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!

It’s Not a School; It’s a Guild

The Guild at Loudoun Field Center is an opportunity to embrace learning as a function of family and community.

(Also posted on Great Conversation(s) )

It’s About Time

We have a limited amount of time with our kids. Before we even blink… they’re talking …reading… and then they’re driving… then they’re driving away.

So one of our main concerns is what kind of education our kids get while they’re with us.

In the modern age there seem to be limited options on that front. We can send them to the public school, we can find them a private school… or we can homeschool them. But those are pretty much our choices. In other ways, though, there are unlimited options. There are all these books, and lists, and advice from super moms and genius dads who seem to have it all together… giving us conflicting advice:

  • They need to be “socialized” but… by whom? For what purpose? A GANG is socialized.
  • They need to be CHALLENGED…. So give them 3.5 hours of homework a night?
  • They should learn how to code, but don’t forget the arts and their creative side!
  • They should get out and get some exercise, but don’t overschedule them with sports!
  • They should be independent…. But they need precious family time!

What many have missed is that the most fundamental and meaningful way to educate your kids is NOT to separate out the education of them out from the raising of them. We have a choice to make: either education is a function of family and community or it is not. If it is, then what the kids need is not a school.. but something else.

No school, by the current definition of a school — 180 days times seven hours of “instructional time” for 13 years; over 16,000 hours of professional instruction— can really strike this balance for us. What the kids need… what the family needs…  is a community. A place where the kids can learn, with support from peers and from mentors who can guide them through wholesome content, good conversations, and great ideas.

Families don’t need another school…but … a Team. A Coalition…. a League… a Tribe… a Village … where there is a common pursuit, a united purpose, with a variety of different vocations and roles to fill… where people with different skills and strengths can help each other in pursuing Wisdom, and Good, and a life of Virtue…

What they need…. is a GUILD.

They need a Guild.

Introducing … The Guild at the Loudoun Field Center, where students, ages 10 to 18, come together to pursue common goals of scholarship, artisanship, communication skills, service, and good character. A place where they can gain knowledge from local artisans, thinkers, and community leaders.

With a championship disc golf course and hiking trails, a peaceful – but stocked – natural-spring-supported lake, camping grounds, an archery range, athletic facilities, a workshop/makerspace, and a chapel… the LFC is a place to escape from the workaday world and focus on being the person you want to be, with the help and love of others doing the same.

Maybe your family is ready for something like this. Maybe you’re an artist, a teacher, or someone with a unique skill or passion that can help the next generation.

If you’re looking to join, the first step is to schedule an interview. We have limited space for students and limited opportunities for programming and talent for this coming fall. But if you’re looking to get away and just… be, and learn, and share your passion…this is the right place.

Prospective Mentors:
Prospective Students/Families:

(Currently classes are filling up, with offerings ranging from P.E. and Archery to Astronomy/Astrophysics to Small Engines (already full) and Math Support, so please reserve a spot soon, or if you want something more…comprehensive, fill out the Guild-Inquiry Form.)

Your Career is Not Your Story

I used to say “we’ve stopped talking to each other,” but I don’t think that’s quite right. I think it’s more accurate to say, “We’ve lost our common story,” or “We’re telling different stories.”

Look at the narrative which animates us in the body politic today. On the topic of COVID there are two competing stories. One in which the bad guys are the ones who refuse to participate in mitigation measures, and one in which the bad guys are the ones implementing draconian rules in violation of our liberties.

The (long but worth the read) Tablet article on this topic frames these two different stories as different fears, and although many stories can be told as fear of something, it’s probably more generally useful to simply look at who the heroes and villains are.

But this applies to so many things. The story that a new Voting Rights Act is absolutely necessary — lest Republicans drive red states back to the Dark Ages of Jim Crow or worse — sits right alongside the story that our elections are subject to a myriad of manipulations and fraud from power hungry elite and their minions.

The current story of “identity,” where a young girl or boy is simply seeking to establish their own outlook on life without the outdated and outmoded parochial interference from parents or other fuddy duddy traditionalists; sits right alongside a story of basic biology being ignored and young people being used as pawns in a shameless effort to gain political power and dismantle the traditional family and even a sense of objective reality.

There is no better illustration of competing stories, though, than the stories of our educational system. The twist with this one is that our school system suffers internally from a clash of different stories. And the challenge we have clogging up our newsfeeds and social media pages is between the factions which embrace one, but not both of them, namely: 1) that the system is a place where kids’ talents can be cultivated and honed to where those with certain gifts can find their way to fulfilling careers and be great leaders, thinkers, engineers, scientists, etc. I like to call this the “next generation of … ” story. Built within that story is the understanding that not everyone is going to go to college or pursue a “professional” career, but through the process of our modern innovative system they’ll get enough to do a job they could support themselves with. Though it’s important to note that the “next generation of garbage men, janitors, low-level factory workers, retail cashiers, etc, etc” doesn’t make the marketing material; it’s … understood well enough.

The other story of public education is the egalitarian one. The one in which everyone is given an equal shot at succeeding at life. Everyone goes through the same classes, and of course it’s all paid for, so everyone benefits from the same vision and care of the educators, and if there are inequitable outcomes (at least beyond certain margins) then the system has failed in some way.

Both of these stories are told within the current education bureaucracies and their accompanying zeitgeist completely simultaneously. The former story could be considered the more honest of the two, if a little idealistic and tilted toward the higher end of the success scale, and the latter could be said to be more aspirational, and tilted especially toward the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

Put another way, the modern public school system is one of ambitious advancement and meritocracy and equality, fairness, and uniformity… at the same time. The visions are not compatible, and again these different paradigms fighting for dominance are doing so within the same basic system.

This dichotomy, or rather this incongruent and contradictory story is not lost on our youth. They know that these two worlds can’t exist in the same pace and the wear and tear of this game has been been showing for a while. First is the callous and shameless rat race for higher education spots. Everyone should be required to watch the College Admissions Scandal documentary, not for the “real crime” drama of it, but for an honest look at the rigged and frankly maddening game that is college admissions in general.

But putting the internal conflict, and all the politics which it feeds (and feeds on) aside for a minute, we’re still left with the question: which of these approaches make the most sense? Should we have a system (or if you’re looking at the micro level, a school) which seeks to let the brilliant excel and the not so brilliant get what they need to “get by”? Or should we insist on a system that “levels the playing field” so that everyone gets a shot at that “American Dream.”

It probably won’t surprise anyone to find your humble author’s response to this choice is approximately: “Neither, please.”

The options don’t necessarily represent a “false choice” on logical grounds, nor is it simply because the two stories aren’t in every way at all times and places mutually exclusive (it’s perfectly possible to try to have different emphases in different… communities, subjects, grades, etc.). No, the real challenge is that the choice betrays a false purpose. The assumption built in is that the abiding purpose of education is and should be to prepare kids for their careers. It’s not shocking that this would be a primary purpose of modern education, but this doesn’t change the fact that we should question whether (or not) that is wise.

The conflict (meritocracy vs. egalitarianism) stems from a problem of identifying students — defining who they are — by what they’ll eventually do. It puts a hierarchy of careers and professions (a necessary hierarchy in our workaday world) onto children, which is irrational on its face, given we probably should seek to minimize even how much we do this to each other as adults.

So just as an experiment, let’s pretend for a second that the obsession with profession, career, and job was shifted to something else, like the realm of virtue, character, pursuit of wisdom, or truth; then the contradictions in these two narratives go away, and the career paths of different kids — with their attendant strengths, talents, interests, proclivities — can be reconciled together into a more uniform educational regime.

After all, the future doctors, lawyers, garbagemen, sailors, farmers, and baristas benefit from having common understandings of how to treat their fellow human beings, to love each other and love their God in a common pursuit of a better world through improving ourselves as individuals.

This common pursuit not only resolves the merit-equity problem; it also offers a healthy, humane, and rational alternative to the other problems of identity — race, creed, gender, sexuality, etc — which seem to have become dominant in the current conversation on K-12 education.

That conversation, as it relates to topics such as CRT and gender equity issues — to use the two examples which are causing the most current consternation — is, after all, rather outdated and outmoded itself, as it forces everyone to be put into their boxes of caste or class in terms of race, or in terms of profession… or annual salary.

But that is, indeed, a discussion for another article. For today, let it rest with this:

If we are to treat each other as equal human participants in a divine nature, then we must endeavor to treat our children that way as well, not maneuver our educational paradigms on what their respective, potential, possible, future occupations might be.

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.

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.

A Message from the Interim Director

Dear Parent:

We are so excited to be kicking off the 2021-2022 school year, our inaugural year with a full-curricular program at the Loudoun Field School. We are so privileged to be able to support your family and your student through their secondary education adventure. Whether you jumped into independent education with both feet excited about giving your teenager the flexibility to create their own educational path, or if you are in a position where non-traditional options have been thrust upon you, you are not alone, and we are proud of you for making the leap, and honored that you would make it with us!

The Field Center is here to be not only a place, but a supportive family, for those who wanted to make sure that their son or daughter has all the opportunities possible to become life-long learners. It is incumbent upon us, as parents and teachers of the upcoming generation to carry on the legacy of deliberate, thoughtful, purposeful, and curious learning. We all take that seriously and to that end have created a program committed to challenging students (and ourselves) to ask the hard questions and to explore the ideas which continue to challenge our modern world:

  • What is the meaning of success?
  • What in today’s world is considered a life well lived?
  • How does one navigate the information age to find wisdom and truth?
  • In what we have we over-indulged our view of identity and self as defined culturally?
  • Does true greatness come from power and influence or from virtue and justice?

We see the purpose of education to be more than simply Math, Science, Writing, and the Humanities, but indeed fundamentally: Intellectual Development, Character Formation, and Communication Skills. We strive for future scientists, engineers, and craftsmen to approach their missions with reverence and wisdom. We envision future parents; citizens and statesmen; entrepreneurs and managers to lead people with humility and honor, in all areas of life. This is why the Field Center teaches through Shared Inquiry, Collaborative Learning, and Guided Projects.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for having your son or daughter join us on this voyage. We pledge every day to give all we have and all we are to the honest search for what is virtuous, beautiful, and real in the world, lest we be faced with the prospect of explaining to our grandchildren what once was.


Butch Porter
Interim Director of the Loudoun Field School
Founder/Director of Independent Education Services, LLC (IndED)