The Veritas Story, Part 4
By Marlin Detweiler
(This will make more sense if you read the prior installments.)
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.