Editor’s Note: As our parenting section continues to expand its content, we want to give you a chance to get to know our writers on a more personal level as they share their insights on parenting, their lives before parenthood and much more. Our previous interviews were with Julie Prince, Faith Moore, Lauren Spagnoletti, Stephen Kruiser, and John Ellis.
This week, we chat with Rhonda Robinson — a mother of nine adult children and grandmother to 26 grandchildren. She has been a newspaper columnist and convention speaker, focusing on homeschool education and issues affecting the family.
How did you get into writing?
I wasn’t a natural writer. I was/am an artist. In the late ‘80s, we decided to homeschool our children. Curricula and resources in general were sparse then, especially for special-needs children. A few years into homeschooling, we discovered our baby was deaf. So I had to come up with creative ways to present concepts to her. Later, I started a newsletter called Homemade Schooling: The Support Group that Meets in Your Mailbox. I wrote to share my ideas with other moms.
So what started as a newsletter turned into a paying gig?
Yes. Homeschooling magazines began to pick up my work and it caught the attention of Greg Harris, one of the pioneers of the Christian homeschooling movement. I began traveling across the country and Canada speaking at his conventions. Then, one day there was an ad in the paper for a columnist. I applied, and I was hired. I wrote about raising nine children in the country. You could say I was a mommy blogger before there were blogs. Only my kids’ lives were broadcast over our community—they would meet my readers. That was fun.
When did your writing style begin to include your political beliefs?
I remember hearing about a young pregnant teenager who had given birth during prom and threw her baby in the bathroom garbage can at school. I wrote an emotionally charged column, but then hesitated before I sent it to my editor. I was sure she wouldn’t print it, because it was so controversial for a newspaper. I prayed. I promised God that if the editor published it, I would continue to speak out on issues affecting the family so deeply. I’ve been rocking boats ever since. My style caught the attention of a fledgling political blog called the Illinois Leader in the late ‘90s. When newspapers took a hit in 2008, I made a permanent shift to writing for websites.
Tell us about your parenting approach.
Today my kids range in age from 39 to 19, and we have 26 grandchildren. I never really thought about my style. I don’t think you can label it. It’s a mixture of early influence, tempered by reality and outright survival. We had a twenty-year span where I was either pregnant, nursing or chasing a toddler — and a couple of times, I was doing all three at once. Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s obviously impacted my worldview. But it was constantly contrasted by my mother’s stories of growing up in a poor family with six children in a depression era. That influenced my parenting the most. I highly respected my grandfather, my aunts and uncles. I figured he did something right. I took a lot from his generation. As a young mom, I was always on the fringe because I breastfed, wore my baby, co-slept and later home birthed — long before any of it was mainstream. I just considered it the most natural way to nurture my children. I had to defend my mothering choices often.
What are some of those moments you’ve experienced over the years when you knew you did something right in parenting you kids?
Watching my adult children raise their children well. Seeing them interact with their siblings now, as adults who enjoy each other’s company. When we gather as a family, I love to sit back and just watch them laugh together. Just recently, my oldest son — a strong-willed child that grew into a self-made man — posted on his Facebook page a status that read, “I didn’t always understand why my mom and dad went without for so long, just so we can have a big family. Now, I am so thankful they did because I can’t imagine my life without my siblings.” No matter what life throws at us, when I see their strength and they pull together — I know I did something right.
What are the go-to blogs you follow regularly that are a must for other parents?
My best recommendation would have to be Just 18 Summers.
Get to know Rhonda better:
- I can’t live without: Aside from my family? That would have to be my early morning coffee and reflection/prayer time. That’s when I renew my faith and strength to face the day.
- If I had one week and an endless budget, I’d escape with my family to: A Disney Cruise — if we were taking all 44 of us. But, if we are talking just me and my husband Mike, that would be a trip to Boston in the fall.
- The book I can’t put down right now is: Disinformation by Ronald Rychlak and Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa.
- One piece of advice I’d give my teenage self would be: Be kinder to your mom. She is someone who loves you, not just an obstacle to overcome.
- Parenting is: Hard. At the same time, it’s the closest relationship we will ever experience, that gives us a glimpse into the love God has for us.