May 16, 2016-May 22, 2016
Ontario, Canada-Lansing, Michigan
Range of miles: 13,654-15,379
We were up bright and early to begin our trek to the Canadian border to visit our friends at The Learning House! We spent most of the day driving through the vibrant green mountains of Pennsylvania. Oh, how my eyes never tire of green! We followed Highway 90 that hugs the edge of Lake Erie and finally stopped to sleep at a truck stop in Port Huron, Michigan, a small USA border town.
Since we didn’t have a stack of legal papers, we had to leave all HTHL product in the USA. The Wards, a homeschool family from INCH, graciously allowed us to park the HTHL trailer in their driveway.
The Ward’s homestead is adorable. The teepee on the front lawn caught my eye. Yup, real learning happens in this home. Lots of imaginative play and outdoor time set the stage for healthy learning. I always knew when our homeschool lessons hit home with our kids because it showed up in their playtime.
We crossed the border with ease. I guess we didn’t look threatening! We followed Highway 21 along the edge of Lake Huron to the quaint town of Goderich, Ontario. Wheat farms and golf courses lined both the north and southbound roads. Canadian flags flew high and proud!
Seventy-five miles later, we arrived at the Learning House, a business dedicated to educating the hearts and minds of the next generation.
Meet the owners, Harold and Louise! (pictured below) This dear faithful couple has been serving homeschool families for over 20 years! In January, when I mentioned to Louise that HTHL hoped to come by for a visit, she and Harold extended an invitation to stay at their home. Little did we know what refreshment was in store for Team HTHL!
First, Louise introduced us to their wonderful staff and then gave us a tour of the facilities. Each department was packed with purpose and a mission. Louise showed us her office. “This is where I sit with homeschool moms. I can close the door and be with a mom who may be in tears, need guidance on curriculum, or prayer,” she said with delight. For this husband and wife team, The Learning House is not just a business; it’s an avenue for ministry.
The Learning House Team gathered in Louise’s office for an impromptu presentation about HTHL’s Writing Program and Literature Guides. Louise served delicious cream-filled donuts before we departed for their home.
After we had settled into our room at “Hotel House”, our host and hostess gave us a tour of the town of Goderich. The Queen dubbed Goderich, “The prettiest town in Canada” and I could see why she did! The town is beautiful and laid out in an octagon shape which is known as The Square. Flower pots filled with tulips, narcissus, and hydrangeas brighten the quaint streets. It was hard to believe, but Louise explained the town was severely damaged in 2011 by a tornado! Her son, daughter- in-law, and grandchild, who live in the square were spared. “It was a miracle!” she said while resting in God’s grace for her family.
Harold drove us to where the Maitland River meets Lake Huron, which is right next to one of Goderich’s main industries, salt mining. Harold circled the car around the salt mine operation and filled us in on the backstory. Pioneer Sam Platt set out to discover oil but instead discovered salt. In fact, his discovery triggered a “salt rush” back in 1866. Today, miners descend about 3/4 of a mile below the surface of the lake to crush, remove, and process the natural salt rock.
We stopped and took a walk through Maitland Woods, a beautiful path with a long bridge that stretches over the Maitland River. It was delightful. Louise and I, paused on the bridge and exchanged past personal homeschool highlights and struggles like two retired veterans who have been through many tours of duty. We spoke of the changes and bright future of homeschooling for both of our countries.
Dinner was excellent and our conversation moved from the dinner table to the comfort of their family room. The comfy couch, the warm glow of the fireplace, and the warm hearts of our hosts brought peace and rest to our family. Late into the night, we recounted God’s faithfulness, exchanged prayer requests, revealed struggles, and shared ideas for business. Their stories imparted strength for our journey.
Happy Sweet 16 to BusyGirl! Harold and Louise honored our daughter at breakfast with a candle topped donut and an audio CD of her choice! BusyGirl LOVES audio dramas, and she finally chose Down Gilead Lane after much deliberation.
We finished breakfast and said our goodbyes with prayers and hugs. Our hearts and souls were filled and overflowing with the Lord’s goodness.
The HTHL van wandered back to the Canadian border. We eased through the border again but had the opportunity to watch two border patrol guards scrutinize the car in front of us (a late 70s Chevy station wagon with wood paneling) for 15 minutes. I guess they looked a little sketch.
We picked up the HTHL trailer at the Ward’s home and made our way to Lansing, Michigan. We checked into our hotel and relaxed the rest of the evening. BusyGirl and I made use of the indoor pool and spa. I slipped into the hot bubbly water and immediately felt the day’s stress melt away. A middle-aged lady engaged me in conversation that led to an amazing story about grace and faith. She shared: I listened.
Over ten years ago, a young man burglarized her home. The man was found guilty and went to prison. While he was in jail, she regularly visited him. She even would pick up his single mom, who had no transportation, so that she could visit her son. I wasn’t the only one listening; my fellow spa mates were locked into the story as well. She spoke of her family, who deemed her “crazy” and waited for the young man to “show his true colors” which never happened. In fact, when the young man got out of prison, he returned to his home. He retrieved the stolen goods that remained hidden in his mother’s home, and returned to her what he had taken. She continues to go to the prison to listen to the stories of the inmates and offer God’s grace. Her story powered my faith.
About one hour east of Lansing, Michigan, The Homeschool Building, an out-of-the-box approach to homeschooling, stands. Since the first time I spoke with Patti, the bookstore manager, I have been fascinated by their homeschool co-op model.
Here’s an except from their website:
“The facility, including 14 classrooms, gymnasium, library, lounge, and offices, currently serves as host to some 500+ students each week through supplemental classes offered by a number of independent home education associations in West Michigan. Additionally, HSB provides a comfortable meeting place for many area support groups. The gymnasium, which is large enough to house two full-sized basketball courts, will ultimately serve as the home for many homeschooled basketball and other sports teams.”
It was a privilege to meet the leadership team that makes this a thriving resource center for homeschoolers. The story of God’s faithfulness permeated their history. Clear vision, clear goals, coupled with wise financial choices has aided in its success.
HTHL is honored to partner with the The Homeschool Building. We were able to restock their shelves with HTHL’s Writing Program. Patti was excited to place our new literature guide for the book Island of the Blue Dolphins. Also, Patti and I are working on a Skype workshop for their homeschool families.
After lunch, we headed back to the Lansing Center for the INCH Convention set up. The INCH leadership team met us and offered their help. The INCH team all wore aprons, a real symbol of their servant’s heart.
After our set-up was complete, Forrest and I had the privilege of attending the speaker’s dinner. Mike, one of the leaders of INCH, welcomed us and shared INCH’s mission to serve the homeschool families of Michigan. It was wonderful meeting all the speakers and hearing each of them give a sneak preview of their workshop.
The doors to the 2016 INCH conference opened, and moms and dads leisurely wandered through the vendor hall with coffee cups in hand ready to collect information about products and find the perfect curriculum fit for their children.
Have you met Blogger, Heather Wigton Laurie? You can find her heart at Special Needs Homeschooling where she blogs on a variety of topics addressing health issues and homeschooling children with special needs. It was so nice catching up with her and hearing about all the Lord is doing in her life. She is an amazing young woman who faces life with tenacity and perspective.
Team HTHL loves talking with homeschool moms and dads. Their stories inspire us! Conventions are so much more than workshops and vendor halls; they offer the opportunity to set aside moments where we as homeschool moms and dads can reflect on our personal homeschool story and how God has met our day-to-day homeschooling needs.
P.S.A. (Public Service Announcement)
I LOVE DOTS! Thank you INCH leadership for putting DOTS into our vendor goody bag!
I was among the list of speakers for the last workshop session of the convention and was honored to host my workshop, Treating Allergies to Writing! I don’t always see the speaker evaluation forms, but one mom came to me with tears in her eyes, “I want you to see my speaker evaluation.” She showed me what she wrote:
“I walked into this workshop hopeless, but I am leaving encouraged and filled with hope for the next homeschooling year.”
Words can not express how grateful I was that this sweet mom took the time to share her story me.
Vendor friends, Doug and Karen Smith, are the co-owners of Simply Charlotte Mason, a company that helps families adopt a Charlotte Mason Approach or (CM) to homeschooling. I love the CM method! So, Forrest and I loved hearing about their business story over chips and salsa.
Next week, we are attending the FPEA in Florida, and there are 1,200 miles between Michigan and our destination. We also had plans to visit friends and family in Macon, Georgia. So Team HTHL decided to head south. Our day of rest included putting aside Busy Girl’s school, my writing, and knocking out 800 miles while we engaged in some time to dream as a family.
We listened to Brinkman Adventures Season One. This action packed audio drama about real life missionaries captured our attention. As the story unfolded, we were breathless and tense with anxiety. The story’s end had all three of us wiping tears from our eyes. Forrest, BusyGirl and I discussed what we learned and prayed that we, like the missionaries in the story, would face God’s calling with courage and perseverance.
We wrestled with the question, where does courage come from? Courage comes because we know, God is with us. But we also agreed that when we tell each other our faith stories, boldness to share God’s Word results. I am grateful for those who have powered our faith by sharing their story with us. It has given us courage for the journey.
Thanks for joining us!
Next stop? May 26-28 FPEA in Florida, the largest homeschool convention in the nation!
From Our Home (On the Road) to Yours,
Follow our journey on HTHL’s Google Map (Click: HERE)