“If this is going to be yet another call telling me how I’m not obeying God, then I’m just going to politely hang up now, okay?”
The tension-filled voice on the phone that September morning was that of a new friend from church. Her children had always been homeschooled but, with the addition of a few foster kids to their family, she and her husband prayerfully opted to enroll their elementary-aged kids in the local neighborhood public school. The first day of school had barely begun and she had already fielded two calls from homeschool moms from church questioning her family’s decision.
I told her that she was partially correct. Part of the reason I was calling her was because I’d heard she’d put the kids in the public school. However, I wasn’t contacting her to question her decision, but to support it. Since my home was just across the road from their building, I wondered if she might want to put me down as an emergency contact in case one of the kids got sick or injured and she was unable to be reached.
“And”, I continued. “I also wanted to let you know that I can see both of your kids out playing at recess right now on the swing set and monkey bars. They look like they are having a blast and I thought hearing that might help set your mind at ease.”
She quickly apologized. And then she promptly cried.
Schooling choices can divide.
They can lure friends to the opposite sides of the awful “mommy wars” that sometimes form over schooling choices.
Even more so with during our current COVID pandemic.
It used to be that we had the choice of of sending our children to traditional school or to school them at home ourselves. Now some of us have the added traditional school choice of in-person or online learning at home.
For nearly two decades I was a homeschooling mom. With a husband that worked the afternoon shift at his factory, it worked the best for our family. If our kids had been in a traditional schooling situation, they would have only seen their father on the weekends. And so, they did most of their schooling at home while also attending classes at a homeschool academy and participating in sports teams two or three days a week.
However, when our youngest was in the eighth grade, my husband finally had enough seniority to be able to work the day shift. So we enrolled that son in the local public school while the child just above him in age finished up his high school career homeschooling and taking a few classes from the local community college.
Being on both sides of the pencil-lined fence at one time for a few years taught me so much about managing the tension that often occurs when friends choose different paths for their kids’ education.
Here are some tips for building bridges rather than erecting fences in the schooling choice arena.
Offer verbal support.
Just saying, “I hear you are…
homeschooling this year…OR
sending your child to traditional school…OR
online schooling at home due to COVID concerns…
I’ll be praying your kids have a great year!“
That can be a powerful message of love and support.
Don’t let awkward silence cause awkwardness when the topic of school is bought up. Ask your friends about their kids’ teachers. Inquire about their homeschool activities. Be interested in their children’s educational lives and love them regardless of where their kids are sitting while learning their times tables or writing a paper.
Seek out any prayer requests they have and then…actually pray for them! Knowing my public-school friends were praying for my homeschooled children was so uplifting. And having the support of homeschool friends whose families would come to my son’s public-school football games meant so much to our whole family!
Praise them for making the decision in tandem with their husband.
Some moms who want to homeschool have husbands who do not. Or some who desire that their kids attend public school have a spouse who thinks they should only go to a private one. If you have a friend such a situation, let them know you admire their desire to work through the decision with their husband to discover what is best for their unique situation.
Do your friend’s youngsters have a public-school science fair? Does their teen have a homeschool basketball game? Does their daughter have a private-school fund-raising craft show? Show up. Take your kids. Cheer. Applaud. Support. Your presence will be a display of support and love. Obviously in our COVID times, these activities may not be happening, or your physical presence may not be possible. Be creative in showing up in virtual ways.
Raising kids is a decades-long journey full of more options than a multiple-choice math test. Prayerfully supporting a friend’s decision is a way to show unconditional love. While support from other moms in your exact schooling situation is crucial for idea-gathering, perspective, and empathy, don’t narrow your choice of friends down to only those who do school just like your family does.
Build loving bridges, not prickly fences.