I am a parent of 2 girls, 6 and 8 and I’m currently facing the exceedingly difficult decision on sending them back to school or homeschooling them. In March when the kids were sent home and teachers left to design a remote learning plan over a weekend, we learned just how difficult the situation is for our children. In my older one, I saw signs of anxiety, frustration, and anger. She relies on routine and is a very social kid. She needs her friends. My 6-year-old took the situation with incredible maturity that I don’t even see in adults. She is a workhorse by nature and decided to get her schooling done in one sitting. She sat down and studied for 4 hours straight, preferred no breaks so she could get it over with and go back to playing.
Infection rate is going up and it is looking like we are heading into a second shutdown. But then again, who knows, the virus has proven that it is unpredictable and tough to deal with. But what do I know? The media and the information out there from scientists are highly conflicting. I read about how children are less susceptible to the virus and spread it less, while yet another scientist tells us that kids are more susceptible and are silent spreaders of the virus and will cause another epidemic if let back to school.
As a parent my heart aches over the choice I need to make. Both me and my husband are business owners. His business is fully in person while mine is 100% online. We also learned in March that homeschooling and working simply doesn’t go together. Parents struggled incredibly with trying to combine full time work with homeschooling, especially those with kids that needed more help. I’m not even going to mention parents to special needs children, my heart goes out to those families.
Today, I’m faced with the decision, do I send my kids back to school, potentially sending them into harms way? Not only my kids, but other people’s kids, teachers, and other staff members of the school. Do I count on that enough parents opt for homeschooling to keep class sizes low? The base of that decision would be to make sure me and my husband can continue working on our businesses as normal. As it turns out, we cannot pay for food and our mortgage with air or handmade art from our kids. Or does one of us continue with their business, while the other one pulls back.
It’s a rotten choice.
I have tried working at all hours. Homeschooling during the day, working at night. Currently over the summer, our schedule is like a jigsaw puzzle. My husband works 80-hour work week and is taking on any extra work he can so we can safe up in case there is another shut down. While I stay at home with the kids and serve my clients. We completely turned our kids sleeping schedule upside down to get quiet time while I’m working with my clients 1:1. They get to sleep in until 11 AM while I get up early with my clients. Which is not ideal as they in return like to stay up late when I’m ready for bed.
After lecturing the kids on staying in their rooms until the alarm goes off indicating I’m done with my call where in return both of them came needing food, water, hit their knees and needed attention 15 minutes into the call, along with, “Oh, sorry mom, I forgot” that unfortunate schedule was put together. Screen time is constant in our house as well. It works in my favor and it keeps them happy, so I let them play Roblox and Minecraft day in and out. This summer there was no summer camp, soccer, swimming, or music. There are no visits to see grandma and we can forget about visiting my mom in Iceland over Christmas. So mom guilt over screen time was thrown out the window, and I show up in the morning for my clients, dead tired after wrestling with bedtime until 2 AM.
How do I keep a sense of normalcy for them and me?
Going back to school might sound like a reasonable option. Let them get back into routine, listen to the one side that suits me that kids don’t spread the virus as much and don’t get as sick. It would help my mental health and theirs. There’s no doubt about that. Homeschooling was terrible. But we must remember also that back to school is not normalcy either. Contact with other students, the most important part for my kids and others their age, is highly restricted. They are expected to wear masks all day and sit at their desk for the whole day with recess being limited to one per day. Will the shock of going back to school and the new normal there, be too much for them? Am I better off waiting until life goes back to normal? Or as normal as it can be after this disaster?
Homeschooling option grounds me, there’s no doubt about that. The information on how homeschooling will be conducted is incredibly limited. Will we have flexibility of when we conduct schooling, or will there be more virtual interaction over zoom? This time around parents are opting into homeschooling which means they have the means and ways of doing so. In March we were forced to, and the school district tried to accommodate working parents along parents with little technical means and little access to an internet connection.
There is no good option.
We are asking an awful lot from our teachers. With demanding 100% in person learning, do they even want to go back? Will we see teacher strikes, or even quitting? They didn’t sign up for putting themselves into harms way. If a teacher gets sick, or God forbid, dies, what will that do to our children? Will they think it’s their fault? Is that something I want to be responsible for? Our teachers are amazing, as is all our school staff, and I for one want to keep them around for as long as possible.
Here’s what we decided.
After a lot of discussion, pondering and putting things into perspective, we decided that right now, while we can, we will work as much as we possibly can. Earn enough money to build a cushion for the winter. When school starts, we are both pulling back. My husband will reduce his workload down to 4 days, and I will pull mine down to 2 days. We will serve our kids at home, where they are safe, and our teachers are safe from them. We will make room for those that don’t have a choice and need their kids to be physically at school.
When we managed to put everything into perspective the choice became clear to us, our businesses will survive and bounce back, there’s no doubt in my mind that they will. But if anything happened to our kids, they got sick, got us sick, and even if we didn’t die from the virus, we might end up with devastating long-term effects from it. If our kids got sick, and infected another child who died, or had a parent or other family member pass due to our decision. You see, we are privileged and can keep our kids at home. Others might not, so it is my compassionate duty to do my part to help mitigate the risk for others in the community. As much as I hate homeschooling and want my kids to go back to in person learning, I also recognize that life isn’t just about me and what’s convenient for me. There is no normal this fall no matter how we look at it.