"If this is going to be yet another call telling me I'm not obeying God, then I'm just going to politely hang up now."
The voice on the other end of the line was a new friend from church. Her family had always homeschooled but with the addition of two foster kids-turned-adopted offspring, this year she and her husband prayerfully opted to put their two elementary kids in the small neighborhood public school.
That morning, the first day of school, she had already fielded two calls from homeschool moms questioning her family's decision.
I assured her that the reason I was calling on this September day was because I'd heard she'd put the kids in school. However, since my home was across the street 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 can see both of your kids out playing at recess right now. They look like they are having a ball and I thought hearing that might set your mind at ease."
She apologized. And then she cried.
Schooling choices can divide. They can force one-time friends to the opposite sides of the awful "mommy wars" that sometimes brew over schooling choices.
Now, being a mom entering our 17th year of homeschooling finishing up with our senior son, we also have our youngest child entering his second year of public school. Being on both sides of the pencil-lined fence at one time has taught me much. Here are some tips for building bridges rather than walls in the schooling choice arena.
- Offer verbal support. Just saying, "I hear you are homeschooling" (or sending a child to traditional school). "I'll be praying your kids have a great year." can be powerful.
- Be interested. Don't let awkward silence cause tension when the topic of school is bought up. Ask them about their kids' teachers. Inquire about their homeschool activities. Be interested in their children's educational lives and love them regardless of their choice.
- Pray. Find out any prayer requests they have and then pray. Knowing my public school friends were praying for my homeschooled children was powerful. They felt the same about the reverse.
- Praise them for following their husband. Some moms who want to homeschool have husbands who do not. If you have a friend in that situation, tell them you admire their desire to honor their husband's wishes. The same goes for the opposite situation.
- Show up. Your friend's kids have a public school science fair? Or a homeschool basketball game? Show up. Take your kids. Cheer. Applaud. Support. Your presence will be a powerful encouragement.
Raising kids is a journey full of choices. Prayerfully supporting a friend's choice 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 school just like your family does.
Build loving bridges, not prickly fences.
Today's post is the last post in our Back to School series! We really hope you've gained some insight and encouragement from it!