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Posted by Barbara Smith (BWSmith)
This message was originally posted on
Christian Homeschool Fellowship on the Web

"A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

"My child seems lonely," many homeschooling parents fret. "Will our child's loneliness influence his ability to learn?" we ask. Critics of homeschooling are quick to argue that the lack of peer interaction may have dire consequences for home schooled students. They say children may not be learning important lessons about dealing with peers of other backgrounds.* "Part of life is growing up with your peers ... learning for instance, to compete and debate," said Harry D. Shapiro, a Baltimore lawyer and member of the State Board of Education. ( Anastasia Walsh, "Popularity of home schools worries critics," The (Annapolis, Maryland) Capital, December 19, 1994) Homeschooling parents may begin to wonder if a traditional classroom environment would be a better vehicle than schooling at home to alleviate loneliness, especially in older children. Where can we find the solution to this predicament?

Students in a classroom of 25-30 seldom complain of loneliness. They complain about homework, or cliques, about boredom, the food or about gym - but the crush of bodies camouflages the feelings of loneliness. At home, however, free from many peculiarities of "peer" schooling, our children may become painfully aware of a conspicuous fact of the human condition: loneliness.

Loneliness is an emotional response; so are anger, fear, joy, and sadness. Each passes, usually as the circumstances change. When our beloved children explode in anger, or whimper with fear, our first response is not to put them in a new learning environment, or introduce a new set of pals! No, we admonish them; we pray and encourage them to pray!

What is the Point of Loneliness?
Rushing to fill voids with extra sports activities, friends, diversions and entertainment, we might miss an important opportunity. A child's sense of loneliness is an opportunity for both parent and child to draw close to our heavenly Father, asking Him what the remedy is for our loneliness. Searching to deliver our children from what society defines as a difficulty in educating children at home, we may unwittingly give up a powerful spiritual object lesson.

Get your Bibles out and together ask God, "Why are we lonely? Who cares? Why do we want friends? Who created friendships? Why are friendships important to God?"

Unfortunately, pursuing the Lord may be the last step that parents take to encourage our "lonely" children. Yet throughout Scripture we can read of those who cry out in lonely anguish to God. "I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop." Psalm 102:7 From Lamentations 1:1, we discover that desolation, "aloneness," may be an unhappy circumstance, but it is not a bad vantage point for spiritual insight. How can we pray, if we don't see a need? An afflicted man cries out . . . "Hear my prayer O lord, and let my cry for help come to Thee" Psalm 102:1.

Loneliness is the condition of the human heart, especially the heart wandering from its Creator and best friend. If our kids are restless at home, do they reflect our own restlessness . . . A conviction that something better lies beyond the doors of our home . . . friends, adventure, stimulation, pleasures? Do we model for our children "contentment" as we wait for answers to prayers? Is the Lord any less interested in your child's emotional well-being than He is in their education? What does God want? Finding good companionship, and becoming a good companion is something our children can pray about.

The Lord gives the lonely an oasis. "God makes a home for the lonely; he leads out the prisoners into prosperity; only the rebellious live in a parched land." (Psalm 68:6) Do you see your home as a sanctuary, created by God to refresh and nourish LONELY people? Have we become friends with our family, so we can teach our children the value of the relationships God has provided?

The Gift of Friendship
Randomly plopping our children into a passel of peers, be they neighbor children, church friends, teammates, or even other homeschoolers, may not be the prescription for alleviating loneliness. Parents, remembering many of their own experiences, may conclude that indiscriminate immersion in a variety of social groups and activities doesn't wipe out loneliness or guarantee satisfying friendships.

Friendship and fellowship are indeed sweet and intimate ingredients of a vibrant spiritual and social life. While their absence will intensify the emotion of loneliness, does their scarcity make us any less useful to God? Have we told our children this? Lonely people have been used greatly by God . . . Abraham, Naomi, Ruth, Samson, all knew great times of aloneness.

Remember David? David longed for the sweetness of friendship and experienced for a season a friendship that was more precious to him than the love of a woman (2 Samuel 1:26). After Jonathan died, David never again knew the blessing of an intimate friend. Still we remember David as the Lord described him, "a man after His own heart," if not the most popular in the senior class.

Are we preparing our children to be the kind of friend that Jonathan was for David, as well as praying that they will gain a companion like Jonathan?

Remember Lot? Lot longed for the world, and chose to live where the action was. His wife and his daughters learned well what their peers believed important! Lot must have had many lonely hours to reflect upon the training he provided his children.

Parents must be wise as we assess our children's needs. If our children are continually friendless, we must consider what we are teaching and why. If we are restricting our children too much from being with friends, we should prayerfully examine this issue. However, simply injecting them into a group won't necessarily solve the problem of loneliness. Immersing our kids in a crowd of interesting, busy peers may divert a young person . . . but from what, to what?

How to respond to loneliness and how to choose friends and diversions are subjects we can address candidly in home education. And God is the expert on these subjects. Can God meet the needs of a "lonely" child, you wonder? Have you asked Him?

Taken from:
Teach Me Lord That I May Teach ...
(or what we learned thinking we were homeschooling the kids.)

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© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
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