Brave Mama

In 1951 in Detroit, Michigan, a baby boy was born into an African American family (I’ll call him Keith). While Keith was still a boy, his mama discovered that her husband was a bigamist with a second family. The couple divorced and Keith’s mama took him and his older brother to Boston to live in a tenement with one of her twenty-three siblings. While living there, Keith looked ahead to his future. He thought he would probably be dead by the time he was in his mid-twenties. That is what he saw happening to young men around him.

Keith’s mama was eventually able to move her family back to Detroit. Though they still lived in a tenement, at least they were together and on their own. Mama worked three jobs to take care of her boys, leaving at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. and coming back home after midnight.

By the time Keith was in fifth grade, he was far behind in school and considered himself not very smart. He admired the bright students and marveled at their ability to answer questions, though he would never have let them know it.

Keith’s mama worried about both of her boys. She prayed about the situation and decided on a new plan. TV would be restricted. She would require each of her sons to read two books each week and turn in a book reports. Mama faithfully marked up the book reports to “grade” them. What the boys didn’t know was that with only a third grade education, she couldn’t actually read them.

Keith began to notice a change at school. When his teacher asked questions, he could answer them. Behavior problems at his school were so bad that teachers often gave up trying to teach very much. Keith asked them to explain to him what they had planned to teach. As he grew up, Keith began helping the teachers set up biology labs and chemistry labs. By the time he graduated, Keith’s academic abilities had improved so much that he was able to enter Yale University.

Keith, whose real name is Dr. Ben Carson, became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins and a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatric medicine.

At the close of the Cincinnati homeschool convention on Saturday night, Dr. Carson spoke to thousands of homeschooling mamas, daddies, and children, telling us the story that I just told you.

Mrs. Carson’s friends criticized her for what she required of her boys, but she stood firm and fulfilled her God-given role in their lives. She was not afraid to teach or to require. Her sons became the grateful beneficiaries.

As Dr. Carson closed, he asked us all to remember when we sing the end of the “Star Spangled Banner,” that we cannot be free unless we are brave. I know he is grateful that his mama was brave.

. . . do not forsake the teaching of your mother.
Proverbs 6:20



Charlene Notgrass – Encouragement

Charlene Notgrass is a Christian, a homeschool veteran, and a writer. She oversees curriculum development for Notgrass Company. She is the author of America the Beautiful and co-author of Uncle Sam and You. Both are one-year courses for grades 5-8. Charlene created A Record of the Learning Lifestyle and the Draw to Learn series. Her current events courses include Celebrate ThanksgivingCelebrate the Savior, and Olympic Games. Her curriculum is available at Notgrass. 

Charlene has always loved being a mother and is now relishing the role of grandmother. Charlene enjoys working with children, especially in her annual role as assistant director for her daughter Mary Evelyn’s historical dramas performed by homeschooled children. She is madly in love with her husband Ray, whom she married in 1974.

Charlene loves to encourage homeschooling mothers, whether speaking at homeschool conferences, counseling mothers individually, or writing her daily blog, Daily Encouragement for Homeschooling Mothers.

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