- Friday, June 07, 2013
I was frustrated. The curriculum for my twelfth-grade English class required me to write an essay about C.S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and T. S. Eliot, comparing how they used stories to convey apologetics—a fascinating topic. Unfortunately, my family did not own any of their writings other than the brief excerpts anthologized in my British Literature textbook and our dog-eared copies of The Chronicles of Narnia—hardly enough material for a decent essay. The books my family owned were all the resources I had. We lived in Asia, not the United States.
As a homeschooling family on the mission field, we encountered many challenges like this one: lack of materials at home, lack of resources in the community, and lack of opportunities for interaction with other students and educators. Yet, for my two siblings and me, homeschooling was the ideal mode of education, because school had to be “portable.” During one six-month period in which our family divided its time between two cities that were 90 miles apart, I was able to plunk a trusty cardboard box labeled “Esther’s Books” into the trunk and take school with me!
Another difficulty we faced was that of getting our curriculum, as well as other resources, from the United States in the first place. Mail service was unreliable, and heavy books made postage extra expensive. The country where we lived had no public libraries and limited Internet access, which sometimes made doing research problematic, especially in high school.
Nonetheless, God provided ways around and through these difficulties. Generous fellow missionaries returning from the United States put books into their precious 50-pounds-of-luggage allowance. Thankfully, the program we used was “book light” compared to some others. It placed an emphasis on reusable resources, especially for the younger grades, which was ideal for our situation. In addition, while flexible, the program had a staff back in North America (accessible to its students) who provided accountability and support when we needed it.
Whatever curriculum choice a homeschooling family makes invariably involves a lot of reading, so without a public library, we unintentionally built our own. By the time I graduated, our family library included several thousand volumes: picture books, biographies, classic novels, and Bible commentaries from my dad’s seminary days. When assigned a topic to write about, we were usually able to come up with credible essays, even if it meant referring to our stack of back issues of National Geographic or our trusty 1978 edition of The World Book Encyclopedia. My mom regularly prayed for us to get the resources we needed, and several times God provided abundantly by making it possible for us to borrow from the library of the private international school nearby or from friends who had exactly the books we needed.
The biggest challenge we faced, however, was loneliness. Most of the other missionary children attended a Christian boarding school located a few hours away and were home only for holidays. Sometimes, when other missionaries were on home assignment, we were the only homeschooling family in our city. However, God was just as aware of our loneliness as He was of our educational needs.
During my ninth-grade year, we moved to a village where there were no other homeschooling families. We had no local friends and few neighbors. There, most people were safely indoors by sundown, and only the occasional wailing of jackals alerted us to life outside our walls. This was a big change from the bustling city of two million where I had grown up. In the city, I had enjoyed a wonderful friendship with the girl next door and had often stayed at her home until late in the evening. Even when a three-hour journey separated our homes, God still gave me opportunities to stay in touch with her. That year I got my first email account and became good at corresponding with friends who were far away. Some of the single women in my parents’ mission took me shopping and invited me to movie nights, and I learned how to make friends with adults.
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