I didn't know Lisa Heyman well. She was one of those homeschoolers that was always doing something. In fact, I first met her because she had organized a folk dancing group for the homeschooling community at a dance studio in Tarrytown. Marina was five or six at the time, about the same age as Lisa's older daughter. I remember her smiling warmth and confidence. She could draw you into her light and make you feel welcome. The following year the folk dance class moved north and we stopped going, but I never forgot those classes. They were fun.
Over the years, we ran in different circles. I was attempting to use classical homeschooling while Lisa was an unschooler. Occasionally our circles would overlap. Because she set up so many events, it would have been hard to avoid running into her from time to time. She was always approachable, always supportive. She was involved in and spoke at unschooling conventions like the Live & Learn conference and the Northeast Unschooling conferences. Our local homeschooling email loop is full of messages from her. Aside from event notices, she kept our group aware of current state homeschooling issues, and was always ready to address the concerns of new homeschoolers about everything from writing quarterly reports and testing to reluctant dads and the big "S" (socialization). Going through my email archives, I realized she was answering questions and posting events up until three days before we were notified of her life-threatening condition.
Lisa always supported her daughter's ideas. Whether it was setting up a business or helping them organize their activities, she was always there. As Lisa's oldest entered her teens, Lisa was already considering the needs of the homeschooling teen and organizing teen events. Her children were her joy.
I don't know how aware Lisa was about her condition. In going through my email, I was struck by a note she sent in September 2007 regarding strangers' comments.
Usually I respond to stranger’s inquiries with kindness. It doesn’t bother me that they ask. But last night I was lying in bed thinking of what I might decide to start saying.
- I don’t institutionalize my kids because I think its detrimental to their emotional, intellectual and spiritual well being.
- Now why would I want to turn my kids over to be scrutinized on a daily basis to people who will be judging, grading, evaluating, assessing if my kids are ok.
I know they are just fine.
- Life is just too much damn interesting and fun to waste time in school.
It's time I cared less what people think of me.
Lisa's time was much too short. For me, it underscores the importance of my own mission as a homeschooler: to enjoy whatever time I have with my children. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of what we are doing. My reason for homeschooling is simple. I don't do this for religious reasons or because I want to prove I can do this better than the schools. I homeschool because I love my kids and I like being with them.
My thoughts and prayers are with Lisa's family today. Please take a moment to stop what you are doing today and give your kids a hug in memory of Lisa Heyman.