Homeschooling Today January/February 1999

From Hollywood to Homeschooling
Lisa Whelchel's Journey of Success
By Tricia Goyer

Lisa Whelchel, best known for her part as the uppity Blair Warner on the television series, The Facts of Life , has experienced success according to the world's standards. In 1976, Lisa, at the age of 13, started out in The New Mickey Mouse Club. From there, Whelchel (who now goes by Cauble) went on to star on stage and screen - she even received a Grammy nomination for her solo album "All Because of You."

Today as a mother of three, Lisa has an entirely different focus. She calls it "God's upside-down version of success." Lisa has gone from standing in front of the camera to standing behind the scenes as a pastor's wife and a mother in her fifth year of homeschooling.

Lisa, who lives in Santa Clarita, California with her husband, Steve, never intended to homeschool in the beginning. "I started my son, Tucker, when he was four, basically teaching him reading and math. It was all very casual," Lisa says. "I always assumed I'd put my kids in private school, but with having three kids in three years and living on a pastor's salary, that wasn't possible."

Lisa believes starting out casually was the key to having such a great homeschooling experience. There wasn't a lot of pressure and it didn't take much time. Now, with her youngest daughter's foundational year behind her, Lisa is enjoying teaching Tucker, now 8, Haven, 7, and Clancy, 6, even more. "I get to enjoy the benefits of homeschooling all three together. They love it, and I love it because it's efficient," Lisa says.

While Lisa's school schedule covers all the basic subjects, she says her biggest goal isn't academic success. Instead, she's more concerned with determining God's plan for each of her children. "My kids are bright and if they lean toward advanced academics I'm certainly going to support them, but I don't necessarily feel that they have to have a college degree in order to be everything God wants them to be. I want to be sensitive to what the Lord desires for each of them, whether it's being a mom, or even a really good plumber."

For now, Lisa says her main goal for homeschooling is character development. "I have to continue to search the Scriptures to see what's important to God, so I can mold that in my children. Since the world's messages are screaming out at all around us, I have to be focused on God's priorities and make them my priorities in teaching."

One of those priorities, Lisa feels, is something she learned after she became a Christian at age 10. "The Bible is almost completely upside-down from what we've been taught in the world. I want my children to learnt he upside-down version first. I want them to know 'the last shall be first.' When they have a conflict with each other, I never say, 'Okay, who had it first?' My standard line is 'Who wants the blessing here on earth and who wants the blessing in heaven?'"

These and other biblical truths, Lisa believes, will teach her children to see things in relationship to eternity, instead of just thinking about the here and now-and she's willing to spend time away from the books to deal with these types of issues if necessary. "If a worksheet doesn't get completed because we have to take the time to discuss good behavior and God's Word, that's okay. I look at the bigger picture."

Homeschooling fits into Lisa's priorities because she has 24 hours a day to train her children. "Those are pretty lofty goals," Lisa says, "and with teaching my children at home I feel I have more of a fighting chance to teach them character issues, since I have more time with them. Also, I'm not retraining them against the things they've picked up at school. We're not taking two steps backwards and one step forward. If anything, we're inching forward."

And though most homeschooling parents deal with many of these same challenges, because of her success, Lisa is more closely watched than other mothers. But she doesn't mind. In fact, she says she's used to it and welcomes it. "I've been a role model in different arenas since I was young. I'm not too confident in myself because I know that is a very dangerous place to be, but as long as I depend on the Lord, I want to be used by Him in any way I can, Right now, I believe that's homeschooling."

So what does the media think of her decision to put her career on the back burner and become a stay-at-home mom? Amazingly, Lisa says, she's received a lot of encouragement. "I think the world is really, really wanting to see a marriage last and kids who are fun and well-mannered. They're rooting for that."

Thought the popular prep school on The Facts of Life wrapped up its nine-season run 10 years ago, Lisa has not strayed far from the classroom. But instead of dealing with problems that are solved in 30 minutes, this homeschooling mom's eyes are focused on the eternal perspective-and that's the fact of life that matters most.


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