Every once in a while you meet a kindred spirit who just knows how to nourish your heart. I had that privilege last fall when my travels took me to McDonough, Georgia, and the Hildreth family.
I had actually met Crystal a few years earlier, but that was in the middle of a busy exhibit hall. This time we were able to enjoy a leisurely walk to the small town square and hunt for books in the antique shops. She showed me around her 100-year-old house, introduced her family to me over lunch, and shared her Charlotte Mason discussion group with me that evening. I rarely text, yet she and I were texting almost all the way back home the next morning, as my husband drove and I giggled.
A few weeks later we managed to meet up again for my birthday. With a smile and a gentle twinkle in her eyes, Crystal handed me a small brown paper bag. There on the bag, stamped with care, was the beautiful image of a small boy and girl sitting under a tree, reading a book. Underneath was Charlotte Mason’s motto for students: “I am, I can, I ought, I will.” Inside the bag was the stamp.
I had never seen one like it, but I immediately knew where she had gotten it. You see, her son has started a business making custom rubber stamps. They had created it with love and my heart was full.
A few days later the idea occurred to me, Maybe other CM moms would treasure a stamp like this too. So we contacted Crystal’s son, Kemble Hildreth, and asked if he would be willing to make them available to you all. The package arrived yesterday and the stamps are now available through our website.
Now you, too, can use this CM Motto stamp to encourage and inspire those around you!
We’re especially excited about this stamp because Kemble grew up in a home school with a Charlotte Mason education. You can “meet” him in the interview below. We think you will be encouraged that a broad curriculum filled with living ideas and free afternoons to explore personal interests is a wonderful preparation for life after high school!
Interview with Kemble Hildreth
What has your homeschooling experience been like?
Whenever I look back on my homeschooling experience, there are two words that come to mind. The first word would be structure, and the second word would be freedom. The two words might sound contradictory at first, but the structure provided to me within homeschooling afforded a fantastic freedom that allowed me to pursue all sorts of ideas and dreams. The structural component ensured that we mastered the core subjects of history, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences. The freedom outside of our structured learning allowed us to pursue music, business endeavors, and numerous artistic ventures. Mom did a fantastic job of teaching us from real, living books that didn’t waste time with nonsensical drills and rote memorization. She instilled in us a love of reading, and the ability to teach ourselves. When you are aware that you can teach yourself just about anything, there’s no limit to where you can chase a dream. Homeschooling ultimately showed me that I can learn anything I want to.
On a casual note, homeschooling offered an entirely different environment to learn, work, and play. Homeschooling days consisted of Algebra in the tree-house, Faulkner by the fire with our Labrador, natural history lessons in the local parks, and spontaneous field trips to the north Georgia mountains for apple picking. The quality of life coupled with the chance to build stronger relationships with my parents and siblings was a benefit that just can’t be put into words. There are many forms of education, and there is no one perfect fit for all children, however, homeschooling was certainly the right fit for my siblings and me.
What are you studying now?
I’m currently studying Computer Science at Georgia Tech. My focus is in digital design, and networked systems. I’m in my senior year at Tech, and will be graduating in Fall of 2014. CS (Computer Science) is rapidly becoming a core component of almost all businesses, and the ability to fluidly converse in this digital language has proven to be a useful “Swiss-army-knife” in many of my side-projects and business ideas.
How did you get started with stamping?
Originally I had set out to create a website to sell T-shirts that sported my own hand-drawn designs. I quickly learned that the online t-shirt market is quite saturated, and that getting my foot in the door would take a herculean effort and quite a bit of luck. However, in the process of branding my now defunct t-shirt company I stumbled across rubber stamps. I thought that having a rubber stamp to brand my t-shirt packaging would be a fine way of leaving my mark. As it happened, I had a hard time finding a rubber stamp company that I wanted to do business with. After seeing a void in the rubber stamp market, I decided to attempt to fill it!
What are some things you’ve learned from running a small business?
When you have a product that is good, there is no secret formula to success. I have found that steady hard work and good customer service are the two primary keys to a successful business. These are old-fashioned ideas, but they work brilliantly. I try hard to give each client the attention they need to feel that their project is just as important as one of my own projects would be.
Legal structure and taxes have actually proved to be the most confusing part of the business. Running the business and working with clients is very straightforward compared to navigating the hazy waters of LLCs, quarterly reports, CPAs, and business taxes. As with any new field of study, it becomes clearer with every day of work. That being said, I was not expecting as much red tape in the process of running a small business.
How many stamps have you made?
To date, at least 3200 custom stamps for clients.
What’s unique about your stamps?
The stamps we produce are completely clear. The handles are clear acrylic, and the stamp die itself is clear polymer. Our stamps can also retain a very high level of detail in their design. We use a digital process that allows for a high design resolution.
Do you have a favorite stamp that you’ve created?
I have a number of stock designs I offer to clients. Many of those designs are vintage illustrations from old encyclopedias. There’s a crab stamp we have that I’ve always thought was pretty nifty. There’s also a vintage pig-diagram stamp that is fun to use. I really like any of our stamps that have to do with nature.
How has a Charlotte Mason-style education prepared you for college and life so far?
To be succinct, it has given me a great appreciation for nature, tradition, self-education, family, and the relationships we build in this life.
And of course, . . . what’s your favorite book?
We have an old collection of Mark Twain stories—technically, they all reside in one book. I really love reading Mark Twain’s works, so that anthology would certainly rank highly in my book list. Beyond Mark Twain, I enjoy reading anything by Lewis Grizzard, as well as William Faulkner. There are so many good books it’s hard to choose just one!