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Clarity June/July 1999

Act II
Lisa Whelchel Cauble trades Hollywood's bright lights for home & hearth.
By Lisa Zhito

Just before the sun peaks over the horizon, Lisa Whelchel Cauble begins her day with a cup of teas and a dose of prayer. Without her early morning ritual, she feels unprepared to face her demanding days. Her precious few moments of quiet and reflection come to a halt at 7 a.m., when her three young children-Tucker, 8; Haven, 7; and Clancy, 6-scramble from their rooms. Chores follow the breakfast clamor, then an hour of Bible study. At 9 a.m., school begins-homeschool. Mom-turned-teacher pulls out the books, art supplies and science projects. Like other busy women, Lisa relies on her creativity to find time for such daily necessities as menu planning, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning out closets, writing thank you notes and answering e-mail. "I work harder [doing this] than in any other job," she says. And this job doesn't quit. Lisa doesn't see another minute of solitude until she tucks the kids in bed at night. The children. The schoolwork. The exhaustion. It doesn't sound glamorous-especially not for a former television star.

Ten years older than when we last saw her on TV and with children in tow, Lisa still looks the same. As Blair Warner, she portrayed a spoiled but lovable character on the hit television series The Facts of Life from 1979 to 1988. Now she lives a life far removed from Hollywood, a choice she made willingly to help impact her world, one child at a time.

"My life in show business was all about me," she says. "Not in a bad way, but people did my hair and my makeup and wrote my scripts. Whenever I wanted to travel, I just did. That's just an all-about-me kind of life. And now," she says, laughing, "there's very little time for me! It's all about somebody else."

Lisa hopes to impart a similar sense of selflessness to her children by giving up her career and schooling them herself. In a society driven by the cult of celebrity, her choice seems to go against the grain. She certainly bucks national trends: According to government statistics, by the early '90s two-thirds of all married mothers were either seeking employment or working outside the home. More than half had children under the age 6. This number is expected to grow by the year 2005, with the largest share of that increase coming from mothers returning to work.

For Lisa, however, the choice to stay home was obvious. "I had three babies three years in a row," she says matter-of-factly. "By the time I could go back to work, I began to homeschool my son and loved it. I decided I wanted this for my children. To homeschool them, I needed to stay home!"

Though Lisa's husband, Steve Cauble, an associate pastor for The Church on the Way, in Van Nuys, California, supported the idea of homeschooling, he says he questioned his wife when she decided to trade her career for their family, In addition to the sacrifices that would have to be made for the family to live on one income, he wanted to know if she would find fulfillment in this role. He wondered if she might miss the way she once lived, along with all the luxuries that accompany fame and fortune.

In his heart, Steve already knew the answers. As the only single people in the church prayer group where they met, Steve and Lisa often paired off. Long before they married, Steve knew Lisa's spiritual walk ranked as the most important pursuit in her life.

"I saw her with no guard up, no defenses, when [ Facts of Life ] hit its peak of popularity. And I saw someone who had her priorities right, and that fame and the other trappings hadn't affected her negatively."

Perhaps the siren song of Hollywood couldn't sway Lisa from hearth and home because she started her acting career so young-and with her faith intact. Genny Coleman, Lisa's mother, took her shy 7-year-old daughter to acting class to bring her out of her shell. About the same time, Lisa started attending the small Baptist church three doors down from her Fort Worth, Texas, home. "My friend and I wanted an excuse to wear dresses," she says, laughing. "We dressed up and went to church for the fun of it. I remember walking into the Sunday school class and seeing this huge box of donuts and orange juice. I thought, Maaaan! I'm coming here every Sunday !"

By age 10, Lisa's spiritual interest had shifted from her stomach and taken root in her heart. Even for a child actress, her faith limited her work options. When Lisa heard about the revival of the wholesome New Mickey Mouse Club , she lobbied hard to join the cast. She won the part and in 1976, at age 12, she moved with her family to California and began her career as a professional actress. Twelve years later, she exited stage left.

"Hollywood is a fantasy," she observes, "And not only is [Hollywood] not reality, but most of the time [Hollywood life] is for such a short period of time."

Even during the height of her Facts fame, Lisa told interviews that she would not remain in show business much longer. Four months after Facts wrapped its final season in 1988, she married Steve Cauble and soon found herself taking on a new role: mom and teacher.

Like most child actors, Lisa's academic background was nontraditional. Tutors homeschooled her on the sets where she worked. So when Lisa and Steve decided to teach their children at home, the concept wasn't new to Lisa; however, the couple chose this form of education not for its familiarity, but so they could instill moral and biblical values in their children.

"I have to be there to do that," Lisa assets. "I have to catch them in the middle of an argument of a bad attitude of a question. I have to be there to teach them what the Lord says about that. It's kind of hard to do that in a couple of hours a night between homework and bedtime."

Although the Caubles quickly emphasize the spiritual benefits of homeschooling, they don't underestimate the academic advantages. "We tailor their education to their ability to learn," explains Steve. "Mothers intuitively know what style of teaching works with each child and what kind of leaner [each] is."

The Cauble kids consistently rank two to three years ahead of their age groups when taking state standardized tests. And they complete their studies in half the time they would in traditional schools. Lisa spend three to four hours a day, for days a week instructing the children in math, spelling, Bible study and language arts, using a curriculum available through homeschool organizations. There is no formal curriculum for science, history or social studies for her children's ages, so Lisa uses weekly outings and programs on the history of discovery channels to cover those subjects. Monday, Steve's day off, the family devotes to special events, such as filed trips and art classes.

The Cauble children follow an agenda typical for most homeschool students. Unlike traditional classrooms where students and teachers spend much of their time on administration, discipline and recess, the home environment, most experts agree allows for more individual attention, so that children can accomplish more in less time. In fact, many argue that one-on-one tutoring is the best scenario you can get in education. "One-on-one tutoring can do in three-and-a-half hours what it would take eight hours to accomplish in public of private school," says Vicki Brady, host of Homeschooling USA on the Home Education Radio Network.

Because they believe the education continues after classes end, Lisa and Steve help their children use their free time to explore the live life. In the year 2000, for example, they plan to take the classroom on the road, making what the Caubles call, "The Family Dream," come true.

The plan? Steve will take a sabbatical so the family can tour America in a mobile home, stopping at historical sites and factories and visiting with family and friends. "Day in and day out in a 40-foot motor home-that's where true Christianity comes out!" Steve quips. But he sees this as a time during which he can have concentrated input in the children's lives, much as Lisa has now.

To help Finance the dream, Lisa is writing two books-one about children discipline and another on some of the Bible's grittier stories. If all goes well, they'll try a similar tour in Europe-of, as 6-year-old Clancy hopes, around the world-in a few years.

Of course, not everyone can make the same choices Lisa has made. "It's a luxury to stay at home," she acknowledges. And even when you can afford to do it, Lisa admits, the pace can be overwhelming. "I usually have 35 things on my to-do list and it's a good day if I can mark off five of them," she says. "I desperately need to exercise and can't find the time. Sometimes the kids have cereal for dinner when I can't find time to cook. And my lesson plans often reflect much more science and history and creative writing than actually gets accomplished."

Even the children have made sacrifices by limiting their extracurricular activities to baseball and art classes. Nonetheless, she says, if you fell the tug in your heart to stay home, do what you can to make that dream come true. It may not make sense on paper, but with God's help, you may find creative ways to provide richly for your family-and impact the lives of the little ones in your own world.

Whatever you decide, Lisa cautions, "You must know that this is what God wants you to do or you will burn out. I think I have helped more moms who are already homeschooling to relax a bit and realize you really can't do it all. Decide the priorities for your home and then let a few other things slide."

Those, she says, are the real facts of life.

 

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