Thursday, April 3, 2008

Enter Rumor, Painted Full of Tongues

I used to participate occasionally in some conversations on a forum for Catholic homeschooling moms. It was a place to discuss various homeschooling-related matters, get advice from "seasoned" moms and pass along your own experiences to those who could benefit from them, and share in the fellowship of knowing you weren't the only person out there dealing with those things that arise in the life of a homeschooling mom, anything from math recalcitrance to a desperate need for book recommendations.

It was a nice place, and I "met" some nice people there. But after a while, I noticed that I wasn't out there nearly as much as I had been at first. We homeschooling moms, after all, have to make choices about where and how we spend time online, and how much time we're going to spend on these activities. I like robust political debates and discussions about torture and our next president, so it was easier to give up the forum than the other blogs I visit; when I started curtailing some of my online "fun" time the forum was the first thing to go.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who made this decision; according to others who are still involved in that group traffic has fallen off. This, in itself, is quite natural. There's an ebb and flow to these things; people are always having to re-evaluate their time commitments, and prioritize, and this is no different for homeschooling moms.

But recently I was made aware of a thread on this forum where the talk centered around, not only the fact that people had left, but also that a new forum, extremely similar to the first one, had been created, and apparently by people who had formerly been heavily involved with the first forum. People were puzzled and even hurt by this: had these former members actually severed their association with the original forum, without any announcement or any goodbyes? Was the creation of the new forum a sign of quiet but palpable disassociation from the first, and had it been done for some specific reasons, some particular unhappiness with the original board?

I am told that speculation behind the scenes is rife; that people are asking questions, though those questions aren't being answered, especially not by the people who have created the new community forum. There's a lot of hurt, and a sense of betrayal, swirling around among those people who still participate in the original forum.

And that's not a good thing.

Certainly, the world of Catholic homeschooling moms is big enough and diverse enough for there to be lots of different resources for us all, including forums, blogs, message groups, and even private e-mail groups where we can share some unique needs or perspectives that might not interest others. But when an existing group of whatever kind suddenly seems to split down the middle, I tend to think those doing the "splitting" owe the others an explanation.

It's not that their old friends and contacts would be right to assume the worst motives; indeed, I see plenty of people on that original board going out of their way to be charitable to the members who have created the new community, even gamely signing up to participate (though many have lamented the impossibility of doing this, given the time involved in actively participating in two different homeschooling forums). But surely those people who have done so public a thing as creating a board that really overlaps what the first one did would do better to explain why they chose to do so, rather than continuing their association with the original forum, wouldn't they?

In our actions as Christians it's important for us not to cause scandal. The women who chose to create a new forum may have had perfectly good, just reasons to do so, and they may also not realize that their abrupt departure from the old forum is causing so many anxious questions--but if they consider this for a moment, it would be wise for them to foster a spirit of peace and fellowship by making all of that clear. Otherwise, the action they have chosen to take is going to foster a spirit of discord and disunity, instead, as well as giving rise to rumors that may be directed negatively toward completely innocent parties--an offense against charity that I'm sure no good Catholic homeschooling mother would desire for a moment.

The best weapon to use against rumors is the truth, offered in a forthright and open spirit. Indeed, it's the only weapon that will put an end to the troubled questions and uneasy sense of discord that many of the participants on the original board have noticed and spoken about, either publicly or privately among themselves. It is to be hoped that those who are in a position to speak authoritatively about the new board and the motivations behind it will do so at the earliest opportunity.


Paula in MN said...

I'm applauding you right now. This is wonderful and you are so right. I also agree with your post at the original forum. I, too, want to know if people are being harassed, and by whom.

jen said...

Unfortunately, cliques are not just a high school kind of thing. It sounds as though this might be the case, here. I certainly hope not, but you never know.

I myself don't have school age children yet, but am not considering homeschooling. I am NOT organized enough to do so. Besides, my kids seems to do better when others try to teach them certain kinds of things, like grandma or aunts and uncles. Mom and Dad only seem to have "knowledge" up to a point with them. Go figure. :)
Besides, we have an awesome Catholic elementary school here.

JennGM said...

Thank you! Well Said. And I'm happy to see you posting again. You were missed!