Finale Post :: Being Cool About School: How Can We Come Together?



This last installment of the series poses the greatest challenge of all because it gets at the heart of…well, our hearts. I’m not writing about the pros and cons of one way or another, nor am I recounting the lessons I’ve personally learned. This is the “olive branch post,” the post in which I remind each and every one of us that there is only one way we can approach others who have chosen to do school differently than we’ve chosen to do it. 

With love. 


But before I break that down, let’s ponder two things: 

1. Do you need to hand over the gavel?

If you’re educating your children in a way that reflects significant thought, research, and conviction, you’re probably pretty attached to this way. That doesn’t mean you love it every day or that you think it’s perfect. But it does mean that right now it’s difficult to imagine choosing a different path. 

Someone who has chosen that different path may very well reflect the same amount of thought, research, and conviction that you do. 

So if you harbor some less than loving opinions of that person and / or their schooling choice, you’re…um, how can I put this? You’re being judge-y. 

For those who are Christians, we’ve been given some instruction on this. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite admonition, because I’m prone to being a bit judge-y too. We all are. And that’s why we need the reminder:


Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Sometimes we toss this verse around in an effort to deflect rightly-earned rebuke. This isn’t a verse that says, Anything goes. Live and let live. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

My ESV commentary explains that Judge not forbids pronouncing another person guilty before God. It’s interesting that in verse five, the one doing the judging {referred to as a “hypocrite”} is told to first take the speck out of his own eye.

Why? Because a posture of humility is the only true and good posture we can assume. When we judge, when we’re doing a little bit {or a lot} of condemning in our thoughts or even in our talk, we might as well just hand Pride the microphone. 

And though the Pride may receive a lot of attention and make a lot of noise and even garner the respect of likeminded followers, Pride will not receive the favor of God. 

You see, God actually opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

Sometimes I feel as though we’re all walking around calling out splinters and failing to notice that we’ve got actual oaks  rooted in our own eyeballs {weird and creepy as that metaphor is.} Pride and judgement have a way of blinding us like that. 

And though we judge other people and other groups every day on a thousand different issues, school just happens to be the one I’m talking about right now. 




To know if you’re walking around with a log in your eye on this issue, ask yourself these questions:

  • How would I feel if someone judged me, my family, or my decisions / convictions with the same attitude with which I’m judging them?


  • When I think of those who are doing this school thing way differently than we are, do I feel grace, love, and respect for them or do I become a little judge-y?


  • If, for any reason, I had to give up the way we currently do education and resort to the path I am most likely to judge or balk at, how would I feel? Like a failure? Less godly? Like I had to hang out with people who I think are weird or misguided or both?


I’m not going to interpret your answers. That’s for you to sort out. But your answers to those questions may reveal some attitudes that you need to confront. I don’t say this to make you feel guilty. I say this because I’d love to see all of us set free. Only freedom can allow us to come together in love and unity.

Which brings me to my next point…


2. Are you promoting a spirit of unity with your thoughts, conversations, and fellowship?

{What? You’re still reading this after all of that toe-stepping and weird talk about trees in our eyes?}

Though many different sorts of people read this blog, I think that most of my readers are at least sympathetic to the Christian faith and have probably observed or experienced {or run from} some of the disunity within the church over this issue of school. 

In a very timely message on “Authentic Christian Unity” last Sunday, my pastor shared this quote:


In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

                                                                      ~ Rupertus Meldenius, circa 1627


Meldenius was a German theologian during the Thirty Years War, a time rife with violence and religious factions in Europe. It’s a great quote, isn’t it? But you’re probably thinking the same thing I am. What happens when we can’t agree on what’s “essential” and what’s “non-essential?”

Disunity arises when we confuse the two, when we interpret something Scripture says differently than another person. 

Our own church is an interesting mix of public school and homeschool families. We don’t have many private school folks because there are so few private schools in our area. I think ours is an “interesting” mix because churches have a way of fostering homogeneity among its congregants. It’s common to find a church in which most of its families homeschool or most of its families support and attend the church-chartered private school or most of its families attend the local public schools. 

But our rather large church reflects an array of choices. And I love that. Why? Because I think it can allow us to practice real Christian unity and charity. We’re not bound together because we’re likeminded about all things, even important things like education. And because we don’t all do things the same way, we have even greater opportunity to practice unity; we’re bound together by the love and spirit of Christ himself and not by our identical decisions.

Jesus {who is our model, our motivation, and our means} befriended every segment of society: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, prostitute and patrician. For so many of these people, Christ was the only common ground. 

How much more can He unite us?

Our Youth & Family Ministries at church actually wrote a statement on formal education, acknowledging that “the Scriptures do not explicitly tell us how to teach our children regarding formal education.” I’d like to share an excerpt because it gets at the core of Christian unity on the issue of school:


Therefore, we encourage families to act on their own convictions and show grace to those who choose to apply Scripture differently… 

Our calling is to go as far as the Scriptures go and no farther. Therefore, our calling is to help youth & families know Christ and His Word in such a way that biblical wisdom will govern each family’s application of scripture regarding formal education.  

We acknowledge that the differences that exist regarding formal schooling options can often provide opportunities for sinful hearts to overflow into gossip, judgmental attitudes, and condescending thoughts and words. In acknowledgment of the damage that such sinful attitudes and actions can do to Christ’s body, we call all families to dialogue about issues such as school choice with humility, grace, and gentleness {Prov. 15:1}, reflecting the grace we have received from Christ, our merciful Savior. 


Humility, grace, and gentleness. Those virtues are at the heart of unity on any issue that threatens to divide us. 

But there is a virtue that binds all of these others together, a virtue that is the “greatest,” a virtue that Colossians 3:12-15 invites us to literally “put on.”


Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love*, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

*emphasis mine 

Can you see it? The key to coming together on this issue is love. And quite honestly, you don’t have to believe in the Bible or any of this Christian charity stuff to recognize that humility, gentleness, and kindness–bound together by love–is truly the answer to living in a community that is full of grace for those who do the “non-essentials” differently.




Sister-in-law
: Classical-ish homeschool mom. Sister-in-law: Public school mom and now K12 on-line school mom. My mom: Combination of public school and private school among her own 4 kiddos. Sister: Homeschooled 2 years. Now is a public school mom at their inner-city Title 1 school. Me: Homeschool-turned-public-school-mom.
Different personalities, different kids, different family dynamics, different communities, different needs, and different ways of schooling.
Common denominator? A whole lot of love. 



So in light of love and charity, what practical and tangible action steps can we take? You can probably come up with some of your own but here are a few to get us started:

  • If your kids don’t attend public school, acknowledge and appreciate those who, day in and day out, teach over 90% of the children in your community. I talked a little about that in this post {and confessed that I haven’t been good at this.} Virtually all of us have friends, family members, or acquaintances who work in the public schools. How often do we thank them, pray for them, or enter into conversations with them in the bleachers or on the sidelines about how their year is going? 


  • If you’ve chosen public school or private school but you know homeschooling mamas, ask them how their year is going? Show interest in what they’re doing and the unique ways they’re learning. You may even learn something from one another about creative ways to study, or books your children have enjoyed, or fun field trip ideas. So many of our learning opportunities and methods can overlap; see one another as a friend and also as a resource.

  • Know the issues and vote for the good of the children being educated in your community. I know, this sounds obvious and like I’m just grasping at straws here but seriously, it’s important. {I also know that personal politics may determine how we define “good.”} If your kids are homeschooled or in private school, it’s tempting to live unaware of the legislation that affects public schools. But please, don’t live unaware and don’t become apathetic. Imagine those public school kids as your own kids. Because they are, in a way, all of our own kids. Vote with conviction and compassion. {And that’s as political as I’m ever going to get on this blog.} 




    • Understand that sometimes “self-awareness” decreases as personal conviction and excitement about an issue increases. Don’t assume the worst. We see it and hear it everywhere: social media, in the parking lot, at various conferences or practicums, in conversations with friends, on the news. Someone is really pumped about an issue or an opportunity or, in this case, a way of learning, and they get a little evangelistic about it. Such conviction and enthusiasm can lead to alienating others. Sometimes people don’t care if they alienate those who are already “on the other side.” But sometimes they are simply unaware. 


      • Your neighbor who homeschools may not intend to make you feel less-than about public schooling when she goes on and on about the awesome field trip they took to the planetarium. 
      • Your cousin on Facebook may have no idea that she makes you feel less-than about homeschooling when she posts a picture of the back-to-school teacher breakfast she organized with a caption that reads: I just love being involved in my kids public schools!
      • Those homeschool moms who are always visiting together at church probably {hopefully!} aren’t trying to exclude you because you’re a public school mom. And those public moms probably {hopefully!} aren’t trying to exclude you because you’re a homeschool mom. As I’ve said before, you need “your people” because you need a specific kind of encouragement and that’s okay. But know that we also need one another. Maybe you can be the one who chooses to be brave and initiates some conversation that’s a bit more inclusive?


    Don’t assume the worst. Don’t take counsel from your own insecurities and sensitivities. And if someone “on the other side” is actually trying to elevate their way over your way, know that you’re not responsible for their attitude; you’re simply responsible for yours.


    Run hard after love, my friend. Recognize your own need for grace and receive it so that you can more generously lavish it on others. Pray that unity and community can become more important than being right or being understood or being approved.

    Put on love. 


    ::::::


    As I sat down to write this final post in a series, I felt two distinct emotions: Relief. That I was actually about to finish this thing. And sadness. That I was actually about to finish this thing. 

    I thought I’d write five or six posts and I ended up with ten. I thought the introductory, story-telling posts would be the longest ones and that the other posts would be succinct and easy to write. Instead, some of my later posts felt like books in and of themselves. My husband would come home and ask how the day went and I would respond, lethargic and glassy-eyed, I wrote a post that felt like I wrote a book about rejecting fear-based motivation. I’m sorry the laundry is still not folded. And yes, we are having leftovers

    I went deep over these last few weeks. Much deeper than I’d planned. And in mining the depths of this complex, confusing, and often controversial subject of school, I’ve realized that there’s still so much more to say. 

    But that’s where you pick up with the rest of the story. Yes. You.

    Here’s the thing. I could write a book about the topic of “finding grace and freedom for ourselves and for others in our educational choices,” and in some ways, I feel like I have. But a thousand great and inspiring books on the subject won’t do a bit of good if we aren’t able to live the freedom and grace about which I’ve written these last few weeks. 

    This freedom and grace in how you educate your own kids? It’s for real. There isn’t a formula. There isn’t a perfect way. 

    It’s all grace. I believe this with all my heart. God has written this message on my own life in a thousand ways. School just happens to be one of them.

    And because it’s all grace, we can live freedom and grace and generosity in our communities. 

    We can experience trial and error.

    We can embrace paths and ways we never planned to travel and we can embrace paths and ways others choose to travel.

    We can listen to one another. 

    We can learn from one another. 

    We can lean on one another. 

    And we can love one another. 

    The end. 

    …………………….


    Friends, thank you for reading. Thank you for your comments, e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages. Thank you for encouraging me as I write to encourage others. The community that gathers around here is a sweet gift. There are countless places and spaces where you can spend your time; I’m honored that you choose to spend some of it here.

    Grace and peace to each one of you.


    ……………………..


    This is the tenth and final post in a series: 



    Being Cool About School: 
    Finding Grace & Freedom for Ourselves & Others in Our Educational Choices

    {Whether We Teach Our Kids at Home, 
    in School, or on the Moon}


    You can read the earlier posts in the series here
      
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