Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Interview: Isabel (Izzy) Lyman - The Homeschooling Revolution

Below is an interview with Iabel Lyman done via email. Isabel's blog, The Homeschooling Revolution, may have been the first blog I ever read. It is one of my favorites. It was a pleasure to get to know her better.

I hope you enjoy the interview.


Brief bio:

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She holds a doctoral degree in Social Science. She wrote: The Homeschooling Revolution. Her blog has the same name, The Homeschooling Revolution. Isabel is now working on a law degree.


Tell us a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up? What were you interests and passions?

Jennifer Lopez sings “Jenny From the Block,” which is a song about her Bronx roots. Although my parents are Costa Ricans, and JLo’s Puerto Rican, I can relate to the theme. After my dad completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Army, we moved to the Bronx and lived in an old apartment building, on a long block with similar buildings. This was in the 1960s when I was in elementary school. My mother and father, despite their modest surroundings, had strong bourgeois sensibilities, bless their hearts. Mami, who loves classical music, was always perfectly-coiffed even while attending a N.Y. Yankees’ game. Papi, who never went to high school, was determined to live the American Dream.

Meanwhile, I was a girly girl who played with dolls and dollhouses, liked costumes, and reading books, like Little Women and the Nancy Drew mysteries.

From NYC, we moved to Michigan, and I lived a couple of uneventful years there.

My high school and early college days were spent in Miami, Florida. By then, my father was a successful entrepreneur, and this allowed me a private-school education, vacations in Europe, too much time at the mall and beach, and a cobalt-blue Camaro. At that juncture, my upbringing was similar to that of my Cuban, middle-class friends whose parents valued education, family traditions, and black beans and rice.

Back in 2003 you wrote about your husband finishing the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kailua-Kona. Did your husband ever get you to do half an ironman?

Nope. However, I was the “swimmer” in a half triathlon in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Another woman ran, and a third woman cycled. They are excellent athletes, so we came in first place, in our category, despite the fact that I wasn’t Speedy Gonzalez. The water temperature – I swam in a river – was a frigid 63 degrees that day.

Who is your favorite super hero? And why?

Elastigirl, of The Incredibles, because she’s also a devoted mom and wife with a sweet-tart personality. I also have a soft spot for Indiana Jones, although he’s not an authentic superhero. Indy reminds me of my hubby, who has enviable academic credentials, as well as street cred, and drives a semi.

The Book: The Homeschooling Revolution

As I mentioned in my review, your book does a good job of explaining what homeschooling is. (For those interested, here is the first chapter.)

What prompted you to write The Homeschooling Revolution?

Thank you for the kind words. I wrote a policy paper about home ed. for the Cato Institute, several years ago, that was well-received. It was even favorably reviewed in the London Times. So, I thought it would be neat to turn those thoughts into a paperback. However, writing a book, even a short one, is as challenging as swimming in a cold river. You put on your hard hat, and just do it.

Has the world of homeschooling changed much since your book was published in 2000?

The way information about home education is delivered and disseminated has certainly changed. We used to rely more on homeschool magazines and the occasional article in the media for news. Nowadays, we’re all so wired. Homeschoolers write blogs, appear on talk radio or cable news shows, and are on the offensive, not defensive. State education departments post helpful information about homeschooling on their web sites.

The number of opportunities to participate on homeschool sports teams, be it volleyball, basketball, football, or soccer, have dramatically increased.

More Hollywood types – like Will Smith and Tom Cruise – have children who are schooled-at-home.

The “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” homeschoolers are marrying other like-minded souls.

Are you writing any more books? Do you have any possibilities in mind?

An editor from Greenwood Publishing Group of Connecticut contacted me after reading an article I wrote, about home education, for the Teacher’s College Record of Columbia University. She was angling for a book proposal from me. I took the bite, did some proposing, and never heard back from her. Maybe the title - Why Homeschooling is Good for America - scared the left-leaning librarians who had to read the proposal and give it their thumbs-up.

The Blog: The Homeschooling Revolution

You have been blogging for over four years. How have you changed in the way you blog? How has the blogging world changed?

In this venue, I remain an e-Luddite compared to someone like the First Lady of Reformed Homeschooling, as I call Carmon Friedrich of Buried Treasure. I don’t have a comments section, do nifty polls, have an artful design, or cause traffic jams.

The number of bloggers has increased so dramatically that Gary Davis, of, has created Homeschool Blog Watch to keep up with some of the flow of information.


The last couple months you have been distracted preparing for the baby bar. What prompted you to pursue a law degree? What are your plans for life after earning your law degree?

Get out of my intellectual comfort zone. The Holmes family, Oklahoma homeschoolers, told me about the Oak Brook College of Law, an inexpensive, accessible, but rigorous distance-education program that is approved by the State of California. The college will have a booth at the Florida Parent Educators Association’s convention (late May).

My class, which consists of recent homeschool graduates and mid-career professionals, is required to meet once a year in Oklahoma City. But we stay in touch and help each other. I’m only a 1L, so my mindset is “one year at a time,” since it’s a four-year degree. I have no long-term goals, but I can say that I’d rather work on death row than be a contract lawyer. My short-term goal is to be prepared to take final exams in July, and, Lord willing, the Baby Bar in October.


Over the years you have written many articles and columns on homeschooling, for example: here, here, here, and here. How has your writing changed over the years? What aspects of homeschooling did you use to write about? And what are you now writing about?

I commit fewer grammar gaffes, pick my verbal fights more carefully, and have broadened my repertoire.

I’ve wrote many Homeschooling 101 and Advanced Homeschooling pieces. I would also take on the credential-snobs who trashed homeschooling. The latter, as Rush Limbaugh says, was more fun than a human being should be allowed to have.

Last year, I authored several education articles for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a think- tank, mostly about faith-based private schools. I am currently the homeschooling headmistress at the Free Market News Network. But, right now, I mostly pen answers to torts, contracts, criminal law, and legal writing questions and create grocery lists. I hope to return to journalism ASAP.

I liked your account of how you and your husband ended up homeschooling. What advice do you have for someone thinking about homeschooling?

Do your homework: Find out your state’s home education laws, attend a conference, chat with veterans. Don’t feel obligated to re-create school-at-home, as in seven hours of lessons, five days of week. Read Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s books.

Extracurricular activities, field trips, service projects, and chores are wonderful “fillers,” as they add variety to the daily routine. Experiment. One of my sons took a sewing class, then did karate, then raised barnyard critters. In the end, we learned that ice hockey was his thing and egg-layers were my thing.

If you are launching the homeschool lifestyle with teens, don’t lock yourself into a ‘college-track’ mentality, but don’t shut the door to further training opportunities, either. Studying the law has taught me that general legal principles exist, and there are always exceptions to the principles. As a rule, I am not partial to canned learning experiences; one can gain more from apprenticeships, externships, or owning a small business. But professions like nursing or truck-driving require some institutionalized education.

Educational freedom is not free or easy. Homeschooling, like parenting, isn’t for lazy, selfish adults. If you need inspiration, wonderful role models exist, like those who homeschool while caring for a disabled child or ailing relative.

Finally, boys and girls truly do grow up fast. It seems like yesterday my sons were playing with toy cars, today they are driving real cars. If you have the health and desire, seize the moment and homeschool your children, while they enjoy being with you.

Your readers are welcome to pick my brain (, but, please, no questions about the Uniform Commercial Code.

And again, thank you for letting me interview you.

Henry, you are welcome! May you and Janine live long and prosper.

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