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“We Never Looked Back” The Partridge Family’s Homeschool Odyssey


They never considered homeschooling but an experience left them with no choice and then, they loved it so much, they never looked back!

When asked what words of wisdom she might give to those new to home education, veteran homeschool mom Mary Partridge says,

“The best advice I can give is that it’s not always pretty. Never quit on your worst day. You may, at times, feel like a failure. My oldest daughter fought me through most of middle and high school about being homeschooled. When she came back from the United States Air Force Academy this past Christmas to visit, she said, ‘I am so glad you homeschooled me growing up.’ Those words made it all worthwhile.”

Mary and I conducted our interview via email, as she, her husband Dustin, and five of her six children live on the other side of the globe in Okinawa, Japan, where Dustin is serving as a Major in the United States Marine Corps. Previously, the family has been stationed in North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune; Quantico, Virginia; and Miami, Florida.

Mary is used to life in the military service—“I grew up as a Navy Brat and lived all over the world!” She attended Catholic schools for all 12 years of her formal education, graduating from Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Dustin grew up in Northern California and holds a master’s degree in business finance.

Their oldest daughter, Daisy, is a freshman, a cadet 4th class, at the Academy. Luke and his sister Lilac Marie are in 7th grade. Paul is a fourth-grader, Kolbe is in second grade, and James is a kindergartener.

We Never Considered Homeschooling

Though the Partridge family has been enrolled in Seton Home Study School for the past 13 years, since Daisy was in first grade, Mary and Dustin were not always fans of home education.

“We never considered homeschooling,” Mary writes, “and had a very negative impression of homeschooling until our oldest daughter had a very poor experience at our local Catholic school. The experience left us with no choice but to homeschool, and we loved it so much, we never looked back!”

She then adds,

“There are so many fantastic things about the Seton program. Their English courses, cannot be beaten. Daisy scored a 780 on the language portion of her SATs, and I credit Seton completely. Seton’s religion program is the most important to us, and we constantly get compliments on how well our children know and can defend their Faith. I also love Seton’s math program for the younger grades—I wish they offered it for higher than 5th grade.”

A Daily Schedule

When asked to describe a typical homeschooling day, Mary reported that they usually start school around 9 am. She helps James while the other children work independently, bringing Mom each workbook to check when they’ve completed the day’s assignments.

When James finishes, he completes his chores and then plays outside. As the others finish up their schoolwork—the more advanced the grade, the longer they generally take—they follow this same schedule.

The older children also spend many afternoons and evenings on extracurricular activities. Luke, Lilac, Paul, and Kolbe are members of a year-round swim team, and the three boys also play baseball. They also play lacrosse and participate in acrobatics classes.

Meanwhile, Lilac “is a very talented ballet dancer who does jazz, tap, contemporary, and acrobatics and takes over 12 hours of dance classes a week. The boys also love to play family games of lacrosse, and I am very involved in Lilac’s dance studio.”

Mary’s biggest challenge in homeschooling is “finding time to dedicate to each child. To me, this is the beauty of the Seton program. It is mostly self-taught. And if a child is struggling with a particular concept, an older sibling can usually jump in and help explain it. I also love the flexibility. On those days when it’s hard to fit school in, we can skip it and try again the next day. We follow a modified year-round schedule, so even if we miss several days in a row, it all balances out.”

Parish Life

Their home parish in the United States is St. William of York Catholic Church in Stafford, Virginia, which, Mary tells me, they dearly miss. Currently, they are parishioners at St. Francis Xavier in Okinawa, “where we have been blessed with a wonderful and devout Navy Chaplain. Our sons Luke and Paul are altar servers, and my husband Dustin is an EMHC and a lector.”

Near the end of our conversation, I asked Mary what has helped her stay on the home education path. She responded: “What keeps me homeschooling is seeing how much my kids thrive in the homeschool environment. Every time I think the grass looks greener in school, God shows me why it is not—and that keeps me motivated and focused on my children’s moral formation above all else. I truly believe the rest will fall into place.”


Some gratitude is in order here. Thank you first to Dustin, Mary, and your children for your service to our country. Thank you, too, for keeping the faith in this time of turmoil.

Like all of those Seton families who are focused on “our children’s moral formation above all else,” you are candles in the darkness.

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