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People Weekly July 6, 1998

The Facts of Wife

Lisa Whelchel, The Facts of Life's stuck-up Blair, traded TV stardom for home-schooling.
Alex Tresniowski and Samantha Miller
Irene Zutell in Santa Clarita and Amy Brooks in Los Angeles

Blair Warner may have learned The Facts of Life at boarding school, but Lisa Whelchel's three children will learn them close to home. Whelchel, who starred as the spoiled, rich Blair on the popular prep school sitcom, which wrapped up its nine-season run 10 years ago, says she has been listening to a tape about teaching kids the birds and the bees. "My son's getting to be close to 9," she says," so I thought, 'I want to be prepared.'"

And when the time comes for that Big Talk, Whelchel, now 35, will deliver it as both parent and teacher. Having happily exchanged acting for married life just after taping Facts' finale, the former actress's starring role these days bears little resemblance to her old one: Shi is home-schooling son Tucker, 8, and daughters Haven, 6, and Clancy, 5.

Talent agents everywhere may scratch their heads at her decision, but for Whelchel, a devout Christian, motherhood beats Hollywood by a mile. As her three pupils gallop through her airy, Spanish-style home in Santa Clarita, Calif., Whelchel, whose husband, Steven Cauble, 47, is a pastor at their church, talks about her decision to turn her back on the bright lights. "For the first few years, I thought I'd go back to TV," says Whelchel (who now goes by the name Cauble), her Texas drawl a far cry from Blair's upper crust whine. "But if I did I'd only have about an hour of influence in my children's lives every day. And I just wasn't willing to put a price on that."

Whelchel, who left public school after sixth grade for on-set tutoring and earned her high school diploma at 16, is determined to shield her children from sex, drugs, and violence. "Kids now come into contact with things at a much earlier age, before the are ready to handler them," she says. "I want them to have a fighting chance at the real world, but they need to get strong first in who they are, the love of their parents, the love of God."

Having joined the ranks of the 700,00 other home-schooling families in the U.S., Whelchel gives lessons on history, science, and math four morning a week, followed by afternoon reading sessions. Monday, Cauble's day off, is reserved for family field trips. "She's patient and dedicated," he says.

Whelchel sends her children to classes in art and musical theater, and they frolic with friends in a weekly playgroup she hosts. The kids seem contact with the program. Should they ask to go to school, Whelchel says she would consider it, "Bit if this keeps going well, I'll teach them until they go to college."

Since the age of 10-when, she says, her desire to dress up led her to attend church even without her parents-Whelchel has been charting her own course. The daughter of Jimmy Whelchel, an electrician in Fort Worth, and Jenny, a real estate agent, Whelchel became a Mouseketeer on The New Mickey Mouse Club at 12. In 1979 she landed on The Facts of Life, developing fast friendships with her costars. "It was such a bonding experience," adds Nancy McKeon, who played Jo and remains Whelchel's close pal. During off hours, Whelchel attended Cauble's church, which is affiliate with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and the two wed in 1988.

Whelchel plans to join McKeon and ex-costars Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn and Charlotte Rae this month for a party marking the anniversary of the show's end. "I'd like to go back [to acting] someday, but I just don't know when," she muses. "I really don't want to leave my kids to chance at any age. You need to be there when they need you."

 

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