FamilyLife This Week®

Children, Parents, and School During a Pandemic

with Shannon Simmons, Tracy Lane | October 24, 2020
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How do you make decisions for educating your children in the midst of a Pandemic? It depends on so many factors, there is no one-size-fits all answer. Hear how three moms, Tracy Lane, Gina Flood, and Shannon Simmons, who come from different backgrounds, and live in different parts of the country, came to different decisions for educating each of their children.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Michelle Hill

    Radio has been ingrained in Michelle for most of her life. This love for radio has taken her to various radio stations and ministries in places like Chicago, Alaska and other snow covered terrains like her hometown in north central Iowa. In 2005 she landed on staff with Cru/FamilyLife®. While at FamilyLife she has overseen the expansion of FamilyLife Today® internationally, assisted with the creation of Passport2Identity™-Womanhood and is now the host of FamilyLife This Week®. For the last 15+ years Michelle has been mentoring young women and is passionate about helping them find their identity in God. She also has a fascination for snowflakes and the color yellow. Michelle makes her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Hear how three moms, Tracy Lane, Gina Flood, and Shannon Simmons, who come from different backgrounds came to different decisions for educating each of their children.

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Children, Parents, and School During a Pandemic

With Shannon Simmons, Tracy Lane
October 24, 2020
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Michelle: Usually when September and the harvest season hits, kids automatically go back to school—and parents—well, they only have to make the decision to homeschool their kids. But this year, Tracy Lane and her husband Matt had a hard choice to make.

Tracy: All of the decisions about going to back school—pandemic, hybrid, in-person instruction, virtual learning—all of those things came into play. Again, we didn’t feel great about having them not go to the school that they had been at; but we didn’t see how our finances could work, so what are you going to do?

Michelle: School decisions during the pandemic with three moms, including Tracy Lane, today on FamilyLife This Week.

Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, a little while ago, I saw this meme on social media; it goes like this: “I will teach you in a room; I will teach you now on Zoom; I will teach you in your house; I will teach you with a mouse; I will teach you here and there; I will teach you, because I care.” Have you guys seen that? That came out probably the beginning of September as all the kids were going back to school. But wait! Not all the kids went back to school; did they?

You know, these last six months are nothing like we could have anticipated or, frankly, anything that we ever thought we would have to walk through. Yet, you’ve faced it—you’ve had to work from home for a bit and, maybe, you’re still there—but you’ve conquered it; right? I mean, you’re still there, which is a very good thing!

You know, I have a friend, who homeschools their children; it’s what works best for her and her kids. She was looking forward to putting all the kids back in school. She had homeschooled for a little while; and now, they were all going to school. But the threat of COVID means the littlest one is at home, while the other two are in a hybrid school; meaning, that they go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, not five days a week, which means that my friend is having to learn how to flex/flex a muscle that she didn’t want to strain.

Today, I want to talk about schooling. Are you discouraged?—you’re not alone. Today, I’m going to talk with three moms in different corners of the country. All three are facing different ways of looking at their children’s education this fall. The first one is Gina Flood. Some of you have met Gina before; she has been a guest on my show. Gina and Rob have six children: two serve in the military; one is in her senior year of school, doing a hybrid with college; she has two in middle school and high school, and they’re working from home—they decided to do the Zoom education this year. And that brings us to little Jenny. Jenny has some special health considerations; she has Downs syndrome. Gina and Rob had to take that into account as they made the decision whether or not to send Jenny to school.

Gina: It was a really hard decision. It was really a prayerful decision that was coupled with a lot of discussion between Rob, my husband, and myself, and many conversations with physicians.

A couple of years ago, I had three people in my house with pneumonia, and she was the only one on oxygen for three days in the hospital. I just thought, “Are we being responsible? Are we loving her by putting her in a building?” It was such a strange thing to work through; because educationally, it was a no-brainer.

Michelle: Yes.

Gina: We did Zoom special-ed preschool during the quarantine, and it wasn’t good for adults; it wasn’t good for students. [Laughter] It was so not good for Jenny!

It was really a prayerful, teary, make pros-and-cons lists, have lots of walks around the neighborhood with Rob, and getting as much information we could, and then making that decision. People all over the world are having to make those kinds of decisions. We’re all trying to figure out: “What do we do with our children?” and “How do we address the gap that could be created for what they might be losing?—and what they may not be gaining through this year?”

We have to go back to what we know about God. We have to go back to remembering Who He is, what He has done, and that He is trustworthy; and then, also, being prudent and being wise! “Are we being the most prudent/the most conservative?”—I have no idea! We’re doing the best that we can with the direction that God has given us to go in.

Right now, He’s told us that she needs to be in school; and we’re trusting Him with that, for whatever that means. Putting her in school does not guarantee her safety; it does not guarantee her life. Keeping her home doesn’t guarantee her safety; it doesn’t guarantee her life. If she is where God wants her to be, then she is in the safest place she can be.

Michelle: That’s Gina Flood. We know that, when we are in God’s perfect will/when we are where He wants us, that’s the safest place, not only for our children, but also for us. That is the best place to be.

You know, making this decision for school for fall 2020 is very difficult. It’s been difficult for all parents to have to work through this. You’re probably saying, “Uh, yes, Michelle! There were many discussions; many prayerful nights, and we still don’t know what we’re doing.” That’s a hard place to be; because right now, there are many options on the table. That’s exactly where my friend, Tracy Lane, and her husband Matt were, just a little over a month ago. Here’s Tracy.

Tracy: All of the decisions about going back to school—pandemic, hybrid, in-person instruction, virtual learning—all of those things came into play. We just really, really prayed together, as a couple, that we would make the right decision for our kids. We, again, didn’t feel great about having them not go to the school that they had been at; but we didn’t see how our finances could work, so what are you going to do?

Michelle: Yes.

Tracy: We kind of just moved forward with what we thought were the necessary steps—talked to our local free school; we talked with their current private school, where they had been, about what we were facing—and the decisions, and the finances—also, because we have a lot of medical bills this year that were not anticipated. The medical bills that we were getting every month were exactly their private school tuition that we had been paying last year.

When we took this information to their school—“We’re not going to be able to afford this year, because now we just have all of these different variables that we did not anticipate,”—and as we continued to pray about it, just through answered prayers and God’s specific financial provision—and with what the school was able to come back with us, based around some financial aid—we were able to keep them at their same school. That was just something that we needed in terms of them going back to school anyway. Having a new baby, who will need some special care when he’s born, having the kids be in a routine for them—for us, that was a non-negotiable—we didn’t see how we were going to make it if they weren’t back in school.

It’s not easy; it’s not the norm. Today, Audrey, in 3rd grade, had to wear her neck gator. The school gave them mascot neck gators for everyone to wear. [Laughter] Maybe that’s more fun?!—I don’t know. [Laughter] But she proudly wore it. Parents cannot go in; all drop-off at the door. The kids will eat lunch in their classroom; their classes are much smaller. The desks are very far apart—all kinds of safety protocols—but still, my girls were so excited to go today and be back in their normal rhythm. They got up at like 5:30! [Laughter] They don’t usually wake up at 5:30, but today they did!

Michelle: “We get to see our friends! We get to see our teachers! We get to do all of that!”

Tracy: Yes.

Michelle: Wow!

Tracy: They were so, so glad.

Michelle: This was not a popular decision among family and friends for you. Obviously, you know that this is what God has for you guys; but what are you facing, relationally, otherwise?

Tracy: Yes; well, there are a lot of differing perspectives on whether or not a school should open. All of the public schools around here chose not to open. Most of our friends’ kids go to public school. They’re all looking at, “How do we do this? How do we juggle this?” That was a question we were asking, too, when we didn’t know what it was going to be! They’re facing different challenges now when I got to drop my kids off at school today.

Michelle: Yes.

Tracy: I work remotely, with people in different states. Different states have very different ideas on what is or isn’t normal, based on whatever your governor might decide. And even across that, so many of us working in different states have different situations that we’re facing with our kids now. Again, I’m sitting in a quiet room talking to you, because my kids went back to school today. So many of my peers and co-workers don’t have what we would say is that luxury or even that option of health and well-being for their children to go into the routine that’s so good for them.

Our daughter is someone who would be considered high risk; she actually got a mask exemption because of her cardiac condition. Even though masks are required for the other 500 elementary students, here’s Annie, hopping out of the car without a mask. [Laughter] You know, that even made her feel a little different.

Michelle: Yes.

Tracy: It’s what she needs; it’s what her doctor says, and he’s not concerned about her exposure.

There are so many things that all of us can compare to each other on and judge each other for. You know, some people are quicker to do that; because that’s easier than putting your energy toward what’s going on at your own house. At the same time, I understand the inequity; the feeling of that is difficult. I’m thankful that I got to drop my kids off today. I have no idea if, in November, I still will; I don’t know what the fall will hold for school openings and closures.

Yes! People are very opinionated, as I’m sure we’ve all found, about these issues—and especially people, like for our family—very well-meaning for Annie: “Is it a wise decision to send her?” “Have you talked to her doctor?” “Are you sure?” “She’s not going to wear her mask? Isn’t she going to get sick?” All these questions—again, well-meaning—but questions that we had to answer, and we’re the only ones who can live with. It’s been a challenge—all the back-to-school conversations.

Michelle: That’s Tracy Lane, talking about the difficult decision that they made and their journey over the last couple of months of sending their two daughters to school. It is hard! There were people who did not agree with their decision. As Tracy said—and even, maybe, you’re sitting there right now—and someone judged you for the decision you made. That decision is between you and God; it’s a decision you are making for your child, so do it prayerfully.

Hey, we need to take a break; but when we come back, we’re going to continue talking about school and about our children. We’re going to hear from one mom, who has a very different take on all of this. Stay tuned; I’ll be back in two minutes.

[Radio Station Spot Break]

Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We’re talking today about the climate that we find ourselves in—that climate of discord that seems to have blanketed our entire nation. I’m talking specifically about the climate of how our children are being schooled. Many children are being schooled in a way that maybe you, as a parent, did not foresee coming.

I remember talking with my good friend, Shannon Simmons, last year. She works here at FamilyLife® on the FamilyLife Blended® team. She was happy! She thought things were perfect, because her middle school children were going to school right across the street. She could easily drop them off on her way to work, and she could easily pick them up. If she still had some work to do, they would come and sit at the office; if not, they would all go home. It was perfect as she said, “It was perfection.”

But this year, there was a move. Shannon and her husband Roosevelt made a cross-country move down to Florida, and the school options have totally changed. Here’s Shannon.

Shannon: Currently, my kids are upstairs. One is on one laptop; one is on the other laptop. They are doing virtual school. I have established myself as a homeschooling parent; meaning, I am responsible for their education with those laptops in that program that they’re on; so totally different! [Laughter]

Michelle: You’re a working mom;—

Shannon: I am.

Michelle: —you’re a homeschooling mom. [Laughter]

Shannon: I am! [Laughter] That doesn’t normally go together, but yes.

Michelle: And you’re working from home: you’re a working-from-home mom!

Shannon: Correct.

Michelle: What is it like in your household? Is it chaotic during the day, or is it peaceful during the day?

Shannon: It can go one or the other on any given day. It’s a roller coaster every day. Coming in, in the morning, it can be kind of quiet; first of all, because we haven’t established a rhythm yet. We’ve been in our townhome for a month. We’ve still got nooks and crannies with a couple of boxes—you know?—so we’re not even settled. It’s still a house; it’s not necessarily a home yet.

It can be quiet coming in as I go to log in. My husband is an early riser, so he’s already up. While he’s on his work calls, I can hear it. I go to my little desk area, which is in an open space—a little nook right between the living room and the kitchen—then I hear my kids doing what they’re doing. Then they come down and, usually if I’m on a call, they’re walking past. I don’t know why; but for some reason, they think if they kind of tiptoe, they won’t be seen [on the screen]. I don’t understand; because it’s like, “They can still see you! It’s okay; just walk normally.” [Laughter] Yes, sometimes one can be in the kitchen; sometimes one will be in their room; sometimes my daughter will go outside to the patio; so we’re all over the place.

Michelle: How are you trusting God with them in the midst of a pandemic/the culture’s in unrest—

Shannon: Yes.

Michelle: —every day we wake up, and there is something new;—

Shannon: Yes.

Michelle: —there is something that has gone wrong—how do you trust God with your children?

Shannon: That’s a hard question. I could give you a really good former pastor’s wife church answer; right?

Michelle: Yes.

Shannon: And in my past life, I would give you that right now; but if I were to be really honest and very transparent with you, which is what I normally am—

Michelle: Yes.

Shannon: —I would say, “I don’t, and that’s the struggle.”

I lived in, you know, Central Standard Time in Arkansas most of my life. Now I’m on Eastern Standard Time, here in Florida. My sleep cycle is awful; I haven’t been sleeping well. I was telling Roosevelt earlier yesterday, “I think I’m worrying myself to sleep.”

I’m worrying; so I go to God: “Father, these are my worries; these are my cares. I cast them on You, because You care for me.” I go down the list, and I keep going; I keep going: “I give that to You; in the name of Jesus I pray; amen.” And then there’s another worry—and I chase that worry—and I chase it. I am worrying and praying at the same time in the presence of God; that is what I’m doing. You could call that: “I’m wrestling”; you could call that “I’m surrendering and taking back,”—whatever it is—that’s where God has me right now.

Michelle: Yes.

Shannon: So the question, “How do you trust God?”—I do, and then I don’t; and then I do, and then I don’t. It is a daily for me.

Michelle: Oh, it’s a total daily, I think, for most of us right now. Every day, I say, “God, I trust You right now; help me to trust You tomorrow.” I think everything in the Christian life is a daily thing.

Shannon: Yes.

Michelle: Thank you for being so open and transparent about that, because we need to know that others are struggling, too,—

Shannon: Yes.

Michelle: —and that we continually take it to Jesus and say, “Okay, Jesus, I lay it at Your feet.”

Shannon: Yes.

Michelle: It’s hard to continue laying that down.

So how can someone, like me, pray for you and the other moms who are listening, who are like, “Ha! I’m exactly in Shannon’s boat!”?

Shannon: I would say pray that we won’t miss what God is doing in our hearts during the process of all of this. You know, I have other moms, who are teachers—moms who are helping their kids virtual school—all of it seems so unfair. I want you to think about the people, who are involved in all of this—you have administrators, teachers, parents, and students. The administrators are making decisions for all of the other three: the parents, the teachers, and students.

Michelle: Yes.

Shannon: The three groups, now—the parents, the teachers, and the students—are doing the best they can just to not drown in it all—all of these things you have to do!—you’ve got to log in; you’ve got to—you know, I have a kid with special needs; I have a son diagnosed with autism when he was two. He needs more interaction and face to face—he really needs that. He’s asked me several times since we got here, “Can I just drop out? Can I be a high school dropout?” [Laughter] I’m like, “No, Reese, you cannot; okay?” But that’s how he’s feeling; it’s like, “I can’t do this.”

You cannot win this; so if you know you cannot win this, you might as well just stay on the struggle bus and ride it out. See what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in your heart; because maybe He is trying to mold you into something else. Maybe He’s trying to prune away that sense of control that you think you have. Maybe He’s trying to remove that sense of perfection that you feel like you have to perform to and reach. Stay on the struggle bus.

I would say to just pray for the moms and the parents, and the educators, and the students, who are trying to fight against what’s happening. I know, for me, even back in March, when everything was going on, and we were doing crisis school, I didn’t want to accept it; I was like, “Surely this is about to end!”

Michelle: Right.

Shannon: So I wouldn’t engage; I didn’t rise to the occasion; I couldn’t. I was working from home; my husband was working from home; and I don’t know what my kids were doing! [Laughter] I didn’t want to accept it—like: “This is not the new normal; I refuse! No!”

But you’ve got to stay on the struggle bus and see where God is leading us while we’re on it. We can’t get off; we’ve got to just see where He’s taking us.

Michelle: Shannon Simmons, being so vulnerable and transparent; she’s walking a hard road.

As you listen to all three of those women, you might be thinking, “Oh, one of those has it right”; or “One of those—no, she’s not thinking right”; or you might be going, “That’s exactly who I am.” Whichever one you are, remember what Tracy said: “It’s not about right or wrong; it’s not about judging each other; it’s where you are before God, and what God is asking you to do.”

You know, we have to get through this together! If you see someone on the struggle bus, like Shannon, hold up her arms like Aaron held up Moses’ arms. Hold up her arms and pray for her! You know, you could be like Job’s friends—but maybe not—maybe that’s not a good idea. Remember the verse that’s usually used at weddings? There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes—in Ecclesiastes 4: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up; but pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up.”

I’m going to say this again: “We’re going to all get through this together!” That’s the only way we’re going to get through these difficult times. We’re in different contexts: school—some are open; some are not; and some are in a hybrid thing; others are at home. Your home looks different, and it feels different. And then there’s church: some are meeting; some are not; some require masks; and some do not.

We live in a time when we all have an opinion about everything under the sun. Let’s dial back that rancor, dial back that shouting, and give some grace during this time. Remember 1 Corinthians 13?—remember what love is?—“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It’s not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”

There’s an older, wiser woman in my life. Whenever I go to her with these gut-wrenching, hard things, she listens and she nods her head. She sighs with me, and she even cries with me. She’s patient with me; and then she says, “Okay, dear; it’s time to dry your eyes. It’s time to praise Jesus.” In all of this—in all of these gut-wrenching decisions, in all of these hard prayers, in all of the tears, in all that you’re going through—and maybe it’s a sunny day everywhere you are—but in all of it, praise Jesus. He is the only One who is going to get us through this storm.

You know, my friend Tracy Lane, who we just heard from a few minutes ago? Well, when we talked, she was nine months pregnant. She has since had a beautiful baby boy. The whole family is so excited to welcome Davis home. But at first, Tracy had reservations/a lot of reservations. Next week, Tracy shares the long journey God took her on to accept and love baby Davis. I hope you can join us for that.

Thanks for listening. I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers on this show, Marques Holt and Mark Ramey. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.

Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.

I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.


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