Day 28: THREE Simple Ways We Can Build Community Across Educational Lines

31 days final big button

I got a text from a dear friend recently. Here’s what she said:

I cannot tell you the shame I feel when people tell me in front of my kids, ‘I could never stay home and homeschool. I need a chance to miss them by sending them away for a little while.’ Shot through the heart. It’s fine if they say it to me but my daughter was very confused and it left me no room to respond. It just felt hurtful. I have had a rough of at it lately and it just seemed to be hard to hear more than usual. 

I told her I was so sorry, that some moms feel the need to affirm their own decisions with total disregard for the other person’s feelings when they encounter a family who is doing school differently.

I could tell you my own stories and I bet you could tell yours too. We all encounter insensitivity. And we’ve all been insensitive. I write to remind myself just as I write to remind you.

Some of us are more self-aware than others. Too much self-awareness has its own pitfalls. {Ask me how I know.} But not enough can do all sorts of damage. While much of this has to do with basic personality and the way we’re wired, there’s a mindfulness we can all procure as we talk with others — whether it’s small-talk with the homeschool mom who has all of her children in the pediatrician’s office {good times} or the friend at church who just switched to public school.

Here are three simple ways to link arms across educational lines and foster richer community.
mi and breezy
1. Ask a question for the sole purpose of listening, not as an inroad to share what you have to say.

If you ask a mom what made her decide to homeschool, take yourself out of the equation. This is a question about her, not you. This is a question that helps you get to know her and her family. Listen as you would want to be listened to. And if she asks you a similar question, by all means respond, but not with reactionary language, competition, or soapbox-speak. Conversation is so much more freeing when you leave behind personal agenda.

2. Purposely make conversation about school with those who do it differently than you do.

My church has a mix of families who homeschool, public school, and private school. I personally think this diversity is awesome and holds the potential to make us better together. We tend to think that community-building is so much harder than it really is, like there’s a formula we need to create or a reconciliation conference to host.

I think it begins with the simplest of questions: How’s your school year going? 

Again, we ask this with sincerity and a mindfulness of community. Back when I homeschooled, I often had other homeschool moms ask me this question but I rarely had a public school mom ask me the same question. Don’t be too hard on them. I rarely asked a public or private-school mom how her year was going either. We tend to feel easy and affirmed around those who are like us but awkward and defensive around those who aren’t. Now that seems silly but at the time, homeschooling was so much more of my identity than I realized.

You guys, every mom out there has stuff to share about school — good, bad, and ugly. You don’t know how loved she feels when you simply ask. Let her share and as she does, listen with the compassion and interest you’d want extended.

3. Learn from your differences. 

There is so much I learned when we homeschooled that overlaps with public school. From study skills to learning styles, much is transferrable. And there are essentials I’ve learned through public schooling that would have helped me when I homeschooled. From the importance of natural consequences to personal ownership of one’s work, holding my kids more accountable could have helped some of our everyday struggles. When we homeschooled, I so appreciated the web-sites and tips from my aunt who is a veteran public-school teacher, especially as I worked with my struggling reader.

We are so much better together. I believe this with all my heart.

We are rich with our uniqueness, our fields of knowledge, our myriad life hacks, and the creative ways we approach parenting. When we leave insecurity and competition at the door, we realize how life-giving it is to learn from one another. Parenting is hard. Educating our children can get complicated. We need each other on this journey. Let’s see our diversity as treasure to bask in, not tribes to belong to.

Friends, this isn’t competition. It’s community.

Shift the way you think about others. Leave your agenda behind. Communicate in a way that’s compassionate. Be open to learning from those you’d least expect.

And try out a simple question that can turn the tide altogether: So how’s your school year going?


What’s your favorite community-building question?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here.

For other posts I’ve written on this topic, go here.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

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  1. Anita says

    You know I love you and really love reading how you share your heart and deep thoughts. While I am no longer in the midst of this, it does make me reflect and even think more deeply how I can put your wisdom in to practice. Just this hour, I was speaking with a man who is digging in my yard. As we were discussing work (and some previously poor work that he is having to repair), HE brought up the fact that he takes pride in his work. Then he told me that he doesn’t tell many folks about this, but he only finished 8th grade. He said all his brothers at least got GED’s and have good jobs, but he is the only one doing manual labor. Somewhere in the conversation, I told him of a teacher I had (in nursing school) She would not pass us with anything less than a B. Yes, we had to repeat her class if we made a C. She always said, “Would YOU want a nurse who was just AVERAGE taking care of you?” This translates in to so much of life. I was able to tell that man that he has a great attitude and he should sign up for evening classes right away and get his GED. It was also a rare opportunity for me to be brave and mention the gospel…as we do ALL our work as “unto our Lord”. Reading your post after this encounter really made me smile. I am not sure of the connection….other than community. So much to share with you…and so little time.

    • Marian says

      Anita, your story really moved me. Thank you so very much for sharing this vignette about the dignity of all work and for your encouragement to this man. You never know what sort of seed you may have planted. I ALWAYS appreciate having you here in this space. Thank you for taking the time to comment, friend.

  2. says

    I am having trouble melding into my new community after being involved in the homeschool community for 19 years. I don’t feel like I belong in either right now. Obviously, I don’t fit in the homeschool one because I am not homeschooling. And I don’t feel like I fit in our school community yet because a lot of these children have gone to school together for a long time and know each other well, even the parents. They all make me feel welcome, but I feel in limbo between the two still. I know with time that will change.


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