Admit it. We’ve all had days when we feel as though we just can’t carry the homeschool banner another few inches…much less another few years! And when a dozen things have gone awry and the children are way off track by ten o’clock in the morning, what mother hasn’t half-jokingly considered flagging down the driver of the next school bus that passes by to provide him with a few more passengers? But after taking a few breaths and begging the Lord for mercy (and a sense of humor), we’re okay and ready to go on in very short time.
But then there are more serious times when perhaps we’re worn down, overwhelmed, upset, frustrated, and burned out. Or in the words of my dear grandma, we’re just "plumb tuckered out." Let’s face it, being a homeschooling parent is a big responsibility and sometimes it’s just plain old hard work. But we have to realize that educating our children at home is a calling upon our lives and that we must keep on…even when we feel like giving up. With the Lord’s help, lots of prayer, and possibly a few changes, we’ll eventually be refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to continue our homeschooling journey!
Sadly, however, there are many parents who do give up on homeschooling and send their children back into the public or private schools when faced with these seemingly overwhelming feelings of frustration. Perhaps they don’t have a network of supportive family members and friends. Maybe they’ve decided it’s just easier to give in than hear any more negative comments about depriving their children of a good education or the "necessary socialization" needed to survive in this world. In other words, they just don’t feel as though they have what it takes to keep going. The term that best describes this situation is DISCOURAGEMENT!
Since most of us have been "there" at one time or another, we should be the first to understand and empathize with others who are going through this valley of discouragement. But it’s so easy to get caught up with our own cares and concerns, and often we aren’t tuned in to the problems of those around us. Or perhaps we’ve been homeschooling for a long time and our own children are older. Maybe we haven’t experienced these negative feelings in many years, but that’s all the more reason to rally newcomers and mothers with younger children to persevere. If we’ve made it this far, so can they!
Remind them that there’s always light at the end of the dark tunnel if they can just stay faithful to what they’ve been called to do. Sometimes just a kind word or helpful advice is enough to help when times get tough. A little bit of encouragement truly does go a long way! I also think that when we take the time to help others, we ultimately receive the biggest blessing. And the Bible does admonish us in Galatians 6:2 to help bear one another’s burdens!
Although it’s rarely in our power (or our business) to help make big changes, there are many practical ways that we can encourage other homeschool moms (and dads for that matter…for when mom is happy, dad is happy too!)
*Make a quick phone call, dash off an email, or (preferably) drop an encouraging note or card in the mail to let them know we’re thinking of them. Include a Bible verse and perhaps a colorful bookmark or sticker. Letters are great because they can be read again and again.
*Double a main supper dish and surprise them with a hot meal. Sometimes a night away from the oven can do wonders! Don’t forget the paper plates!
*How about some homemade cookies or loaf of banana nut bread? Or better yet, why not invite them over for a cup of hot tea, a plate of cookies, a good helping of fellowship, and a big hug?
*Could we possibly keep their children for an hour or two while they run errands, clean house, or just putter?
*How about a vase full of beautiful flowers picked from our yard? Even small acts of kindness mean a lot, and no one said we had to do things that are difficult or fancy.
*Think of all the ways we’d like to be encouraged, and then try them out on someone else.
*Most importantly and especially when we can’t help them in other ways, pray for them and let them know we’re doing it. There is always One who knows just what they need.
There will be lots of times when we just don’t see or understand why others seem to be struggling along the homeschool path. The family may be experiencing financial difficulties, perhaps the curriculum isn’t a good fit, expectations may be too high, or a new baby or change in the household might be causing upheaval. The reasons can be endless. But we can still be a friend and lend a listening ear or give a helping hand.
One dictionary defines the word encourage as "to inspire or give hope." What an apt description! Because isn’t it inspiring to know that someone is thinking about you and lifting you up in prayer? Doesn’t it give you hope? And when others remember your kindness during a difficult time, they may be motivated to help someone else. Who knows…one day that someone just might be you!
The sunshine you spread along your way will return to warm you some stormy day!
A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows. ~St. Francis of Assisi
Amy M. O’Quinn is a pastor’s wife, freelance writer, and former schoolteacher-turned-homeschool mom of six blessings (3 girls and 3 boys). They are enjoying their tenth year of home education using an eclectic mix of both the Classical/Charlotte Mason methods. Amy is the president/co-founder/newsletter editor of the Harbor Home Educators support group in south central Georgia. You can also visit her at her blog at www.homeschoolblogger.com/picketfencemom.