We’ve all been there.
You’ve just finished a full morning’s worth of schoolwork.
Books and notebooking supplies cover the table. You wipe a sweaty tousled curl from your eye and contemplate lunch. “What am I going to feed these people? Can I count fruity pebbles as a fruit?”
Suddenly the phone rings. It’s a friend from church. She wants to drop off a book that she borrowed months ago. Would now be a good time? Oh. And she’s in your driveway.
Your eyes quickly scan the room. Everywhere you look there seem to be signs of an intense struggle. It looks like the library just exploded on your couch. A basket of laundry (or four) is waiting for somebody’s attention and most everyone is still in their PJ’s. Including you.
I’m not going to address sure-fire methods for tidying up in less than 3 minutes. Though I do have a few tricks up my sleeves.
I want to talk about hospitality.
First, let’s talk about what hospitality is not. Hospitality isn’t merely showing off an immaculate home followed by equally immaculate and elaborate dinner. It’s not about having a spa-like guest room complete with pedicures and a basket of blueberry muffins (though if that’s your style I’m ready for my visit!)
Let’s say that friend shows up at the door. Do you quickly grab the book from her hand and yell out a quick greeting before closing the door? Or do you graciously bring her into your home, move your portable library from a section of the couch and offer to share your Fruity Pebble lunch?
It’s haaarrrd. I know.
However, the Bible talks about hospitality specifically. One of my favorite stories (1 Kings 17:7-16) is of the widow who had nothing to offer but a bit of flour and oil. She was out gathering sticks when she met up with Elijah. She was preparing to bake up the last of her wares into a loaf of bread and then she and her son were going to die. Elijah encouraged her to share what she had with him. He then told her that her wares would not run dry until the Lord sent rain to the land. The Bible says in verse 16 “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.”
In New Testament times, hospitality was a way of life. Often people were persecuted and had to leave their homes. They would find refuge in the homes of other believers. Traveling preachers and ministers would go from home to home. Even church services were held in homes.
I can imagine that those who were entertaining strangers shared what they had….and were admonished to do so without grumbling or complaining. They didn’t worry about the décor in their living room or the thread count of the sheets. They gave the best they had. They extended their hearts and their fellowship. I think it’s very important that we begin to train our children to be hospitable. And of course, hospitality goes even beyond the walls of your own home.
A homeschool family has an even greater opportunity to extend hospitality in a variety of ways. Below I am throwing at you all kinds of ideas. Go grab yourself a muffin. This could take a while.
Keep a basket of notecards or stationary handy. Encourage your children to write a note to a grandparent, ailing friend from church or a neighbor who might do with some extra love. We have some little friends who have provided Josiah homemade get-well cards when he has been ill.
Do you kids enjoy baking? Encourage them to bake a cake or some other such goodie to take to a neighbor down the road. A plate of cookies can go a long way with cheering someone up.
Do you know a single mom who just needs a little help? Take the crew down and offer to do her laundry, clean her house or babysit. You can even grab a few of her kids when you are going to the park.
It’s easier if you have a couple of dishes you have crowned your “company menu.” If one of the kiddos has a dish they like to make sure include that in the menu. One of my favorite company menus is a Spaghetti Pie and tossed salad. When I know I’m having company in advance, I will often make up a couple of Spaghetti Pies and throw them in the freezer.
There is nothing wrong with having a family over for dessert after supper. Being homeschoolers provides yet an extra benefit.
Invite friends over for afternoon tea. Adopt an elderly neighbor or church friend.
Nothing better than the fellowship of a saint. When I was growing up there was always a contingency of widows and widowers at the family holidays.
Consider hosting an old-fashioned sing-a-long. Encourage budding musicians to bring a piece to share. All you need is to pop some popcorn and make a couple of jugs of lemonade.
Meet another homeschool mom and family for a nature walk. Pack a basket of apples, orange slices and grapes to share.
When hosting a dinner at your house assign every member of your family a task. An artistic child could design a menu. Someone could make sure the salt and pepper shakers are full, etc. Another child could set a beautiful table (or thereabouts).
For those possible drop-in visits consider having a specific chore chart especially for early mornings. I like to set the timer for about 15 minutes and spend the time tidying up. For example, we make sure the toilet is swiped and the bathroom sink is toothpaste free. I also like to have a candle on stand-by. It can help add some last minute ambiance.
Unless you have a room specifically set aside for homeschooling there is no way you can hide your unique lifestyle. If you are like us every room in the house screams “We Homeschool!” Be it the bloodied sculpture of a shark’s mouth at home on the kitchen table or the shelves and shelves (and shelves) of books lining the wall. We proudly show off our artwork, lapbooks ad science projects. It’s who we are!
Establish the Rules of Play before you have company with small children come over. I used to tell my son to put up those special toys (especially ones with smaller parts) up and out of the way. Otherwise, anything he had was to be shared with our guests while they were visiting.
Gadgets and technology are off-limits when we are visiting with company. Nothing like trying to compete for attention with a phone or an IPad.
When someone steps foot into our door we immediately ask them if we can get them something to drink. A glass of iced water or a cup of tea sets a body at ease. One little family we visit always knows to offer me a cup of tea. I feel so at home!
I hope that I have encouraged you to open your hearts and home. Go whip up those muffins! I’ll be over in 5.
Rebekah Teague is the homeschooling mama to one busy and beautiful boy. She is married to The Muffin who is a pastor and a really great guy. In her spare time she can be found with a book and a cup of tea. She blogs at There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining.