Vital Friendships the Coram Deo Way

Mrs. Madlin Mangrum
"Walking into the first day of kindergarten at Coram Deo with Joshua, with his baby sister in my arms, I prayed, “Lord, my desire is to have one lifelong friend for my son out of this Coram Deo experience.” I imagined Josh and a friend living incredible adventures in business (we are entrepreneurs!), or in the mission field doing amazing things to advance God’s kingdom."


In my wildest dreams, I never imagined myself as a homeschool mama. Now, eleven years into homeschooling my son, Joshua, in collaboration with Coram Deo Academy, I would not have it any other way!

The decision to embark on the journey of educating Joshua the Coram Deo way took some convincing. I came into motherhood late. After ten long years of infertility, our miracle baby finally arrived in 2003. As a new and nervous mom, I was desperate to get everything right, including my son’s education.

Little did I know, the title of Mama would come with a lot of trial and error...and knee work. I prayed daily for guidance in raising this boy to a young man with a life purpose and mission. I did not know Coram Deo existed, so my options were limited to private school or homeschool. Public school was not an option for us as both my husband and I graduated from small Christian schools, and we were so glad our parents had made that choice for us.


Searching for the best option for my son
Both the private and the homeschooling options were full-time. I did not want to let go of our son all day, five days a week. At that time, my husband and I had a 24/7 business chartering airplanes. Joshua was an integral part of our busy life as we worked from home. He went to bed when we did or slept nearby while we managed an overnight air charter flight.

I explored homeschooling first, earnestly observing my best friend, Anna LeBaron, homeschool her five children. She was a committed pro at home education. Her children were voracious readers, confident writers, and great conversationalists. They interacted with children of all ages. Joshua was much younger than all of them, and they treated him like a cousin. I loved the flexibility Anna had in teaching her children. Still, I was not sure it was for me.


Discovering the Coram Deo Way
Providentially, my friend Michelle Cook told me about Coram Deo Academy. She described CDA as half-school and half -homeschool. I eagerly explored this new option and discovered the best of both worlds: 2-3 days of school and 2-3 days of homeschool. They would give me a daily guide on how to reinforce concepts the teacher taught at school. No wading through mountains of curriculum choices? Hallelujah! Having a co-teacher to collaborate with was the answer to my prayers. My mind went into overdrive as I attended a preview meeting two years before my son started kindergarten. I was sold!

Walking into the first day of kindergarten at Coram Deo with Joshua, with his baby sister in my arms, I prayed, “Lord, my desire is to have one lifelong friend for my son out of this Coram Deo experience.” I imagined Josh and a friend living incredible adventures in business (we are entrepreneurs!), or in the mission field doing amazing things to advance God’s kingdom.

I wanted their story to be, “We’ve been best friends since kindergarten.” God answered my prayer. Josh had a classroom full of friends with lifelong friendship potential. Josh met Samuel in that kindergarten class, and they have been best friends ever since. From playdates and theatre to now sharing a passion for film-making and acting as teens, they have been together. Josh made three lifelong friends as well as many other friends along the way.

I’ve made many friends too. My husband and I each got three Vital Friends (a term I adopted from the book Vital Friends by Tom Rath) out of the deal. As rare as it is, the mothers and fathers of my son’s friends became our friends as well.


My Top Tips for Cultivating Vital Friendships
Be intentional with your child’s friendships.

From the beginning of your child’s school years, be intentional about making time for your child to get together with friends in both structured and unstructured activities, one-on-one, in small and large groups. Be intentional in connecting with other parents.

Find the mom who is the social butterfly or the mom who organizes classroom events. Get to know them in one-on-one and small group settings that foster deep conversation.

Form a book club with other moms.

Invite other moms to join you for a casual book club to discuss books that will complement your individual journeys as parents. Two books I recommend are Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. Sarah is a homeschooling mama of six. She also created the Read Aloud Revival podcast. Both resources are wonderful! Sally’s book was life-changing for me. It was the first book for the club I started with a group of CDA mamas when Joshua was in kindergarten. Eleven years later, we are still friends—and not just the Facebook kind!


Employ the “One Conversation Rule.”

Picture it: You’re at an event with other moms, having a conversation with Mom A. Mom B arrives. You greet and invite her into the conversation. She turns to put her belongings down and, instantly, you and Mom A have started a new conversation about carpool arrangements. Mom B is left hanging because you jumped to another topic. Mamas are busy and juggle a lot, but being intentional about our conversations is important in building relationships. 

To combat the tendency to “squirrel,” Michael Hyatt suggests the “One Conversation” rule in group settings: have one—and only one—conversation at a time. When I’ve followed this rule in small groups, it has worked. Everyone is heard. Wins are celebrated. Prayer needs are addressed. Concerns are remembered so when we see one another later, we can inquire about the situation.

Celebrate the big and small victories.

Celebrate the things that matter to your friends—milestone birthdays, kids’ birthdays, new births.

Be there in the good times and the hard times.

I know my Coram Deo mama-friends have my back. When we lost my brother-in-law and my dad, and when my husband was diagnosed with a large brain tumor, they were there all the way! They prayed with us, brought meals, babysat, helped me think straight and celebrated when God miraculously preserved my husband’s brain! I know that no matter where life takes us, Facebook friends or not, we are bonded like glue!


Is Coram Deo Academy a good fit for your family?
Coram Deo is not ideal for every type of learner. My daughter, for example, needed to thrive elsewhere. But for our son’s education, the CDA university model schedule and the collaborative model of teaching has been the best solution to our family’s lifestyle, and it has provided all of us with invaluable friendships.

If you are exploring the many educational options for your child, or you are on the fence, I strongly encourage you to prayerfully make the leap into the Coram Deo Way!

My name is Madlin Mangrum and I am a Gallup Certified StrengthsFinder Coach and a Digital Wellbeing Coach. I help individuals and teams discover and develop their strengths. I blog at UnpluggedFamily.org where I equip and encourage parents to raise healthy digital natives.

Our son Joshua is in 10th grade and has attended Coram Deo Academy since Kindergarten. We chose CDA 11 years ago because of its Christian collaborative model.
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