An Outward Focus
“But you’re not living in the real world!” How often have you and your homeschooled high schooler heard that na´ve observation? You know, however, that far from being a sequestered lifestyle, homeschooling, because of its flexibility, can often better accommodate immersion in the real world, especially during the high school years, than other methods of education. Homeschooling families have a unique opportunity to daily instill in their teenagers a heart for their neighbors and their world, as well as to reach out together on a regular basis.
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Carol Jackson, whose four daughters have all graduated from homeschooling, recently shared with the Court Report how she and her husband, Rick, involved their children
in outreach to the world around them. By laying a foundation of hospitality and
community involvement when their girls were young, Rick and Carol instilled in
their daughters a sensitivity to the needs of others that deepened as the girls became teens and adults.
CR: Why is it important to have an outward focus in our families?
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Carol Jackson: God puts each of us exactly where He wants us (if we let Him!), to not only be blessed, but to bless those around us, and to be Christ’s light in our neighborhoods, pointing others to Him. Psalm 67:1-2 says, “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations” (emphasis added). God wants to pour out His blessing on us and through us so that others can see how great He is!
Homeschooling our teenagers affords us the wonderful opportunity to train and prepare our young men and women not only to live in the “real world,” but also to see that world as loved by God and to influence it for Christ.
CR: What advantages does homeschooling provide for outreach?
Carol: We have the incredible privilege of living out this high calling in the context of daily life together, and of encouraging our children to do the same. Since a heart for God
and others is sourced only in the Lord
Himself, we grow in this love for Him and others as we grow in our relationship with the Lord. This relationship has been the
basis of the varied ways the Lord has taught and enabled our family to reach out to
others—in our neighborhood, community, and world.
At a time when most teens are grappling with many changes physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially, our homeschooled youth have fewer distractions, limited peer pressure, and more time to develop their character, giftedness, vision, and walk with the Lord. They are able to smoothly transition to independence, surrounded by wise counsel and caring adults. These advantages give our youth stability and confidence and enable them to face the future with God's perspective and His heart.
Please be aware that the following experiences I share are not a standard for anyone else, but merely examples of the ways God led our family in outreach. He equips, enables, and gifts each family uniquely, right where we are, to reach out as He leads, with the grace, wisdom, and strength that He supplies.
CR: How did you decide to make outreach a focus in your home?
Carol: As a newlywed, I was challenged by Karen Mains’ book Open Heart, Open Home, and home-centered hospitality became a welcoming means of touching the lives of others—both Christian and non-Christian. Once the Lord had helped me past the my-home-has-to-look-clean-and-neat syndrome, it was less threatening to invite people over spontaneously or for planned meals. Sharing meals with people has probably been our main “method” of getting acquainted with people and of establishing friendships. We welcomed neighbors, new and old, my husband’s co-workers, church friends, foreign students, and missionaries. One tradition that developed was to buy an extra turkey in November and share it with new friends or a family after the holidays.
Many of the ways we reached out to others transcended the ages of our girls—the same things we did when they were in grade school we carried on into their teen years. As the girls grew older, they were able to take on more responsibility and initiative in making decisions about who to serve and how to minister.
CR: In what other ways did your family serve people?
Carol: Our home was also the center of several evangelistic Bible studies, sometimes with neighbors, or friends of friends. We operated as a team, with my daughters babysitting any children and helping with refreshments (preteens and teens can be a big help when it comes to watching younger kids and preparing food, and these experiences can also count as home economics!). Other home-centered outreaches included a summer neighborhood Bible club led by Christian Evangelism Fellowship, and another Bible club that I led for my daughters’ friends during the school year.
A major hospitality opportunity the Lord gave us was to open our home for others to live with us. Before our fourth daughter was born, we invited a l7-year-old neighbor to live with us, since she was in a difficult home situation and we sensed the Lord wanted her to grow in a Christian family environment. She was with us for two-and-a-half years and is now truly part of our family. Over the years, two other singles joined us for extended stays of up to two years and we all learned together with them and from them.
God has wonderfully created a real community spirit on our street and many neighbors have become like family to us. Initially, we reached out to them with a loaf of bread or with some holiday treats (at times like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter). As we got to know them better, we shared meals in our home—such as soup suppers after attending a local sing-along Messiah together, a Valentine tea for the ladies, and a home-cooked meal for the single men. We also enjoyed caroling, hymn sings, and even neighborhood birthday celebrations. In the summertime, we planned block parties and barbeques, with our daughters heading up the fun-and-games committee.
CR: How did you integrate outreach with homeschooling?
Carol: With a block full of adopted relatives, we decided to invite them to our year-end homeschool open house where our girls showed their work and gave presentations. We continued our annual open house through high school, giving our girls the opportunity to glorify God through their work and establish bonds of communication and friendship with our neighbors. Another activity that knit us together was an occasional “literary night” when each person would share about a book he or she had read, followed by dessert. Eventually, our neighbors began hosting events in their own homes. One grandma held craft nights during the fall months; another taught a few classes on Italian cooking to some of us. Our girls learned many other skills while serving. For example, practical service to our neighbors was a major part of loving them—cleaning, painting, yard work, pet-sitting, house-sitting, and meals for the sick. We all served as a family team.
CR: How was your family involved in your community on a broader level?
Carol: Community involvement extended to serving during election season by precinct walking, phone calling, poll watching, or opening our home as a polling site. We also passed out flyers for other organizations such as Right to Life and the Billy Graham Crusade.
CR: What about reaching out to those outside our communities?
Carol: Perhaps one of the most exciting areas of learning to love people has been in the area of world missions.
|Veteran homeschooling mom Carol Jackson shares about her family’s experience of reaching out to others.
During family devotions when the girls were quite young, we began praying for missionaries or mission groups we were involved with. Each girl would be given a prayer letter of a different missionary to pray for that morning. In addition to the letters, we displayed a world map on the wall with photos of missionaries. What a thrill for our family when, years later, we became sponsors of a newly-arrived family from Russia, only to discover that we had prayed for the father’s pastor and church in years past! Because of this interest in God’s extended work, we would often have missionaries in our home who would share their heart, stories, and photos from their particular field—from Pakistan to Egypt to France to Cameroon to Brazil to local missions.
Adopting children through World Vision has been a great way for the girls to catch a glimpse of the needs of kids in other cultures, and, in later years, we began filling Christmas shoeboxes for “Operation Christmas Child” through Samaritan’s Purse.
Since we had a home full of “little women,” we frequently welcomed female foreign students who were in the U.S. through cultural home-stay programs or for other reasons. Each of them usually stayed several weeks and some have come back for return visits. What an opportunity for our family to learn about other cultures, and for us to share Christ’s love!
Our friendship with an Iranian student began about 30 years ago when my husband taught him in ESL classes. We included him in our family during holidays and other occasions and he became like an uncle to the girls. Now we are friends with his family and share Christ with his wife and two young sons.
CR: What unique outreach opportunities were available to your daughters as teens?
Carol: Our prayer times around the breakfast table had planted within the girls an awareness of a world beyond our walls, a world with great needs, and a world of great value. During our daughters’ high school and college years, we continued to reach out together, but the girls also initiated serving in their own unique ways. When the girls attended a local junior college and university, we would often host their fellow students and professors in our home for meals, parties, or holiday gatherings. One of our daughters initiated organizing a group of homeschoolers to serve at a Food for the Hungry fruit-processing plant in California’s Central Valley. She learned of the plant’s need for summer teams, and took on the responsibility of recruiting and organizing a group of homeschoolers to work on the fruit line, and to wash and pack containers for shipment. This same daughter also served several summers with World Impact in their inner-city ministry.
Beyond local missions, the girls have extended this heart for missions by going on short-term trips abroad with Worldwide Evangelism for Christ, Greater Europe Mission, Medical Mission International, and with our church on a musical ministry trip to Europe.
CR: Any parting thoughts?
Carol: Please realize that this is a compilation of 30 years of God’s leading in outreach for us, and don’t compare or despair. At a women’s seminar years ago, I was comparing myself to the speaker, observing how effectively she communicated.
The Lord said to me, “Don’t compare. You are My vessel.” And He brought to mind II Timothy 2:21 where the requirement for a useful vessel is purity. Then, He can pour Himself into us and we can simply pour out what He has given us. Not much room for boasting! No seminar, syllabus, or book could ever have stimulated the desire or creativity and strength to do what the Lord unfolded in our family outreach.
As I mentioned earlier, this life-calling can only come as we daily look to Him and walk in intimacy with Him. He is the heart, not only of the home, but of any outreach that grows from a Christ-centered home. He is the God of outreach!
When you read this, don’t feel guilty for what you haven’t done, or feel proud for what you have done, but simply come to
Him Who loves you and loves those around you, and ask Him to lead and enable you and your teens to serve and love those in your circles—in your neighborhood, community, church, on the job, and in the world. What an adventure of faith! You and your teens will surely be blessed and be a blessing, and you will be giving your life to what will last forever—to God, His Word, and people.
|About the author
Carol Jackson and her husband, Rick, homeschooled their four daughters for 19 years. They reside in central California.