Sharing the Family Stories

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We all have black sheep in our families. Maybe you can’t think of any in your immediate past, but we are all descended from Adam and Eve, and we all know what they did. So, when we dig, we will probably find some things we had just as soon not know about. But other things will make us feel good.

Since beginning our publishing business in the late nineties, we have met people with some interesting family histories. Just recently, I showed a homeschooling mother a lesson about Shirley Temple, and she said, “She replaced my grandmother.” This mom’s grandmother was a child actress in Hollywood, but that young actress’ mother decided to pull her out of show business.

Ma and Pa Ingalls have no direct descendants living today. Author Laura Ingalls Wilder had one daughter Rose, but Rose’s only child died in infancy. Laura’s oldest sister Mary never married (despite what the television series portrayed). Both Carrie and Grace Ingalls did marry, but neither had any children of their own. However, Ma (Caroline) and Pa (Charles) did have relatives. We know that at least one of those relatives has descendants, because we met a descendant at a homeschool conference. Laura herself was homeschooled, and I think she would be thrilled to know how homeschoolers are keeping her history alive.

Music historians do not know the origin of the beautiful song, Wayfaring Stranger. Was it an African-American spiritual? Did it come from the Appalachian Mountain people? Did their ancestors bring it over from Scotland? I don’t know the whole story either, but we once met someone who said that according to her family, one of her ancestors wrote the song.

Some stories passed down in families are happy ones and others are sad. The stories in the Bible are like that. Our job is to learn from them. We once shared the story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears with a group of homeschoolers. Afterwards, a parent told us that one of her ancestors was one of the American soldiers who helped force the Cherokee west. He felt sorry for his involvement for the rest of his life. I admire that man’s repentance.

While traveling between the Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators Expo and Minnesota’s MACHE conference this spring, we stopped by Burr Oak, Iowa, to see a hotel where the Ingalls lived for three months during a hard time. Pa struggled to support his family there and Ma worked as a cook in the hotel, making meals for twenty-five patrons three times a day.

Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa
Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa

Laura decided not to share her Burr Oak stories with her young readers, though she did share them with older audiences. I don’t think all family stories should be shared with our children. Some things are simply better left unsaid. Think about your own family stories and what your children are ready to hear. See how you can use those stories to instruct the generation you are shaping.

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:5, NASB

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