Patty Yellis's Legacy

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

Patty Yellis, my mother would have been 59 today.

I'm thinking of course about her death and her absence, as I do frequently. But this morning I was struck by something more consequential: her legacy.

When she was in her early thirties, Mom made a significant choice. This put her on a hero's journey. Now that she's gone, her choice is her legacy.

When I was about to enter kindergarten, she pulled my brother out of the private school he'd attended for two years. She homeschooled us. I, of course, had no idea what was going on. As a former preschool and elementary school teacher, my mother's parenting had already converged with teaching. Also, I had no idea that a few short years earlier, authorities had arrested parents for doing that.

I'm not sure if she knew then the impact of her choice. Over the next few years it became clear: my Mom would spend almost every waking moment investing time, energy, and thought into her 4, then 5, then 6 children. We are her legacy.

By the middle of the 90s, we all knew we were different. We came up with easy to say explanations of homeschooling, which we'd recite to the new librarian, hairdresser, and grocery store clerk. My suave older brother and genius younger brother quelled doubts with exceeding politeness or recitations of literature. My badge of homeschool honor was different.

Prior to age 8, I could barely read. After 10, math was exceedingly hard. Mom's choice to homeschool all of us meant that I could catch up on reading. From then on I was well above average on the English half of standardized tests. Mom's choice to homeschool let me stay behind in math, at least until graduate school: during my MBA, my best grades were in the finance classes.

Her choice, legacy is us.

2020 update: my brother, Andrew Yellis, published this remembrance of our mother, Patty Yellis

*Of course, my Dad made the choice to homeschool as well, but it was Mom that spent her waking hours parenting and teaching us.

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