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The True Tale of Our Business

 

Once upon a time, there was a visionary girl named Diana and a steadfast boy named Bill. At the time of their marriage, their prayer to the One who had called them together was simple: “Lord, teach us to live by faith.”

From that point, things got complicated.

If she had had any idea what God’s answer to that prayer would entail, I don’t think she would have had the courage to pray it. Thank God, she didn’t know.

Fast forward ten years. Three children—homeschooled from birth because their mother read a Dr. Raymond Moore book—two dogs and two mortgages later, a friend suggested that I teach a workshop at our local homeschool convention. Little knowing that this was the first step on a path around the world, my proposal to the organizers was an off-the-wall idea that was interesting to me: how to learn American history through its folk music. When they agreed to this proposal, I suddenly realized that the research necessary to pull this off might be easily turned into a booklet, and that some local friends with a studio might join me in creating the accompanying folk song recording.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

In 1995, at a point when we were earnestly searching for a better career/lifestyle, it became crystal clear that the path we were trying to get off was the one God had set us on. It went something like this, “You have been given a business. It’s time to treat it like a business.” Sigh. Thus, Diana Waring-History Alive!, with its few books and tapes, was born. (Due to an unexpected and threatened lawsuit over the name “History Alive!” several years ago, we changed our business name to Diana Waring Presents! That experience turned out for our good, however, because we met our copyright attorney, Susan Spann.)I had no concept of how much work this would be. Through the mercy of God, and many long nights, we somehow managed to gather up all of the barely finished pieces just in time for the convention. To my amazement, this “History Alive! Through Music” booklet and tape sold so well that the partnership of Hear & Learn (the studio musicians and me) decided to send us to several more conventions that year.

Going to these conventions was fun, not profitable. And they were educational, as well. We met people like David and Shirley Quine, who had been homeschooling much longer than we had. Their approach was so richly relational and warmly interactive that it challenged my very concept of education. Inspired by what I had seen and learned in interactions with the Quine family, we began a new chapter in our own homeschooling, moving from a dreary plodding through textbooks to an intriguing adventure in real books and experiences. Tuning in to our children’s questions and studying to understand what delighted their hearts led to some memorable, if rather offbeat, learning experiences. “Why do steel ships float?” had never entered my mind, but when my son really wanted to know, the quest for answers became a fun detour for a few weeks. The results, after hands-on experiments and wild stories from history, were absolutely riveting: bright and interested kids who really and truly said, “Do we get to do school again today????”

When life hands you lemons . . .

When a series of unpleasant circumstances pushed us back to my husband’s hometown in South Dakota, we did not see this as the hand of God leading us along the next step of answered prayer. It felt crazy to move to a town with few opportunities for employment, but this was what opened our hearts to the casual invitation from Bob and Tina Farewell of Lifetime Books & Gifts to be their representatives in the Midwest. Packing our three children and two dogs into the minivan, pulling behind us a U-Haul trailer filled with books, we began our vagabond lifestyle of traveling, exhibiting and speaking at homeschool events. Though it was sometimes fun, it was still unprofitable.

It began to dawn on us somewhere during this time that the difficulties we faced might be connected to that prayer, “Lord, teach us to live by faith.”

Reading about the heroes in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11, I began to recognize that these folks had lived through impossible circumstances BEFORE they saw the promises fulfilled. That’s the point—Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

His ways are not our ways.

If someone had asked me when I was younger whether I wanted to be a business owner, I would have emphatically replied, “NO WAY!” Routine schedules, taxes, and mail order all sounded incredibly boring. But obedience opens doors to an abundant life beyond your wildest dreams.

Much to my surprise, this path has taken us beyond the borders of North America—all the way to Thailand and Hungary, to Korea and Scotland, to Australia and England. . .and to New Zealand for a seven-month sojourn. 

The key to education is relationship.

It was during this 1999 Down-Under trip that I met Rosalie Pedder, a brilliant Christian educator from New Zealand, who became my mentor. With a passionate and practical knowledge gained from teaching around the world, Rosalie had experienced firsthand how God made each person smart—in their own way. She fervently believed that non-Western students could become brain surgeons, just like their Western counterparts, as long as they were taught in a way that honored their unique approach and culture, and with methods that drew them deeply into the subject. In other words, if they were taught relationally, with dignity and respect, they could learn anything. Her commitment to bring “the glory of God” to the classroom, and her determination to make education available to all—regardless of learning style or ethnic background—passed to me, and became foundational to our work and ministry.
My book, Beyond Survival, developed over the course of hundreds of conversations with struggling homeschool moms at conventions, intrigued Rosalie. She told me that reading it had tremendously encouraged her, because she saw that what she was doing for adult learners, I was doing for children—opening the doors to a love of learning for all different styles of learners, so they could thrive, not merely survive.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Meanwhile, the American history booklet and tape had given rise to a whole new way of learning history: a multi-disciplinary approach that included not only music but geography, literature, science, drama, even cooking! No longer content to merely focus on American history, I plunged headlong into a panoramic study of world history, beginning with Creation.

As a little girl, I used to constantly get in trouble for reading books at night. And for talking too much. Though struggling to chart out the chronologies of the kings and queens of England from encyclopedias did not get me in trouble, nevertheless, it was an odd thing for a ten year old to do. But God’s design in this learner became increasingly clear as, thirty years later, I devoured books, charted chronologies, and told stories from the research to spellbound audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada.

In 1994, at the advice of a friend, we recorded these stories and released a series of world history tapes. Not knowing what to call the series, I asked our dear friends from Five in a Row, Steve and Jane Lambert, for help. Steve’s brainstorm, “What in the World’s Going On Here?,” became our award-winning number-one bestseller.

Fifteen years after that original booklet and audio tape on American history, I had written three world history study guides, two books on homeschooling and had recorded more than twenty-five audio tapes. Planning to move on to greener (and easier) pastures, I was stunned by God’s clear direction to go back and do it all over again. He showed us in unarguable ways that our world history products required revision and expansion for a new generation of homeschoolers and Christian schools.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

It hadn’t dawned on me how long doing well would take on a project of this size and complexity. After slightly more than seven and a half years of revisions, the final piece of the History Revealed series is nearly finished.

After our children graduated and stepped on to the path of their own adventures, my husband and I continued to work together as a pas-de-deux (a dance of two). By God’s grace, though, we have been encircled by a fantastic network of support from our publishers (Answers in Genesis, Apologia Ministries, Emerald Books), and our friends (including Dr. Jay Wile, Paul and Gena Suarez, Clay and Sally Clarkson, Eric and Joyce Burges, Jay and Heidi St. John, Derek and Cheryl Carter, Bob and Linda Schneider). These incredible people, along with the countless ones I haven’t named, have provided wisdom, encouragement, counsel, prayer and laughter. We wouldn’t be here today if it had not been for them.

Looking back, we see the unmistakeable hand of the Lord leading us on this journey to serve homeschooling families. The mistakes are ours. The grace is His. And I would not have missed this living-by-faith adventure for all the coffee in Seattle!