I sat on the couch opposite my friend as we caught up on the last few months. Each of us with a kid heading into second grade, our chatter revolved around the last semester—missed school plays, canceled field trips, and how we’ve succeeded and failed at helping our kids cope.

But one question loomed like a rain cloud. What will school look like?

If you have kids enrolled in traditional schooling, you’re likely having similar conversations. Should my kids attend in person? Will there be recess? Will my first grader have to wear a mask? What if they open classrooms just to close them all over again?

My niece recently told me her daughter’s school district asked parents to make a decision in the next two weeks: virtual learning or return to the school building. With virus cases in her area rising and a baby at home, she and her husband are leaning toward virtual. And my social media feed is filled with parents and teachers alike weighing in on the variables in their own decision-making process.

What will school look like? Praying through the uncertainty

Both my husband and I work full-time. And I’ll admit, working-mom guilt has been at an all-time high since school let out in March (less time to play with Zoom meetings stacked back-to-back).

Homeschooling was a challenge for me. And because of my job, some of the options friends are talking about aren’t on the table for my family. Yet I still hesitate to send my children back to school.

I worry their friends’ parents will keep them home and my kids will feel alone. I worry well-intended social restrictions will be too much on my kids’ emotional well-being. Then there’s still lingering fear for their health.

And what about the loss of so many experiences? I can’t help but grieve even the smallest things: my daughter’s loss of her first homecoming dance, my son missing his first flag football game.

Compounded by personal and world events, my normally controlled anxiety has been kicked up a notch.

But I’m not alone. Even my stay-at-home mom friends worry about their capacity to keep up with toddlers and a middle-schooler’s learning. A homeschooling friend confided she was concerned their regular homeschool groups would be canceled, a social release her kids look forward to weekly.

No matter your schooling venue, many of us are anxiously wondering, What will school look like? So as we all approach decisions we didn’t know we’d be making, here are four ways to pray through the process.

Pray your decisions won’t be driven by fear

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If I let myself, there’s a lot I could come up with to fear right now: loved ones’ health, how my job will look this fall if the kids need to stay home, whether school restrictions will be enough … or too much. It’s overwhelming.

But making fear-based decisions won’t help my kids. Fear tends to breed more fear. And it clouds better judgment. Like if I really let fear have free rein, I might keep my kids locked up indoors all day to protect them from everything from scraped knees to rabid squirrels. That’s not healthy. But my friend’s concern over her immune-compromised child missing out on school plays and field days? That’s legitimate.

I’m asking God to clear my mind from unhealthy fear as my husband and I seek what’s best for our family this school year. There are a lot of unknowns.

But isn’t that always true? My husband and I both need God’s strength to reel that in and think clearly. Then we can come together in agreement on what school option looks right for our family.

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Pray the right decisions will be made for each child

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

One of the hardest parts of parenting is accepting the fact that I don’t always know what’s best for my kids. (Despite frequently singing “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled to my teenaged daughter.) To tell you the truth, I’m feeling a bit out of my league here with the schooling decisions.

And I’m not the only one.

A friend recently asked her homeschooling and educator friends for help in determining what would be right for her two kids. Her oldest is in all honor classes and is self-motivated enough to likely thrive in a structured classroom environment or online. Her youngest, on the other hand, has different learning needs she isn’t sure will be met if he stays home. But she doesn’t know how he’ll handle the new social restrictions at school either.

I recently read an article on what epidemiologists are planning for their own kids, and found even the health experts don’t seem to agree on the right path. (Oddly, I found this comforting.) They’re struggling with the same questions you and I are. And there are no easy answers.

So I’m praying I don’t look at my kids—or our family’s situation and needs—from a one-size-fits-all approach. Like my friend, I’m seeking guidance from other parents, teachers, and health experts. And I’m asking God, who knows my kids better than I do, to make clear the right decisions for the upcoming year.

Pray for the ones educating our children

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

When my public-school kids were suddenly homeschooled last spring, their teachers and school staff lavished love on them. A parade of their favorite teachers and school leaders flooded our neighborhood, six feet apart. They called/emailed/texted to check on their students. They scheduled daily story times and offered one-on-one tutoring. And they claimed a permanent piece of this mama’s heart.

As we all wonder what school will look like for our kids, I don’t want to forget kids and parents won’t be the only ones adjusting to a new environment. My teacher friends are already racking their brains on ways to develop trusting relationships with their students who won’t be there in person. Or how to maximize safety and learning with minimum space. Can you imagine telling 20 kindergarteners to stay six feet from their neighbor?

Pray for teachers in your kids’ schools. Pray for the administrators, counselors, support staff from janitors to food service, and everyone else involved in your children’s lives at school. I pray we remember to have patience with them. Because while we are determining the needs of our own kids, they are spending their summer determining the needs of many.

Like us, they might not always get it right. I pray we all remember to offer each other a lot of grace.

Once you’ve made your decision, pray for release from anxiety

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Maybe you already know the answer to What will school look like this fall? But maybe you’re still wrestling with the decision you made.

We can’t see what’s just down the road. Many schools are locking in whatever choice parents do make for their kids. (Virtual learning not working out? Can’t choose in-person until the spring semester). This school year likely won’t look like any of us expect. It’s likely to morph and flow differently once we’re all in the thick of it, and that alone can create angst.

So once you’ve made a decision you are confident works best for your family, pray for God to release the anxiety of that decision from your shoulders. Ask Him to help you trust your children’s learning, health, and safety to Him whether you plan to hug them at drop-off in the mornings or prepare a spot for home-learning.

What will school look like this year? We just don’t know. But I’m praying for you as you seek the best school options for your family.

Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Lisa Lakey is a writer and editor for FamilyLife. Before joining the ministry in 2017, she was a freelance writer covering parenting and Southern culture. She and her husband, Josh, have been married since 2004. Lisa and Josh live in Benton, Arkansas, with their two children, Ella and Max.