What's Her Secret?: Port Royal mom of 7 talks about home-schooling her brood

abredeson@islandpacket.comJune 4, 2012 

Charlotte Cushman, center, poses with her seven children, whom she home schools. Her children are, pictured from left, Talley, Brant-Fowler, Hart, Susan, Tag, Zachariah and Brooke.

JAY KARR/THE ISLAND PACKET

  • Features writer Amy Bredeson will profile Lowcountry moms who have advice to share about all facets of motherhood. Email her at abredeson@islandpacket.com.

It's tough being a mom; in fact, it's the hardest job I've ever had. My life is a constant balancing act of maintaining a career, running a household and raising my two children. And, like many moms out there, I often feel like I fail miserably at it.

But I don't.

The truth is, none of us is perfect. We do the best we can. And it's time to stop being so hard on ourselves and start celebrating our maternal gifts.

Some moms are great cooks; others are expert organizers. My mom was great about making one-on-one "cuddle time" for each of her four children. I happen to be pretty darn good at creating themed birthday cakes for my kids.

We all have our strong suits, and we can learn from each other. Let's share our secrets and see how much better off our children are. After all, doesn't it take a village to raise a child? Come on, Lowcountry, let's raise some children.

Name: Charlotte Cushman

Town: Port Royal

Strength: Home-schooling a gaggle of children

When Charlotte Cushman's oldest son, Zachariah, was in kindergarten, she says, she felt as though God was nudging her to home-school him. She and her husband, Chris, were expecting their second child at the time. And she wanted to spend more time with her son.

So she began home-schooling Zachariah in first grade. And the 39-year-old mom has home-schooled four others since then. The Cushmans have seven children ranging from age 3 to 18 -- with another one on the way. Zachariah is heading to The Citadel in the fall.

Question. So, how do you teach all those kids at the same time?

Answer. Well, it's pretty crazy. By the time they get in high school, it's really just a matter of assigning work and following up and making sure that it's done. With the younger kids, it's more hands-on the younger they are. As they get older, you really just assign the work, and you explain it to them to begin with. And they work pretty independently, which is a real benefit of home schooling -- that kids learn to take ownership of their schoolwork.

Q. What's the schedule like?

A. The boys are real close in age so their schedule is pretty much the same. But we get up first thing in the morning, do our work around the house, eat breakfast, have our quiet time. And then they will start on their schoolwork. ... They have a bunch of stuff they can do on their own. When they get all their independent stuff done, then they can go play for a while, while I work with the girls with something else. And then I'll pull them back in one at a time for the things that I need them to do one on one.

Q. Do you have any advice for parents who want to home-school, especially more than one child at a time?

A. Probably the first thing is not to go out and buy $600 worth of ... a program that's supposed to do everything for you. A lot of parents will go out, and they'll get sold on some set of curriculum. And it can be quite expensive. ... The best way, I think, to start is to network with some people who home-school. Find out what's worked for them with kids at similar ages to your kids. Find out what they're doing, and go to something where you can get ideas of how to deal with the things that you're concerned about.

Q. So, you seem to have the whole home-schooling thing under control. Is there anything you are not so great at?

A. Oh, sure. Well, our house is not perfect all the time, or anytime. It's perfect if you let me know in advance you're coming (laughs). ... Our house is always a work in progress. There's always school stuff all over the place or Legos or sports equipment or laundry or whatever. ... I hardly ever wear makeup. I'm not very concerned about my appearance. So I'm definitely not an "I have it all together" mom at all. But I do have a heart for my family and for children and for the Lord. I want my legacy to be that I lived for something bigger than just myself.

EDUCATORS CONFERENCE

Have you thought about home schooling? Community Bible Church of Beaufort will host the Coastal Home Educators Conference from Thursday to Saturday at the church. An introduction to home schooling session will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday. Cost is $5 a person. Doors will open at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Cost for both days is $12 a couple. Child care is free with registration; the deadline is today. Details: www.checonference.com, 843-592-1502

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