Ask the Grad

Ask the Grad – C.J. Darlington

Today’s homeschool graduate shares how home education encouraged her creativity and writing talent. Be sure to read to the end, when she answers a reader question and shares how you can win one of two signed copies of her book, Thicker than Blood!


homeschool graduate

If it weren’t for homeschooling, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I truly believe that.

My twin sister Tracy and I were homeschooled through all our schooling years except for

C.J. Darlington

kindergarten, but Mom was one of the teachers! I still remember the excitement of starting first grade. Our parents went all out in setting up our little home classroom complete with cool desks, a blackboard, themed decorations on the walls—the works. It put us in the right frame of mind to learn and not fool around. I never went to school in my pajamas! J We kept regular schooling hours but often would work late to complete a project. And the field trips! We belonged to a local county group that gave us the chance to go on many cool adventures.

When Tracy and I were twelve we became licensed amateur radio operators. This was back when they required you to learn Morse code, so we had a lot of studying to do to pass the exams. When we finally did, our parents (who got licensed too) bought us a ham radio for Christmas. I remember so many days hurrying through my school work as fast as I could so I could run downstairs, fire up the radio, and make contacts with people all over the world. It was exhilarating! I talked to people in Aruba, Puerto Rico, England, and many U.S. States too. This was before the internet and before we had a computer, which made it even more exciting.

As we grew older our schooling style changed to an unstructured or unschooling format that allowed us to more actively pursue individual interests. We worked hard, often through the summers, and graduated when we were sixteen. By the time I was seventeen my sister and I had started an antiquarian book business that still supports our entire family to this day.

Homeschooling taught me how to teach myself. I still learn best that way. When I was a kid I would write little stories about my pets and animals. My sister and I even had our own newspaper called The Monthly Dart which we peddled around the neighborhood for fifty cents a copy. Again, this was back before we had a computer, so we literally cut and pasted all our articles and illustrations onto heavy card stock pages which our dad copied for us.

The interest in writing began for me at an early age, but I really had no idea I’d pursue it

Thicker than Blood cover art

on a professional level. I was a horrible speller as a kid and hated grammar, but I started the story that would become my first published novel Thicker than Blood (Tyndale House) when I was fifteen. It wasn’t until fifteen years later that it won the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. I still have the spiral notebook that contained those early attempts.

Our parents always made a point to encourage my sister and me in our entrepreneurial efforts, even making it part of our curriculum. I mentioned our newspaper, but back when we were even younger we had a business called T & C’s Baking Company (Mom helped us a LOT with the actual baking part!). We would sell brownies and cookies around the neighborhood. That taught us math skills, how to figure profit and loss, sales techniques, and just dealing with people on a business level. When we started the book business as teenagers we already had that business background.

When Tracy and I decided to create a Christian entertainment website called, we didn’t hesitate to dig in and learn the CSS code and SEO skills necessary to create the site from scratch. If we didn’t know something, we asked questions and searched the web for insights. I say that to brag on homeschooling, not on us. We’re nothing special. But we learned the world was at our fingertips. Our homeschooling motto was “the world is our classroom”, and that’s still applicable to our lives today.

For me, it always comes back to not being afraid to grab the bull by the horns and tackle a project or teach myself something totally new. As an author now, I’m glad my parents always encouraged my love of reading and books. If I had been forced to only read required curriculum, or worse, was told I couldn’t read certain books because they were too hard to read or weren’t on that year’s reading list, I know it would’ve stifled creativity. Not that I did everything on my own. After I graduated, my parents were still there helping me pursue my dreams. If I’d slack off on something, they’d encourage me to keep going. Mom would remind me of things I’d told her about wanting to be a writer, and that would help spur me on.

Some of my fondest memories were going to the library, and my parents never complained when we came home with bags and bags full of books. Mom created curriculum around these interests too. She made sure we read many of the classics. She also had us keep a journal from an early age, something I still do now as an adult.

Sure, I had my good subjects (English, Creative Writing), and there were those that were more challenging (Math), just like anyone going through school. But overall, it was a great experience, and I realized that even as a kid. I was aware of the privilege I was being given by being homeschooled. If I wanted to learn more about something, I had the freedom to do that. Mom made sure we knew that if there was ever anything we wanted to learn, she’d go out of her way to give us the materials we needed to learn it.

We really were on the early frontlines of the homeschooling movement, and we knew people who’d had their kids taken away. It hadn’t been worked out yet with the local school boards, and most people didn’t even know what homeschooling was! People would say to my parents, “Homeschooling? What’s that?” And because of this we wouldn’t go play outside until after three o’clock when other kids would be getting home from public school. Even if I finished my schoolwork early I had to wait to go outside. Torture for a kid! Mom did let us have snow days if the other kids got off.

Because my interests were creative writing and entrepreneurial business, I never saw the need for college. I knew that anything I didn’t know I could teach myself. That’s held true. With the support of my family, I taught myself how to write fiction through how-to books, magazines and just reading great novels. I believe you can succeed, excel even, without a college degree. It just depends on the direction you want to go with your life. If you want to be a doctor, then of course, you’ll have to get your degree. But a degree doesn’t ensure success. There’s a world full of opportunities available at your fingertips if you’ll just seek them out, whether you go to college or not.

I know we all homeschool differently, but I think universally homeschooling fosters individual thinking. That’s so important. I don’t want to be a robot swallowing what someone tells me is truth without ever asking questions.

I recognize homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it was everything for me and was a huge blessing in my life.

Here is our reader-submitted “Ask the Grad” question. Traci asks:

What were some of the most important/valuable things you learned?

C.J.  responds:

Of everything I learned in homeschooling, learning how to type correctly is something I now use EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you want to be a writer, it’s imperative you learn how to type using the correct fingers.

C. J. Darlington’s first novel Thicker than Blood was the winner of the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest.  Her second novel Bound by Built will release in February 2011.  She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in her novels before cofounding her own online bookstore.  After a homeschool education, she also cofounded the Christian entertainment web site  She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.  Visit her web site at

The Giveaway:

If you would like to enter to win a signed copy of C. J. Darlington’s novel, Thicker than Blood, enter in the comments below:

~ Tell me if you posted a link to C.J.’s “Ask the Grad” article and giveaway!

~ Tell me if you “tweeted” C. J. ‘s “Ask the Grad” article and giveaway!

~ Leave me a question for a future “Ask the Grad” homeschool graduate to answer!

TWO winners will be chosen at random this Friday, February 11 and announced here, on WhateverState!

The Winner – and Another Winner!

I was so excited about C.J.’s book giveaway, that I forgot she is giving TWO copies of Thicker than Blood! Our random winners are Dana Wilson and Lori! Congratulations to you both! C.J. will be in contact with you soon about your books.

You may find out more about Thicker than Blood and C.J.’s other books on her website.


  1. I started homeschooling ten years ago when my dd was in 5th grade. It has been such a blessing. She graduated and now attends one of the most elite universities in the country proving just what homeschooling can do. My son has never been in a traditional school and he is thriving as most homeschoolers are. It’s a blessing to hear how homeschoolers are doing after graduation and how much it has contributed to their lives. Blessings!


  2. Jennifer in PA says

    I enjoy this series very much. I posted a link to this on my facebook page.
    Would love to read this book.
    Jennifer in PA


  3. Theresa Johnson says

    Great article! We have been homeschooling our ten children for the past 20 years. (I am posting a link on my Facebook page). Jerry Jenkins is my #2 favorite children’s author (after Patricia St. John) I look forward to reading “Thicker Than Blood”.


  4. I shared this on Facebook and retweeted your post, Lea Ann. As someone who loves to write myself, this was a great read, but it was greatly encouraging, as this is exactly what I want: To encourage Sammy to love to learn and to know that he can teach himself ANYTHING (or mostly anything ) that he wants to know. Thank you so much for sharing this.


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  6. Hi Lea Ann,
    Love your “Ask the Grad” series. What a resourceful idea to encourage the homeschool community while ‘educating’ the non-homeschool community. 🙂 I retweeted your article as well as sharing it on facebook.

    I have graduated two students who are now doing wonderfully in college. But more important than their academic success, they are truly walking with the Lord and ‘living largely’, ministering to others, etc. I am so grateful!

    Thank you for your contributions to the homeschooling cause.


  7. So great to hear the perspective of someone who has been through homeschooling and is out on their own. This is an amazing story and one that should inspire every homeschool family.
    Thank you for sharing!


  8. I would love to know if there is a skill that you wished you had worked more on, while being homeschooled – something that you see now would have benefited in the “real world”? For example, handwriting.


  9. Great blog post and interview. The novel sounds like a great read! Here’s a question for a future “Ask the Grad” blog entry:

    What advice would you give homeschooling parents to encourage them to stick with their commitment to educate at home even when times get tough as opposed to placing children back into the school system?


  10. Suzanne says

    Here’s a question I have for a future “Ask the Grad” participant. How can we, as homeschooling parents, best help our children not feel like outsiders to the rest of the world? It’s good, of course, to be in the world and not of the world, but as children reach their teen years, I sense this is a greater concern to them. Did your parents do anything to help you in that regard?

    Thanks for an opportunity to win this book!


  11. Sarah says

    Ask the grad:
    Many homeschool grads end up in entrepeneurial ventures instead of “regular” jobs. What is your opinion of how that happens?


  12. Gosh, I loved reading your story (and I would love to read your fiction as well)! My husband & I homeschooled our now 16 yo son. He is currently a junior at a university studying computer science, as that has always been his passion. I totally agreed with your perspective re: learning and knowledge…bravo to your parents for allowing you & your sister to grow in the way that He would have you. I did post a link to this page on my facebook; I know that your story will encourage many. Thank you and God bless!–Terri


  13. This is C.J. popping in to say thanks for having me here, and thanks to everyone who’s read the post! Homeschooling was a huge blessing in my life. I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has, btw.


  14. Dovey says

    I would love to win a copy! Hmmmm, question: When you say you graduated at 16, yet were following an unschooled method, how did your parents determine that you were ready for graduation? I’m not asking this critically, mind you, completely out of curiosity. My children are young (oldest is 3rd grade) so I’m curious about what “the end of the road” looks like!


  15. Excellent question. We worked with a private school that allowed us to do all of our work at home and to decide on curriculum, etc (we even wrote our own evaluations!). It was essentially all the same as if we were doing it on our own, but we had their support, and they gave us the guidelines of how many credits we needed to have to officially cover all the bases. This was all under the watchful eye of my Mom too who made sure we were well grounded in all subjects! 🙂


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