Limited Time: $100 OFF Self-Paced Courses! Use Code: SCHOOLPREP

Podcast | 18 Minutes

The Founding of Veritas Press Part 1 | Marlin & Laurie Detweiler

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
The Founding of Veritas Press Part 1 | Marlin & Laurie Detweiler

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Watch the Video

How did Veritas Press get started? Today Marlin and Laurie Detweiler invite you to reminisce with them about everything from their inspiration to start a school all the way up to the first Veritas Press catalog– and recognize all of the people who helped them along the way.

Episode Transcription

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

Marlin Detweiler:

Hello again. Thank you for joining us on Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian education today. Laurie is with us, my wife, and we're going to talk about the origination or the beginnings of Veritas Press. What's your recollection?

Laurie Detweiler:

Well, I think my earliest recollection is our oldest son had been at a prep school in Orlando, and we had chosen that school over a Christian school because I had gone to a large Christian school. But it was a school that was pretty sheltering. And I just watched so many of my classmates go off to college and fall far from God.

And so I knew that at that point I was thinking, “I really don't want our children in a Christian school.” Marlin had come out of public education. So it seemed like the best option was a prep school. And we put them there thinking that we would teach them a Christian worldview at home. They would get it at church, and that school would just be this thing that was out there where they got their education but it didn't take long until our oldest was in first grade and we encountered an issue that caused us to realize that worldview couldn't be separated.

Marlin Detweiler:

So the school sent something home that got us thinking, and I called our friend R.C. Sproul and asked him to help us reason through this. And he gave us a book to read called Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. And it was eye-opening. The first section of it helped us understand that we had a really faulty view of education, that education couldn't be separated from worldview, it couldn't be separated from what we believed about the world.

Laurie Detweiler:

Deuteronomy six is quite clear.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah, Deuteronomy six is quite clear.

Laurie Detweiler:

It's just when you wake up and when you go to sleep and during the day as you're walking, that there really isn't a time that you shouldn't be teaching your children.

Marlin Detweiler:

But it matters who writes history. The perspective on it will be influenced. And so the idea of thinking that education is morally neutral and that we add our worldview to it and there are classical educators out there that have operated that way, and we think that it's a faulty view. And so the reason we think that is it started with reading Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning and saying, “Wow, this is completely different.”

The book also was influential in the sense that it helped us understand that Christian education didn't need to be academically inferior. In fact, everything about it made it possible for it to be not only as good or better, but also honest, completely honest about the world in which we live.

I've said many times in recent years that if you Google the ten most important events in history, you won't find anything about Jesus Christ in there. And there is no doubt in anyone's mind that regardless of what you think about him or who he is, that his appearance on Earth has been in the top ten historic events. So that was that was an important thing. So tell us what happened next.

Laurie Detweiler:

I got a hold of the book before Marlin because he was out of town.

Marlin Detweiler:

I was on a business trip, which was really a fateful problem for us.

Laurie Detweiler:

And I stayed up all night reading the book. For those of you who know anything about me, you know that reading is my passion. And so I started it and couldn't put it down because one of the things that did captivate me was what Marlin talked about was that Christian education did not have to be academically inferior.

And as I said, I had seen so many of my classmates that had gone to college and really struggled with keeping their faith and, you know, I had never read anything like The Iliad or The Odyssey or Aristotle or Socrates at the Christian school I went to. And so encountering those for the first time in college and wrestling with that, but for the grace of God, you know, I don't know that I would have come out of that okay. And so I thought, why are kids not getting that from a Christian worldview? And when I read Recovering Lost Tools of Learning, it was everything about it.

Marlin Detweiler:

It really put things together for us in ways that we had not been able to do before.

Laurie Detweiler:

I called Marlin probably at five in the morning. We both get up really early so that wasn't unusual. I'd been waiting probably for an hour at that point, and my first comment to him was we have to start a school.

Marlin Detweiler:

It wasn't quite 5:00am. I remember it too. And I was actually staying at Laurie’s parents’ house. And of course, this was before cell phones had really gained acceptance. And so she's calling into the landline. Laurie’s mother answers the phone, her name is Diane, and Diane's voice going, “Marlin! Laurie’s on the phone!”

Laurie Detweiler:

And I told him we needed to start a school. And I know he thought I was crazy, but anyway, he was kind enough to say, Well, let me at least read the book. I got home, he read the book, and he was like, “We need to start a school.”

Marlin Detweiler:

So we wanted that kind of education for our children. And that's where we were thinking at this point, this is not anything yet about curriculum and Veritas Press. It was simply the idea of that kind of education for our four boys.

Laurie Detweiler:

And so as an educator, once we've gotten a team on board, Marlin, of course, called R.C. and Vesta, and we assembled a team of people to put the school together. And as you can imagine, having R.C. on your board and as part of it, it makes it a little bit easier to start a school. We had called Doug Wilson right away.

The name of the author of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning is Doug Wilson. He wasn't really well known at that point, so Marlin called him, got him on the phone right away, and we had a conversation. But I started looking into curriculum and the place that I found myself was in homeschool curriculum because the Christian school curriculum was not anything that was academically rigorous. So I went into the homeschool world, and that's where we met Rob Shearer.

Marlin Detweiler:

Rob Shearer and his wife, who have education backgrounds, and now Rob teaches for us, for our online school Veritas Scholars Academy. But Rob had a business called Greenleaf Press.

Laurie Detweiler:

They had printed some books.

Marlin Detweiler:

The Famous Men series is what it's called, Famous Men of Rome, and Famous Men of Greece. They wrote some others too.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yeah. And so then as I was reading Sayers and like I said, I'm a history buff, so I found every primary source book I could on education, whether it was education of Hebrew, you know, biblical Hebrew education for young children or Greece or Rome or the Middle Ages and monasteries. I was trying to get my hands on any primary source I could. And because we had to get curriculum together for school, we had three months basically to pull this together.

Marlin Detweiler:

I've lost track of the year was either 1992 or 1993. I've seen both in print, but I know it was May 26 that eight of us got together. Four couples Laurie mentioned already: the Malone's – Mike and Barb Malone and – help me out here, the other couple – oh, the Ingram's Bob and Margene and Ingram and then Laura Grace Alexander joined us later.

But on May 26 we discussed the idea of starting a school and it just took a few minutes before we said that's what we're going to do. And the rest of the night was spent planning the start of that school. That school was named the Geneva School, and it opened exactly three months later on August 26, either 92 or 93.

Laurie Detweiler:

And as I looked at the education of Hebrew children, one of the things I realized was God talked in stories and they told stories to their children and they told chronological stories to their children so that their children could understand God, who he was, and what he did. I already had bought into the whole grammar stage, dialectic stage and rhetoric stage that made sense to me as an educator.

And so we were starting off with grammar-age children at our school, elementary. And I thought, well, if they need to memorize and we wanted to teach them an integrated worldview of history, we've got to start with creation and take it to today. If you don't know, I'm the creative, Marlin's the analytical thinker.

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, even more so. I'm a businessman and had a business, a real estate investment business. The statement that I commonly will say is that Veritas Press when it got started ate my real estate investment business and it ended up in a file drawer and that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but Veritas Press really did come out very quickly.

We'll get to some of that in just a moment. But her background in education, her love of history or just her family, her grandfather was a guy named L.B. Summers who started a boys boarding school, which is still a big going concern. And we recently had a chance to go see the campus of that school, which is amazing.

Laurie Detweiler:

You wouldn't believe it now.

Marlin Detweiler:

But that school was a boys boarding school in North, the northern part of Miami called Miami Country Day. So she, her mother, her grandfather were all involved in education. But I was not an educator. But as we got together talking around education, her creativity and my ability to think in terms of systems have really been complementary things for Veritas.

But we'll get into that just a moment. So we're we're starting the Geneva School in the summer. And like you can imagine having R.C. to be involved, to speak at parent nights was a really helpful thing, and it really did help us recruit. I think we that 38 students to start the year.

Laurie Detweiler:

That's right.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah. So tell us about that first year and especially with an emphasis or thinking about Veritas.

Laurie Detweiler:

Michael Eatmon, who also works with Veritas now, is probably the most gifted educator that I know came on board. It was at seminary, at RTS, Reformed Theological Seminary, and we had combined classes and oh, I remember those days, a friend of mine, Jeanette Moore, and we were just talking about this. We were trying to pull this together on a shoestring, and so we were buying used furniture.

And I remember we showed up and she and I were talking about these horrible-looking desks. We can't have these children in this because most of the people were coming from a prep school into this school. So we're painting and doing all wee hours of the night. And like I said, I'm a creative. So the classrooms had to be exciting and interesting. After all, we're in Orlando. Guess what, guys? Disney's what our kids are used to looking at.

Marlin Detweiler:

Some Disney talent came and helped create environments for us.

Laurie Detweiler:

And pretty quickly we set up these rooms for second grade. They were walking into what looked like ancient Egypt. And just the amount of hours that went in. Parents worked hard and we were ready and we opened. And I look back now and think that that actually was probably the best year that we had because everybody was so unified and excited to start this. Everybody knows what classical education is now. They did not know what it was then.

Marlin Detweiler:

A lot of educating going on.

Laurie Detweiler:

There's a lot of educating and they were trying to figure it out as we went. I got to know Brenda Shirley that first year and because Shirley Grammar was something I stumbled upon and I went, “Oh my goodness, this just makes sense.”

And we went out to Logos and Tom Garfield, who works with us now. He tells this story even better than I do, but he said, “You were asking me for anything and everything that I had.” And he said, “I think our photocopy machine ran for 48 hours nonstop with you and I photocopying anything you could get your hands on.”

Marlin Detweiler:

What happened when we first talked to Doug about the idea of starting a school, he let us know of a conference that they were doing. This was in May when we had the conversation. It was June that a contingent of us, including Laurie and me and I think Michael was there too. We went to Idaho for what is now known as the first ACCS conference, and we really hit it off with the folks at Logos School.

And it really was very helpful. And you spend a lot of time with Tom. You know, it dawned on me as we as we're having this conversation, how many people that we started with are continuing to work with us. They were in various places and other places. And now back with Veritas – three we've mentioned so far.

Laurie Detweiler:

Is a really good thing. But we just continued to learn and try to figure out what the children needed. And I would think I think the thing that's probably spurred us into Veritas Press was the history and Bible chronology curriculum, because there were a lot of things that were only okay. So people call me Closet Charlotte Mason because I really am a mixture of Dorothy Sayers, Charlotte Mason and, and then some other educators.

Marlin Detweiler:

Isn't some of that implying that Charlotte Mason was creative and Dorothy Sayers wasn't? And I don't think that's fair.

Laurie Detweiler:

It's not fair. But I would say Sayers had more of a proclivity towards memorization with grammar school students and Charlotte Mason had more of a proclivity towards being creative and being in nature. Although I agree with Marlin, if you study the time in which they lived, those two things somewhat came hand in hand. I mean, it's like when you think of – I always tell people in one of the talks I do, when you look at education in ancient Rome, we think of this very strict education. It wasn’t.

The kids were learning to write and wax eloquent. And some of the things that the kids were doing were so tactile. And we don't think of it that way. Right. And so as I was looking at that, I wanted history to be living history for students. But then I also saw that memorizing things was important and now some 20 or 30 years.

Marlin Detweiler:

We're talking 30 years.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yeah. So 30 years later, I see how important both of those are together because if you do one without the other, I think you really lose something If you just have strict memorization and you really don't do any living history or other creative things, whether it's math or whatever it is, it becomes boring very, very quickly and kids lose interest. But if all you do is living history and you don't take the time to memorize things, it's all disconnected. Because what we see at Veritas, particularly with kids that have come through our program, when they get to Omnibus or now I get to see, you know, almost 40-year-olds that have come through our program.

Marlin Detweiler:

Not almost. They are 40 year olds now.

Laurie Detweiler:

They are cared for at home. But what I see is that the kids that came through the grammar school program that got that memorization, they use it today. I mean, I watched my own sons with their own children and, you know, they'll be somewhere and they'll laugh. And it's the history song that's still in their head as 36-year-olds.

Marlin Detweiler:

But we get a little bit of help ourselves here. So what happened this first year was we went to the conference, they came back. We had a lot of help and we brought Tom Garfield to Orlando to help with teacher training. And I remember his comment, “Boy, you have enough inexperience to go around here, don't you?” Because we had all kinds of inexperience, but we were all very hungry, very willing.

Laurie Detweiler:

He was probably one of the only educators that went on board.

Marlin Detweiler:

I don't remember teachers were rookies or if they had some experience. There were some of those. Yeah. But anyway, so that was the first year and we weren't thinking at all at that point, in terms of being in the curriculum or online school business, early on, we were one of the first five schools.

Laurie Detweiler:

We wanted it for our children.

Marlin Detweiler:

We were one of the first five schools that responded to Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Wilson's book to say, “We want to start a school.” And so in doing that, we were also in a position where the curriculum options were fairly limited. They certainly weren't geared towards this new method, this pedagogical approach.

And so we were thinking between Laurie's creativity and my systematic thinking, where do we find curriculum and what is ideal? And I think it was the Shearers and Greenleaf Press that really impressed us with the idea of sequential thinking about history in particular. Then I think it was our thinking that said we really want to see Bible and history taught in a way that can be taught separately, but also understood together about the overlaps. It's not really an overlap, but when does a biblical event happen? In the context of what we know about history?

Laurie Detweiler:

And I remember doing flashcards. I was in one of the classrooms when I was doing math flashcards with the kids, and I thought, Wait a minute, math flashcards have been around forever, right? Like, they've just been around. Why can't we have flashcards for history or for Bible? Like flashcards are a great way to memorize things. And so the music part of it came after the fact that the flashcards were the first thing, and it happened while I was doing math facts with kids.

Marlin Detweiler:

So we built a system for that. But again, we're getting it's kind of hard to stay in sequence here and not provide adequate context. So in this first year, we're starting to think in terms of curricular needs following the lead of Logos and others who had taken steps before us. And then the second year or the summer before the second school year, we went back to what is now the second ACCS conference, and that was still in northern Idaho.

And it was at that point that Doug mentioned the need for an association and asked me to join him and others to help found what is now the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, and that then led into becoming more familiar and both of us involved in many different places with helping other schools start. I estimate that sometimes I went and you didn't, but went and sometimes we went.

Sometimes our kids went and they would participate to showing how the education was coming together for them. But it was the beginning of ACCS at that point. So now we're thinking more in terms of what's needed and that was how we then developed the idea of history and sequence from creation to present Bible in chronological order, getting familiar with all the books of the Bible.

And of course everybody knows the Bible doesn't appear to us in chronological order, but understanding it in chronological order is a very helpful thing. So then to talk a little bit about how that developed, it was technically, yeah. In 1996, the Veritas Press was incorporated and founded, but talk about the steps that led up to that with conferences and other curriculum that we started helping provide.

Laurie Detweiler:

At that point, we had a six-year-old, let's say a five-year-old and a four-year-old. Because our youngest was born before our oldest was five. So they're really close together. And so we were constantly I mean, people were calling us. Marlin and I were both on the phone all the time trying to help other schools get started. We found Logos was using Saxon math, so we started using it. I was helping people with that and Shirley Grammar.

I got to know Brenda Shirley. We were helping get people into that. We were starting to put the history and the Bible curriculum together. Latin was very pieced together at that point. Canon sort of had a product, but not really. And so people were this was very much at the beginning, a word of mouth. So we were just spending time talking to people.

And my parents said to us, “Have you ever really thought about the fact that maybe God is calling you to do this?” I mean, I joke Marlin was spending more time helping people like volunteering, helping people than he was doing our actual business. And so my parents just approached us and said, “Have you really thought about the fact that maybe God is calling you to do this?”

Marlin Detweiler:

Well and slightly before that, I think this was the observation your parents made. We'd gotten to know the curriculum providers, the relationship with Brenda Shirley. She actually came to Orlando to help with teacher training for the first year of the Geneva School. And we got to know just a little bit of John Saxon before his passing. Of course, this year we're involved in history curriculum and there were other providers.

We got to know Steve from Math-U-See. And so your parents observed that and suggested that. And my first reaction was, “I'm not really interested in this being more than a hobby business” for the history and Bible curriculum that we were already working on, but gave that further thought. And your parents were kind enough to say, “If you want to do this, what do you need?”

We figured the place to start was to create a catalog, and it was 1996 that we were talking about the history and Bible, but 1998 was our first real catalog. We had a little brochure for the prior year, but the first real catalog was in 1998, and they agreed to provide the capital to help fund that.

And so that was the beginning of Veritas Press, that first catalog. This is probably a good stopping point. We'll do a second episode and talk about the first summer of Veritas Press, which makes me laugh a little bit.

Laurie Detweiler:

You do want to come back for that because that is definitely a funny story.

Marlin Detweiler:

Folks. You've been with us for Veritas Vox about the foundation of Veritas. We look forward to seeing you next time.