How to homeschool heroes {9/11}

flag with childWritten by contributor Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane

I was sound asleep when the airplane took a sharp descent.

We had departed from Miami at 7:59am, the same time American Airlines Flight 11 departed from Boston. Now, not even an hour later, the flight attendants scurried about, nervous, hurriedly asking us to please sit up, fasten our seat-belts and put our tray tables in the upright and locked position.

I rubbed my eyes, confused, and did as I was told.

The pilot’s voice crackled over the speaker: We were making an emergency landing.

No other information was given. The massive 777 dwarfed the tiny runway, and the plane taxied out into an open field. We were instructed to deplane, leaving behind all bags and personal items, and to stand in the field to await further instruction.

Again, we did as we were told, talking in hushed voices: What’s going on? Some people started crying. A few had cell phones. Within minutes we heard a few bits of news: World Trade Center fallen … hit by a plane … terrorists.

Over the course of the following minutes, hours, and days, our lives and our nation changed forever.  Several hours later, as our country waited to see if more planes were hijacked, I was allowed to call my parents. In a half-ring I heard Dad’s anxious voice, “Hello???”  “It’s me, Dad. I’m ok.” His relieved sobs were all I could hear over the line.

But there was no time for fear or emotion.  I was 21-years-old and co-leader of a team of fifteen college students, traveling to Oregon from Brazil, and we were now stranded in Birmingham, Alabama for five days, with no luggage or personal items … along with a thousand other people. We obtained a hotel voucher and meal vouchers, walked to K-mart and bought underwear (a big package of Medium so they’d fit our spectrum of sizes), and settled down in front of the news to watch the fate of our nation unfold.

And what stands out to me most, about that day, is not terrorists, not fear, not death—although all three were present to be sure. What stands out to me most is this:


flag Photo by DVIDSHUB

You, me, we all, saw the news coverage. We watched the firefighters. We’ve seen the YouTube videos. We know the phrase, “Let’s roll!” Perhaps we even read the book.

And for every visible, celebrated hero there were hundreds, thousands more. Unseen, unsung, ordinary heroes who comforted, led, held, endured. Who showed unspeakable courage to help others in the midst of disaster.

In the day of tragedy our nation found hope in its heroes.

And, it is these heroes we hope to raise. Would you agree? Of all the educational goals and lofty aspirations I have for my children, above all I want to raise everyday heroes. I want to raise men and women who stand for what is right, who live for others, who walk in courage, who give hope to those around them.

I want to homeschool heroes.

And sure, today one of my little heroes still needs reminding to wear underwear. And one of my little heroes still can’t write a legible 6 to save her life.

But we make character development of primary importance and trust that a little patience, courage, and self-control will go a long way in the end.

As we dive into this fall school season you will likely tweak your curriculum, you’ll adjust your expectations, add some activities and drop some activities.  You’ll have great days and hard days.

But above all, fellow home-educators and friends, let us make character development our chief pursuit.

So that in the end we will find, with joy, that we have homeschooled heroes.

{To all of you who are grieving lost ones today, our thoughts and prayers are with you. May you find comfort, peace, and joy. And to all the heroes of 9/11 …. Thank you.}

*Interested in a fun Character Development curriculum? We have used Letter Lessons with our children for the past 3 years, to teach, practice, and memorize scripture for 26 character qualities coinciding with the alphabet. Get it here; it’s free!  Now, your turn: How do you include character development in your homeschool? Please share ideas and resources!

About Kari Patterson

Kari Patterson and her family live out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. As a 2nd-generation homeschooler she espouses the same philosophy her own mom did in the 80s: Cultivate a love for learning and one's education will never end. She bakes bread, brews kombucha, speaks at conferences & writes at Sacred Mundane. Her new book Sacred Mundane is available now.


  1. I think one of the things I like best about homeschooling is that you can prioritise character building. I love the idea of homeschooling heroes, beautifully worded.
    Jessica’s latest post: Island Life and the Pursuit of Diversity

  2. Yes and as we work on our own character building, it helps spill over onto our childrens characters as well. That’s what is so important about home schooling, the kids get to spend their days with people who are also working on themselves.

  3. So well written Kari! I too want to homeschool heroes and instill in them a strong character. We use you letter lessons (thank you for that!) and we focus everyday on kindness. Prayers and a thankful heart are with all that lost loved ones on 9/11 and all those whose serve our country.

  4. I agree with you, character development is of utmost importance. So what if they are a math genius but don’t have character. Thanks for the reference to the alphabet lessons on character. I’ll be checking that out for my little people!
    Amy M’s latest post: Keeping my Preschooler Busy & Out of the Pantry

  5. Thank you for this. Beautiful post. Thank you for remembering … I am and have homeschooled my own heroes known as Army BRATS we’ve known many who’ve answered that call, some who haven’t returned, those who continue to quietly walk out what it means to be a hero, though they would not claim the title if you gave it. … One of my favorite posts from today. Thank you again. (I know this was written in 2013 but I just saw it today on the anniversary in 2015)

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