To be candid, there have been times in the last eleven years I've been tempted to quit homeschooling. Years of financial difficulty made me wonder if my children needed my earning power more than my teaching. Times of self-doubt caused me to ask if I was the best person for the job. Plain old weariness made me want to take a break.
In these struggles, I keep going for primarily two reasons. First, I believe God asked me to homeschool and He's not told me to change courses. Second, I have a husband who believes in homeschooling even though there have been times it would have taken pressure off him if I'd gone back to work.
Last spring, I once again questioned my decision to homeschool. It wasn't that I quit believing in the benefits, I was just going through a hard time. On an especially difficult day, the Lord led me to Sharon.* After hearing her story of homeschooling through the most difficult of circumstances, my faith was strengthened and my faltering commitment was re-established.
Sharon told me her story as we sat at the pool, watching our sons take swimming lessons. She'd chosen to sit in a corner away from the hubbub of voices and I felt drawn to her ready smile and steady, honest eyes. I sat next to her and our conversation quickly cut past surface chatter. Soon I found myself sharing my struggle with her.
Little did I know that the biggest lesson learned that day would not be about my boys and their swimming ability, but would have everything to do with learning to float in the arms of God. I thought I'd taken the plunge and chosen a faith walk when I chose to homeschool against difficult odds, but Sharon's story showed me what dependence on God really looks like.
When Sharon married, she didn't plan to be abused, cheated on, and abandoned by her husband. But after having five children and surviving her husband's numerous affairs, that's where she found herself--recovering from abuse and determined to take care of her children in the strength of the Lord.
After all her family had suffered, Sharon felt the most important thing she could give to her children was her faith and her time. She determined to find a way to stay home with them. Four of her five children had learning disabilities and Sharon believed they needed more attention than the schools could provide. When God pressed upon her heart to homeschool, she said yes, despite a myriad of difficulties.
I listened with rapt attention as Sharon told how, inspired by the Proverbs 31 woman who "made belts for the tradesmen," she opened a sewing business so she could work from home. "In those early years, I made forty cents an hour," she said.
"Our rent was $800. After I paid the rent, I'd have thirty cents left. For the first three years, we got most of our food from the church's food bank, then the Lord told me to quit going to the food bank and to depend only upon Him for our needs. Somehow the food was always miraculously provided."
But the hardest part for Sharon wasn't the struggle to pay the bills, manage her five children without the help of a spouse, or teach her kids with academic challenges; it was the censure she received from others.
"Most people thought I should get a 'real' job and put my children in school. We were threatened with social services and criticized by even our church family. I was told I had no business homeschooling."
As Sharon shared the critical words of others, I stared at her, remembering her older son who had graduated from our homeschool family a few years before. He'd become a gifted musician and was well loved by our community.
I thought about how Sharon had helped him overcome difficult odds and a variety of special needs, and how he'd grown into a fine young man. What would have happened if she'd listened to the naysayers instead of the voice of God?
As we continued talking, Sharon told me more of her story. "We were homeless for ten months and eleven days," says Sharon. "Our landlord quit paying the mortgage with the rent money I sent and we were evicted from our home. Then my husband quit sending child support. I contacted 200 places looking for a house for us, but nobody would rent to a single woman with five children and no child support."
Sharon and her children went from house to house, living with friends and family. There were offers from others to take a child or two, to parcel them out, but Sharon was determined to keep her family together. Things started to look up when Sharon was able to sign a contract for a new home. She and the children waited with excitement until the home could be theirs.
Then tragedy struck. Her daughter, just a young teenager, was found lifeless on the bathroom floor. A rare virus had attacked her heart and killed her before she'd even been able to tell them she was sick.
As my friend shared her story, I wept. In my mind I saw her, the year before, at our homeschool group's graduation ceremony. Her deceased daughter's picture smiled from the screen behind her as she stood before us with trembling hands, paying tribute to the young woman who would have graduated with the class of 2005.
I stared in wonder at this woman who'd endured so much, yet sat beside me, her inner light shining. Sharon had homeschooled for almost fourteen years, in the most difficult of circumstances. She'd followed the voice of God, even when others told her she was crazy. She'd survived immense grief, poverty, teaching children with learning disabilities, and criticism. She'd let go of financial stability to provide emotional security for her children, and turned to God to provide her needs. Something inside me shifted and I felt renewed energy to tackle the problems I faced.
I listened as Sharon shared advice. "It's not about wallowing," she told me, "it's about living in victory in the bad times. Sure you have your pity parties with the Lord. You tell him all about it and He makes you feel better. Then you go on."
My youngest son interrupted Sharon and my conversation with shouts of "Hey Mom, watch this!" We grinned at each other as he bounded off the side of the pool and flung himself into the deep end.
My son's tiny body disappearing into the pool painted a picture of Sharon's life. She'd navigated waters well over her head. She could have let them drown her. Instead, she turned to God for strength, and learned to float in His arms when she could swim no longer.
*Story told with permission. Name changed by request.
** Sharon and her children now live in a four-bedroom house. The income on last year's tax return showed more money earned than Sharon had made in her entire life. She says God's most recent lessons are about learning to dream again.
A homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace. Published over 300 times, she’s recently released two novels: Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal and Postmark: Christmas. Her website offers homeschooling and parenting articles, devotionals, and information about her books. www.paulamoldenhauer.com Contact Paula: Paula@soulscents.us