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Mother knows best
Three women reflect on kids, role in learning
Mom WEB 1
Rachael Moffett shares a laugh with her oldest child, Drew. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Life is full of teachable moments for mothers. But for some Forsyth County moms, those moments consume their days — and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

They are mothers of many and have each chosen to homeschool their large families.

Leaving behind former careers, they entered an environment where everyday adventures can become lesson plans.

They can write curriculum to incorporate their children’s passions. And perhaps most importantly, they can watch their children learn and grow each step of the way.

Patient and always ‘knows what to do’

Kathy Lee

John Michael, 16; Joshua, 12; Grace, 12; Jackson, 11; Sarah, 7; Henry, 6; Phoebe, 3

Kathy Lee didn’t think she could have her own children. While she was in the process of adopting her fourth child, however, she learned she was pregnant.

She went on to have another child, and adopt one more, bringing her child count to the “beautiful number” seven, who range in age from 16 to 3.

With her background in day care and child development, homeschooling just seemed a natural progression.

“I really wanted to be the person who witnesses ‘a-ha’ moments,” she said. “I wanted to witness my child reading for the first time, figuring out how to spell words, discovering that colors mixed. I wanted to be the one to hear the first story they tell and how that progresses.

“We wanted the togetherness it creates among a family.”

There are hard days, days where “I beg the yellow bus to stop,” she joked. But there was never a time where she ever imagined not being her children’s teacher.

“It’s just rewarding to see that I’m instilling in my kids to be lifelong learners, which is what I want,” she said.  “[Learning] is not confined to a book. So I think I’m a teacher, whether I’m cooking with the children or gardening with the children, even seeing a movie.”

Lee wakes up early every morning and heads to the gym for a workout. It’s her chance to take time for herself.

But then it’s straight to work for her, who said every day is both challenging and rewarding.

“I often say, ‘Where is my Superwoman cape?’ Trying to be a good mom, a good wife, a good homeschooler, a good friend — I’m trying to balance it all and make sure I can juggle all of those roles.”

Her efforts are not lost on her children, who enjoy getting to spend the day with their mother.

“She is always very patient and she knows what to do,” said her oldest son, John Michael. “When I’m having trouble with my school work, she’s always there to help out. And she’s also always there for me as a mother outside of school.

“She does all the motherly things that a mother should do and I’m very thankful to God that he gave me her.”

Mom enjoys talking with her teenagers

Christine Torre

Gabrielle, 17; Joshua, 16; Benjamin,14; Daniel, 10; Anna, 9

Christine Torre had a great job as a legal assistant, representing those who were trying to get disability claims.

She went back to work six months after having her first child, only to announce she was pregnant again.

Even after her second child, Torre continued to work from home. But that all changed one day after her son, Joshua, came home from preschool.

“He just came home and uttered a horrible curse word,” she said. “I thought if he was this impressionable at 3, how impressionable is he going to be at 13?”

With two toddlers and a newborn, Torre began to re-evaluate her role as mom. She decided she wanted to be the one to teach her children, who now number five between ages 17-9.

“When I first stayed home, it was culture shock,” she said. “It was a whole different lifestyle. I had to find a whole new group of friends.

“I had to find different moms’ playgroups and that sort of thing. So it was a totally different lifestyle that I had not been accustomed to before.”

It wasn’t always easy, especially early on — when she had five children younger than 8. Unlike at work, where she would come home and leave her work at the office, being a full-time parent means she was on call 24/7, she said.

But the payout has been worth the effort.

“We love the character we’re seeing in our kids,” she said. “I love being with my teenagers. I don’t know many parents that can say that, but I absolutely love being with them. I love talking with them.

“When my husband and I go on a date night… when we come home, our teenagers will have coffee brewed and we’ll all sit around and talk.”

Being both a mom and a teacher has also helped her elevate her creativity. She’s a great problem solver, said son Benjamin.

“Any conflicts if they arise in our family … she just figures out what to do,” he said. “Like yesterday, my older brother called my younger sister a name and we all sat down at the table and had a miniature court, and my mom was the judge.”

With her oldest daughter not far from graduating, Torre said she can look back on her decision with no regrets.

“Being their mom and being their teacher, I will never have to worry about looking back and saying, ‘Gosh, I wish I would have spent more time with them.’”

Daughter: ‘She’s more about helping people’

Rachael Moffett

Drew, 13; Connor, 12; Owen, 9; Addison, 7; Paige, 6; Eli, 3; Graham, 2; Sarah, 2; William, 2

Home schooling was never part of the plan for Rachael Moffett when she first started having children.

Then when her oldest daughter, Drew, reached kindergarten age, she thought she’d give it a try.

“We opted to keep her home just as a trial for the year, see how it went,” Moffett said. “And from there on out, it was just a nice fit for our family.

It was also an easy adjustment for Moffett, who worked as a public school teacher before having kids. But being a teacher to her own children, without having to follow public school curriculum, has made her a stronger educator.

“I was able to meld my own curriculum to each kid’s own unique trait, so it has actually been very beneficial,” she said. “I actually think that homeschooling has prepared me better to be a teacher.”

With nine children, two of which she is in the process of adopting, ensuring that personalities shine is at the forefront.

“We set aside a day every month called their special day, and it’s on the date that they were born,” Moffett said. “Their dad and I rotate between boys and girls and we take them to do what their special interest is.

“If a certain movie is out, we take them to that movie because we know they would enjoy it.”

Moffett said many special days are filled with playing Airsoft, a recreational pellet gun game, with the boys. The family also goes camping together every weekend during the summer.

The hobbies of the children, whose ages span from 13 to 2, have become her own.

“The things I learn to enjoy as a mom and as a woman — in general, where we struggle with having our own time — is finding that I enjoy our family time,” she said. “We enjoy doing things with them.”

The family sticks to a schedule. School often starts a little later because, as Drew Moffett noted, there are “so many children.”

“She gives up so much time to help us and to teach us everything that we need to know,” she said. “Like when I need help, it’s not like I have to go to three separate people. It’s all just going to one person.

“And she’s more about helping people than thinking of herself.”