The Educate Debate is an editorial series presented to you by Fort Worth Moms and our sponsors Great Hearts Arlington, Montessori School of Fort Worth, and Uplift Education. To read all the articles included in this series, please click HERE.
Let’s all take a break from screaming into our pillows to breathe a big sigh of relief for the end of the 2020 – 2021 school year.
My family, along with the rest of the world, road the 2020 roller coaster filled with plans flipped upside down (can we say multi-loop coaster!?), steep drops into the unknown (eyes closed and screaming), and whiplash inducing changes of direction.
Let’s rewind a bit to the good old days: 2019. My oldest child had just started second grade and was loving her teacher and the reunion with her friends. I spent my days at home with my almost five year old and two year old simultaneously dreaming of and dreading the coming year. By the next school year my middle child would join her sister at our neighborhood public school for full-day kindergarten. My youngest child would attend the preschool at our church two days a week, and I, well I would have what every mom dreams of — me time.
I had so many hopes and dreams wrapped up in those few hours every week. Would my house be cleaner? Would my podcast work take on a new life with met deadlines and focused creativity? Would I finally pay off some of that sleep debt I racked up nursing three babies for 13 months each? The future was looking bright!
Spring came in, shimmering with hope and life. School let out for a spring break filled with cousins and birthdays.
My kids’ 2020 spring break lasted five months, and my school year dreams for the fall collapsed. We grieved the loss of teachers and friends and playdates. School became cold and digital and our homes became our safe-havens and our universe. I made up daily “learning time” lessons for my girls and we laughed and enjoyed our few hours of made up “school” time.
Fall came in with more questions than answers. I had it in my head that our public school education plan should be tossed out. I had gotten used to having all of my kids at home, had enjoyed our make-shift lessons on animals and nature, and our virtual museum visits. Traditional homeschooling made sense in my mind. We could be flexible, stay safely together in our burgeoning homestead, and join a small co-op to keep ourselves socialized and sickness free. My husband, however, was a stickler for public education. We had a fabulous school with top-notch teachers and free violin lessons, why would we give that up? We went round after round on the subject.
Our first compromise was to do the public online schooling option alongside a local homeschool co-op. I hoped to have the freedom of homeschool without the need to come up with my own curriculum. My husband was happy to hold onto the great teachers and education we had previously enjoyed — and the kids could take violin! But a week before our first day we received our daily online schooling schedule: Classes from 7:50 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with two to three short breaks in between. I was devastated.
My new kindergartener would be spending this magical year chained to a device in our playroom. She was miserable, I was miserable. Our one day a week at the homeschool co-op did little to lift our spirits in the drudgery of it all. Our first plan was a bust.
My husband and I met with the principal, who suggested we put our kindergartener on a schedule that allowed her to work one day behind. This plan meant I could teach her lessons to her in a more interactive way on our own schedule (which I loved). It was another perfect compromise . . . for about six weeks. Eventually we both grew weary of the teacher-student dynamic. I realized that my “homeschool” dream was not grounded in reality, and we were going to have to, yet again, go back to the drawing board.
By the holidays, both of my girls were back online for every class, every day. The tension in our home was thick. My six year old was angry and rebellious. My nine year old was having panic attacks in the middle of class. My husband came home the day before Thanksgiving with a fever. For several weeks, our small circle of social life closed. COVID-19 had come to our house despite all of our caution.
In January, after my husband had recovered, we began re-thinking our education plan for the year. What we had been doing was simply not working. After talking to everyone who would listen, we very hesitantly signed our girls up to return to in-person school in mid-January.
Walking my kindergartener to her “first” day of school was so different than I had dreamed. She had suffered through the first half of the year, now I was masking her up and sending her to walk six feet apart from her friends. Not to mention, exposing her to a global pandemic.
My girls jumped in the car that first day back, masks forgotten on their faces. They had the “best day ever” and couldn’t wait to go back the next day.
A wise friend told me you make your education decisions one year, one child at a time. After this last year, I would amend her advice. One day, one child, one pandemic at a time. You will find your way, and your kids will find theirs, and in the end learning will happen.