Pause … and Give Thanks

404 Years ago today, a group of English colonists on the “Margaret” were a week or two out from landing at Berkley Hundred. The settlers were sent by the London Company which had sent instructions, to be opened upon reaching Virginia:

We ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.

The London Company’s charter of 1609, also known as the “Second Virginia Charter,” was probably the first document to express that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed.

And these settlers who disembarked from the Margaret held that first Thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619. Two years later, the first harvest festival was held in William Bradford’s Plymouth Plantation; and for the next one-hundred and seventy years, all the way up to George Washington’s First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, colonists from New Hampshire to Georgia would take some time, officially, every year to:

  • Dedicate a day for prayerful fasting and/or feasting in thanks to their Creator for their many Blessings
  • Commit to live their lives in a way that was humbly deserving of those blessings.
  • Seek forgiveness of the Almighty for their sins, transgressions, and shortcomings in that effort.

That same sentiment has been maintained by 46 Presidents through the entire history of our Republic, and we, here at the Loudoun FIeld Center, hope that you and your family are able to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, pause, with friends, family, and loved ones…and give thanks…

So with that in mind…and with deepest sympathies for those who are unable to connect with families in person over this holiday week, we want to pause and…

Give thanks to Almighty God:

For the opportunity to live in a country where we are free to educate our children as we see fit. That we can all, through our disagreements, seek what is good, right, and just for the commonweal of our communities, country, and world.


Through all our programs at Loudoun Field Center to focus on helping citizens and families explore, discover, and create things that are beautiful, inspirational, and thought-provoking, and to the Glory of God; so that our next generation can take on the “social duties of self-government” with confidence.

Strive to:

Be bold in our pursuit of sound education, while humbly acknowledging our shortcomings and striving consistently to improve and deliver programs that are wise, wholesome, and true.

We give thanks to our Creator for great students, great parents, great partners, and a wonderful community in which to converse and to do business.

Have a safe, happy, and blessed Thanksgiving!

Fire at the Chapel

Wednesday afternoon, May 31, 2023, the Loudoun Field Center (a.k.a. “The Freedom Center”, on Freedom Center Ln in Lucketts, VA) experienced a devastating electrical fire in the kitchen of the Don & Jo Wells Chapel at the center of campus.

We are grateful no one was harmed in the fire which was contained to the chapel, and none of the other buildings or the surrounding wooded areas were affected. The Wells Chapel was the heart of the Retreat Center housing our main meeting space and kitchen facilities.  Unfortunately, it will not be available for rental or community use for the next three to six months until we rebuild.  In the meantime, we’ll be putting a plan in place to continue offering our retreat housing as well as temporary facilities to manage large gatherings and events.

The opportunity to rebuild the Chapel to better accommodate the needs of our growing community is very exciting!  There are plans for a commercial kitchen on the premises in addition to several other capital projects on campus.  If you wish to support our efforts to rebuild,  please go to our Volunteer Page at: 

… or donate on our GiveSendGo page at:


The Loudoun Field Center (also known as the “Freedom Center”) is dedicated to helping youth, adults and families gain a renewed sense of meaning and pursuit of God and good in the world. Through Retreats, the GUILD (a 5th to 10th Grade on-site hybrid education option) as well as Partnerships within Loudoun County on Service, Recreation, Civics, Conservation, Vocational Sciences, and Communication, we strive to make our 100 beautiful acres of forest and field a place for renewal and restoration of the mind, body, and spirit.

Join Us at the Freedom Center!

As the world emerges from two years of challenge and change, the Freedom Center is stepping forward boldly. New projects, people, directions, and partners join the mix. For almost a year we have been in planning mode so now is the time our dreams take flight! I am looking forward to you joining us in the next adventure. It will be busy, but with friends alongside us, adventures are always fun.

We are working hard to make improvements in virtually every part of the property. New roofs, remodeling, repairs, landscaping, reopening long dormant buildings, and so much more! I will start blogging about our current and future projects. They are all driving by events and directions that are heading our way.

We have an exciting, and expanding, schedule of events at the Freedom Center — including the largest, longest set of camps we have ever hosted. From our own events to those of partners, there is always something happening at the center. Here is just a peak at what’s ahead:

Loudoun Field Center Education Program

Starting in September, we kick off the Loudoun Field Center – a 6th-12th grade education program helping empower and equip young adults to intentionally engage the modern world with clear purpose and meaning. Starting with individualized self-pace academic studies, we then step into real-world projects and skills development. We turn knowledge into understanding and then into skills. Focused on a whole-life model we prepare young adults to go into the world with purpose and intent. Checkout our website at for more information.

Spring Physical Education with Gamepoint (March-May)
(Combined with Archery Below)

After a successful winter program, with education partner GamePoint Athletics we are offering another robust PE program for middle and high school students in a friendly and non-judgemental learning environment.  Students will participate in many cooperative learning activities that work on group problem solving skills.  Skills that require intense teamwork and persistence to achieve a set objective. Students will also play in fun traditional and non-traditional PE games, and learn and practice potential lifetime physical activities and skills. Additionally, students will be engaged in physical activities that are designed to improve present levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Watch website at for more information.

Archery (March-May)

Who wouldn’t want to learn the art of hitting a bull’s-eye with ease? It’s fun, healthy, and something you can be proud of. Archery helps develop physical abilities, focus, control, determination, and precision. Join us for an introduction to Archery starting this March 25. Watch our website at for more information.

Traveling Theater Ensemble Overnight Summer Programs (June-August)

We are particularly excited about our new partnership with the Traveling Theater Ensemble. From June through August, we will be hosting their two overnight camp sessions focusing on great theater in the great outdoors. In each three-week session will create several productions curated for youth of different ages and talents. Their program rehearses and production support needed including costumes, sets, and production team skills. After the camps they take their theater productions on the road. See the ensemble’s website for full details (

Wilderness Day Camp (August)

Regina Gossage returns this year with the popular wilderness day camp program. The two week-day sessions start on August 15 and August 22. Kids enjoy our recreational areas as well as learning about wilderness activities and get an introduction into survival. Watch our blog for more information.

TimberNook Loudoun County (July-August)

The year is Rebekah Highlander introduces Loudoun County to TimberNook Camps. TimberNook programs offer the ultimate sensory experience for children, challenging the mind, body and the senses through meaningful outdoor play opportunities. Three camps are planned for the weeks of July 18th, July 27th, and August 1. Watch their Facebook group “TimberNook Loudoun County” for details.

LoCo Disc Golf Club

Throughout the year LoCo Disc Golf Club runs both local and sanctioned tournaments on the top ranked Clarke’s Run Disc Golf Course. This year they are hosting the first A-Tier tournament in Northern Virginia. You can find more information on all these events at: 

  • December 12th (2021) – Club Doubles Event
  • January 8th – Club Doubles Event 
  • May 6th, 7th & 8th – LoCo Open (“A-Tier”  Professionals Only)
  • June 25th – Brent Anderson Memorial 
  • June 26th – Tiger Lilly – Women’s Only Tournament/Event
  • September 24th & 25th – LoCo Open (Amateurs Only)

Everything Else

In the midst of all that we are still hosting groups from all over the region. Whether week long retreats, family groups, scout camps, or folks enjoying the trailhead activities and walks through the grounds. We are working to improve life one day, one person, one group, at a time. 

Paul Gernhardt
Freedom Center Executive Director

An Educational Alternative – An Introduction

by Paul Gernhardt

The following is an introduction to the Loudoun Field Center alternative secondary education program at the Freedom Center in Lucketts, VA. Paul Gernhardt is the Executive Director of the Freedom Center and adds a lifetime of wisdom on how to gain success in personal, business, and spiritual endeavors.

When 18-year-olds gain full agency over their lives they must be ready to exercise their new rights, privileges, and responsibilities with purpose and intent. They need to have foundational skills, attitudes, and approaches that help them navigate the real world with minimal turmoil and maximum achievement. It is critically important to remember that education is not just about getting a profitable job in a particular field. The most important goal is forming young adults as effective, purposeful, positive forces in all areas of their life — from work to family to community. 

But that all really starts with an earlier transition point: that of the 13-year-old. A hundred years ago these young adults had completed their education and entered the real world. Young women began learning how to run a household from their mother – a very hard and complicated job before modern conveniences and services. Young men began working the farm, family business, or taking up an apprenticeship. Biologically they were primed to begin building an independent life to attract a mate and start a home. In these early teen years, young adults were given agency and responsibility. That had been the pattern for humans for thousands of years. 

In the early-1900s we started keeping these young adults behind desks longer and delayed the start of their adult lives to the late teens. In the late-1900s we further deferred the start of their lives into their mid-twenties through universal access to advanced education. A college education went from being the domain of those going into a few specialty fields, to the default path for anyone who could navigate certain economic and social requirements — with little regard for whether college was useful for substantial improvements in their future lives. 

The consequence of those decisions was that we have delayed the young adult’s ability to take control of their own lives. However, the underlying biological imperatives for these young adults have not changed. We have taken highly energized, motivated people eager to go and do and put them into mostly static classrooms until the passion has been dissipated. Our focus on knowledge as the focus of education, more knowledge is better, is being served at the expense of critical real-world capabilities. 

This is not to say that academics are not important. Today there is a lot more knowledge that is available and needed than there was a hundred years ago.  But at 13-years-old today’s young adults are ready, and indeed designed, to spend more time putting knowledge to action and purpose. The internal drive of the young adult is to engage and control their world… which we now deny them. Instead, we are more focused on knowledge and factoids while keeping them in carefully controlled, protective cocoons far away from the real world. We deny them the agency and the critical experiences gained from exercising it.   

To correct this situation we need to bring academics and purposeful action together. We can do this in an educational program designed as a holistic approach to their future lives. This is not a new concept. You can find bits and pieces of this approach in various alternative education programs. The goal here, however, is to take the best of the various approaches and build a complete program.

It should be noted at this point that not all young adults learn in the same ways at the same pace. Some are very efficient in learning in today’s 16+ years of classroom time. For many others, alternative approaches provide a faster and more comprehensive experience. Each parent and young adult need to consider their individual needs and styles and find the path that might best achieve their desired result. The right approach is that which works best for the individual’s future.

Currently, the educational choices center around traditional public/private classes, individual study at home, or a child-led learning system. Going down the self-study program usually means losing access to local support and forgoing many of the physical resources available in modern secondary education. Another alternative is deeply needed.

For the purposes of a conversation on alternatives, let’s consider that the academic portion of learning represents the core knowledge from which we build understanding and skills. Our world demands we show that certain core knowledge has been obtained. Ignoring that comes at the peril of limiting future opportunities – which is never an optimal result. 

Thankfully, today it is an easy task to engage in independent academic study. Never has academic instruction been more available, nor as easily customized to the individual. A vast array of academic knowledge is available from a wide variety of sources in a variety of formats. Acquiring academic knowledge has essentially become a customizable self-serve commodity. Numerous available curriculums can be custom-tailored to the specific needs of the individual. 

What is most often missing in the independent academic process is in-person mentorship — the help, guidance, oversight, and encouragement needed to make continuous, purposeful, and documented progress in knowledge, understanding, and skills. A mentoring environment where they can move forward at their own pace, assuring that key knowledge is not missed and that support should always be available to them in an environment that allows them to focus and explore as they learn. Mentors are a critical part of the next education program.

Tuning knowledge into understanding and skills is an interactive process that engages our young adults in real-world projects. This goes to the heart of what a young adult is designed to do – engagement with the world. Trying, failing, re-engaging, building, and shaping their skills and world is not something that can be accomplished behind a desk. For many in traditional education, this is often done in extracurricular activities – as if it was an optional and unimportant part of the process. In fact, this should be a core part of what happens in the educational environment.

For our reconstructed education program, the goal is to integrate this into everyday activities. Get the young adults out of the classroom and work on individual and team-based hands-on programs. This is about taking the academic knowledge and exploring how it applies in life and how to use it to shape their lives. Projects which introduce them to new areas and skills for their lives, family, community, and career.

What does this look like in practice? A variety of programs each quarter. From great conversations and project management to individuals and teams choosing to start and run a business for a year, building a house, feeding the poor, growing a garden, building a hydro-power generator, learning first-ad, or even building an airplane. The list is endless. Some of it is will be required, some of it is guided by what the young adults wish to do and where they want to go. Each project puts knowledge to practice, developing skills, and learning to work with others.  Each is put in the context of family, faith, work, and community.

The best projects take acquired knowledge and provide a path to earn skills and insights that they can apply to their lives while exposing them to opportunities for spiritual, family, community, and career growth. A first aid course will help them handle emergencies in their lives, show them how to be prepared, ready to help others, consider safety in general, and expose them to possible careers in medicine. The education environment should provide a path for them to further explore those interests. Every program should provide an understanding of how it is, or could be, relevant in their future lives. 

This leads us into the final part of this blog: the holistic approach to a young adult’s education. Being effective in life is the ability to accomplish what you set out to achieve. The critical part of the statement is “set out to achieve”. Not just in a career, as much of today’s education seems focused, but in all areas. They will function in family, work, and community and should be prepared for that. A community that not only includes friends and neighbors, but faith communities, country, and society in general. 

Young adults need to intentionally explore how they decide what they will seek to achieve. What are their values and morals? Where do they come from and what do they mean? This is a spiritual and faith journey that must be purposely included in a holistic program.

Finally, education is not something that is ever finished. Every young adult should learn how to educate themselves going forward. How to seek new knowledge, understanding, and skills in all areas of, and throughout their lives.  Their final years in the education program should be largely self-led and adult guided. This should set the pattern they carry forward.

We have talked about “the rest of their lives”, but few young adults (or old adults for that matter) know where they are going for the rest of their lives. So it makes even less sense to pressure kids to decide now what they will do for a living “the rest of their lives”.  Few people I know with college degrees work in the field of their major. What anyone, particularly a young adult, values and chooses to do with their life will change when they meet someone they want to marry. It will change again when they hold their first newborn. It will change further as new opportunities and new people and new understandings come into their lives. Let their education program prepare them for navigating those opportunities instead of following a single precept of where they are going based on a decision made before they have experienced the world. 

We should prepare our youth for the next few steps they will take, then equip them to figure out what they need for the few steps after those… and step-by-step where they may go in their lives.

The following blogs will explore one possible education program’s approach to academics, support, projects, and worldview development. I hope you join me in that journey.

New P.E. Class from Gamepoint Athletics

Starting January 7th, the Loudoun Field Center will launch it’s Winter Program with an 8-week Physical Education program:

Who: Homeschooled students ages 10-17
Where: The Loudoun Field Center Recreational Fields and Chapel
13951 Freedom Center Ln
Lucketts, VA 20176
When: Fridays from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, from January 7, 2021 through to February 25, 2021
Cost: $115 for all 8 weeks.


GamePoint Athletics offers a robust PE program for middle and high school students in a friendly and non-judgemental learning environment.  Students will participate in many cooperative learning activities that work on group problem solving skills.  Skills that require intense teamwork and persistence to achieve a set objective. Students will also play in fun traditional and non-traditional PE games, and learn and practice potential lifetime physical activities and skills. Additionally, students will be engaged in physical activities that are designed to improve present levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. 

The Gamepoint Athletics PE program emphasizes many character traits that transcend sports or physical fitness.  Students will grow as upstanding human beings as they discuss and practice virtues such as perseverance, humility, patience, courage, etc.   

We’re now accepting registrations! Please sign up today to reserve your spot:

P.E. Class Interest Form

The Loudoun Field Center “Seed” Program

For the 2021-2022 school year, we’re offering a “seed” program:

From our Curriculum and Program page:

2021-2022 Seed Program

*** For the 2021-2022 school year, the Loudoun Field Center is offering a “seed” program with M, W, F, full-curriculum support through our partner, Bridgeway Academy. Students go through our full evaluation and customized curriculum process, and convene at the Field Center three days a week for 33 weeks to complete their academic work with the support of Field Center Staff. There is a limit of only 15 spaces in our seed program. As programs are added throughout the year, including our Great Conversations program, Vocational Science, Fine Arts, Physical Education, etc, our seed program students will get to participate in the new courses for substantially reduced rates. ***

***The tuition for the 2021-2022 “seed” program is $6000 for the entire year.***

How do you get started? Glad you asked:

The Next Thing: #optout

Yes, the system has failed us, so we need to unplug and create something new

We don’t have all the answers. It’s not completely clear how it’s all gonna work out. It never is, though. The powers that be now — the people who are in charge — don’t know how it’s all going to work out. The people who make decisions how 90,000 kids in Loudoun County are going to spend 35 hours a week… for 39 weeks a year…haven’t shown any talents for prognostication so far. That’s unlikely to change.

It’s fairly evident, though, that in the case of the school system, a simple lack of foreknowledge — or even a lack of competence — is not all that is at play. The issue is actually one of purpose. There’s a divide between what they seek and what we seek for our kids.

So the one thing we do know is that we must declare our independence. We have to extricate ourselves from the system that is continuing to disrupt and corrupt our families, our communities, our institutions. What happens after that is not under our control. The problem is that we won’t know what to do next as long as we’re fighting a behemoth whose main operational significance is that it DEMANDS 180 days a year of your child’s all-day rapt attention.

There is absolutely no way around it. An #armyofparents needs to find and understand what territory it is actually defending, and defend it. Either education is a community and family driven enterprise or it is not. If it is, then sending the army up against the battlements of a 100 year old entrenched system hyper-focused on inputs and the maintenance of its own existence… is not the most productive use of our time.

On July 4 we celebrated our independence from Great Britain. By then many had also made the decision that they weren’t going to send their kids back to an organization that continues to fail us and our children. 

But if we didn’t make that leap yet, know this: on September 18, 2021 we have our Constitution Day. Come celebrate with us at the Loudoun field center in Lucketts Virginia, and meet folks from all around… educators, parents, community leaders, and other concerned citizens who are ready to reassert the community itself, and not the educational bureaucracy as the backbone of our kids’ — and our — education.

On the Loudoun Field Center website:

On Facebook:

Or join the GCN:

Passion and Jobs

Sometimes your passion and your career don’t match up. You need both, but they don’t have to be the same thing.

A few years ago, Mike Rowe did a great video and it was covered in some articles and on his social media. The tagline was “Don’t Follow Your Passion.” My favorite line from the whole thing was this one though:

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.

Mike Rowe

There is a tendency is American culture to ask a complete stranger, first thing, what they do for a living. In some cultures, it’s considered impolite, and akin to asking “how much money do you make?” This could be something worth re-evaluating about how we converse, even in the marketplace.

The reason for this is that one of the most challenging aspects of adulthood is coming to terms with what you’re good at it, versus what you’re “passionate” about, and then what is going to support you and a family and make you money.


But deciding whether your passion should be a career is tricky. Sometimes it simply has to do with where the money is on the bell curve. A “really good” mechanic — in, say… the 85th percentile — can make very good money, especially if they know quite well how to run a business and deal well with people. However, a baseball player in the 95th percentile of all high school baseball players…will likely make basically zero money as a professional baseball player. (Just take the total number of high school baseball players this year — about half a million — and divide by the number of college baseball players this year — about fifty thousand — then realize that the number of professional baseball players: about 750. There have only been about 20,000 MLB players… EVER.)

If your passion is in the arts, it’s even trickier. Real talent is not as easily recognized. Sometimes it’s timing, or connections, or blind luck, and mediocre musicians and artists get discovered and make good money because they’ve hit on something there is a commercial demand for and the right people recognize it and promote it. Other extremely talented artists remain in the shadows forever and never take off.

So beyond Mike Rowe’s point… at some things you don’t even have to “suck” at it… they’re just the types of careers that you just have to be the absolute best at to stand out and make a good living. No, this does NOT mean you should not pursue your passion for poetry, or food, or book-binding, just be acutely aware of what the demand is for the products or services your passions can produce… Be GREAT at, and find JOY in the things that you’re passionate about, and develop concrete and duplicable, predictable skills, in the things that make you money. Sometimes they can match up as the same thing. Sometimes they won’t. It’s in the making them the same thing that you don’t want to apply too much pressure.

And lastly, don’t forget that work and play can mix in unpredictable ways. For every one person that has had the “Do something you LOVE for a living and you’ll never work a day in your life” experience, there are quite a few that have had the “Do something you love for a living and what you love becomes a JOB, and you’ll grow to hate it” experience.

OH, and the next time you meet someone new, instead of starting with “What do you do?” or ask them, “What are you reading these days?” or, “What do you do for fun?” Regardless of what people do to pay the bills, they like to talk about what they are passionate about. So… as Mike would say, “Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

VIDEO: “Step One: Escape”

Introducing the Loudoun Field Center, a high school alternative near Lucketts, VA. We’ve carved out 100 acres of Loudoun wilderness to give students the chance to ESCAPE and forge a productive path to adulthood.