Thursday, March 26, 2009

Article written the evening of Faith Evangeline's funeral in October 2007

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.” Romans 13:15

I had another article already written for this month’s column. In fact, I was just ready to send it to my friends who edit for me. After fighting insomnia for over an hour, I finally gave up and came down here to write the article that was on my heart.

My heart is heavy tonight for a dear family in my homeschool group who buried a sweet little baby girl today. The mother’s sweet, sad, beautiful face comes into my mind every time I close my eyes. Having been through a similar experience myself, the funeral was an especially emotional experience as I not only grieved for this family but also remembered my own loss as well.

“That is very sad,” You are probably thinking. “But what does that have to do with homeschooling?”

What I saw at the funeral today had everything to do with homeschooling. As homeschooling families, we often have opportunity to “rejoice with those who rejoice” but how sweet and precious it is to also “weep with those who weep.” This was very evident during the funeral as many shed tears over the Homegoing of little Faith Evangeline. Big strong men wept right along with their wives.

After the funeral there was a reception at the family’s home. At the reception, I chatted with other homeschooling moms. We talked about sorrows we had in our own lives. We talked about the usual homeschool subjects such as curriculum and new ideas we are implementing this year. Another homeschooling mom asked me gently how I was doing with a sin issue that I had shared with her some time ago and I was touched that she remembered and cared enough to ask . What really touched my heart, though, was the way the homeschool community gathered around the bereaved family, supporting them during this very difficult time. Homeschooling moms brought food, sent emails for the family, gave the sweet, grieving mother multiple hugs and, in short, did everything they could to support the family.

Even though homeschooling moms are some of the busiest women in the world, many of them seem to be able to take the time to reach out to others. They seem to reach out to others not only with minor concerns such as “What curriculum do I use this year?” but also with sad tragedies like the loss of a little one.

Our family has had one on-going struggle for many years of our homeschooling. Each time I have attended our local homeschool group, I have shared the same prayer request with my small group. Instead of rolling their eyes and thinking, “Oh brother, she has shared that same request for the past how many years?” they support and encourage me in this difficult situation.

As I saw everyone gather around to help this grieving family today, I asked myself if I encourage other homeschooling mothers. Am I so wrapped up in my own little homeschooling world that I forget that other homeschooling moms out there are struggling as well? Do I encourage my homeschooling friends either by word or deed? When another homeschooling mother gets done talking to me is she encouraged to continue her homeschooling endeavor or does she feel exactly as she did when the conversation started? Worse yet, does she feel more discouraged than ever?

One doesn’t have to belong to a support group to help other homeschooling families. Just an encouraging word on the phone or by email can mean the world to someone. The most encouraging conversations I have had have been in a one-on-one setting with another mom.

There are seasons in homeschooling when others especially need encouragement. The first year of homeschooling is nearly always met with at least a bit of fear and trepidation. After a new baby is born, homeschooling the other children can be a real challenge. After the loss of a loved one, it can be emotionally draining to try to school the children. Sometimes a family member becomes ill. On a more minor scale, my oldest started high school. I had some concerns about whether or not we were doing everything “right.” Several friends who have been through this already helped to put my mind at ease.

What are some practical ways we can help other homeschooling families? Here are some that came to my mind.

1. First and foremost, we homeschoolers need to be in constant prayer for each other. There are times when homeschooling can be a very difficult thing, especially when going through a trying time or when there are friends and family members who are not supportive of homeschooling.

2. Take a meal to a family who is going through an especially tough time such as an illness, loss of a loved one, has someone in the hospital or has just had a new baby.

3. Listen, listen, listen. Often another homeschooling mom just needs to talk. More likely than not, she does not need a lot of advice but just needs someone to listen to her concerns. In fact, even though I have been homeschooling my children for ten years, I have learned never to give advice unless someone specifically asks. The Lord leads each homeschooling family in different ways and what works for one, may not work for the other.

4. Be an example of compassion to your children. Have them help to prepare a meal to take to another family. Perhaps they could make cards for the children in the family when they have gone through a difficult time.

5. Be patient. Perhaps someone comes to you with the same problem over and over again. Keep listening. Keep praying. As I mentioned before, I have shared the same specific prayer request with my homeschooling friends for years and they continue to support me. This encourages me so much.

6. Send encouraging notes.

There are also times when we can rejoice with our fellow homeschoolers. A few examples would be when a new baby is born, when a particular homeschooling hurdle has been overcome, when a broken marriage is healed or when a child graduates.

I don’t know about you but sometimes it is almost easier for me to “weep with those who weep” than it is for me to “rejoice with those who rejoice”. When something wonderful happens to someone, I tend to think “Oh, that is nice,” and then go on with my own life instead of taking the time to call them and send them a note to share in their happiness.

Occasionally, I even struggle a bit with jealousy when something nice happens to someone else. When another homeschooling family has found the big house of their dreams out in the country (which happens to be a desire of mine), it has been easy for me to covet instead of rejoicing with them. When I was going through years of longing for more children only to have one miscarriage after another, it was hard to rejoice with the homeschooling moms who had baby after baby with no problem whatsoever. However, when I really thought about it, I realize that my attitude was ungodly and unbiblical. Instead of coveting, I should have been rejoicing in the blessings of my fellow homeschoolers.

You may have noticed that I have used the word “encourage” over and over again in this article. That is usually a “no-no” for writers, but in this case I thought it was very important to emphasize that word. The best thing we can do for our fellow homeschooler, next to prayer is to encourage each other.

I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of little Faith Evangeline Gorman and in honor of her mother who exemplifies so much of what was written in this article.

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