I am not a teacher. Distance learning at my house in Spring was a roller coaster. Some days we were having our own private circle time and making baking soda volcanoes and some days we straight up wasted just watching YouTube. There are reasons I never even considered home-schooling before 2020. I have a job that requires me to be out of my house, for one. My oldest is very social and thrives in school. My younger ones have IEPs and are learning how to interact with peers and authority figures. They have a ton of services to coordinate. It is a lot.
If you sat me down in 2019 and told me I would be helping my son with 5th-grade math, working on speech goals, and attempting to complete physical therapy goals in my backyard, I would’ve laughed. But here we are, gearing up for just that in a few short weeks.
I am lucky enough that my school district always planned to give students a distance learning option in Fall 2020 before it was mandated. It was a no-brainer decision for me. I immediately submitted the paperwork for my kids to all continue with distance learning for the first trimester of school.
- Anxiety. I have anxiety. Which means I really do not like things that are unplanned or unknown. When the school district offered distance learning or full in-person learning with no clear guidelines about how in-person would look, I immediately decided that we would be distance learning. There were too many unknowns, too many variables. Would my kids be in school at the same time? On the same days? Would it be full day? Every other day? We have no answers. It is easier for me to plan on distance learning for a trimester and reassess in the winter when I have a clearer picture of what in-person school looks like.
2. The numbers. I hate math, but numbers are important. Early on in this COVID game, we were told that children weren’t getting sick. Since then, data has changed. Not only are children transmitting the virus (because kids are gross), they are also testing positive. My kid’s haven’t been sick since January (knock on wood). Even though we’ve been keeping immunities up by taking vitamins, seeing close relatives who have been social distancing, and licking dirt, it’s a given that they will get sick when they return to school. I don’t have any PTO left, so if they get sick (even just a cold) I am unable to take time off. I don’t have the resources to send my kids back out in the world right now. Perhaps I will feel better about it when we have more numbers and data from schools opening and my PTO is banked.
3. My sanity. I am an introvert. Many people think lockdown has been a dream for introverts. But let me tell you something, an introvert who is around their family every waking minute of every day is not a happy introvert. I would love nothing more than for my life to “go back to normal” so I could work all day without tiny humans hanging off every limb of my body. But it’s just not time.
4. Mental health. My oldest is an extrovert. He needs social interaction. He struggled at times during our period of intense isolation. Even so, I can’t justify sending him in an unknown, unpredictable situation. I have been brainstorming other ways to meet his social needs, because mental health is just as important as physical health as far as I am concerned.
5. Convenience vs safety. My life is chaotic. The kids have school, in-home services, outpatient services, sports. Us parents have jobs, a household to manage, adulting to do. It is certainly more convenient for my kids to go back to school. For starters, I wouldn’t have to teach them anything (score). Some of their services happen at school. And the icing on the cake, school really works as childcare so I can be productive at work. But what about safety? Working in the behavioral health field, I prioritize safety over everything else. Structure and expectations are important, but the minute a safety concern arises, structure and expectations don’t matter. Shouldn’t I practice what I preach? A pandemic is obviously a safety concern. I lowered the expectations for myself, for my kids, for my household, and focused on safety. The safest option, for my family, is distance learning for at least the start of the year while this pandemic continues to play out.
6. Intuition. I am not an expert in anything, but I do know my family and I know myself. Sometimes we just have to go with our gut feeling. And when it comes down to it, that’s exactly how I made this decision.
It was both the easiest and most difficult decision I have ever made. Starting September 14th, I will have three children distance learning from home, including two with IEPs, while I attempt to work full time and I truly believe that’s the best option we have. (Am I laughing or crying at this point, I can’t tell anymore). Maybe check in with me on Sept 15th though… bring some wine.