When I came to this small town, I was and am in awe of how much Godly love for a down and out family this place has shown us. We were strangers to them, and yet they have blessed us with food, clothing and a home, among other things. Most of these people are barely surviving themselves, yet they still look out for those who need it.
But...do you remember that saying, "there's no such thing as a free lunch" ? Well, even in a small town this saying is true. I never anticipated the potential price I had to pay. That I could have had to pay.
When I came here, broken, exausted, and just overall frustrated...I thought I wanted to join the Amish. I know now that was not God but me wanting something more than what I had. I was hurting and wanted to give my children a life, a community of people that I never had. I know the way I went about it was probably not the smartest, and the Amish saw that and denied me the chance. As angry as I was, I now thank God for that.
But just when I have come to terms with that, I now have to come to terms with the fact that I will probably not be accepted or embraced by the small town as a whole, either.
What would make me say this? Since summer, people have asked me if I was going to send my children to the nearby public school. Thinking I had no choice, I said yes. People continued to praise the public school, saying the children would "really thrive" there. This rubbed me the wrong way, but trying not to bite the hands that(literally and metaphorically) fed us, I grit my teeth and smiled. Maybe public school wouldn't be so bad for the kids, I thought to myself.
The end of summer was drawing near, and all the kids in the area were buzzing about how school was starting soon. School supplies list were handed out, a trip to Walmart followed. The only thing that was needed was to meet with the school and get the paperwork ready.
In normal Jenn fashion...I waited until the last minute. Finally, the day came. The kids and I walked to the fresh and shiny school building. We stepped in.....
And the first thing that popped in my head was a quiet "no.".
I shushed it. Probably just a homeschool mom in denial. Or something. I greeted the secretary, the principle, toured the building. But despite the wonderful building set before us, the quiet pride of the school's accomplishments, and the school spirit I felt that extended far beyond these walls...I felt an underlying negative feeling. I literally felt nauseous and I couldn't figure out why. This school is great! I thought to myself. Why on earth am I feeling this way?!?
Finally, the time for testing came. My children were exactly where I thought they'd be. The principle, though, gave the children and I some discouraging words. Yes, the children were stronger in some areas than others. But due to age and...and...state testing*cue vomiting noises*, they should be placed in their "proper" grade. Even when my youngest cried and boldly refused, the principle looked over her head and said to me..."as the...ADULTS here, WE need to think about what's best here. "
Clearly this woman didn't get our family. I told her this, adding that it was not the "adults" who would be greatly affected by this, but the children, so, yes I do think my children have a say in THEIR OWN education. Call me crazy, but that's just how we roll.
Well...this didn't sit well with the principle, so the guidance counselor was called. Two to convince is better than one, right?
Again, clearly these people don't know me. The woman who followes God and marches to the beat of a different accordian than most. But again...feeling like I had no choice, I left there with more forms to fill out, my children clearly offended, and my heart heavy.
Over the next few days, I talked to others in the church. They basically gave me the "the school knows what's best for kids" speech*cue massive eye roll*. Finally, a thought occured to me. I never took time to pray about this.
So...I prayed. I asked others to pray for wisdom, regardless of what form that came in. And, finally, in normal Jenn style, I asked for a sign. Each time I thought about homeschooling, despite working and having no support, I felt peace. Each time I thought about sending them to the public school, even though it would have been easier on me financially, I felt something stir up in me that wasn't pleasant. But, I prayed not my will, but God's be done.
I shot up a quick prayer to God again, asking for a sign and an answer, before I left for a Wednesday night Bible study. I jumped in the car in my usually late fashion and turned the key. The first thing that I heard was the radio turn on, with the words, "You CAN homeschool!". It was the title of a book being mentioned, but the answer came.
I had the same feeling I did when we first started homeschooling...I was doing something completely out of the box, and I was worried what others might think...especially those of the church, because they were pretty much depending on it so I could be on my feet without their assistance.
However, I have learned if God calls us to something, it doesn't matter if we're well-off or broke as dirt or anywhere in-between...God calls us to it regardless. It is up to us to trust his ways are higher and that he will make a way when there doesn't seem to be one. So, scared and totally dependent on God, I told the church I had decided to homeschool.
No one said anything...for a brief time. Before I could breathe a sigh of relief, the opposition came. Was I crazy? The school was so great..why would I pass up the chance for my children to get a "better" education? Didn't I understand I was basically going to be working to pay the sitter?
Meetings followed. I cried. The Amish minister and his wife was called. More confrontation, followed with threats of no help from the church if I went through with this.
"Toto, I don't think we're in PA anymore...."
It was a talk with my stepmother, and my BHF(Best Homeschoolmom Friend) that gave me the encouragement I needed not to waver at my most pressured time. Yes, I could homeschool. No, I didn't see how considering I was technically homeless and dependent on the church for so much. But, yes I could homeschool. God would make a way.
So...after many confrontations, meetings and whispers behind my back as well as in front, the church stopped. The kids went to a sitter and we continued to homeschool, tweaking my approach so the children could be more independent. I got a few raised eyebrows, but for the most part the church still helped when needed.
I got another job, but then that proved to be too stressful, so I stuck with the one that gave me more hours and I enjoyed more. We moved(again). I thought...maybe...maybe this place could work. I'm running on all cylinders, and exausted beyond what I deem normal...but God gives me strength for each day.
Then...I got a call. A friend from church said people were talking about me and the kids..in a bad way. CYS was mentioned. I cried.
A week later...a mysterious call at my job saying CYS was called, why they were called...but no name. Not spoken to me, but to my supervisor. More tears followed. I only know two thing about CYS- homeschoolers hate them and they take away kids. But, I didn't get a call from CYS directly, so maybe someone was playing a very mean joke.
Two days later, I got that call. A note left on my door. What did we do? My mind swam in a river of confusion. I felt hurt and like I could trust no one, because everyone was a suspect.
The kids and I were questioned. I won't go into all the lies but the one that stuck out was the top concern- why aren't my children in school???
After a quick explanation, a home inspection, and lots of prayer...it was unsure why anyone would say what they said. The CYS worker could see my children are provided for, responsible, loved and educated.
No sooner do I feel the weight of that burden off my shoulders....several people suggest, once again, that maybe I should just put them in the local school. Apparently, this would help us to become accepted in the community and shush those that question the children's well-being.
But...do I seek acceptance from a community, or approval from God?
If homeschooling has taught me anything, it has taught me that being different is okay. Not conforming doesn't mean your life is over; if anything, it is just beginning. Being accepted by the majority is great, but if it means you have to change as a result...then what? Is it worth it...even if everything inside you screams no?
Needless to say...I may never be fully accepted in this community. I am an outsider, I am different. I have to look over my shoulder, I have to be mindful of what I say, how I say it, and who I say it to.
I don't know what the future holds...I only know the One who holds it.
Until next time,