I don’t like putting moms in categories. Of course it’s an easy enough thing to do and has some value. There are moms who breastfeed and those that bottlefeed. There are moms that vaccinate and those who don’t. There are moms who co-sleep and those that have their children cry it out. There are homeschooling moms and those who choose public or private school options. But before we are any of those categories, we are MOMS. We may be different from each other because we have chosen different schooling options, but we are all trying to do best by our kids. I don’t want you to think you can’t identify with me because my child is in public school. I don’t want to stop trying to relate to you because I think you’re a different kind of mom because you chose to homeschool. We are all just moms.
The Bible doesn’t give us a commandment about school choice. We are called to love our children, which can look like different kinds of schooling choices in different families. Not all children have the same needs and not all school systems have the same strengths or weaknesses. So while we aren’t called to the same school choices, we are called to love each other.
I was sad to see after the deaths of little children inside their public school classrooms in Newtown, Connecticut that people were using that as support for why they were right to homeschool. As though tragedies can’t happen in homes or libraries or groceries stores. As if God isn’t sovereign inside our local public schools. I have heard mothers put each other down for choosing to shelter their children from reality by homeschooling. I’ve heard a homeschooling father make a careless math mistake and say, “Well, you can’t blame me. I’m a product of the public schools” in a gathering of families who have made a public school choice for their children (I get that it’s a joke, but a joke about the terrible public schools made by a homeschooling parent in a room full of publicly schooling families? Maybe not a great choice for unity’s sake.). In short- I have seen families create a dividing line between sisters and brothers who agree on many other topics because they disagree on this issue. And it frustrates me.
I think we forget that our children are watching. When we talk about parents being afraid of the world so they hide their kids away, our children are hearing that. They take that little piece of information with them on playdates and into their Sunday School classrooms. When we talk about how those public school kids are getting a second-rate education dumbed down with a constant barrage of propaganda, our children are hearing that and bringing that with them into their YMCA soccer leagues and dance recitals. If we actually tell our children that we have made this schooling choice for them because WE value their education, WE truly love our children, WE don’t want to see them waste their lives, are we not implying that those adults who have made a different choice don’t have those same desires for their children? And then is it reasonable to expect our kids to treat those adults with respect or see them as role-models?
While there wasn’t the same pressure towards homeschooling when I was growing up, there was much more of a divide between public school and private school kids. As a child who was in public school all my life, I always felt a little bit of judgement coming my way from the kids who were in private school. What kind of hoodlum was I to be thriving in that environment? What kind of uninvolved parents did I have to not get me into a Christian school? In high school I was in a youth group meeting where I was the only public school kid in the room. We bowed our heads for group prayer and another student literally prayed, “God, I thank you that my parents love me enough to send me to Christian school.” It was kind of hard for me to know how to pray after hearing that. Did my parents love me less than the Christian school kids’ parents? Absolutely not. But now I knew that they thought my parents didn’t care enough. And I’m pretty sure that attitude came from their parents.
I can imagine the sweet conversation that would have lead up to that thought. I know there were sacrifices involved in paying the tuition needs associated with private school. I’m sure parents thought they were doing the right thing to explain to their children that they made those sacrifices out of love, but did they consider how that impacted their children’s ability to connect to those who made different choices? That has made me very careful about the way I talk to my kids about our school choices, often including the fact that if they need to be homeschooled at a future point, that’s what we’ll do so of course we support our friends who are doing it now.
As I said about vaccinations– I can respect the different choices parents are lead to, but I don’t believe we can all be right. The difference is, in this situation the only “right” is that we are looking at the unique needs of our children and the strengths and weaknesses of our abilities as a family and the abilities of our local schools. I have NO desire to convince anybody to make the same choice I’ve made. What is “right” for each family is going to be different. My desire to support you in your choices means I want to believe you are listening to God’s call in your home and if he should change that call, I won’t have alienated myself from you by the things I’ve said in the past. I hope you’re offering me and my family that same kind of support. Because our kids are listening.