Did you send your kids back to school? That’s the question we asked four Island Parent writers. Here are their answers and how they reached their decision on whether or not to send their kids back to school.
Despite reading an awful lot about virus spread, infection risk and so on, I am still, very much, not medically qualified. And so my family’s decisions are less to do with health and safety than they are to do with ensuring our five children have the happiest year possible, during a time of great personal and global upheaval.
I might not be a medical expert, but I am mum to the power of five, and as I write this, it is six months since our schools closed and we started living in this new world. That means, my youngest son, 18 months, has spent a third of his life socially distanced. My four-year-old, 12.5 per cent …you get the idea.
Since the pandemic began, we have plucked our children from their routine-based lives, separated them from extended family members, thrown them into a home-based life with stressed adults who constantly mutter about viruses. Now we awant to push them back out into a world that is in many respects, unrecognizable.
I can’t imagine how children, however adaptable, will reconcile their return to school amidst such change, with new rules around where they can go, who they can be close to, and how they are expected to behave with others.
All of the social norms that we have been modelling for children—from handshakes, to visiting people’s homes, to hugging—have been demolished. Reintroducing school adds another layer, with policies that, for example, keep parents out of the classroom. That might be necessary for safety, but it will be difficult for some children, especially younger children, or those who find transitions difficult.
That said, schools are making enormous efforts to keep students and staff safe. But those measures require compliance and physical space—not always easy for early elementary-aged children.
Because our family is willing and able to take this year away from the classroom, we can, in turn, increase the space available for those who want and need to be at school. To us it seems that staying home could even have a net positive contribution.
Worries about returning aside, I am excited about the chance to be involved with my children’s learning more closely. We’re excited to make the most of educating from home, especially at home on a beautiful island, able to enjoy spectacular scenery at our doorstep. This is an opportunity to homeschool without it even being seen as a niche approach to schooling. Distance learning and registered homeschoolers numbers are seeing a huge increase, worldwide.
For us, the difficult part of the sudden school closures this year wasn’t really the isolation, or the remote learning, or even the queues for toilet paper. Our children, like many of us, struggled most with the uncertainty about what would happen next. This uncertainty isn’t over. After such a tumultuous and unsettled six months, we are all relieved to have a plan in place with no variables or worries about how the kids’ education might be impacted by a second wave.
Academically speaking, there couldn’t be a better time to home educate. There are great online resources, and if you are hoping for more support, there are plenty of distance-learning options that provide some more structure.
And socially, keeping my kids home shouldn’t be too hard on them, because with five young children, our house often seems like a small (albeit a poorly-run and mutinous) school. Much of the normal school-based socializing is going to be compromised this year regardless: limited/no team sports, no close physical contact.
My children might be learning at home, but they will still be able to go on playdates and continue with some favourite sports. They’ll have some flexibility to attend homeschool lessons, or music lessons, and still keep our bubble small enough to feel confident about visiting with older relatives.
We are keeping our children home this year, but we wouldn’t hesitate to send them back if they wanted to go, or if we needed them to. It is a privilege to be in a position to make this decision. If my children didn’t have a ready-made friendship group at home, if I was worried about their mental health suffering because they were particularly desperate to go to school, then this article would be completely to the contrary. Ultimately, though, we are keeping them home because it works for them, for us, for now.