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As I continue to study how Theodore and Mittie Roosevelt reared their children and homeschooled them, I keep finding more to emulate. I believe that their story can have a powerful impact in the lives of homeschooling families today. It can help them to say no to the pressure to recreate school and instead to become an affectionate family who lives, loves, learns, worships, and serves together.

When Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the future president, went away to Harvard, he and his family communicated often by letter.

Freshman at Harvard loc

Theodore Roosevelt Sr. died from a brief illness at just 46 years old in the winter of 1878. In My Brother, Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest daughter Corinne quotes a letter her brother wrote to their mother a few months later in the fall quarter of Theodore’s junior year. He wrote:

“Darling, beloved, little motherling:

“I have just loved your dear, funny, pathetic, little letter, and I am now going to write you the longest letter I ever write, and if it is still rather short, you must recollect that it takes Teddy-boy a long time to write. I have enjoyed Charlie Dickey’s being here extremely . . . . We always go to prayers together . . . . He is just the same honest, fine fellow as ever . . . . My studies do not come very well this year, as I have to work nearly as hard on Saturday as on any other day — six, seven or eight hours. Some of the studies are extremely interesting, however . . . . For exercise, I have had to rely on walking . . . . I practice a good deal with the rifle, walking to and from the range, which is nearly three miles off . . . . Funnily enough, I have enjoyed quite a burst of popularity since I came back, having been elected into several different clubs. My own friends have, as usual, been perfect trumps, and I have been asked to spend Sundays with at least a half-dozen of them, but I have to come back to Cambridge Sunday mornings on account of Sunday School . . . .

Your loving son, T. Jr.”

Corinne gives reasons why she includes this letter in her account of her brother’s life:

“First of all, because of the affectionate pains taken by the young man of now nearly twenty to keep his mother informed about all his activities, intellectual, physical, and social. So many young men of that age are careless of the great interest taken by their mothers and do not share with them the joys and difficulties of college life. All through his life, from his boyhood to the very last weeks of his busy existence, my brother Theodore was a great sharer.”

She explained:

“Unless during such rare periods [when he had such a difficult task before him that he had to pull away for awhile to take care of it], no member of his family ever went to him for guidance or solace or interest without the most generous and most loving response. In the above letter he shows his response to the tender inquiries of his mother, so lately widowed, and he wishes to give her all the information that she desires.”

Corinne Roosevelt Robinson shows great insight in her commentary on her brother’s letter, and Theodore showed great love and concern for his mother in what he wrote. Like all devoted mothers, Mittie wanted to hear about:

  • Her son’s feelings toward her — He thinks of her as his “darling, beloved, little motherling.”
  • His spiritual priorities — He goes to prayers and makes teaching his Sunday School class top priority.
  • His relationships with others — He is being a friend to an old acquaintance and is well-liked by his new friends at college.
  • How he is doing in his studies — His studies are challenging but he is working hard and finding some interesting.
  • How he is taking care of his health — He is getting exercise during his long walks.

For almost twenty years, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. had watched his father live out Philippians 2:3-4. He had taken his father’s example so to heart that, even as a busy college student, he was willing to give his beloved mother what she needed and wanted.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind regard one another
as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Watch my final video on this week’s series about how Theodore and Mittie Roosevelt homeschooled their children here.

Sign up to get a replay link for my webinar “How was Theodore Roosevelt Homeschooled?

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