Friday, December 6, 2013

Pardon Me, Your Opinion is Showing

This past week, Ben and I made a decision. I'd like to say it was a difficult decision to make. The reality is that it was a careful decision more than a challenging one. In other words, it was clear what we needed to do, but we didn't make it on a whim, and prayed about it for several days after we had decided to make sure it was right.

What was this decision we made? We decided to enroll Connor in public school. 

For those who may not realize, I have been teaching Kelsey (4th grade) and Connor (Kindergarten) at home this year, in addition to caring for Maddox (age 3) and keeping 2 kids for a friend (ages 1 and 3). I know some of you already think I'm crazy for even attempting to babysit in addition to my already full plate. Without going into a lot of details, I can honestly say that having these 2 "bonus" kids in my home every day usually does not add significantly to my stress. In fact, in many ways it has helped alleviate it. It is one of those rare, wonderful situations where they fit almost seamlessly into our home because of their ages and temperament.

But I digress. Over the past few days as I have been sharing this decision with loved ones, about half have responded with friendly support and acceptance. This "acceptance" includes an unspoken trust that Ben and I have consistently made good decisions regarding our children's education choices, whether they be to educate in our home or at public school. However, the remaining half of responses have fallen into one of two categories:

1. Some of my friends that are also homeschooling parents have responded with few words and unspoken reservations written plainly all over their face. Although they are too considerate and respectful to tell me so, they obviously feel like we are making a big mistake.

2. Others have responded with what can only be describes as mild enthusiasm. This sentiment is often accompanied by a comment that generally includes the phrase "you finally realized..." Thus, the implication comes that the original decision we made to homeschool was flawed.

These responses have led me to reflect on the judgments we make about others. While I am a firm believer in Christlike morals, right and wrong, and God's truth, I'm beginning to realize that most of the big decisions we make about our families don't fall into one of these categories. It's the little decisions that we make every day that have the greatest impact on our journey toward salvation. These include things like treating others with kindness, forgiving offenses, attending church, saying our prayers, and so forth. If we are doing these little things, than the "big" steps on our journey to salvation (such choosing to be baptized), aren't really a big question, are they? They are a natural and appropriate step along our spiritual path. 

But this isn't a blog post about morals and salvation. The point here is that big decisions that Ben and I have wrestled with over the years (along with many, many other parents) cannot be made by simply determining what is morally right and morally wrong. That's why they are hard to make. A few examples of these are:
  • Whether or not to homeschool
  • Whether or not to have more children
  • Whether or not I should be a stay-at-home mom
In each of these examples, our loved ones have had varying opinions. Some were positive and some were negative, but the ones we appreciated the most were those that were neither but simply an expression of trust that we would make the right decision.

I know there are a lot of people with very strong opinions about the benefits of homeschooling. In fact, I am one of them! I firmly believe that homeschooling is superior to an institutionalized, impersonal, public education. There is no possible way that even a committed, kind, hardworking school teacher with a class of 15-30 kids can compete with the type of personalized, loving, and creative environment that a homeschooling parent can provide at home in a family setting. Research shows this to be the case academically as well as emotionally when looking at homeschooling vs. public schooling as a whole.

One might ask why we decided to enroll Connor (and even Olivia) in public school if we believe so strongly about the benefits of homeschool. It's simple. I don't want what's best for my kid. I want what's best for my family. My family consists of me, Ben, and our 4 children. Every decision we make takes into consideration the needs of each person, and then we seek the will of God because He can see what we can't. It's as simple as that. 

I'm going to resist my very extrovert-ish inclination to tell you why we think allowing Connor to attend public school will be best for our family right now. I'm even going to tell you it's very possible that Kelsey will be returning to school again this fall. Our reasons are our own, and it is our conclusion that this is the best thing for our family at this time. It may not always be, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. 

If you are a close friend or family member of ours, and you recognize yourself as #1 or #2, I really hope that you will come to trust our judgment as we trust yours. I understand that it's not that easy - I've been judgmental myself from time to time. When I am on the receiving end I try not to take it personally, but I am rather tender-hearted and it does hurt a little when it comes from a loved one. If you recognize yourself as someone who has been supportive without reservation, I thank you with all my heart. I strive to be like you when it's my turn to be the unbiased listener and supportive friend. But mostly, I hope that we will all take a moment to stop and think a little about what our unspoken thoughts are conveying to others.


Amy said...

Nice post, Anita. I would like to point out one thing. You say that "I don't want what's best for my kid" and I know that is not true about you. By taking this decision to the Lord and trusting His promptings, you very much want what's best for your kids (individually and as a family group). You are a wonderful and faith-filled mother who will do what is right, even if it's met with opposition. You go girl!!!

Becky said...

I LOVE this post!! I will be the first to admit that I have certainly been one of the opinionated ones, but I like to think that as I have gotten older and experienced more of life and people, that I have come to realize that there is no one right answer, and that we're all doing what we feel is best for ourselves and our families. I applaud you for being open-minded and open-hearted to even consider such a change in "tactics", to recognize when there is a change needed and to be willing to do what you feel is best, even at times when it doesn't make sense. As quoting Amy, "You go girl!!"