It has been a really long time since I posted anything, and for that, I truly apologize. I’ve been so busy that the blog ended up getting shoved aside, but I intend to change that now.
I want to talk to you today about something that happened this week. As homeschoolers, we joined a group in our area to meet other homeschoolers. This group is a rather diverse group. There’s a wide variety of beliefs, opinions, religions, and even ideas on homeschooling itself. We’ve been a member for two or three years now, and in that time, have always found the members to be able to respectfully disagree with each other, and to maintain friendships despite these differences.
But this week, something shifted somehow. Maybe it’s the way the planets are aligned right now, or the miserable heat, or something else; I don’t know. But this week there were several friendships ended over differences of opinion.
Now, my point is not to judge these individual situations and determine whether I think the reasons were valid or not. But the reasons behind the situations were all basically the same: a difference of opinion. Whether that opinion was religion, politics, or something more personal, it was all about one person thinking one thing, and the other thinking the opposite.
For me, one of the best things about homeschooling is our chance to meet and befriend (or at least, acquaint ourselves with) people who think differently than we do. If I wanted my kids to be taught that one thing, and only that one thing, is true, I’d have left them in public school. I may not agree with everything I hear from our fellow homeschoolers in our group, and I may explain to my children later why I disagree with that person so that my children hear both sides. But I think it’s important for my children to know, and for me to remember, that there are other opinions besides our own. I also think it’s important for my children to see that we can be friends with people who think differently than we do, and also for them to see that it’s possible to discuss the things we disagree on, and express our disagreement, without degrading each other, insulting each other, or ending a friendship.
However, I also notice that we tend to fall into the closest, most comfortable friendships with those who share the same beliefs and opinions that we do. This can make it easy to forget sometimes that there are other beliefs and opinions, and it can also make it a little more uncomfortable when we are confronted by those thoughts that are different. It can also make it easier for us to ignore those different thoughts.
As homeschoolers, we do have to work a little harder at maintaining friendships sometimes. We aren’t forced out of the house 180 days out of the year to take our children to and from school, or to attend parent-teacher conferences, open house and curriculum nights, or bake sales and field days at school. We aren’t forced to interact with people who have different opinions and beliefs simply because our children are in the same class or ride the same bus. And since we tend to be most comfortable with the people who think the same way we do, it can be easy to unintentionally close yourself into a bubble in your little part of the world, where you’re surrounded by people who share the same beliefs, opinions, and thoughts, and to cut out those who think differently – sometimes without even thinking about what you’re doing until it’s too late.
Of course, you shouldn’t be friends with someone just because you both homeschool. Of course, you shouldn’t be friends with someone that you obviously don’t click with or don’t like. But it’s important that you don’t throw away a perfectly good friendship just because of one difference of opinion. It’s important that you don’t let the fact that you don’t have to interact with these people end a friendship that is otherwise solid.
There’s a reason that the phrase “agree to disagree” exists. And people do it all the time. A perfect example? My grandparents. Married for nearly 70 years, my grandmother is a democrat, my grandfather a republican (or maybe that’s the other way around, I don’t know, and that’s kind of the point). They each vote their own political party at election time, effectively canceling each other out. But they never discuss politics, and they’ve been happily married for 66 years. They’ve raised 5 children, who’ve raised 7 of their own, who are now raising the next generation, 17 great-grandchildren. If an entire family can be created between two people who belong to different political parties, then surely two people can manage a friendship with different opinions, right?
It’s up to you why you homeschool. It’s up to you who you are friends with, and to a degree, who your kids are friends with. It’s up to you (within the confines of your state’s laws, of course) what you teach your children, and what you don’t. But I want to implore you to make sure you don’t narrow the world in which your children live down to only those things that you agree with. You don’t have to teach them that the opinions and beliefs you don’t agree with are right, but do teach them that they exist. Teach them that you can still be friends with someone even if they believe differently than you do. Teach them that it’s possible to disagree with respect, and how to do that.
The world is a big place. Like you, I brought my children home to school so I could protect them, guide them, teach them differently than the public school did. But we must remember that even though our intention right now is to protect them, we need to also make sure we are preparing them for that big, wide world beyond the confines of our home. Broaden their horizons with your own friendships.
Looking at your own homeschooling journey so far, do you think it has broadened or narrowed your world?