If you want the short, quick, sort of official version of who I am and where I came from you can find it immediately below.
If you want the longer version with the details about why I have this site and care about the things I talk about you can jump down here for the full story.
The Short Story
I grew up in a family that cared a lot about being a family. My parents ended up being some of the early pioneers in the modern homeschooling movement, effectively ruining my chances of being satisfied with any kind of “normal” life, and giving me a deep background in nontraditional education.
I was the first homeschooled student admitted to Bridgewater College, which worked out splendidly in many different ways, with the most splendid part being that the second homeschool student Bridgewater admitted was so beautiful and intelligent that I did the only logical thing and married her as soon as we graduated. As far as I was concerned college was a smashing success.
After I graduated I worked for almost eleven years in higher education admissions, including nine years as a Director of Admissions for a private, liberal arts college, where I gained a deep understanding of traditional secondary and higher education. During this time I also worked part-time as a junior high, youth, and young adult pastor for two different churches.
Today, I am the Executive Director of Student Life for Lumerit Education. In that role I have the privilege of meeting and speaking to groups of prospective and current students and their families all over the country. I also have the very exciting opportunity to work with our amazing student leadership teams and the incredible Student Life staff in developing, building, and guiding all aspects of a very fast growing and unique national and international student community.
My professional experience has allowed me to work with literally thousands of students and hundreds of families. I draw from that background to teach and speak around the country about family and education, but it is my family life and experience that makes that teaching and speaking real, and keeps me humble. My wife and I have six children, and it is the day to day living with them that is my biggest responsibility, most important accomplishment, and biggest reality check.
All that I have learned and the little I have accomplished has been by the Grace of God, and I value every opportunity to share what I have been blessed to learn.
I live with my family in the Shenandoah Valley, where we try our best to live the adventures we are in, and properly train for the ones that will come.
The Long Story
If you read the shorter version of my story above I hope you gained some sense of where I came from, what I have learned, and how I have learned it, as well as a sense of what is important to me.
If you persisted long enough to read this part too, let me reward that persistence by confessing clearly what I hope you already knew or assumed: I’m not that special, and while I have been blessed by great parents, great teachers, and great mentors in my life, I have managed to ignore and forget more of what they taught than I have learned and remembered.
Almost everything that I teach or share that works and is useful I only discovered after I had reached a point of complete disaster and crisis. I have spent most of my life being reactive, not pro-active. Deep down I knew that I should be a little more on top of things, to get a little ahead of the crisis, to plan a little more, but do you know why most people (including me) don’t do those things? It takes work. Coasting along and reacting takes a lot less work, and as long as the crisis that you need to react to isn’t too awful coasting feels like an easier and better option.
That’s the way I have lived most of my life. I have coasted off the momentum gained by the blessings in my life and I have managed to survive the disasters that have happened. I knew I should be a little more deliberate about my life and the life of my family, but never really mustered the long term willpower to really be decisive about things.
Why bother? I had a pretty decent little life going.
I had two parents who shared one marriage and created an extraordinary family life growing up. Great friends in high school. The ability and opportunity to attend college, and a great college experience while I was there. The best part of my college experience was meeting my wife. We were married right after graduation and I found a good job with great colleagues. Job advancements and children followed.
Fifteen years later I was still happily married and the father of six children, living in a modest, but happy house, working for a great company doing work that I loved and thought was important. I had a message about families that I thought was worth sharing, and I was getting some chances to share it with people. I thought I had things figured out fairly well, was proud of what I had accomplished, and very grateful for the blessings that God had provided.
I had big dreams about what I wanted to do and accomplish, and at least a partial vision for what I wanted our family to be and to do. I never really worked hard at accomplishing those dreams because, well, there was always time and I would get to it soon.
In all of this the one thing that had been constant was that I was wonderfully healthy. Never had a broken bone. Never been hospitalized. Almost never sick and when I was I recovered fast. The worst thing that happened was that I hurt my back in a weightlifting accident and it took a few months to heal. I lived a pretty healthy lifestyle, but didn't focus on it too much. I exercised, but wasn't really ever "in training." I ate healthy, but only because my wife cooked healthy. I was just naturally healthy.
And then I wasn't. Over a period of a month or so I was suddenly sick. I felt terrible. I was exhausted, and parts of my body didn't work correctly all the time. Finally I went to the doctor, fully expecting to be told what was wrong and how to fix it. It must be a weird virus, or infection, or something else that you could take a pill for and get fixed. So I went to the doctor to get answers.
The answer was....wait. Wait for tests, wait for a specialist appointment, wait for more tests, wait for another doctor's visit. Get an MRI. Schedule a neurologist visit, and a follow up visit. There was no clear diagnosis. In an attempt to label and dismiss the worst options I joked with my doctors, “Well, at least it’s not something terrible like ALS or something, right?” They didn’t laugh. The neurologist ordered nerve tests. I went home with my reality seriously altered.
At home that night I put my two sons in bed. As I was leaving the room I noticed a backpack sitting in the corner. It was a top of the line backpacking backpack, and it had been sitting there for almost a year. It still had the tags on. It had never been used. I had bought it for my oldest son the previous Christmas, and had given it to him with the promise that we would do an overnight backpacking trip that summer.
We didn’t take the trip. We hadn’t even done a day hike since last Christmas. I don’t remember why. There must have been important reasons at the time, but it was funny how I couldn’t remember them now. At the time those other things were important, and there would always be time later. Except I was sick, and had just come from the neurologist, and all of a sudden it was possible that there wasn’t any time left. It was possible that by the time the weather was good enough to take an overnight backpacking trip again I would not be physically able to go.
I don’t have ALS. I never did find out what I had, and I still have some remaining symptoms, but for the most part my health has been restored and I can physically do all of the things that I could do before, but I’m not the same person.
I didn’t learn exactly what physical disease I had or how to cure it, but I gained a very clear understanding of an attitude and outlook disease I was suffering from and what the cure was.
Life is unpredictable and nobody knows how much time is left. The one thing that is certain is that time will pass. I learned that if I wanted that time to mean something I had to be deliberate in how I used it. I had to have a clear vision of what I would use it for, invest in the training and education I would need to accomplish that vision, and then take action and pursue that vision. I had to be deliberate in my personal life and in my professional life.I had to be apply this thinking to my family. Living deliberately was necessary in every area, from my health to what I was reading and learning.
That has been my biggest lesson in life so far, and that is what I am most passionate about teaching and sharing.