As the summer goes on, schools are refining and finalizing how they will conduct school in the fall. Already, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Diego have declared schools will not re-open physical classrooms and others will follow. Many districts have suggested revised schedules, including part of the students attending one day or week and others another day or week, staggered drop-off and pickup times, mask-wearing at all times, social distancing, food brought from home, and no shared use of common resources. Teacher unions are beginning to object to sending teachers, particularly those in the higher risk age groups, back into the classroom and parents have understandable concerns for their children as well.
One way or another, school will not look like it used to this school year, and discipline issues will now include compliance with COVID-19 restrictions. Online learning will deliver the bulk of instruction, with little personal interaction between students, peers, and teachers. While I am a believer in online learning for older and more motivated students, I believe it is not the best learning mechanism for younger children.
Millions of parents, after homeschooling their children for months are seriously considering homeschooling because of the dystopian guidelines issues by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and being followed by most school districts.
In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued school reopening guidelines that called for:
- Strict social distancing tactics
- All-day mask wearing for most students and teachers
- Staggered attendance
- Daily health checks
- No gym or cafeteria use
- Restricted playground access and limited toy-sharing, and
- Tight controls on visitors to school buildings, including parents.
School districts across the country quickly adopted the CDC’s guidelines, devising their reopening plans accordingly. Once parents got wind of what the upcoming school-year would look like, including the real possibility that at any time schools could be shut down again due to virus spikes, they started exploring other options. (Source)
Questions to Ask Yourself
Let’s talk more about the decision making process. Questions you might ask yourself are:
- Am I putting my child and family at undue risk by sending my child to school in the fall? Check out this article.
- Will my child fall behind because of a chaotic schedule at the school (some days or weeks online, others in the classroom)
- How will school districts measure the effectiveness of this new mode of learning? How will teachers be evaluated? How will my child be evaluated? How will I know my child will be ready for the next grade and has the skills s/he needs?
- What additional vaccination requirements will be imposed on my child and our family if my child attends a school?
- What will discipline in the schools look like in the fall? Will my child or family be reported to the authorities if s/he takes their mask off? Will my family be fined?
- How will wearing a mask all day long affect my child’s health?
- How will I juggle my work schedule to support the schedule the school assigns my child to? If I can’t change my work schedule, who will care for and supervise my child?
- If I’m already staying home to supervise my child’s remote learning, is it that much greater a commitment to homeschool entirely?
Factors to Consider
I’m sure you can think of even more questions that are valid to ask. Without considering all the options, it’s difficult to make an informed decision. Let’s take an objective look at the implications of each scenario.
Your choices are basically, partial re-opening of school, school and full school-sanctioned online learning. Criteria we could use to evaluate those choices include:
- Stability in schedule(minimum variation for child and parent in scheduling work around the school schedule). Adjustments in schedules will likely be made as the school year progresses, necessitating adjustments in work and family schedules. With partial re-opening or online options, you will need to adjust your work schedule or find someone else to care for and supervise the learning of your children. This could be chaotic for the child and your family. If you homeschool, you can plan a schedule that works for your child and your family and you can decide what topics to cover.
- Ability to Choose Curriculum and Subjects: With partial re-opening or full online instruction, you will not be able to choose or influence the subjects your child will study. In addition, you will not be able to adjust the speed at which new topics are introduced. With homeschooling, as long as you choose the basics, reading, writing, and math, you can augment their study with science, history, art, music, and practical skills like cooking , gardening, or carpentry.
- Socialization and Human Contact Considerations: With partial reopening, your child will have some interface with other adults and children, however, the environment will be quite sterile and stilted because of COVID-19 restrictions. With full online instructions, your child will have little personal contact with other students or adults. If you homeschool, you can choose who your child interacts with and how. Play dates can be arranged in open air settings and families can share homeschool responsibilities, especially in smaller groups.
- Sports and Extracurricular Activities: Some sports and activities may resume, but most schools are canceling fall sports and other activities will have reduced participation to allow for social distancing. With homeschooling, you can involve your child in your own exercise routine or take up walking the dog, bicycling, hiking, running, tennis, badminton, or volleyball. Find fun exercise videos on YouTube or learn dance moves to music you both enjoy. There are a ton of things you can do for exercise with your child that are fun. Be creative.
- Impact on the Parent doing the bulk of instruction/supervision of children: With partial reopening of the schools, you will get time away from your children, but with online learning, you will still need to care for and supervise your child to ensure learning is happening. In addition, the effectiveness of online learning is influenced by the skill with which the instruction is designed. Younger children do not benefit from online instruction as much as older, more mature students who are self-motivated. If you choose to homeschool, you will be able to control what and how quickly your child moves through curriculum. If you choose to homeschool, you’ll need support to get through this new experience. I’ve just started a new homeschool community blog that you may find useful: StartHomeschoolNow.com
- Ability to Control Safety Factors: Sending your children to school in a partial school re-opening could put your child and your family at risk. In addition with tensions running high, some people’s behavior may be less than desirable. Health and safety in your home will be within your control when you homeschool.
- Independence: While sending your child to school part-time may allow you some independence, in the end, you are tied to the school’s schedules and decisions. With homeschooling, your schedule is defined by you and your child and not by an outside entity. Vacations can be taken at non-peak times, thereby saving money and avoiding crowds. You have taken a step to create a life you control and enjoy. Welcome to the homeschool lifestyle!
Thoughts About Learning and School
The more you can teach your child the joy of independence in learning, the more peaceful your household will be for everyone. Kids naturally love to learn and be creative and will gravitate to things that interest them. Sometimes, however, the school system beats that curiosity out of them.
A teacher says something critical or a child can’t spell no matter how hard s/he works at it and is branded “stupid”. Other students follow the teacher’s lead and start bullying the child. Or, the teacher wants to spend all her time with the “gifted” students in the classroom and can’t wait to get rid of those requiring a little extra effort to special education pullouts. What about those active kids that teachers suggest be evaluated and end up on Ritalin? Those children are usually pretty smart, like to be challenged, and prefer hands-on learning. Perhaps your child can’t shake his or her reputation at a school because teachers pass-on information about each of the students to next year’s teachers. With those biases from the previous year’s teacher, there’s no way a student can break free from a prescribed role. I’ve seen it all, either with my own children, or when I volunteered in classrooms, or when I substitute taught, or when I taught in the public schools. Schools are not a particularly nurturing environment for many children, or teachers for that matter. Ask a teacher what goes on in the teacher’s lounge and how they feel about it. Teaching can be a dog-eat-dog profession.
You’re going to have to make a decision this fall. If you don’t actively evaluate your options and decide, you’ve let somebody else make the decision for you.
Decision-Making is Hard
Look, decision-making is hard. Even when we think we’ve made a good decision, sometimes we second guess ourselves and wonder what it would have been like if we hadn’t made that choice. All we can do is weigh the options and make the best decision with the information we have at the moment. What information do we have now?
- Schools will be different in the Fall
- We don’t know what measures schools will implement in response to COVID, but we know they will incorporate masks, social distancing, and some measure of remote learning
- We know tensions are high in the general population and it will be the same story in the schools, for both teachers and students
- You know your child—how will s/he do in that environment?
- How will you do in that environment?
If you plan to homeschool now, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t plan for homeschooling, your life and that of your child will be in the hands of a school district that is making a guess at how to do school in these circumstances.
If homeschooling doesn’t work out, you can always re-enroll your child in a public school. I would suggest giving it at least a semester, better yet a year to work the kinks out. Remember, learning can happen at a kitchen table, in the car, waiting at a doctor’s office, in a store, on a road trip, or in your backyard. Life is a lesson waiting to be learned, and you’re in a good position to help guide your child through those lessons.
Will you be sending your child back to school?
So, what’s it going to be for you and your children this fall? Share your comments below and how you’ve made that decision. What other factors did you consider? Your comments will help others to navigate their own decision-making.
Linnea Johnson has her MA in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught preschool students through adults on topics including music, English as a 2nd language, technology, business and personal finance. She and her husband homeschooled their two active sons, both of who went on to careers in entrepreneurship. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family, cultivating an urban farm, creating fused glass items and enameled jewelry, and traveling with her husband. Linnea authors StartHomeschoolNow.com.