"Susan is very well known and popular," says Anne Miller, president of the Home Educators Association of Virginia. "When she wrote 'The Well-Trained Mind,' no one had put feet to Dorothy Sayers's ideas."
"Well-Trained Mind" was followed by "The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease," a series of textbooks that covers writing skills for first- through fourth-graders and has sold 100,000 copies. "The Story of the World," a children's world history series published in four volumes, has sold more than 900,000 copies — not only to home-schooling parents but also to private schools, public charter schools and parents of public-school children who wish to supplement their kids' education.
Bauer also teaches English at William & Mary and runs her own tiny publishing house, Peace Hill Press, which distributes her books and lectures as well as those of a few other authors. She has just completed the third book of a multi-volume world history that encompasses 235,000 words, 808 pages, with a 45-page bibliography, an effort aimed more at adults than at home-schooled students. In 11 years, she has covered the ancient world through the Renaissance. She gestures toward a sculpture of a sinking Titanic on her desk. "That is a picture of my working life," she jokes. "My ability to get this world history project done made me feel as though I was always sinking."
Her career is definitely still afloat, though the seas have been so rough lately that she's considering changing course.
The Bauers' living room in Peace Hill's 90-year-old red farmhouse has a comfy lived-in-ness: antiques, books and various computers for Christopher, 21; Ben, 19; Dan, 15; and Emily, 11, all of whom were home-schooled. The oldest is at the University of Virginia, and the 19-year-old is attending Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Va. A Shakespeare quote is stenciled on the wall above the kitchen stove: "Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers." One floor below live Bauer's parents: mother Jessie and James Wise, a retired pediatrician.