arrived Wilson mentioned to me how much he had seen interest grow and was convinced we needed to start an association to assist these blossoming schools. He invited the two Logos School administrators (Tom Garfield and Tom Spencer) and me to a meeting with him to discuss establishing such an organization. The meeting became the beginning of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS). From that point forward the conference which we had attended the previous two years would become known as the ACCS Conference—even retroactively to include the first two.

What had Laurie and I gotten ourselves into? Whatever it was or would become it was not what we had envisioned a little more than a year earlier. The Geneva School grew from 37 students the first year to over 75 for the second year. Growth pains are good problems, but they are still very real problems. More staff, more desks, more of everything. Laurie couldn’t even go to the grocery store without someone cornering her to find out more about this “wonderful new school.” The second school year had similar blessings and challenges, except that they were both scaled up a bit for the sheer size of the challenges.

Registration for the third year burgeoned to over 175. I’ll do the math for you: 37 to 75 is 103% growth; seventy-five to 175 is 133% growth. By any standard that’s fast. It created stress and challenges. Other stresses existed, too. Laurie and I had become increasingly convinced of the importance of Christian education for children of Christian parents. We had seen the value of many practices and habits that others with whom we worked believed were neither practical nor realistic in a metropolitan environment like Orlando. Tensions mounted. As we considered our options we determined to leave The Geneva School in the very capable hands of the remaining board members and to move on. And move we did.

Raising children in Orlando has a unique set of challenges. The entertainment driven culture that developed as the town became the number one tourist destination in the world impacts children in unique ways. There is no limit to the quantity of amusement with which one can become distracted. This was not what we wanted for our children. I had been raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Laurie had been there to visit with me many times. We thought it the ideal place to raise children and decided to relocate there. We made the decision to move in August of 1995. But we would not actually move until May of 1996. We’re not stupid. Winter in Orlando is still better than winter in cold weather!

We knew there was no classical Christian school in Lancaster so we committed to start one. We made some inquiries. Quickly, we learned that a small group of parents had been meeting to read and pray over Wilson’s book. We contacted them, and several joined our efforts. Isn’t it wonderful how God answers prayers? Knowing that such an undertaking would involve multiple trips to Pennsylvania, we agreed we would need to homeschool for the 1994-1995 school year. Brad and Meshell Watt learned of our decision and joined us. Their two boys were in the same grades as our oldest two at The Geneva School. They were already great friends. Meshell was trained as a CPA and had a wonderful math background. Laurie, of course, loves history and literature. So, with one covering the concept-oriented disciplines and one covering the content-oriented disciplines, they set out together to homeschool the six boys for the year.

A large corner of our third floor family room was turned into our homeschool space. The Watts showed up every day at 8:00 AM, and the team of Detweiler and Watt as teachers and students set out on one of the most remarkable years we have had. With the Brandenburg Concertos playing in the background, the six boys covered more ground and had more fun than any school year they’d had. The two oldest boys amazed us as they completed two math books in one year. Meshell’s ability to explain concepts, know what lessons could be combined, and know when the boys had mastered something were the key factors that made this possible. Our homeschool experience during this year of transition helped us to see and enjoy the tremendous benefits that can be realized in a homeschool. There are unique benefits both to schools and homeschools. They are different. It is clear to us that each family must decide what best meets its needs, considering the pros and cons of each.

The move to Pennsylvania was not uneventful, but we got settled in. The work to establish Veritas Academy hit full stride in the summer of 1996. The school opened with 27 students spanning kindergarten through fifth grades. And just like the first school start-up, it was a wonderful year with blessings and challenges. Veritas Academy has grown steadily over the ensuing years. It continues to promote a wonderful classical Christian education. Graduates, including three of my four boys, have found themselves well-prepared for the challenges of college and life beyond.

In the year of transition from Orlando to Lancaster, we began to focus on developing the history and Bible curriculum mentioned earlier. By the ACCS Conference of 1996 we had developed a prototype for the first series, Old Testament and Ancient Egypt. We were astounded at the interest of the attendees. In fact, several schools made us promise to develop the next series, New Testament, Greece, and Rome, in time for the school year that would start in two short months. We agreed. The rest of the summer was a blur. As if starting a school wasn’t enough, adding to it the completion of a whole new segment of the history curriculum was overwhelming. Fools that we are sometimes, the grace of God was greater, and we delivered both of the first two years of the history curriculum for the 1996 – 1997 school year.

Veritas Academy proved a wonderful testing ground for the effectiveness of the curriculum, and we were not disappointed. A child’s ability to memorize a timeline like this cannot be overrated in its importance, nor should the child’s ability to master huge amounts of information. Many classical educators have said that children memorize best during these grammar school years. We have seen this proved time and time again. If the information is presented in a fun and interesting way, there is hardly a limit to how much children can commit to memory—especially when put to music! Think about it: How many songs can you recall word for word from your childhood? Now imagine what it would have been like if much of this musical memory had been scripted with meaningful content.

Over the next school year and into the summer we determined to help a couple curriculum providers by including their materials with ours at the next ACCS conference. Shurley Grammar, Saxon Math, and Greenleaf were the three I remember. We came home from the conference and hit full stride on the third of five in the history series, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. At this point my wife had another grand idea. She suggested we give serious consideration to making the business of selling curricular materials a full-time endeavor. Now, for the past fifteen years I’d been self-employed in the real estate investment business. I enjoyed my work and had reasonable success in it. However, at this point I was quite exhausted from what I had been doing—working 80 hour weeks trying to get this curriculum together. What I’m trying to say is this: I wasn’t as gracious this time as when Laurie first suggested we start a school. I think my words were something like this, “It will be a cold day in hell before I sell books for a living. You can’t make money selling books.” God demonstrated both His wonderful sense of humor and dealt with my sinfully coarse talk to my wife by putting us, well, in the business of selling books!

You see, my in-laws were watching, too. They believed we were on to something and offered to fund our first catalog. After some extended prayer and reflection, Laurie and I decided to go for it. Now, if you think writing curriculum is time-consuming, try putting a catalog together from scratch. It was work, long hard work. We planned the whole thing out very carefully. We put together several mailing lists and sent out 32,000 catalogs. Our garage was the warehouse, and I would take orders on a single telephone line with call-waiting. Call-waiting was important because often someone would call while I was on the telephone with another customer.

Earlier I suggested the importance of repeating facts for emphasis. It is now relevant to do that again: One telephone line, 32,000 catalogs, one garage. Can you see what’s coming? We honestly did not. You might think we should have. You would be right. The catalogs starting arriving at their intended targets. Our telephone line went nuts. It was not unusual for me to get interrupted while on with one customer by a dozen more. It was very obvious we had hit on a great need. We had to make adjustments—and fast! We quickly installed a handful more telephone lines; we hired school staff and others to man the phones. I worked in my study, someone else worked in our dining room, others worked in the family room, an upstairs bedroom, the basement, and one more in the kitchen—all to handle incoming calls. Just as many people worked in the garage pulling and packing books for shipment. It was bedlam. Our next door neighbor on the garage side of the house was not too happy. I explained our miscalculation and plan to move just as soon as this rocket ship slowed enough for us to find something and move the business there. With that, and the fact that I hired his daughter to work in our makeshift garage of a warehouse, we came to an understanding, and he was willing to be patient.

And that is how Veritas Press started. Needless to say, the real estate investment business was put in a file drawer, and this has become my career. What was thought to become a hobby business that my wife and I could enjoy together has become something far bigger than either of us ever imagined. Classical Christian education had become very, very popular, and we had been put right in the middle of it.

But the popularity of an idea has its downsides. In the years since Veritas Press began, we have clearly observed some notable concerns. Three of them stand out:

(1) Difficulties in homeschooling

(2) Difficulties in the Christian school ranks

(3) Attempts to take the Christian out of classical Christian education

Before elaborating on these three concerns, I should point out that we are now firmly ensconced in our calling. Simply stated, we are committed to doing all that we can to help you in the rearing and education of your children that we might, together, see the following: the culture taken back under the lordship of Jesus Christ; the educational standards and accomplishments of Christian people becoming the highest found anywhere; and that the world would come to know and love the reigning Lord Jesus Christ as a result.

We do not believe that education is a savior of any type. However, we do believe that the better educated we are, the better equipped we are to follow several biblical mandates. One of these would be to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Another is to do all we do heartily, as unto the Lord, knowing that our reward comes from Him. A third is found in the Parable of the Talents, in which we are clearly taught to be good stewards with what God has given us. I trust this is sufficient evidence and motivation for taking the rearing and educating of our precious children seriously. Of course, many more could be cited.

We’ve seen thousands—even tens of thousands—of parents see and take seriously the tremendous privilege and responsibility to raise their children in the love and admonition of the Lord. If this describes what you want for your children, you are at the right place.