Friends and Family

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Ray and I grew up in Tennessee, moved to Kentucky for Ray to go to graduate school, and moved first to Mississippi and later to Illinois when he was in full time ministry. In 1993 we moved back home to our beloved Tennessee, believing that it was time to be near our parents as they grew older.

Because we have spent time in so many places, we already knew hundreds of people before we began meeting homeschooling families around the country. When we read about how few personal relationships the average person has today, particularly young people, we know that we are blessed to love and be loved by so many people. We work very hard to keep up with them. They give us such joy.

I mentioned last week how sweet it has been to travel with John, Bethany, and Mary Evelyn and their families to homeschool conventions. For several years, our company had only five team members and everyone’s last name was Notgrass. In time though, others joined our team, including our son-in-law Nate McCurdy. We enjoyed traveling with several of them many times to many places. Here we are in Indiana with Ethan and his wife.

Here Michelle joins John, Ray, and me in Cincinnati.

Josh and Bryan joined us in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

For several years Phil and Donna have been our main convention travelers. Donna was the first team member who was not already a friend or a friend of a friend. Donna was a Notgrass curriculum user and fan from South Carolina when she applied to become a convention representative. The first time I heard her describe our curriculum to a mom, Donna said the same kinds of things that I would have said. When Donna, Ray, and I traveled together, we had fun looking for local tea rooms.

By the end of our first summer traveling with Donna, we knew we wanted her to be a permanent member of our team. We then interviewed her husband Phil and decided we wanted him to join our team, too. We traveled with them to Texas for the convention pictured below. They are graciously posing in the cutout of American Gothic that we used to take along to give families a photo op.

Another of our joys was the opportunity to hire friends to assist us occasionally. Among these friends were Olive . . .

. . . and Garth and Terry.

How we have loved meeting children and teenagers who used our curriculum and the mothers and daddies who taught them. I love our pictures with them. We met other interesting people, too. Here we are in Indiana with Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder in the Little House on the Prairie television series. That was a treat. Butler was reaching out to homeschooling families because he had produced a documentary about the Ingalls family because he wanted to keep their history alive.

We loved building friendships with fellow homeschool business owners, including Gary and Jan Bloom of BooksBloom and Dan and Brenda Ellis of Artistic Pursuits. We miss Dan who passed away from cancer a few years ago.

People need people. While Ray and I were away from church because of our recent bout with COVID, we enjoyed joining our church family on YouTube and hearing our friend Gary Norton fill in for Ray. It was the day of our friend John Cason’s funeral. Gary talked about the impact of John’s life and about Barnabas, the great encourager we learn about in the book of Acts.

Gary also mentioned the passage in Genesis where God says that it is not good for man to be alone. Not every person finds a husband or wife with whom to share life, but we all need people. Some people criticize homeschooling because they say that children need to be with other children their own ages. I don’t believe that children necessarily need to be with children their own ages, but I do believe that homeschooled children and their families need friends and family, preferably friends and family of many ages. God puts people of different ages together to create families, so being with different ages must be a really good idea. In my experience, homeschooled children build healthy relationships when their families spend time with their extended families and with other families.

Our friend John Cason never married, but I think he may have had more friends than anyone I have ever known. Ray and I recently saw his sister, who told us that 1,200 people signed the guest book at his funeral visitation! One of his pall bearers was a little boy who is named Cason after his friend John.

Jesus is the most important friend for us and our children. Jesus said:

This is My commandment, that you love one another,
just as I have loved you. 
Greater love has no one than this,
that a person will lay down his life for his friends. 
You are My friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:12-14

Here’s a link to sign up for the Live Chat on Wednesday, July 27 at 1:00 p.m. Central. I hope you can join me.

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