Nina Lockhart

School mom

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Nina Lockhart isn't building million-dollar condominiums, she isn't building a business empire and she isn't building a lucrative career.

Nina is building character in the hearts and minds of her seven children.

"She is an incredible woman," said friend Mary Melius. "She's pretty much raising children she hopes can turn things around in our nation."

On a Tuesday afternoon, Nina Lockhart is in her "school room," which also doubles as the Lockharts' family dining room.

Nine-year-old James is finishing up a math test on decimals, 11-year-old Suzanna is doing dollars and cents math, 14-year-old Dawson is working on a report on kinetic and potential energy and 6-year-old Sarah is working on geometric puzzles. And let's not forget 3-year-old Jonathan, who is putting plastic blocks together.

Overseeing all this is the blonde, bubbly, barefooted, 45-year-old Nina whom friends call the "mainstay" of Steamboat's home-schooling community.

"I feel the home is the basic building block of our society," Nina said.

"If the home fails, society fails."

Nina said she truly believes that many women are led to believe they're not contributing if they are "just raising their children."

"A lot of mothers are rushing around pursuing their interests, and their children are left for institutions to raise like schools, churches, even sports," Nina said.

But Nina knows she is doing more than "just raising her children."

In 1985 Nina and her husband, Del, were wary of putting their oldest child in public kindergarten. Nina was concerned academically, and Del feared the family's strong Judeo-Christian "world view" would be adversely affected in public schools.

So Nina jumped in as mother and teacher.

"We learned how to count and read together and learned about the world. We had a ball," Nina said.

Even after Del's family started the Christian Heritage School, their home schooling was going so well, they didn't send their children to the school.

In 1987, Nina started home schooling her second child, Bethany, and the babies kept coming. She compares it to the circus juggler who spins plates on sticks.

"Every few years I started spinning another plate," she said. "At the most, I had four students."

By the time the oldest child reached middle school, Nina said, she started getting nervous about whether she was doing the right thing.

"We had professional testing done in Denver. I wanted them thoroughly tested," Nina said.

"At the end of the testing they said, 'Your children are doing absolutely very well.' Their recommendation was to continue on."

Family friends T.J. and Nadine Sisto can attest to the Lockharts' success with home schooling and parenthood.

"It's a joy to be with them and their kids," said T.J. Sisto. "We leave there thinking that was truly enjoyable."

Sisto said Nina and Del Lockhart are an inspiration to many of their friends by not only believing in the idea of "being committed to your family" but putting it to practice.

"She's making a difference in the world by training her children to make a difference in the world," said friend Sherry Drew. "It's an incredible legacy she will carry."

Nina's "legacy" includes her two oldest children, who are honor students in college. Twenty-one-year old Daniel is studying mechanical engineering and 18-year-old Bethany just returned from working in a Moscow orphanage. She is studying politics and pre-law.

Nina said her teaching philosophy is "giving children the tools for learning."

"During the elementary years, you have to teach them one-on-one, eye-to-eye," she said. "After they learn the tools, I get them to start learning independently."

Nina said her kids don't work out of textbooks where they read the chapter and answer questions at the end.

"I tend to have them do research."

At the heart of Nina's dedication to family is her belief in God and the Bible.

Protestant churches have been at the forefront of home schooling and the Lockharts get some of their curriculum from one such church, she said.

The Lockharts even started a church in their home recently because they couldn't find a "reformed church" in Steamboat Springs. Reformed churches, rooted in Calvinism, are noted for their literal interpretations of the bible.

"We don't have any kind of pastor," Nina said.

Instead, about 30 people meet every week in their home and the men have taken over teaching on Sundays.

"Eventually we'd like to rent space," Nina said.

Because of a faith strongly rooted in the Bible, Nina's passion for the woman's traditional role in the family and society can be better understood.

But Bible or not, Nina calls it common sense.

"We get so wrapped up in ourselves, we don't realize the most important thing is two feet below us our children," she said. "That's where we can have the most impact."

In her passion to explain the importance of motherhood, Nina brought up the Columbine tragedy several times, where two teenagers gunned down students and teachers.

"How come these parents didn't know what the boys had in their rooms?" she asked.

"I look at these people and think, Where were their mothers? Where were their mothers?!"

Friend Julie Buccino, who was inspired by Nina to home school her own four children, agreed.

"I believe that kids who are not home schooled are missing out on more, and Nina backs that belief," said Buccino.

"Home-schooled kids spend time with their family, have breakfast together, and the average family doesn't have that any more. Most children will never experience what Nina gives her children."

But how will Nina react if one of her own daughters chooses a career path rather than staying at home and taking care of children full-time?

"That's their choice. I won't stand over them and control them," she said.

But she proudly pointed out that her 18-year-old daughter recently went through a college interview and was asked about what she would do with a law degree.

"I overheard her talking and she said, 'My degree will help me and will help my husband and his career,'" Nina said. "But she said 'When I'm married, my primary goal will be my family."

Nina believes creating a strong solid home is the best way to contribute to the community and the country.

"If I can raise some good kids, who knows how they'll affect society 200 years from now?" she said. "It's so important that if we don't get our act together, our society will continue a downward spiral."

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