Remember May? Yeah, me either. Or I should say I barely remember it. What stands out is an article I wrote, “What Moms Think About the 2020 – 2021 School Year.” (It stands out because writing that article was cathartic and brain stimulating!) Waaaaay back then in May many moms, including myself, were wondering how on earth is this school thing going to work come August.
Because this topic has taken up so much of my mental space this summer, I thought an update was in order. We were wondering in May, but now at nearly September, we’ve made decisions.
I contacted the moms interviewed for the May piece to find out what decisions they made for fall schooling. Did their questions get answered? Did their ideas and choices evolve over the summer?
I will start us off with my own update: I have two daughters — one starting fourth grade and one starting kindergarten. We decided to stick with our public school, which means the first four weeks of school are virtual starting September 8. There is a possibility — growing stronger each days those COVID-19 stats stay low — that in-person instruction will begin in early October. We are a-okay with that if the local coronavirus numbers stay low.
The reasons why we chose this schooling options are: (1) With all the changes 2020 brought, sticking with the same school, same teachers, same philosophy is good for my kids. Familiarity in the midst of all of this has value, in my opinion. As a parent of a child with anxiety, routine and structure within a framework of familiar equals security and better chances for success. (2) I apprecaited the delayed opening and the virtual start. The district decisions reflected my preferences. But don’t get me wrong; I am still tossing around the decision of whether or not we choose virtual for the long haul or dive into in-person school. Frankly, there is some comfort in being able to punt that decision a few more weeks. It also gives us a trial run on virtual, so we can find out if this is something we could do long term.
Each of my kids needs something different — and that’s been hard to reconcile. One has chronic asthma; the other NEEDS in-person school. I feel like to choose what is best for one is to cause negative consequences for the other. Y’all, this schooling choice is NOT EASY. Can I get an amen?
(By the way, I discuss more about this topic with my co-host Beth in the most recent episode of Momfessions Podcast, “Back to School . . . Sort Of.”)
Now, let’s check in with our friends y’all met back in May . . .
Big changes happened in Amanda’s house from May to August. From three kids in public schools, she now has two middle school kids doing 100% virtual — by choice — through their ISD for the entire first semester. She is homeschooling her younger two kids for the entire year.
If you’re looking for someone who loves order and structure, Amanda is your person. Her dining room has now be turned into the “homeschool room” where all four kids work. Each child has a schedule. As she put it, “When it’s school hours, we are at school. Setting these upfront ‘rules’ is key.”
Why did Amanda makes these changes? She explained, “Our district was not giving very clear guidelines to what face-to-face learning would look like. We felt that to keep consistency for the kids we needed to choose the connected learning. This way they are learning daily and not having to worry if a classmate or teacher gets COVID, and we have to then be quarantined and moved to remote learning for two weeks before getting back in the classroom. We also have two family members that are immune compromised; we want to keep ourselves healthy for them. Our kids are happy with the choice, and many of their friends are at home learning too this year.”
May saw Catherine with her kids in different schooling situations; August is no different. Her oldest (age 14) and youngest (age 9) will return to High Point Academy while her middle child (age 12) will attend a different school. Her oldest and youngest kids will start with virtual learning on August 31. Her middle child will start school in-person on September 9.
Catherine and her husband are also both in school completing their college education. Yes, try wrapping your mind around FIVE people managing school with two of those also working. So, how are they going to make this work?
She explained, “I work part time and attend school full time. When I am not in class, I watch our children at home. We have already adjusted our schedules to make sure their schooling is not affected, but that our jobs and school are affected minimally.” That looks like a balancing act between Catherine and her mother taking turns monitoring the kids who have virtual learning. When in-person is available for all her kids, they will choose in-person school because their work and college demands make virtual learning difficult.
It’s virtual school for Dominique’s boys, ages 6 and 8; they plan to stay virtual for the first six weeks even though their school plans to open in-person learning on September 8. They are taking it on a six weeks by six weeks basis.
So far so good for them. Dominique created dedicated workspace complete with white boards, labeled bins, and such.
What’s the key to her success? “I try to remain positive. It’s all about perspective! I believe that helps the situation to work in our favor. Also, our teachers have done an outstanding job with adapting to this method of teaching and the experience has been positive,” she said.
Emily’s kids — agess 8, 8, and 7 — still attend the same small, low-income PK-8 parochial school. It started with in-person classes on August 12. The only thing that’s changed since we chatted with Emily in May is her job. She’s left the middle school classroom and began a job working from home.
Emily said, “My husband and I are both working full-time from home, but neither of us has enough flexibility (or TIME) in our schedules to be able to also facilitate on-line learning, at least not well. Our school is small by nature, and the option of virtual and in-person classes has made it even smaller, with less than 10 students in-person in each class (only six and five respectively in my children’s grades). The classrooms are big, and each one has its own individual A/C unit, in addition to several windows that open. Who knew an old building would come in so handy in 2020? All in all, with teachers wearing masks, kids respecting social distancing guidelines while inside, and very small classes, we felt like this was a calculated risk that would greatly benefit our family. Almost two weeks in, parents and kids are happier than we’ve been in months and everyone is learning a lot. I am prepared to go to virtual learning in the event of an outbreak or shelter-in-place order, but for now, this is working for us.”
Parenting older kids during the pandemic isn’t a piece of cake. Sure, Heather isn’t wracking her brain for entertainment ideas and buying too many toys from Amazon, but she is dealing with big decisions for her kids who are at critical “coming of age” ages: 16, 19, and 21.
Her oldest, who is a senior in college, is doing a hybrid of virtual and smaller in-person classes. Her middle kiddo, who took a non-traditional route — has seen his internships and YWAM plans cancelled or postponed thanks to coronavirus. Her youngest will be virtual for the first nine weeks to see how everything goes, and then may consider in-person at that point. Her youngest also plays basketball, so she will be going on campus for practices and workouts.
Heather’s home office has a revolving door. First, her husband took it over when he needed to work from home. Next, her college son took it over for his summer internship. Finally, her high school daughter uses it now for virtual learning.
“Our COVID mantra is PIVOT. We are just pivoting where we can, however we can, to make it work and take control of what we can. I’m thankful for the resiliency and maturity my big kids have shown through this. I believe they are learning valuable life skills here, and will walk out of 2020 with GAINS that outweigh the losses . . . . To be honest, we are so grateful to be in a season of life during COVID when our kids are old enough to make their own choices. We speak into their options, offering insight and advice, but we have left the options up to the kids given their ages. We have been determined not to operate out of fear or emotions, but to stay wise and informed, cautious, and hopeful,” Heather explained.
Meagan chose two completely different options for her daughters, ages 7 and 10. One daughter started in-person public school on August 24. Like many other moms have told me, Meagan included her kiddo in the decision-making process.
She said, “Getting time with her peers, even if socially distanced is very important to her, and the distance doesn’t cause her to view school any differently. She loves, loves learning and didn’t feel like she could really explore her passion from Zoom calls and websites.
“We made this choice because we feel strongly that the negative effects we felt over the last six months were harming her far more than the potential of COVID. Her teachers were given the choice to teach in-person or virtual, which also alleviated our concerns for their well-being.”
For reasons completely outside of coronavirus and its implications, Meagan decided to homeschool her other daughter.
Rachel “warned” me before she emailed her interview answers: “I still don’t know for sure what we will choose.” And do I ever get it. The pros and cons will not stop their desire to be weighed!
As of now, her two older kids — ages five and seven — will start virtual with FWISD on September 8. Her three year old will attend in-person preschool two days per week. But Rachel has homeschool curriculum resting in a online cart to “purchase at a moment’s notice.”
“I don’t feel like we’ve made a definite decision. One reason we really want to stay in school is because that’s where the kids are already planted. It was such a hard transition changing schools for our oldest last year, and I’m afraid it will be harder to take a whole year off of being in the classroom. I like the idea of homeschooling, and the flexibility it affords; but, I already feel like I’m stretched so thin, trying to be available for clients and my kiddos. Even making dinner can be daunting,” she said.
Rachel and her husband both work. To make virtual schooling happen, the will work opposite schedules and divide schooling chores so that the kids can accomplish what they need to complete in a day.
What about you? Which of these moms do you most relate to? What decisions have you made? Are they different from what you expected? I have a sneaky suspicision that even if they are, like these women above, YOU HAVE MADE THE BEST DECISION FOR YOUR FAMILY. That isn’t always easy or crystal clear, but it is what we all have in common.