About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Encourage one another

I recently posted about contentment, and recognising that God gives each one of us sufficient grace every day for our unique circumstances. When feeling under pressure, there is nothing better than to take time to reflect on what the Bible teaches us about God's amazing, father-like provision.

We spent the afternoon with some of our friends who also home school their children. There is much to be said for finding a community who can encourage and strengthen you as you make choices that often seem strange and foreign to many of those around you. We spent most of the time just keeping an eye on a lively bunch of children aged six and under as they climbed trees, dug in the soil for worms, harvested wild apples, travelled to a far off land on a Viking longboat (that part being imaginary, the rest real!) and got into the occasional scuffle. We talked a bit about phonics (some of us very against the method, others in favour, others neutral!), elementary mathematics for boys using objects that can be manipulated visuo-spatially, overseas travel and relationships.

These friends were surprised when I commented that I felt isolated. They then both admitted that they felt similarly, but hadn't realised I did. Their reasons were that I seem well organised, seem to know a lot of people, seem very active and generally get on with life. But in some ways, can this be a reason for isolation at times? There have been quite a number of occasions over the past few years when I have tried very hard to tell people I have a need of some kind or other, but it seems as though I am speaking a slightly different language and I am not heard. Today, we talked a little about how as home educating families, we are often pro-actively involved in our churches and communities, often (at least aim to!) have an open and welcoming home with plenty of food on the table and listening ears (or if not the ability to listen wholeheartedly, plenty of opportunity for distraction from the troubles of life!). These are all good things that we should not seek to change. But can it make us more isolated?

I don't have an easy answer or a neat, punchy conclusion to this post, and I'm sure it is something I will revisit. But here are a couple of thoughts to start with:

1) We really do need community! One of my temptations when feeling different and misunderstood is to isolate myself further, and thus ensues a vicious cycle. This is not right, not biblical, and can lead to feelings of bitterness which are sinful.

2) We need a small group of friends with whom we can be honest. The book of Proverbs has much wisdom about the choosing of friends or advisors, and also cautions against being too open with too many people. But we should choose friends that we can share our burdens with honestly. We should be able to pray for one another. And sometimes we don't support one another in their needs because we simply don't realise they are there. I wonder as home educators whether there are times when we feel we need to project an aura of capability? One thing we talked briefly about today was how it can be difficult to ask for help with childcare, such as to visit the doctor, or even to spend one on one time with a person who might benefit from that. We hear the unspoken, 'If you would just put them in school, then you wouldn't need help here' or occasionally comments to that effect. But the fact is, just because we homeschool does not make us super-human or immune from human frailties and needs. Indeed, one could argue that we perpetuate the myth by being reticent to share our needs! Similarly, it can be difficult to admit that our children are testing our patience at times. I was somehow reassured to realise I was not alone in this, but became more aware that it is a real problem at times.

3) We should seek to bear one another's burdens. This means thinking about those close to us, and how we can better encourage them. Jesus tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Luke 6:31). We are reminded to go the extra mile with others (Matthew 5:41). We are to encourage one another, and consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

4) Jesus tells us that through showing genuine love for one another, others will recognise the truth of His saving grace in our lives (John 13:34). Ways of showing this love are getting to know one another properly, listening carefully, actually asking how we can help and support, looking for ways to do random acts of kindness for one another

5) I'm aware that in churches we can often focus on those who are obviously 'needy' in some ways. I am not saying that these people should by any means be neglected, but that we must also remember to pray for and seek to serve and encourage those who seem to be strong. If I can feel isolated and struggle and not even my closest friends have realised, then there are probably many others in the same situation.

Like I said, no easy answers but some issues that those of us who are involved in communities of home educators should be aware of as we truly seek to encourage one another on this adventure which is so very worthwhile, but at times also the biggest challenge we have ever known.

If you've got experience of this, or wisdom to share- please do leave a comment!

4 comments:

  1. Not sure that I have any wisdom on this but I think that you hit the nail on the head with your comment about praying for and encouraging those who "seem to be strong". You and I, as well as many others have a double wammy. We are known as professionals, OK I'm not practising but it isn't differentiated in many people's minds, and we home educate. Therefore, people perceive that we have everything together. Having several different roles forces some degree of organisation, at least outwardly, so it is difficult to imagine that we might feel lonely or might not be coping. I like your last point. One thing about having a busy family life is that it does open one's eyes to the burdens that others in similar circumstances might be carrying and hopefully encourage us to pray.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Sarah - that is exactly how it can seem at times, but sometimes to articulate that can sound somehow 'elitist'. But it does feel as though we are supposed to be immune to many of the pressures of life, even to the point that significant illness and bereavement somehow are not expected to affect us to the same degree. In our roles - both within the home, and potentially in the medical workforce (or just about any workforce) we take a leadership role, and aim to inspire confidence in those around us, to challenge, to enthuse, to direct, to achieve discipline and order. We are trained to 'act' to an extent, to manage our own emotions and energy levels, and to achieve the goals of the day. Sometimes I know I can be too busy to really stop and reflect on how anybody actually is (myself included) and recently I've realised that one can miss the most important things by being surrounded by things that are in themselves good things, but which can be distractions. I resolve to pray for my friends more faithfully and look for ways to serve and encourage - praying that God shows us who to bless rather than making our own conclusions about who might be in need on a particular day. And one of the delights of home schooling is that we can involve our children in this - baking, writing a card, paying a short visit etc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you sister for this considered post. Encourangement and exhortation are so important for those you think need it least! Let us not forget our husbands - if I am in a challenging season its easy to forget what my husband is experiencing. Thank God that He designed marriage and I pray we utilise the fullness of this gift and full fruits of fellowship are brought forth in Jesus' name!

    Thank you for your advice on not undertaking the journey of homeschooling alone - this is great post to share with my husband, its easy to becoming a congregation of 2 on some matters.

    God bless you and your family in Jesus' name

    Renee

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Renee - we all need community so much. Last night I had coffee with about seven Christian home schooling mothers, and it was so encouraging to realise we all face similar questions and challenges even if the specifics of our families, their size and structure, our educational methods etc are different. Sometimes it is both humbling and encouraging to see that there are common difficulties or trials, and to be able to support one another in that. It can be encouraging to realise you are not alone. And as we share these things and pray together, we can also pray that God gives us the strength to honour Him in our lives and in our families!

    ReplyDelete