Mother: Creating a Legacy of Love and Learning

May 11, 2017 | Posted by Danielle Olander


In 1988 my parents decided that home education was the best option for our family. We lived in California at the time, and other families in our church also homeschooled. Little did we know that we were becoming part of a pioneer movement. Because my love of learning was already established, and because I am a Type-A-get-it-done kind of person, my mom wasn’t as heavily involved in my education as some homeschool moms. We were under a correspondence school, which gave her the freedom to work full time after my father’s business failed. Even so, she taught me some of the most important lessons of all: to find wonder and excitement in learning, to read aloud to my children, and to manage my time well.

Most of what I learned from Mom wasn’t from a book or in a lesson plan. We spent much time in the Sierra Nevadas, on the Anza-Borrego and Mohave Deserts, and by the Pacific Ocean. Surrounded by all this natural beauty, my mom taught me how to wonder—about the rock formations we passed while driving down the road and the Indian cliff dwellings that we toured in Arizona. Her excitement was contagious, even in the tiny museum in Independence, California, where we poured over documents and exhibits about the Manzanar Japanese Relocation Camp. Although it wasn’t an official history project assigned by my curriculum, I enjoyed it so much that I still have a shelf of books on that topic that I’ve collected over the years. She was never bored because there was always something new to read or learn. Her enthusiasm, in turn, enthused me.

I remember at some point in my childhood, my father decided we were watching too much TV. Wisely, my mother said that they needed to replace it with something else: books. In the evenings she read aloud the Little House series. Later when my husband and I started our own family, reading aloud to our children was a given, even when they were just babies. It felt very natural, and I credit my mother for it. Revealing her legacy of reading aloud, my favorite photos are of my mom with my children, holding a book and reading to them.

After graduating from high school, I attended college and discovered an unspoken lesson—time management. Each fall Mom and I would pull out the books, exam schedules, and course requirements and assign each a folder. We would then count chapters or lessons. The weekly requirement was written on the outside of the folder, and that was that. I was trusted to follow that schedule. I don’t remember that she ever checked in with me unless it was to make sure I was mailing in my tests. As I watched my fellow freshmen flounder in college that first semester, I realized that she had given me an incredible gift—the responsibility of managing my own learning.

My mom passed away thirteen years ago this November. I wish every day that my children could know her. Her love of nature, of history, of literature, and of learning is a gift she passed on to me. I can only hope to honor that by passing it along to my children.


Danielle Olander, an IEW® Accomplished Instructor, is the author of Rockets, Radar, and Robotics. Married to her college sweetheart, Ray, and a homeschooling mom of five amazing children, she teaches several of IEW's online writing classes. After graduating from her parents’ homeschool in the pioneer days of homeschooling, Danielle graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in English/History Education from Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, MI.

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