To say that our family struggled financially throughout the years would be an understatement. With our primary income dependent on the construction industry, there were frequent periods of unemployment. To help make ends meet, I worked odd jobs while juggling being a wife and mother. I found babysitting detrimental to the time I wanted to spend with my own children and a huge interruption to homeschooling. I did some transcription work from home and cleaned houses for a time and even worked at one point taking magazine subscriptions.
Each task had a season and each of them had advantages and drawbacks to our homeschooling lifestyle. Each provided additional income to help meet the needs of our growing family while allowing me to educate my children at home.
I was blessed during this time to have a supportive and loving church family full of homeschoolers. We forged a support group in our small, local community in the Blue Ridge Mountains. One winter’s night while gathered together in the fellowship of these friends, I was able to share that when I said I “couldn’t afford” some of the activities we were planning, I didn’t mean I couldn’t hang out and shop at the mall or redecorate some part of my house. I confided that when I said I could not afford to do something, I meant that I wasn’t always sure how our family was going to put food on the table that week.
Through the years, these friends blessed us with generosity that would take a lifetime to repay. They shared curriculum, gave us rides when we were down to one vehicle, and paid for my kids to take part in activities that would have otherwise been unavailable to them. There were times when I would go to my car after church to find toilet paper and laundry detergent on the front seat, meeting a need only known by the Lord. By inviting these women into the reality of our struggles, I was held and encouraged and protected. They walked beside me and helped shoulder the burdens that would have otherwise crippled my family. Being vulnerable and asking for the help that you need is not easy, but in these circumstances we can trust God has a purpose for both the giver and the receiver.
Our family’s commitment to homeschool meant enough to us that we did what was necessary to stretch our income. We relied on hand-me-downs and filled in the gaps by shopping at Goodwill and yard sales. I had a couch for years that had two bricks for a leg. We got a new bed if someone we knew got a new one – and their cast-off became “new-to-us”. We did without extras like cable television and didn’t have a computer or cell phone. We felt rich because we had library cards, parks and playgrounds and the company of friends.
I had a lot of guilt through the years for all the material things I felt I hadn’t been able to give my kids. My children have each expressed appreciation for how they learned about resourcefulness, perseverance, and patience while they were growing up. My life is very different now from that time when I felt so much in need, but I am able to relate to the families I work with as a Grant Administrator for the Home School Foundation with compassion and offer hope to those who are struggling similarly because I’ve been in their shoes. In the big scheme of things, the material things we can offer our children are far less important than what we teach them by how we live in difficult circumstances.