Maybe it's the convergence of those two things, but I am beginning to realize a few things specific to homeschooling that can add an extra sting for families dealing with the loss of a child. I know that babyloss families who school in other ways deal with them, too, but homeschooling is making me aware of them in a different way.
Not every family who homeschools has six or seven children...but there seems to be a greater number of homeschooling families who have more (four or more) children. I see it in my homeschooling groups, in homeschool blogs, in homeschool books. I, on the other hand, have only two children on earth - but always the awareness that I have three in Heaven and would have had a larger family to homeschool, if only. In the days when I thought our daughter would be our only living child, I went looking specifically for blogs about homeschooling an only child, and was very much encouraged by the few that I found, to remind me that I could homeschool a small family, even one child, as well as a large family.
There is a pronounced gap between my two living children. Within that gap - four years - is the history of my three babies who are now in Heaven, a year of trying to conceive without success, and an anxious year of pregnancy after loss. Every time I am with my children, the gap is there with us, reminding me of the children who are not with us. That would be true whether we homeschooled or not, but because I homeschool and choose curriculum each year and plan lessons, it is more pronounced for me. Because if Naomi had lived, I would be planning kindergarten and first grade materials this year. I would have daughters in two different grades, plus a son in preschool. Instead, it will be several more years before I have the chance to homeschool two school age children together.
In the homeschooling circles we are in, there are a lot of babies. That's not a surprise. When you have young children, as we do, and hang out with other families with young children, you tend to see a lot of babies. And I love babies, but they and pregnant bellies are also a reminder, both of the babies we lost and the ones we still would like to have. It is not as much of a sting as it was three or four years ago, but the shadow of the sting is still there.
So homeschooling comes with it's unique challenges for the bereaved parent, and it would be easy to focus on that and keep walls up to protect my heart. However, it also has its special joys. Let me share some beautiful ways that being in the homeschooling community ministers to me as a mom of children in Heaven.
The homeschooling community in our larger local area is incredibly supportive. As I shared my story with new friends last year, I found nothing but empathy and understanding, whether or not they had walked the same path as me. I also found opportunities to give that support to others as we realized similarities in our journeys, or to help others understand more about the journey of loss.
Homeschooling my children on earth gives me something I didn't get with my children in heaven - the gift of time. My children also have time together. Instead of my daughter going to school for seven hours a day and only seeing her brother in the late afternoon and evening, she gets to spend time with him, playing with him and helping me care for him throughout the day. When Naomi died, so did my dream of two close-in-age siblings growing up together. But God has redeemed that. Today, in spite of the four-year gap between them, they are close and love being together. Yes, that could have happened without homeschooling, but I am so thankful for the the time that they have together because of our choice.
Those large families that show up in the homeschooling community - some have become dear friends, and as we have talked and grown together, I've become more aware of the truth that everyone is fighting their own battle, and every family has their own struggles. While children are a blessing, a household full of them does not mean that God loves you more or that there are no troubles. It has helped me to see that in a personal way, so that my relationships are marked not by envy, but by love.
God has such a way of taking circumstances that can be painful and turning them into blessings. I am thankful for the way our homeschooling experience is becoming a part of my healing and finding joy in what is and not only a stinging reminder of what could have been.
Are you also a homeschooling mom who has experienced the loss of a child? How has your homeschooling experience impacted your life during and after loss?