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A talented performer, Lisa Whelchel appeared as a Mouseketeer on the New Mickey Mouse Club in the late 1970s and as “Blair” on the popular sitcom The Facts of Life in the 1980s. But her most prized roles are those of wife to her husband, Steve, and homeschool mom to their three children. Lisa and her family live in Santa Clarita, California.

CBD: Because filming often conflicts with normal school hours, many child stars are tutored. When you appeared on the popular sitcom The Facts of Life, were you tutored on the set? If so, did this experience influence your subsequent decision to homeschool? If not, why did you decide to homeschool your three children?

LW: The majority of what I learned as a young student was through real-world experience. The responsibility of a job, travel opportunities, long hours reading good books on the set have prepared me for life in more valuable ways than any of the years I spent in a traditional school setting. Even so, that was not my original reason for homeschooling my own children.

Finances played the biggest part in the beginning. Public school in Los Angeles was not an option I wanted to consider, and we couldn’t afford to send three children, born three years in a row, to a private school. Homeschooling appeared to be our last resort, when in reality, God was simply backing us into His perfect will for our lives.

Over the years, it has become more and more obvious why God led us to homeschool. It is perfect for each of my children for unique reasons. My son, Tucker, has ADHD. I’m afraid that if he were forced to conform to a classroom setting along with 30 other children, he would spend more time in the principal’s office than receiving an education. The message he would probably internalize would be the belief that he is a dumb kid and a bad boy. I believe homeschooling has been the saving grace for his self-esteem.

My oldest daughter, Haven, is a gifted student. Because we don’t have to place any limits on her progress, she is able to set her goal of graduating by the age of 14. From there, she has already plotted her course through Patrick Henry College and onto a career in politics, leading to her election as the first female president of the United States. My youngest daughter, Clancy, is a sensitive child. I can see how providing a loving, secure environment at home has enabled her to thrive in her God-given temperament. She is a delightful, serving, praying people-person. Believe me, nobody would bother asking the proverbial “What about socialization” question after meeting my kids. Between church programs, Little League, homeschool groups, neighborhood friends, and tons of traveling . . . if there is a problem, it is too much socialization.

CBD: As a mother of an ADHD child, you have faced special challenges. Can you talk about some of the problems you experienced and how you dealt with them? What advice or encouragement can you offer parents who find themselves in a similar situation?

LW: Tucker has a difficult time staying on task for any length of time. Homeschooling Tucker has allowed me the flexibility to break his work up into bite-sized chunks that aren’t so overwhelming to him. For instance, his daily routine may look like this:

Morning routine (shower, read Bible, make bed) Jump on the trampoline for 15 minutes
  • Chores
  • Breakfast and read-aloud time
  • Math lesson
  • Shoot 50 hoops
  • Read a chapter in historical biography
  • Run around the block 5 times
  • Memorize 5 states and capitals and one Bible verse
  • Eat a snack and watch a science video
  • Write a thank-you note, letter, or e-mail
  • Spelling test
  • School’s over (play outside)

  • Homeschooling Tucker has afforded me the luxury of concentrating on his abilities rather than his disabilities. The main encouragement I would offer to parents with similar children is to cut yourself some slack. Don’t kill yourself, or your child, trying to fit him into a box God never intended him to live in. Decide what are the three most important things you want to teach him before he leaves home (they don’t have to be educational goals), and then spend the remaining years concentrating on those objectives. Don’t be dictated to, or distracted by, what anybody else says he should or shouldn’t learn by the time he graduates high school. You know your child better than anyone, so trust your instincts.

    Teach them to read and love good books. Establish a solid foundation in math. Beyond that, foster a love for learning and there will be no stopping them. If God has ordained higher education for them, believe me, He will have equipped them for it. If not, then release them to become all that He has created them to be, even if—no, especially if—they break out of the mold.

    CBD: You’re a pastor's wife, a parent, and a best-selling author. How do you balance all of your responsibilities and still find time for yourself? What do you do to recharge when your batteries get low?

    LW: To be honest, I attempt to balance too much and end up dropping the ball much of the time. So the first thing I’ve learned to do is accept the fact that I’m not perfect, I can’t do it all, and I’m going to make some mistakes. I do try to make sure I have some quiet time with the Lord in the morning before the kids wake up. I also try to do something fun with my children every day. Sometimes it is reading aloud from a good book, other times it is a board game, or a quick trip to Target to pick up supplies and an Icee. Kids will remember the times you played with them long after they forget their states and capitals.

    My other saving grace has been my “MomTime” group. Ten years ago, I invited a small circle of friends to meet at my house once a week to cook lunch for each other and play games. I had three children in diapers, and I was desperate for some adult conversation and something besides leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwich crusts for lunch. In the beginning, we put the kids down for a nap so we could have some uninterrupted Mommy time. As the kids got older, we put them in the backyard to play—with the door locked—and they weren’t allowed in unless there was bleeding involved! Moms desperately need time away and together to refuel, refresh, and rejuvenate.

    I would plead with every mom, homeschooling or not, to make time for herself. To that end, I have begun hosting “MomTime Get-A-Ways” in cities across America, with the express purpose of pampering the woman in “Mommy.” Moms spend so much of their time pouring out themselves that they often neglect to make their own needs a priority. Even if you can’t sneak away for an overnight slumber party like the “Get-A-Way,” try to find some time to meet another mom or two for coffee and talk. If you are anything like me, talking with other mothers stimulates, encourages, corrects, and inspires me to be a better wife and mommy.


     

     Books by Lisa Whelchel

    Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline
    Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline
    Lisa Whelchel

    Taking Care of the Me in Mommy: Becoming a Better Mom: Spirit, Body & Soul
    Taking Care of the Me in Mommy: Becoming a Better Mom: Spirit, Body & Soul
    Lisa Whelchel

    So You're Thinking About Homeschooling, Revised
    So You're Thinking About Homeschooling, Revised
    Lisa Whelchel

    Speaking Mom-ese: Moments of Peace & Inspiration in the Mother Tongue from One Mom's Heart to Yours
    Speaking Mom-ese: Moments of Peace & Inspiration in the Mother Tongue from One Mom's Heart to Yours
    Lisa Whelchel


     

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