Exactly What is the Norm?

Recently, the cover of TIME magazine gained the attention likened to a reality show or the likes of the National Enquirer! You can relax, because I’m not here to discuss the “ins and outs” of whether or not one should breastfeed or for how long. While I, too, have definite opinions about these topics; there are more than enough of them that have been expressed. Sadly, some of them to the detriment of women everywhere. If you think about it, the opinions and reactions to that cover aren’t any different than what we face every day whenever we make a choice to pursue something outside of “the norm.” Here’s the bigger challenge: exactly what is “the norm?!” I can say that I’m going to pursue the education of my children. Immediately three options come to mind: Public education, the private sector, or pursuing education at home. Within each of those categories, you are faced with a plethora of options, factors, and decisions.

On this awesome team we refer to as Hip Homeschool Moms, I would be the reigning matriarch of the group. Or yes, I’m “old.” I view my fellow mom writers here as Queens ruling over their own courts. Yet, we come together to communicate a shared vision of the Kingdom called “EducationWithinTheHome.” The common ground, if you will. It’s a place we all need to look for, seek out, and rest in more often; because it, along with other topics of discussion, is losing ground quickly to factions, bickering, and arguing within American culture. Don’t get me wrong! I love a great debate. True debate, however, serves a purpose and honors structures, etiquette and the other individuals participating. So how does this apply to my home educating experience?


There was this kid.

He was born for greatness and tremendous mission, just like every other human being to have ever graced this planet. How do I know this? Because I believe in a God that thrives on uniqueness and individualism rather than mass production. Look to nature with species, breathtaking colors, geographies and varying topographies if you doubt this.

He was a normal kid, with normal problems and challenges. Re-read that sentence. Twice.

He had a speech impediment until he was nearly 11, he didn’t read until the age of 10, and he was not overly social. He had his family and a handful of people he loved.

Flexibility wasn’t a character strength.

The challenges here, should be clear to see. He wasn’t a great formula or conveyor belt model. In fact, if I had a dollar for every individual that came to me and asked if I knew my child couldn’t read…I would have quite a sum of money in the bank!

If you add to this, every opinion ever given by well-meaning individuals, about how we should be “dealing with these things” within our home, his life, our family culture; we would have quit. Not just schooling, but cultivating. Amidst all of the discussions about curriculum, learning styles, methodologies of teaching, and the “how-tos”, whys and what-fors…are people. Individuals. Lives destined for greatness!

Back to this kid.

One day, through a very spontaneous unscheduled phone call received from a dear friend; he met William Shakespeare. And it rocked his world.

Then, he got up on a stage, and rocked ours.

Never, ever, ever, in a million lifetimes of motherhood, could I have anticipated this.

Guess what he did, when he unearthed this passion?

Brace yourselves.

He read-while-listening.

And he watched.

And then he did the above over, and over and over again. Rinse and repeat.

In the meantime, I was the mom. I chose to cultivate relationship, reinforce values, and convictions and celebrate his uniqueness. I never did this perfectly. When I sweat, and gave in to those around me that were still doubting, or didn’t understand, or wanted to give advice, I went to my incredible husband. Why? Because we are building this family and culture together, by the grace of God. And those other people? While I love them, they don’t live here…each.and.every.day. We do.

One of the greatest privileges of choosing this form of education, is the growth, challenge and instruction that it affords me. I hope you notice that. It’s me, not them; and the curriculum is life. Life and the culture that we are afforded as a unique, one-of-a-kind family.

So in February, after years and years of reading, watching, writing, studying; “this kid” went for an open call. He was amongst those possessing college degrees, and cards that afford them the privileges of being associated with the Screen Actor’s Guild. He went looking for experience, and possibly a part.

What he came away with was a lead. As you read this, he is in the middle of a Shakespeare season, playing Proteus in “Two Gentleman of Verona.”

So here’s the take away…for me and you.

Let’s celebrate the common ground; which is mothers and fathers committed to forging relationships in order for greatness to shine. There’s diversity in style, methodology and identity in that commitment. Let’s honor the institution of families that are willing to say, “We’re in this for the long haul, because we believe in the culture that we’re creating together.”

When we do that, we will testify to love; and love changes the world.

That, my friends is the curriculum!

Teri is  believer in God, family, community, and lover of leadership education the Thomas Jefferson way. Teri writes and also speaks about lessons learned on her educational journey with 5 rambunctious sons, ages 22 down to 9, one hero Hubby, and celebrating day to day life with lots of humor, within the human race. You can find Teri blogging at Tommy Mom.

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  1. Made me think of my hubby who did not read and the schools wanted to place him in a different school, a “special” school. It took them a few weeks to get the expert in to test him. Meanwhile, he discovered, TA DA! the books of Heinlein, something worth reading and taught himself to read and by the time the specialist got there to certify him and remove him to the OTHER school he was reading a couple grade levels above his own. He didn’t find out he was dyslexic until graduate school, earned his doctorate, and is the most brilliant and creative man I know.

  2. Love the picture of the 3 boys (the baby was the best). I homeschool also, I have been doing it for 5 years now. I started when my daughter became sick, while in public school all she was doing is trying to play catch-up for all the days she missed. She loves to do her school work and is an amazing young lady. I know you have to be so proud of your son. You did a great job as a mom and a teacher.

  3. Thank you for sharing. My son is five and has a speech and social delay. This first came about when he was three and his pedi doctor referred us to a neurologist. The neurologist wanted to medicate him for his speech delay and couldn’t tell me what the side effects of the medication would be. My husband and I turned to the Lord and trusted He would see our son through. He has made great progress and has a little bit of a way to go. His current doctor recommended a speech therapist and he will be getting “assessed” this Wednesday. My son is also timid and I sing True Colors by Cyndi Lauper to him. I know that he prefers to do things differently and that’s ok. I know that God is continuing His work in him. Thank you, thank you!! I’ve been encouraged!

  4. I’m humbled, inspired and encouraged by your comments, ladies. The work we do as mothers is the most challenging, inspiring and sometimes scary thing we do. I want to commend and encourage each of you for sharing what you have. For supporting your husband, for advocating for your daughter, and for faith in your son. These things are paying eternal dividends in heaven’s bank. XO, ;0)

  5. The minute I started reading I knew it was you …
    What a gift you bring to the homeschool community here with your knowledge and your candor and your absolute love!
    Matriarch – ha … look at you all gorgeous and flowing locks of blonde surrounded by her men who lift her up in God’s glory – you my dear, are ageless xxxx

  6. Teri, what a gift and a pleasure to have been a part of getting to know your family over these last fourteen years. You and Paul have certainly created a culture of faith, love, learning, giving and serving with all of your family. Your children will already be “not normal” in our society today because of the dwindling number of families who value “morals, service, community and faith”. How great not to be normal in these times.

    It was my pleasure to see Preston on the stage this past weekend and watch him shine in his element. I believe he will use this platform to do great works — and I am not speaking about Shakespeare!

    Just for the record, you are not old, because if you are then I am heading to ancient.

  7. And where please can I sign up to be your friend ?! I mean WOW thank you for sharing, this post is very close to the perfect description of the imperfections of life. And what I also love is you’re not separating heritage, culture, origin, religion etc. because it doesn’t matter, it’s simply the “Life” that we’re in all together… great GREAT post !! I could go on and on but reading your lines and reading between the lines pretty much sums it all up.

    God bless,

  8. Thank you Terri for sharing this story. It is such an inspiration to see homeschooling from someone who has been there and done that and is still doing it! Thank you for the reminder that our families are all unique and that is what is great!!!!! Love is what counts the most.

  9. Bravo, Bravo! This story warms my heart. I am a former public school teacher who now homeschools. As a teacher, I always strived to nurture each child’s strengths! It has been a joy as a homeschool mother to focus on my children’s strengths and following their interest.

    Your son’s story is such an inspiration and a reminder that each and every child is an individual. A wonderful book recommendation touching on this subject is: “Your Child’s Strengths” by Jenifer Fox.

  10. I appreciate your comments, ladies! And I will be ordering the book! Love to explore these thought processes and ideologies. XO

  11. This is one of the most moving blog posts I’ve ever read. Your words encourage and inspire me. Kudos to your son on his outstanding role, and kudos to you and your husband for helping him to live a lifestyle in which he could find his true passion!

  12. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read this post. My 5 yr old daughter has specific language learning impairment and other sensory issues not yet diagnosed. I have been homeschooling my older children but next year will be my first year homeschooling this special little girl and I am totally overwhelmed and intimidated. Reading
    Your post gives me hope! I would love to hear the particulars about your journey with your son. Congrats on a job well done! You must be so proud!

  13. I got teary-eyed just reading your post, Teri. What a wonderful testament to the beauty of respecting your child and homeschooling! I homeschooled my two kids through high school and loved being able to follow their interests and unique callings. We didn’t have to face the questions you did, though. How awesome that you stayed strong and did what was right for your son! 🙂

  14. I am so very humbled by your words, ladies. Thank you. I’m also humbled daily by the grace of God in the lives of my kids. XO

  15. I loved your article! So refreshing. And I love how your son has been able to develop into his own person, the way God created him to be. Great job, Mom! Thanks for sharing this.

  16. I loved this post!! Maybe b/c my oldest 3 are boys…LOL, and so much of what you wrote I can totally identify with! Their needs have dictated what I do to meet them, in so many respects. In fact, I wouldn’t be on this education path if not for them and their, ahem, exuberance. They have taught me a lot!

    Kudos to your son on the leading role. What fun I can imagine it must be for you to watch him follow his dreams and excel in acting.

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