Like so many parents, we’ve been anxiously waiting — fingers crossed — to hear our school district’s 20/21 reopening plan. We filled out the survey they sent us in June, speculated countless times with friends and family over what the choices could be, and spent hours listening to the school board deliberate before hearing their answer — the best-case-scenario we’d been hoping for was impossible, and none of the other options felt like a good fit.
It wasn’t the school board’s fault, of course. Like so many other things in this season, none of the available choices are ideal.
There’s a very real grief that comes with this level of change. We love our local public school. We worked extremely hard to get into this district, and other than the mess of virtual learning sprung upon all of us (teachers included!) we have had a fantastic experience overall.
Our district is offering five days a week, in-person instruction or virtual school for elementary, plus a hybrid model for grades 7-12. Masks, physical distancing, and other restrictions make this theoretically a safer choice, but also dramatically change the learning environment. I hate the idea of these restrictions, but I can understand the need for them.
What tipped the scale towards homeschooling for us was the level of uncertainty. As case levels rise in our area, the risk of going back to on-again/off-again virtual learning is pretty high. My girls did not do well with virtual learning — it removed everything they loved about school, and left them with anxiety and distress as they tried to work through the multitude of worksheets and assignments. Eventually, for our own mental health, we simply had to let it go.
The idea that we could go back to in-person school, only to be boomeranged back onto the virtual struggle-bus made my heart ache. But the other option — completely virtual — was even worse.
We’re not new to homeschooling — we’ve taken that path twice before, and it honestly wasn’t a great fit. My kids are pretty social, and I’m an introvert who needs time alone to recharge — the combination was exhausting. But while it isn’t our first choice, homeschooling is the best option we have right now.
Even though homeschooling isn’t an easy path, there are several reasons that I’m confident that it’s the right choice for us this year.
1. We’re making room for the kids who have to be in public school.
I’m writing this with the knowledge that we are extremely lucky to be able to make this choice. My job allows me to work full time hours on the weekend and still be home with my kids during the week. It will be a challenge, but we can homeschool without negatively affecting our financial situation. So many parents can’t do this and need their kids to be in school just to financially survive.
By pulling my kids out of the public school classroom, the school will have space for smaller classes and better student/teacher ratios. They’ll also hopefully have more opportunities for mask breaks and freedom of movement throughout the day.
2. We’ll be able to hone in on the basics to make sure they’re truly prepared for next year.
One of my kids really struggles with social skills, the other has consistently been behind in both math and reading. By homeschooling this year we can focus on these pain points, allowing them to work at their own pace. Instead of trying to keep up with a whole classroom, they’ll get individualized attention in the areas they need it most.
3. We’ll be able to maintain a level of consistency that they wouldn’t get from public school right now.
As I said before, we love our local school — and the biggest reason we’re stepping away from that option is because we are passionate about providing the most normalcy and stability as possible in these uncertain times.
There are so many areas of our life that are up in the air right now. Will we be able to take the winter vacation that’s been years in the making? Will our dentist start seeing patients again anytime soon? When we go to the store will our regular choices be available? How social can we safely be at this time?
These are first world problems, to be sure — but this type of constant, underlying change definitely affects our quality of life. School has been a major area of uncertainty for the last six months. By homeschooling, I can bring stability to this part of our lives, no matter what the case count is in our area.
This isn’t what we wanted for 2020.
Like so many other things, this isn’t what we wanted for the school year. We’re sad and stressed over the changes involved, and heartbroken for the negative ways this situation is affecting everyone.
I am hopeful, however, that this will be a good experience overall. We found a curriculum that seems to be a really good fit for our family. Several of our neighbors and friends will also be homeschooling this year. My kids are old enough to work or play independently for a few hours, so I’m more likely to get the alone time I need than I was when we homeschooled in the past.
Hopefully next year we’ll be sending our kids back to the school they love, but for now we’re choosing to see this as just another adventure. Hopefully, no matter what options you’re facing, you can do the same.