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Homeschooling Moms are More Visible

An excerpt of Nicole Johnson’s Invisible Woman sketch is making the rounds of the internet, though often without attribution.  It appeared in my email this morning.  Many women are captivated by the excerpt’s poignant self-pity which, ironically, misses the entire point of Nicole’s message

When I read the excerpt (reprinted below), I could sympathize with it but I did not relate to it intensely like so many other women do.  Why not?

As I puzzled over that question, it occurred to me that a Homeschooling Mom is not like this Invisible Woman.  Her kids respect her, rather than transferring that respect to mother-substitutes called teachers.  Her kids know what she does because they are with her 16/7, on average (and if she has a baby in her bedroom with her, it truly is 24/7).  Her husband realizes she’s doing something intrinsically important.  And society, though it may consider her weird, certainly cannot ignore her.

She trains her kids to “fix, tie, open,” and much more—like reading, writing, science, and algebra.  Her children certainly do see her for they want to learn these things from her…because their goal is to be grown up like her.  Forget about peers.

Sure, her hands are in the peanut butter—along with her children’s—but she does not think nostalgically,I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature.”   In fact, while her hands are all sticky and gooey, she’s pondering how science, history, music, and literature relate to the hands-in-the-peanut-butter experience…and passing it on to her children. 

She’s not “going, going, gone;” she’s going places with her kids, in the real world right now, and on into the future.

Like all other moms, the Homeschooling Mom can build her life on the pattern1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fuelled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.”

Unlike the Invisible Woman of the excerpt below, however, the Homeschooling Mom has satisfaction in her life.  She is visible, respected by her husband and children, and, except on really bad days, does not feel like a martyr.  A Homeschooling Mom’s work is her children, not the cupcakes she bakes and the turkeys she hand-bastes—these are merely teaching moments.  And that makes a huge difference.

Of course, I do know Visible Women who send their kids to school; I also know some Invisible Women who homeschool.  But on the whole, there’s something about homeschooling that’s good for moms as well as kids.  The Homeschooling Mom concentrates on her children, realizing that this is the best use of her time, although it can be exhaustingly difficult.  Many Invisible Women, on the other hand, have farmed out the best part of their responsibilities to schools, and are left hand-basting turkeys for three hours,” sewing sequins (with no one around), and baking cupcakes (by themselves).  No wonder they are sad and feel invisible; crafts, cooking, and baking are good, but when shared with our children they become so much more.

“As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right.”  While we should not draw attention to ourselves, the work we do is not invisible, and it should not be.   Nor should we be invisible.  After all, we’re attempting to raise our children to be lights in the world; in fact, we ourselves are to be lights in the world as well.If we’re doing it right”, we need to be seen…by our children, at least, and hopefully also by those looking for the Light of this world, Whom we are to reflect.

No mother, certainly no Homeschooling Mom, need adopt the ‘poor me’ attitude portrayed so poignantly in the Invisible Woman excerpt.  Instead, we can be grateful for our children and our work, strive to be clothed with strength and dignity, and aim to speak with wisdom and faithful instruction.  By God’s grace we can even anticipate blessings and praise from our families.  (Proverbs 31) 

Now then, dear Homeschooling Mom, reflect on your own life.  Are you invisible?  Not at all!  You are being watched—by at least one of your children—almost every waking hour of almost every day.  May God, who is also watching us, give us the strength to bear this visibility joyfully and well, for the good of our children and to His glory.

What Nicole Actually Said

Now, if you want to know what Nicole Johnson actually said, watch her famous sketch, The Invisible Woman. Then you will understand.  Her message is not one of self-pity and of martyrdom bravely overcome, but of hope, joy, and faith…because she focuses on God, not herself.

Even so, it’s the excerpt that’s floating around the internet, that arrived in my email, and that has shown me once again how blessed we homeschooling moms are.  Here is one version of the excerpt:

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ 

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock?, Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fuelled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.

No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

Dear fellow Homeschooling Mom, if you feel invisible or under-appreciated, focus on the Lord and pray along with Nicole in the video that “our work will stand as a monument to an even greater God.”  Be willing to be visible to your children and the world, reflecting the great Light of the world, Jesus Christ. 

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90: 17)


This week’s  Homeschool Blog Carnival is hosted by Heather at Sprittibee.


  1. Pamela says:

    Yes, our children are certainly our greatest work, and how much more joyful it is when they are beside us learning and living together!

    1. Annie Kate says:

      You are so right! We homeschooling moms are really blessed, aren’t we?

      Annie Kate

  2. Lorie says:

    Well said. I was shown that excerpt several years ago by a homeschool mom who was having an “identity crises.” It bothered me that she missed the point. You have done a nice job of redeeming it.

    Great article.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thank you so much!

      Since it’s so popular and influential, I felt it needed to be discussed.

      Annie Kate

  3. Cindy says:

    I think a mom who is that invisible is so because she has chosen control over the involvement of her children. Think about it: why is she sewing on sequins by herself? Probably because she isn’t interested in letting her children help. They’d get it wrong, so they’ve gotten used to not being allowed to help. Why is she the only one who can baste a turkey? Again, probably because she isn’t used to teaching her children and isn’t prepared to let them mess up. Why do they not see that she’s on the phone? She hasn’t trained them to think about the needs of the people around them. She’s taken that for her job, because she doesn’t believe anyone else can. She makes a martyr of herself and then complains because no one appreciates it. Not that I was raised by somebody like that or anything…

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Yes, I think that the mom herself is largely to blame. But some moms haven’t yet realized that they don’t need to be like this, and they feel proud of their sacrifices when they are like this.

      The Bible occasionally talks about ‘a joyful mother of children’….


      Annie Kate

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