I was scheduled to speak at a homeschooling support group’s fall kick-off meeting. Since my father lives in the area where I was speaking, I decided to take the children and combine the trip with a visit to Grandpa. My husband had work to do, so just the children and I were able to go.
It takes several hours to drive from my home to dad’s, and the trip was less than perfect. We started out just fine, but on the way, the car acted up. Not being very knowledgable about cars, my first response was prayer. The children joined me in a vigil that lasted the remainder of the trip. We took turns praying out loud when the sputtering noises occurred, and we were all very tense. Thankfully we made it to Grandpa’s in one piece.
By then I had only a little while to get ready. So I hurriedly dressed, ate, and got back in the car to search for an address in a town with which I was unfamiliar (this was all before the blessed invention of GPS). As rain began to fall, I thought “Some days just seem tougher than others.”
I remembered the words of my nine year old daughter as I was leaving for the meeting. She had told me to have fun “encouraging the homeschoolers”. I thought about these words and wondered how I could truly encourage the homeschoolers I would meet with that night, especially since I felt the need of encouragement myself!
As I located the meeting place, I observed the faces of the people entering the building. Some looked tired or tense. Others chattered happily. A few had looks of fear and apprehension on their faces. (The husbands who were attending looked like a combination of all of the above.)
As I prepared to speak, trying to put the struggles of the day behind me, I realized that my audience was probably trying to do the same. How could I best encourage those homeschoolers that night?
By being honest with them. By telling them a little of the trials of my day. By sharing my struggles with fear, impatience and discouragement. By letting them know that though I have been a classroom teacher, and written textbooks, I still deal with the same daily challenges of life that they do. These challenges involve homeschooling, finances, family and cars that don’t always run right.
As I spoke of the day to day realities of homeschooling, the audience and I shared moments of laughter, (homeschooling can definitely be funny!) seriousness and encouragement. We ultimately got to the bottom line, which is that we homeschool because we love our children and believe it is the right thing for them. When I finished my talk that evening, the audience gave me a hearty and warm response. The struggles of the day did, in fact, seem lighter in the company of this fellowship.
Afterward, several ladies and men walked me out to my car. One lady pulled me aside. “Thank you for coming tonight,” she began. I remembered that she had looked very tired earlier but as she spoke she seemed quite different. “I have been considering giving up homeschooling, and decided just this morning that I should quit. I was reading about a homeschooling mother who did more before breakfast than I do all day. She had a lot of kids and they all seemed perfect. I felt like a failure. I decided to come tonight to this one last meeting, and I’m so glad I did.”
The woman went on to say that she now knew she was supposed to continue homeschooling, and that she just had to be herself, do her best and allow God to be in charge. She thanked me again and left.
Driving home, I pondered the miraculous power of God, and felt grateful to know something of what He had done that night. The way to encourage the homeschoolers at that meeting was to point them to a faithful, all-knowing, all-caring God who knew them as they really were and loved them just the same. They were His vessels, His tools, just as I was.
Debbie Strayer became a part of the homeschooling movement in 1988 when she and husband Greg began their journey as homeschoolers. Prior to that time, Debbie received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in education. Since joining this wonderful movement that combines the importance of spiritual and educational development, she had many years of experience as an educator, author, speaker, consultant and homeschool evaluator.