Champion Character


In my family, we have a three-part motto:

  1. Dream Big
  2. Work Hard
  3. Be Humble

I think these three things go together, each one building on the previous. We first need to have a vision, a big vision, for how we want to use our unique talents and gifts and passions to serve the world. Then, we need to put in the work to prepare ourselves to accomplish that big dream. Hard work is a prerequisite to success in any endeavor. But it could all be for naught if we lose our anchor, if we detach from reality and get big-headed and hard-hearted.

Grace has a gift for the middle platitude. She works fantastically hard, no complaints. She is physically and mentally strong as a result. She has chosen the big dream of working with horses — ideally, owning her own ranch. This is where I come in, as her mentor. I excel at dreaming big. I encourage her to always think bigger. If she ends up with her own successful ranch, I’m sure I will be encouraging her to franchise, or to give travelling clinics, or something I can’t foresee at this point. Dreaming big comes easily for me.

It also comes easy for Noah. He wants to be part of the liberty movement that will keep the world free and prosperous. He wants to create wealth so he can leverage it. He wants to be a successful husband and father. Yes, he thinks about all these things, even though he is still 13. He wants to Be Somebody.

I’ve noticed something. Those who dream big have a tougher time with the second two steps. Those who have the second two need help with the first.

Elias, for example, has no idea what his big dream should be, but he works hard every day on anything you ask. He also thinks very little about his own self. He has confidence but not vanity, nor pride. He is a “team player” and enjoys others’ successes.

This is why it’s great to have two (or more) mentors for the youth phase of learning. I mentor the children about discovering their big dream, and Steve mentors them on working hard. He is also the better example of being humble, but life has humbled me some, as well. 🙂

Grace created the artwork above, and I thought it was fitting for this post. Our youths, and us ourselves, are in the hours, weeks, and months of building champion character. We need to establish broadly the right mottos, attributes, attitudes, habits that will help us be successful in life. And what is success? To live, to love, to serve, to experience joy and share it with all around us.

We aren’t preparing for a particular performance (getting the right job, making a bundle of cash, snagging the perfect mate, etc.) but rather building a character that will enable us to contribute and enjoy what life brings. It’s not that Champions have no challenges, it’s that they have the character to overcome. This is the time our children have, when they are in our homes, where they can build it. And so can we.

I love the 90’s show Lois and Clark, a Superman show. In the “UltraWoman” episode, through a fluke circumstance, Lois gains superpowers and Clark loses his. Because the world still needs a superhero, Clark’s mother comes over to make a costume for Lois so she can fill the role. Lois is uncomfortable with supermanwhat Clark will think, knowing that it can’t make him  feel good seeing her do the job he was born for.

But to paraphrase Clark’s father, “Lois, Clark is strong. And I’m not talking about how much he can bench press. He’s strong where it counts, when it counts.” What makes Superman the greatest superhero is not that he can throw nuclear bombs out into space. It’s that he is unfailingly good.* He has Champion character, and the great news about that is: character is not a superpower. We can all build that. We can help our families build that. And the world needs it, when the performance moment comes.

Live & Learn


* Although the comics have at times messed with Clark’s goodness. The Lois & Clark show really plays Superman well. He’s not all-knowing, but he is well-intentioned. The comic writers have sometimes sacrificed character for drama, always a mistake.

How to build a habitable planet


Noah took astronomy this past semester with Williamsburg Academy, and was inspired about the heavens and everything out there. Now, to back up a bit, Noah was age 12 at the time of the class, and it was a high school level course, so it was an experiment whether he could keep up with the workload and understand the concepts. Especially given that I was a full-time student and didn’t have time to help him much.

But, as a scholar, he had the opportunity to try. In reflecting on the experience, we decided that some things were easy:

  • attending class twice a week (plus live telescope sessions on occasion) – because the teacher was fantastic, thanks to Mr. Rees!
  • taking pictures and sightings of the day and night skies – this was fun and got the whole family more interested in celestial bodies.
  • using the online learning system (Canvas) since Noah had already been a student for several years with Williamsburg Intermediate.

Some things that were more difficult for Noah:

  • Keeping up with the weekly study guides. He found that he needed to read and research for these, and it was a stretch. At times, he felt overwhelmed. I think he may not have turned every one in. Or a few may have been late.
  • Taking weekly mastery assessments and a mid-term and final exam. He had to study the weekly guides to prepare for these. He found that he needed to pray before studying and then take the exam right after reviewing his notes. When he did that, he was most successful. At times, he had to leave an answer blank because he didn’t know it at all. All questions were short answer, no guessing possible.
  • Managing the overall workload was a stretch. There were ongoing projects like tracking solar shift and moon phases, as well as random telescope viewing reports and observation reports. He sometimes asked for me to spend time helping him organize the list of things to do or catching up on assignments.

Overall, I thought the things that were fun and the things that were a challenge both made this a fantastic semester for Noah. He knew that the class would “count” for his admission to college, so he cared about doing well, and caring is everything for Noah. If you’ve got a sweet youth that you’d like to see stretch a bit and do more proactive learning, classes from Williamsburg Academy are perfect, you might give them a try.

Here is a screencast of Noah’s final project in the class, which he did using the Universe Sandbox program to experiment with How to Build a Habitable Planet. (note that screencast doesn’t buffer as nicely as youtube, so it may hang up a bit.)

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Live & Learn

* photo credit: aeirmid

The journey of music

musicFirst, if you aren’t a classical music lover, this TED talk is for you! Afterward, please enjoy my analysis of one of Mozart’s piano concertos.

Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

Here is my analysis of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 21 in C Major, conducted by Murray Perahia. These two movements are 21 minutes long, which gives you ample time to sink in and really see the music. Enjoy!

In Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 21 in C Major, conducted by Murray Perahia, there are many instruments playing, including violin, viola, cello and bass instruments from the string family. There are also supporting instruments from woodwinds and brass, including flute, oboe, bassoon, french horn and trumpet. There is even percussion with the timpani. But the feature instrument is the piano. This creates a rich, theatrical sound that has both high spirits and deep emotion at different times in the movements.

The melody works in the major key of C, with some minor flourishes at different times, such as at 6:30. As conductor Benjamin Zander* says, “the job of the C is to make the B sad.” It alternates between conjunct and disjunct as the movement develops, giving unity to some parts and variety to others — and helping the audience stay interested and engaged for the duration.

This concerto has a regular rhythm in a duple format, or what could be characterized as quadruple, with four beats per measure.

The harmony is mainly consonant, leading to a pleasant listening experience. On occasion, the emotion is made more tense by the introduction of dissonant chords, as at this point: 3:45. As conductor Benjamin Zander says, “If you have a deceptive cadence,be sure to raise your eyebrows. Then everybody will know.”

While each instrument (except for the piano) is monophonic, the texture of the overall piece is polyphonic, except at interludes where fewer pieces play and it is homophonic, having two parts.

The tempo of this piece alternates between fast and driving, and slow and serene. This contrast gives the audience a richer experience. The conductor encourages rubato, or small increases and decreases in speed for artistic effect, at various points, particularly in his own piano part.

There is a wide range of dynamics in this piece, at times loud (and fast) and alternately slow and soft. The piece spends more time in the forte or loud dynamic, punctuating softer opening sentences (with few instruments) with whole-orchestra exclamations. Transitions between loud and soft are often smoothed by crescendo on the way up or decrescendo as the volume goes softer, but at other times the piece surprises with a sudden shift in dynamics.

Perhaps because of too many viewings of Fantasia, I felt the form of these movements told quite a theatrical story. The characters, represented by the various melodies, took turns traveling across the minds’ stage, sometimes heavy and smooth like a hippo on ice skates, sometimes trilling and light like a hummingbird gathering nectar. Other characters made their journeys by leaping from stone to stone across a pond or by spinning, dancing, skipping and strolling. Often, a smaller character (higher, lighter sound) was followed step by step by a larger one (played by a lower instrument) in echo.

So many adventures happened that it gave the sense of travelling far away and afield. The sense of coming home is accomplished by the slower, softer, serene cadences, such as at 16:30. Overall, these two movements by Mozart lead the listener through several tests and trials on a journey that has some cheer and excitement, some danger and foreboding, some sadness, some time to catch one’s breath before being whisked into the next adventure, and finally the return to quiet glades and, perhaps the comforts of one’s own hobbit-hole.

Live & Learn

The Mitchell Manifesto

The leadership education folks designed a manifesto that outlined the vision of Thomas Jefferson Education, and I thought it was a great general vision document.

I read it to the kids during Amber’s Mine, and Elias’ first comment was, “Yeah! We should make a Mitchell Manifesto.” Which just goes to show how brilliant Elias is. 🙂 Actually it reminded me that I don’t have to come up with all the ideas in the family. Even seven-year-olds are perfectly capable of coming up with awesome ideas. So, I turned my print-out over and asked them what kinds of things should we put in ours. Here are the notes I took — all their ideas:

  • We like “education to match our mission”
  • We should talk about having a strong core of values
  • We should talk about spiritual stuff
  • We should talk of loving learning and life
  • We should say we won’t be distracted by screens, that we’ll go on our own path (to greatness!)
  • We’ll learn the lessons of the past and study civilizations
  • We want to study God’s creations, nature
  • We’ll be ambassadors for homeschooling and other stuff
  • We’ll make our ancestors smile down upon us from heaven!

This was a month or more ago, and I just got down to tinkering with the layout with Grace’s help and Noah’s advice. We are about 80% there, I think, but I was in the mood to share what we have so far. So here it is, the Mitchell Manifesto version 1.0:


It’s rough, but you get the idea. We start by talking about the foundational phases of learning, talk about our life path, then touch on the two passions of my kids (history and nature) then talk about how we’ll better the world at the end. Grace and I have some swirly designs to add and some more text to tweak, and then I’ll put it up in an editable form in case any of you want to tear parts of it up to make your own family manifesto. Comment if you want anything in particular about the final document. I’m using MS Publisher to make it, but I may be able to get it in to Word or something.

This is one of the parts of home education that plays to my strengths — the WHY AM I DOING THIS? stuff, the vision. Everyone wants to know what purpose is served by the things they do… don’t they? We ask children to spend 6-8 hours a day, five days a week for thirteen plus years, and the WHYs we often give them are pretty flimsy. How sad it is if the only WHY we offer is so that they can go to MORE school i.e. college. It is also sad if the only final answer is so that they can “get a job”.

What is an education really? What would you want your education to have been? What would your ideal education for your kids be?

I’d love your input!


Live, learn and play!

How I share what’s “Mine”

in response to: “how do you get them to learn things they don’t want to?”

learn-mine1This is my second year doing Leadership Education, and there are many things I don’t do well yet. But one thing that is going well is what the DeMille’s call “Kidschool” or the “Mine” where I, as the mentor, share what is mine to share. Since we are all unique, each family’s Mine will be different, so perhaps it’s fun to see how different approaches can be successful and lead to great education. Here’s how I prepare and carry out Amber’s Mine (in Fall 2012, anyway):

At my weekly meeting with Steve (our “Companion Chat”), we talk about what we’d like each child to explore that week, and I add the general ideas to my planner in one of the buckets listed below. Let me note here that for the most part, Steve is a bump on log when coming up with ideas for what the kids need to be inspired to learn, so mostly I just vet my thoughts about it and he says “sounds great” with a silent sigh of relief. Just being real, folks. He has more to say when we’re covering our six-month inventories than for the weekly planning sesh.

The Mine Buckets:

Monday – Math focus
Tuesday – Tapestry (Tapestry of Grace, which we use as a framework for history and some lit)
Wednesday – Science focus (and Technology and Engineering)
Thursday – Orchestrations – the arts, music and writing (about something from the other days or creative writing)
Friday – Project Day (they design and execute projects of their choice)
Saturday – Family work and play day
Sunday – Spiritual focus

So, we might say we’d noticed they’d been designing bridges with craft sticks and hot glue and they’d also used “Cargo Bridge” or “World of Goo” on computer to make bridges. So I might decide to fan that interest by doing Wednesday’s Mine about the types of different bridges and build a few models out of paper, then that evening we watch some video about what modern civil engineers do.

After such a day, I notice an increase in the breadth and depth of the kids’ explorations. Maybe their artwork turns to designing bridges on grid paper, maybe they broaden to seeing how tall they can engineer the Jenga blocks into skyscrapers, maybe their Lego ships start being built with the principles they learned. These things become “learning time” events that are not guided by me at all.

A few weeks ago, we decided we wanted to give the kids more arrows in their arithmetic quiver, more than just the standard algorithm or mental regrouping. So after my weekly meeting with hubby I looked up YouTubes and found the Lattice Multiplication method as well as a fun Waldorf finger multiplication method. I taught them both for Monday Math Mine, and Elias (7) has been begging everyone to give him math facts to work on his hands, while Noah (10) has been designing and solving his own lattice multiplicaton problems on grid paper all week*.

I don’t plan the Mine content more than a week out, with the exception of the Tapestry day, where I order library books to go along with the era we’re studying and I have a couple months’ topics penciled into my planner. These topics are adjusted (we skip a week, combine a week) as needed but I like having a history forecast in the back of my mind.

I should note that while the Mine falls into certain buckets, the kids still do all sorts of learning each day, not just math on Monday and such.

Digging in the Mine

When I wake each day, I say a prayer that I’ll share what God would want the kids to know, then I read scripture to support that prayer and place a bookmark if I find anything I want to share directly with the kids. This is the step I wouldn’t leave out for anyone who wants a successful learning time. Then I run on my treadmill while the kids get ready for the day and do about half an hour of family work.

When the kids are done with their morning routine, they head upstairs and write on their planners. This is enough of a routine that there is no pushback from the kids on this — outside of the occasional gentle reminder (“move along, please, I want to start Mine in ten minutes…”). Pushback would be a Core phase issue, I think, so all three of my kids are in Love of Learning phase this year and that’s what I’m describing, a Mine with LoLers.

I join them with my planner and we say an opening prayer. Then, we talk calenders, then I share any spiritual thoughts I have and we discuss things.

Then I launch into what I want to share. Sometimes this is as unplanned as looking at the resources next to my chair and picking the book that feels right. Maybe it’s Thursday, so I grab “Writing Magic” by Gail Carson Levine and flip through, read aloud the chapter on noticing details, chat about details in our learning room, reminding them to notice how things look, sound, feel, even taste and smell! Then I invite them to pull out notebook paper from their binders and we all (me included, or not) write a paragraph focused on sharing sensory details in the written word.

I want to add that I think success in the Mine includes keeping useful resources at hand, both the kind that sit next to the mentor’s chair and the kind that are constantly being added to her own mind through personal study and exploration (Leadership key #7: You, not Them). For example, if I hadn’t spent time searching for great writing resources (or, in the case of the writing specifically, had a long history of studying writing for myself) I would have empty hands and a frantic mind when Thursday came. Instead, I often feel excited and full of ideas to share. I have studied and I love learning and so they are loving learning and studying.

I try to keep the Mine to an hour or less so they can also pursue their own studies. And hey, if I’m feeling really blah or behind on my own stuff, it can totally be as short as this:


Prayer, scripture thought, reminder that today is a __________ focus day, so here are a few ideas…

Does anyone need to sign up for time with me today?

Okay, go to, learn, create, value, impact!

During the Mine, we also sometimes (especially Tuesday) discuss what the kids have studied on their own. Noah, particularly, inhales a lot of historicals and historical fiction so he adds a lot to those discussions. Grace adds a lot to the natural science discussions because she reads field guides and animal encyclopedias. Like, for fun.

But, to be clear, this is not a time when I quiz them on what they’ve read, nor on math facts or anything test-like. We do bean jar game with Dad in the evening for fact quizzing and we do dinner-table conversation as well as private Mentor Meetings for study reports. The Mine is more for open discussion. Even Math Monday, if we work some story problems, we are doing it together with volunteer answers. I don’t want to create an atmosphere where they feel pressure to perform. Instead, the Mine is a meeting where they can come with open minds and hearts and know they’ll be refilled and refreshed with good ideas from someone they love and trust.
I feel like this post is kind of like trying to explain how to ride a bike. I’m making it sound overly complicated, and, yes, there are a lot of steps involved in making it work well, but when they all come together, the whole thing goes off smoothly and we’re just enjoying the ride. The thing I’ve learned is really this: every ounce of effort made in the noble pursuit of helping your children educate themselves is WORTH IT. Whatever we have to give, we give, and it’s enough. I feel lucky every day that I get to be a student of TRUTH alongside the people I care most about in the world.

Live, Learn and Play – it’s Worth it!


* Actually, it looks like the multiplication Mine has had far-reaching effects, particularly for Noah, who has brought up repeatedly the realization that he is actually strong in math… something I’ve told him often, but was hard for him to believe because public school had told him the opposite for four years.

The Flower of Truth

or “I’m Baaaaack!”
true-flowerWell, I tried to stay away. I really did. But the outcome of my experiment is clear: Internet, we likey. Doing a one-month blackout (June), possibly two (June/July) is just right for my family. In August, I start wanting to do more research to prep for fall homeschooling, and the kids like to have a little time in the summer mornings to watch clips of “Horrible History” or “Magic Schoolbus” or whatnot, which during the school year is just a Friday morning luxury.

We intended to watch the Olympics online, a perfect cap to our year of Ancient World studies, but since NBC has monopolized the coverage and apparently lobbied so that Canadian and British sources are not allowing me to view their streams, we’re forced to do with clips and glimpses. I’m kind of bugged, actually. NBC would let me view the stream if I also had satellite or cable… but the whole point of watching it online is that I don’t have satellite or cable. We did catch a few hours of swimming, track’n’field and gymnastics this week with our awesome cousins who are in town (vacation house has satellite).

Anyway, on to the point of this post, which of course is education-related. Education is now my life, and quickly becoming my one expertise, so what else would I write of? A few weeks ago I wanted the kids to understand the idea that all Truth is part of one great whole, that it all works together for our good. Remember, I started down this road with their planners — we stopped referring to core subjects of math, reading and writing, and ended up grouping things loosely between the arts and the sciences. But I wanted to go deeper. I wanted them to feel comfortable putting scripture study on their list, or the tutoring of a sibling. I wanted them to include the work they do around the house, or other life skills they learned. I wanted to reinforce the life pyramid I introduced last year as well.

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. –Albert Einstein

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. –Buddha

So, I remembered that the sciences are referred to by the acronym: STEM, and that made a useful image pop into my head. I shared it on a whiteboard during Amber’s Mine and the discussion went something like this (warning, lengthy rambling coming up):

Me: (draw green line on board) Guess what this is. (add another green line to make it thicker, then add a leaf to the side) Now?

Kids: A plant!

Me: Okay, what part of the plant? Elias?

(they guess leaf, bottom, and finally stem)

Me: Yeah, so have you ever heard the sciences called STEM?


Me: It’s an acronym, know what that is? (Grace explains) So what parts of the sciences are represented in this word, I’ll give you a start — the “S” stands for science.

(they guess and are mostly right. Elias surprises us by guessing Engineering first.)

Me: Right, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s sometimes called STEM, and it provides a structure for the flower, a structure for our society to build on. We’ll come back to that. (draw a red top above the stem with five petals) What’s this?

(they guess top, flower, rose and finally blossom)

Me: yeah, the top of the flower- the pretty part- is the blossom, also called the bloom. And I made up an acronym to represent this part. Now, if the stem is sciences, what is the top?

(the arts)

Me: yeah, so my acronym is kind of silly, but here it is. B is for beauty, L is for language (including literature), jump over here to M, what do you think M is for?

(after a few tries, they come up with music)

Me: And here’s the silly part. The best I could come up with to really encompass all the wonderful variety of the arts is this: Observations and Orchestrations. With the arts, we observe the beauty, or language, or music of something, and then we create something of our own. Orchestrate is a synonym for create. Define “synonym” Noah?

Noah: The same kind of word. Means the same thing.

Me. Thank you. So we look at the beauty of our world and then create more. That’s the BLOOM of the arts. I might go so far as to say it’s what the STEM exists for. For instance, is this house we live in, that Dad built with his own two hands, is this the STEM or the BLOOM?

Grace: Both!

Me: Well, yes, it is beautiful because he chose to make it so. But could we school in this house if it were well engineered but not pretty? Sure. Could we enjoy The Hobbit and study memory verses and write stories and take photographs and illustrate heavy artillery if we had no house? This house provides the structure, the environment that frees us to enjoy the BLOOM in life. You following?

(nods of ascent)

Me: So, is this picture complete? It has a stem and a bloom. Is that all a flower needs?

Grace: It’s missing it’s root system.
Me: Right, we’re not talking about a flower that has been cut off from everything, but a living flower. What else completes this picture?

Noah: The ground, the dirt.

Me: (I draw roots and dirt) What else does a flower need?

Elias: Water!

Grace: Sun.

Me: (Draw a watering can with droplets and a yellow sun) Now let’s label these, but without the acronyms. Just keeping with the metaphor we’re building. What is the root system in the dirt?

(they decide it is the core values, the base of our Life Pyramid) I had not specifically thought through this part of the lesson, just winging it now -because I’m most interested in getting to the “Sun”– so I label the dirt “Core”)

Me: Okay, so what is the watering can?

(they instantly decide it is the work, the effort. I label the can “Work”. They also decide we could add weeds to the metaphor, and I agree but don’t draw them because I like positive imagery better than nasty old weed images. :))

Me: And here’s the easy one, what is the sun?
Elias: God!

Noah: Jesus!

Me: Ah! And here’s the fun part, what do they call Jesus, in relation to our Heavenly Father?

Grace: the Son.

(I label “Son” by the yellow orb, and pause. They are quiet.)

Me: Now, does this picture feel complete?


Me: Okay, let’s give it a title. What flower is this? What type?

(they come up with several answers, school, education, learning, knowledge. I tell them I like all those answers and that one word encompasses all of the good of that, and more. We read Psalm 85:11 — “Truth shall spring out of the earth” and discuss that chapter a bit. I finally label the drawing, TRUTH, and place the small whiteboard on a display shelf)

I don’t know why exactly I typed up that whole lesson, but I hope you find it helpful. Maybe I’m trying to answer the questions I get a lot lately: “But what do you DO all day?” or “How to you make ’em do their work?” or some derivative. 🙂 This whole lesson took maybe 15 minutes, and I rarely do Amber’s Mine for more than 40 minutes, but if I do it right, it inspires their learning for the day, the week, the month, or, often it makes it into our family culture and is remembered always. I don’t need to bore them for six hours to hammer in concepts. Once they have the correct principles written in their hearts, they govern themselves. I think a wise man might have said something like that, once.

Since that Mine, we’ve been talking about the Flower of Truth no matter what they are learning. For instance, we read this scripture together:

true-flower77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.

D&C 88:77-80

Suddenly, every one of us knew that the doctrine of the kingdom didn’t just mean churchy things. We felt decompartmentalized. “Mission” didn’t mean wearing a black name tag for two years. It meant “life mission”. And the doctrine of the Great Scientist and Most Creative Being in the Universe is all truth, not just what might be covered in sunday school lessons. We’re really getting somewhere now!

Truly, can’t wait for fall. Gonna be an awesome year. Stay tuned — next post I’ll share some plans.

Live, learn and play!

Liber and Public Virtue

Chapter 13 of A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion

handshakeLiber is the quality of being able to think, speak and reason.

“Liberty” is the state of being Liber. Liberty refers not just to the absence of bondage, but to the fitness of the individual to act as a citizen. (Home Companion pg. 148)

We are often told that “freedom isn’t free” — referring to those who fight with guns and bombs. But what if we look at the platitude a little more broadly? What if that “eternal vigilance” so important to  freedom doesn’t refer to the sword-carriers, or even the watchmen on the towers, but those of us back home enjoying said liberty? What if freedom requires us — you and me — to actively seek knowledge and understanding in the principles of liberty, of what it means to be free?

Something I’ve learned this year is that we all must bear knowledge  in order to act freely and preserve freedom. We must have  the context of history and of the value of individuality and of the benefits of a person receiving the fruits of his own hard work.

But that alone could recommend a man to be selfish in the pursuit of his “happiness”. So, if we instead look at the answer to bondage as a two-part solution, we get the balanced equation. The other half is Public Virtue. In 1776 the term Public Virtue meant voluntarily sacrificing personal benefit for the good of society. Remember that the signers of the Declaration of Independence (and their families) were committing treason, and did so at great personal risk.

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt…they have more need of masters.” –Benjamin Franklin

Private virtue, or morality, is of course important to freedom, or SELF-government, and I have (tried) to be an example of good character for my kids. But I realized this year that I really have not been an example of public virtue. I had tried to pretty thoroughly disconnect with society in the areas where I didn’t like what I saw. I’m a person that likes to be cheerful, happy (who doesn’t?), and so I stayed out of those rooms in the house that seemed too dark. I never even hunted for a light switch.

But, as I have studied Leadership Education, I have felt the need to make a change. Because this type of education is about “You, not them” and “Inspire, not require”, I felt like, if I wanted them to be leaders in the future world, they needed to see me as one in my community. So, this election cycle, I got involved in the political process for the first time!

I attended my local area caucus, and was chosen as a delegate to go on to my county caucus. That means I have a (however minor) responsibility to help frame the issues and ideals for my county, as well as helping choose the delegates we send on to the state level.

Thus begins an adventure of entering the dark world of politics. And yes, there’s a lot to spurn, but guess what? I’m finding there is a lot of cracks of light in this seemingly dark arena. I’m finding that there are lots of people who are sacrificing their time and talents to fulfill what they feel is their duty as a liberty-minded citizen. Who are talking about the uncomfortable issues and struggling to help others maintain the freedoms that keep this nation strong.

It’s actually been interesting and even exciting to see how the process works and to meet people of very differing backgrounds and ideologies who are coming together under the banner of liberty. It makes me realize that a lot of people basically want the same things, that we aren’t so isolated or far apart as I feared. I’m just one of many who feel as though we are waking up, and I can see that the movement will only grow stronger, because we’re not going back to sleep.

I’m also learning to ask these questions about candidates for elected office — and this will apply far beyond this election cycle. I will ask:

  • Which of all these candidates has demonstrated both Liber and Public Virtue?
  • Which one has read, lived and studied history and causality?
  • Which one consistently compares issues to the Founders’ yardstick?
  • Which, though hisorher actions, has demonstrated hisorher self-view as a servant of the public, not a master of such?
  • Which one has made the sometimes hard and unpopular choices to defend liberty and national sovereignty?

I, too, hate to talk politics, but I’m excited to talk about liberty! And I’m super stoked that a choice I thought I was making for my kids (home education) has done so much for me, even in one year. I look forward to seeing where it takes me and my family in five or ten years.



Live, Learn and Play!


Links we like: Khan Academy

We’ve had so much fun this year doing equations, earning badges, and watching Salman Khan’s tablet explanations of everything from the Bay of Pigs invasion to Astronomical Measurements, we thought we would share the link.

Visit Khan Academy for yourself or a young friend and see what you can learn from Salman Khan!

It’s all free, you know. And for homeschool moms, you can sign in as a coach and see the progress your kids are making with some useful reports. Supa cool, and a great example of someone finding his mission in life and living it. We love you Sal!


Live, learn and play!

Incredible Leadership

or: Leadership Education, part II

You, not them

doghangoverHere at the Mitchell home, we’ve been working since springtime on one thing: getting rid of the “conveyer belt hangover”. That’s what Leadership Education peeps call it when you keep expecting things to be like the public school education you experienced — and your children to fit a certain mold based on their age rather than who they are as individuals.

So, I’ve been working to get to know the rhythms, interests, talents and passions of my children. Although I always thought I was pretty close to them, I realized during this process that I had drifted away from really, really knowing them since they started school. I used to know them very well — during their early years home with me. It has taken time to get back to that.

But I’m there, and I have to say the process has deepened not only my appreciation for who they are, but even my actual feelings of love for them, and joy at being with them. It’s very cool. And it signals to me that I’m ready to move forward.

In Leadership Education, I am supposed to be the leader in the educational realm (I and hubby of course). Meaning, I am the leader in need of education, and as I pursue that with vigor and diligence, I inspire the kids to do the same. Great concept. So easy I can’t believe someone had to articulate it, and yet so foreign that I’ve had to remind myself over and over the past few months to do so.

Have you ever tried to push a rope?

Okay, so I’m the leader.


I decided to take a journey this year, an educational journey that will span centuries, empires, cultures and peoples. I’ve invited the kids along for the adventure, and they’ve agreed. We’ll start with the first known civilizations — Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, the Maya and others, and move toward the ancient Greeks and Romans until the fall of the empire. That should fill the year nicely, don’t you think? I expect it will take four years to journey through all of history and across the globe. We’ll face heroes and villains, princes and paupers, movers and shakers. So there’s no time to lose.

We’ll dive in next week. In preparation, I harvested every last book on Egypt and Mesopotamia from my two local library systems. I ordered “Where in time is Carmen Sandiego” (remember her??) and printed blank outline maps to draw the empires. I set up empty binders: “Book of Centuries”, “Book of Nations” and “Book of Persons”. I have a roll of art paper that hasn’t seen use since they were toddlers finger painting, and that will become our giant timeline. Fitting, I think.

I’m so excited. And, I’m beginning to realize, that makes all the difference! I’m ready to lead. Wish me luck, I’ll keep you posted.


Live, learn and play!

Related Links:



Why suing is great

noah032110Noah: Johnny told me all about suing yesterday. It’s a great way to make money. See, you have a pay a little money but then you get a whole bunch back.

Mom: !?!?!?!?

Noah: What do you think, Mom?

Mom: Well, if you ask your dad, you’ll get a lovely string of level-four words.*

Noah: Yeah but I’m asking you because I want the real truth.


Okay, that made my day. Not the suing part, but that Noah knew he could trust me for a thoughtful response on any topic.

And in case you’re interested, here’s what I said. It’s hard to come up with good stuff in the moment, but anyway:

Well, if there was a guy and he was swinging a hammer around all crazy-like, and he swung it into your arm and broke your arm bones, you’d have to go to the hospital and pay money to have it fixed. Maybe you want him to pay because he was being all crazy, but he refuses no matte what you say. So you can file a document and take him to court for the cost of your doctor bills. You sue him because you can’t work it out any other way.

Next, say you were working at a job where you slide wood blocks through a vertical saw, called a band saw. You’re pretty careful, but one time you lose focus and slice your finger off. You go the hospital and they reattach it, but you can’t work for a while as it heals. Now, most companies will pay for your bills, and the time you miss at work. If they didn’t, it’d be like the guy above. Even though you knew when you took that job that you should be careful and even though you weren’t, they’ll likely still pay. But you can also sue for money that doesn’t have anything to do with your bills or your lost work, but instead is about your sad feelings and stuff like that. That’s where the “big” money seems to come from, from what I’ve seen.

Also, if someone sues the school, for instance, that’s not a business, so the money comes from the public. So it’s a tough issue.

Live, learn and play!

* In case you’ve missed every other reference, we have levels for words in our house.