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!
- 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.