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
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
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
"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.