I’ve just finished giving six workshops in Modesto, California, at a very cheerful and well-run convention where every room was packed with people. Here are the Californians at my last workshop, happy to wave for the camera despite the fact that it was 5 PM on the second day of nonstop workshops,

and dedicated to scouring the vendor hall for the very best books.

It’s hard to believe that reading and reasoning are doomed, as so many apocalyptic cultural commentators would have us believe, when this many people turn out on a summer weekend to find books that will help them teach their children how to read and write and think.

I’ve never been to Modesto before. I like coming to the West Coast, not the least because I get to see my friends Diane (left), who sat with me at the Peace Hill Press booth and answered questions with unflagging enthusiasm and energy, and Kate (right), visiting the event as official representative of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine. At these conference, I meet some people who are appalled that I am trying to destroy the minds of American children, many people who are grateful for my attempts to help them educate their children, and a few who are (in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s phrase) “kindred spirits.” It’s just sad when those kindred spirits live on the wrong coast.

It’s dry here, and windy–I’m not used to totally brown ground,

and back in Virginia, we don’t have wind-power.

And although it’s apparently been Mercury-hot here over the past week, the nights are cool. (Literally, not in the California-sense.) I woke up yesterday morning at 5 AM; it was 8 AM Virginia time, after all, and I have children, which means that I haven’t slept past 7 AM in years. I decided I’d go running and was braced for 75-degree heat before dawn, and stepped outside to find that, before the sun comes up, it is almost COLD in California before dawn. So I went charging out and ran seven miles and got a huge blister. Cool air is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, I’m headed back to hot and humid Virginia at 4 AM tomorrow (on American Airlines, which does NOT provide you with a movie on a five-hour flight). I like cool air. But the place where you’ve grown up (been “born and bred,” to use an old Jane Austen phrase) gets into your brain and skin. This is a marvelous place to visit, but I was brought up on the east coast; as much as you may appreciate the beauty of some other part of the country, the sight and smell and feel of the country where you grew up becomes part of the way you think; part of your idea of home.

(The Chickahominy River, photo by my brother Bob,next to Peace Hill, where I grew up and still live.)

Showing 22 comments
  • JFS in IL

    Oh, great, your comments on California made me homesick! Almost 20 years here in Illinois and I STILL yearn for the brown hills and cool nights of my California youth. Sigh. My mom always spoke of how much she missed Kansas, which I never understood until I grew up and left my own home state for an alien existance. Wonder where my Illinois kids will eventually end up?

  • dangermom

    I was there! I could only go on the first day, and even then I had to leave early. But I really enjoyed the writing workshop and learned a lot. My mom came with me, and said, “I have a credential for teaching high-school English, but they never said anything about how to teach writing like that.” (She has never taught–she got the credential in order to run school libraries.)

    California is always brown in the summer, even right on the cooler and wetter coast. I always feel most at home when the grass is brown, though really I love green hills! It’s mostly only green here in spring. I was so shocked when I went to New Jersey, which I’d always heard of as ‘ugly,’ and to me it looked like Eden, nothing but green and trees everywhere!

    The really awful thing about that heatwave was that it didn’t cool down at night, but stayed up at about 90. We couldn’t open our windows at all, and many of us count on getting that fresh air every night. But if you go much further south, that kind of quits; I grew up in Bakersfield and even when you wake up early in the morning, you can still tell it’s going to be really, really hot. Anyway, it cooled down nicely for the conference and it was really lovely weather this weekend.

  • Kristine Doiel

    Wow, you really did publish the picture from the Modesto conference. I am way at the back! I was impressed and inspired by your articulate and literate speaking. That is the beauty and importance of attending a conference. I feel renewed and inspired for another year of school. How your mother accomplished what she did without the resources available now, I can’t imagine!!

    I spoke to you briefly at your booth about how grateful I am that that you have shared your experiences and have written about Classical education. I have been searching for a method to guide me since I started home schooling 5 years ago and didn’t realize I was basically following a Classical model. What a relief to find validation for what I have always thought makes sense. It just seemed natural to teach history chronologically. It also seemed important to have my kids read classic books. Anyway, thank you for giving me a concrete guide so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel!! Blessings and peace to you and your family!

    Kristine Doiel in California

  • twoboysmom


    Thank you so much for coming to Modesto. I was enthralled and inspired by your sessions. I purchased your book TWTM two years ago, when my oldest was 3. This year we start Kindergarten. I have known since before he was born that I would would home school my children and you have given me a foundation on which to build their education.

    I hope you enjoy being back home. We really enjoyed having you here.

  • Isaac

    Hi Susan. It’s me, Isaac. Hello? Are you still there?

    My wife Ann and I had such a great time in Modesto. Getting my picture with you at Fuzio’s was one of my highlights. Ever since we got to visit with you in Sacramento, you’ve been one of our homeschooling heroes. Here’s a link to that picture (dated July 30): http://www.xanga.com/PawnPushinFool Go ahead and use that picture on your next book, if you want to. No, seriously, go ahead.
    Your afternoon talk on Classical Education for Grades 5-8 was fabulous! We have used your book as a guide since the beginning. Our kids love your Story of the World curriculum and CD’s. Thanks so much for all you do. God bless you and your family. Peace.

  • Kamrin

    what your readers don’t know is that the picture above is only half the room! I would venture to say that most in that room are among those “who are grateful for [your] attempts to help them educate their children” and, although on the wrong side of the room for the picture 🙂 I dare to say that I fancy myself a “kindred spirit.” I wish there were more of us on the Left Coast, and I do hope you will come back.

    Whatever you do at these conferences, please do not stop pontificating! (pause, “Mom, what is “pontificating?” Now defining that word with my 6 and 9 year old boys . . . . OK, I’m back.) As I mentioned to you at the conference, we need to hear your voice as we are fighting for both the hearts and MINDS of ourselves and our kids. The popularity of your work has given you an invaluable platform for speaking truth in hard-to-reach places. What a gift . . . thank you.

    Finally, while we all greatly appreciated your presence here, especially on the heels of your dissertation draft, I do understand the draw homeward. We have lived all over the country for various academic pursuits and loved them all, but ultimately came “home” to northern California and our rolling hills, windmills, plains, mountains, valleys, and even the ocean–all within a couple hours’ drive. Thanks again.


  • Kim Cameron-Smith

    Of course the rooms were packed! Don’t you know you’re a rock star? I’m sure that was the best-attended conference VHE has ever had. I was there and so enjoyed your workshops. I wasn’t sure how much I’d get out of it b/c I’ve read and reread the WTM, but I learned a great deal. I found the high school workshop particularly helpful.

    By the way, I’m the lady you met right after your first workshop — I’m the lawyer with the 2 masters (Med Lit and Theology). I’m sorry I accosted you with adoration, but I really do appreciate you! Okay, I LOVE YOU! I also started the talk with you at your booth about the attachment parenting/child training debate. One of the women who joined in on our conversation approached me later and we had a great talk.

    Thanks for coming to the West Coast, brown hills and all (and I think that’s my town in the photo with the windmills! Livermore!). I’m sure your family is happy to have you home.

    Kim Cameron-Smith

  • Nancy

    I started reading WTM almost a year ago. At the time, I had a budding interest in homeschooling but nursed the nagging feeling that such an endeavor was only for weirdos. Studying your book has opened a whole new world for my family. When I learned of the convention and that you would be speaking there, I was ecstatic. The experience did not disappoint. I found you to be knowledgeable, down-to-earth, and approachable. Your willingness to answer questions personally means the world to me.

    My kids are two and three, but the information in your book has inspired me and provided a useful framework to pursue this journey. Teaching in one of the best public school districts in the state did not do near as much to prepare me to teach my own children as has reading your book. Your approach is a validation of everything I wanted to do in the classroom but couldn’t because of the limitations of the system. Ironic- I was the weird one in that environment.

    I am the lady in the white t-shirt who caught you Sat afternoon outside of the convention center to thank you (with great emotion and quivering lips). Thank you again! I am blessed to have found your book and to have met you and would be happy if it were in God’s providence for us to cross paths again.

    Blessings and peace to you,
    Nancy in Roseville, CA

  • Gena Suarez

    I love this! Diane and Kate look so lovely; this picture makes me miss them both terribly – I can’t believe we don’t live near each other anymore (Paul and I are out near your neck of the woods, now, Susan – in fact we were in VA just yesterday). I don’t miss the California HEAT though; we’re hearing everyone is roasting out there. Looks like the conference was highly successful! Modesto is always an excellent convention, one of the better ones in Calif. Blessings to you and yours, Susan.


  • Kate

    It was SO very nice to spend such wonderful time with you. Thanks for the kind words. You are truly a beautiful woman, inside and out.


  • Janine from the central coast of CA

    Hi Susan~
    It was such a blessing to hear you speak at Modesto. I have read and reread TWTM, have implemented many aspects of it but have always felt that I simply just couldn’t DO it all. It sounded so wonderful but ever so high reaching and lofty when I tried to put it into practice. WELL…..after listening to almost ALL of your lectures this past weekend, it now seems “real”.

    Susan, you are a delightful speaker. The lectures were so insightful, filled with immeasurable knowledge yet balanced with heartfelt warnings and down to basic instruction for the how-to’s of your book. I feel refreshed and renewed knowing that TWTM is a buffet….and that I can not play super mom and do it all…but I can do much of it well and I can lead myself to higher education as my children progress.

    Thank you so much for coming out west. I’ve lived here all my life and I STILL can’t stand the brown hills – but, I do love the cool coastal breezes!

    Blessings to you~

  • Robin Barrett

    Hi Susan,

    We drove 5 hours going over the High Sierras to come and to hear you speak. The drive over was beautiful, the fellowship wonderful, and hearing you was over the top. My 2 daughters will benefit from the time I spent there as I begin to take schooling down a couple of notches. I am a master at taking the easy and making it complicated. I am going to request that you publish a worksheet or booklet about kids that translates what they say to what they mean. Those little insights from you were invaluable to hear.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Kate and Diane and they are delightful. I hope it won’t be the only time I ever see them.

    And one final note, I too, along with my daughter, think it would be terrific if we had a “Susan Wise Bauer” silver dollar.


  • Lisa Agao

    We will be launching into homeschooling this year with The Well Trained Mind as our primary guide. Our son was in a Christian school, but after reading about the (modern application of )classical education, our family chose to pull out of school and homeschool following the model that you present. I found out you were presenting in Modesto through your web site and drove up from Fresno both days. Thank you for coming to California. And, don’t stop pontificating! Great nuggets of wisdom and practical advice! I wonder if both you and your mom would consider returning again to California. I love to hear the personal stories and experience of veteran homeschoolers as well as the brass tacks of what to use and how to do it.
    Thanks so much for your Modesto visit!

  • Cari


    I was at the conference in Modesto. Thank you so much for coming. My family and I live in Orange County, but drove the 6 hours to my parent’s home (Hughson, CA – 15 min. drive from Modesto) so that we could participate in your workshops at the VHE Conference.

    I grew up in Central California and still am not a fan of the brown hills. They are not the most attractive part of living in this state. There is a brief time during spring when they are green. This is my favorite time of year!

    My favorite part of the conference was that my husband came with me. Since attending your workshops he has made comments such as the following, “I’ve been thinking that some of our frustration has been not understanding the stages SWB was talking about. Since D (our son) is only 7 we should stick with basic math facts.”

    To which I respond, “That’s a good idea, honey. So, your saying that asking him to calculate in his head how much longer we will be on the road if it is x time and we are to arrive at Grandma and Grandpa’s house at y time may have been to much. You are probably right. :)”

    God bless you!

  • Shelley -CA

    You are wonderful. I was in Modesto and in every one of your sessions (on the other side of the room from the pix). I must add you look beautiful for someone who just finished a dissertation. My friends never looked so good and hence I still have only a masters! LOL! Just WANTED to say my children and I are better people because of what you had to say. THANK YOU!

  • Amy from Central Coast

    I was deeply moved by your lecture Fri. evening, on the Well-Educated Mind. What hit me the most was the reminder of how my value does not come through what I produce (my natural mind screams this daily), but of who I am (in Christ). I am not some Marxist economic unit, but a human with an eternal soul. That is why it is so important for me to take time to educate my mind and develop my soul, so that my life may be one that naturally produces fruit that will last eternally.
    Your comment of our society’s value of speed which has subseqently turned into a moral truth because of the economic benefits it produces exploded in my mind (I almost started weeping realizing the ugliness that that has caused in my family). How is it that we can’t see the sneaky little thoughts that plant their roots and destroy our peace?
    Anyway, I was encouraged and inspired by your lectures. Thanks to you and your family who has shared you with us.

  • Karenciavo

    Lucky you, you got to meet Kate 🙂

  • Barb

    I was in attendance at the Modesto conference and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I live hours away also but it was worth every mile to get there. I attended three of your workshops and at some point I realized that you were speaking to me! I feel so empowered to continue on with homeschooling using TWTM plan with my two boys. One will start high school next year and I plan on attending some conference you do next summer to get me fired up for that.

    I came home and adjusted our plans for this year after listening to your great explanations.

    For the bottom of my heart,

  • Heather

    Susan, it was great fun spending time with you in Modesto. I will think of you whenever I see squash blossoms. Think of me whenever you see Orlando Bloom.


  • Terrill

    I enjoyed your lectures. This is my fourth year of homeschooling and my first convention. I wanted to hear you and Andrew Pudewa. Thanks for your inspirational words- especially at the educating yourself workshop.

    I know a coast to coast trip is tough- Thanks for making it.

  • Taffy

    First, thank you for signing my book. My husband, sister and brother-in-law all really enjoyed listening to you. I even bought the CD’s since my oldest is only seven and it will be good to relisten to what you have to say for the next years to come. I think I related to you most when you talked about it being a good thing you had the boys first before the girl. . . I have two boys and then my youngest is a girl and I really understand! I think what really struck me was when you were discussing continuing our own education. Just homeschooling has done a great deal for re-educating me but I had never really considered knowledge as being spiritual, something you could take with you. So I wanted to thank you for not only giving us a guide for teaching our children to think but to thank you for giving me some food for thought.
    BTW, not all of CA is brown. I’m from the mountains and it is beautiful and green here.
    Cheers ~Taffy

  • Jay

    I visited your blog first after finding your address in the back of Story of the World, vol. 1 I found out you teach and WIlliam and Mary (WOW!) have 4 kids (your kidding!) and a farm (seriously?) and WRITE and suddenly my life felt so relaxed! I just read the postings to date, enjoying the pics and the monologue and am leaving to get back to work suddenly feeling like all my tasks are a cinch compared to teaching AND parenting AND farming AND writing. Thanks for the encouragement!

    We read “Story of the World” as bedtime material–not because it makes you sleepy, but because it is a relaxing setting to read good storytelling and it makes absorbing histroy see so effortless (the girls knit or crochet, I sip hot, sweet Sri Lankan tea and read while the 2 year old is crooning to himself on the baby monitor) I have to tell you that reading your book resurrected my latent love of history. Latent as in I never knew I loved history until I read it in narrative prose. Of course I can’t say I’ll only read Story of the WOrld and not pick up a G. A. Henty, I love adventure and additional details of period and setting, but I won’t let go of this series and will reuse it with my grandkids (one day).

    One of the exciting aspects of Story of the World, is that as we are zooming through history I find concurrent events that I did not know were concurtrent or connections that I heard of but never appreciated. After reading about Nebuchadnezzer who was overthrown by Cyrus I thought, “Hey! I think I remmber something like that in the Bible,” so I opened up my Bible and read (over several nights) the first 5 chapters of Daniel to my kids and (for me at least!) the book of Daniel suddenly became 4-dimensional and I imagined him as a living person doing amazing things in an incredible place at an extraordinary time, instead of a rote story about escaping lion lunch. That is a VERY COOL affect of YOUR writing.

    I look forward to the later volumes (still to be read) and am ordering the activity book for volume 1 tonight to help my kids envision the region using maps and whatever else you included in there.

    Anyway, just wanted to say “Thanks!” and look forward to some photos of the male bonding trip to the Wild state! (if you can oblige!) and more stories of your crazily busy life!



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