Here’s What You Need to Know About Sending Your Child Back to School This Year

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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.

CDC Recommendations

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)

Like it or not, you will need to make a decision; send your child to a dystopian school situation or seek an alternative. We’ve already discussed homeschooling here, here, and here.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

About Linnea

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

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  • In Connecticut, the CEA (I believe this is the CT educators’ association) is calling for weekly Covid 19 tests for teachers and students.

  • Sounds like prison (re: CDC guidelines).

    With the acceptance of Work From Home (WFH) paradigm, homeschooling may become a more viable option for some (but not all).

    I have a good friend who homeschooled his kids. Their group had a student council, they had musical, theater, sports teams. They were very well adjusted and I would say even more mature than their public school counterparts.
    College for them was very easy.

    Now, there are the one offs that MSM likes to point out as if they are every homeschooler. Usually that really weird small religious sect or the child abusing parents.

    If anything, taking charge of your child’s education to ensure critical thinking and not just memorization to pass a standardized test would be the prime motivation.

    • Homeschooled ours for 22 years. Our ISP offered SATs every year. It was to help the parent evaluate weaknesses and strengths so they could improve what needed improving. The boys all have good jobs and are good family men. Their wives swore they would never homeschool. Now they’ve been somewhat forced to do it and they are finding out that they love it!

      Many days I wanted to throw in the towel. What teacher doesn’t? The reward was a very rich family life and children who were not run by their peers nor lacking in critical thinking skills. Absolutely no regrets.

  • Daisy,
    think there may be a technical glitch in the article. All of the places where you list links, they are not highlighted or underlined so no link exists. Not sure if this is a problem with my computer or something else. Not sure if anyone else has experienced this for this particular piece. Great article though – thanks!

  • We had a zoom meeting with my son’s high school last night. After this meeting I am more concerned with sending him to in person classes. He and I work in a long term care facility and have been very careful about going around others. The school will be mandating masks, no screening-they are relying on parents to do this, only able to promote 3 ft social distancing, utilizing longer class periods to have fewer times of changing rooms etc. My son is normally an A/B student. With online learning he last spring he failed 2 classes and the rest were B and C’s so online is not his strength. We are in West MI. I feel like you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. ????

    • A good curriculum is everything. It’s more like having to buy college books, unfortunately. Not quite as expensive though. But the goal is the child’s success!

    • Michigan homeschooling law is among the best and friendliest in the country. While homeschooling a high schooler is more complicated than homeschooling kids 8th grade and below, you might consider it if you plan to continue homeschooling until he finishes high school. Many homeschool co-ops exist and many in Michigan are still planning to meet for in-person classes. You could also look into dual-enrollment college classes (when high schoolers take college classes while still in high school). Good luck!

    • My daughter did online school in China for the first couple of months. Yeah, it was pretty much a disaster. The first week back in the classroom, she had exams in every subject. All were pretty bad except English. By the end of the spring semester she had caught back up but it was a tough road.

  • I’m so lucky my kids are older and understand the risks. But I think we are all going to have to let go of the idea of a universal education for our kids. Let’s face it – it was never really exactly the same for every kid, every city, every province anyway was it? Now they are just going to REALLY be learning at different times and in different ways. The whole graduate from college and get a job for life thing was a blip of the 50s that wasn’t great for our mental health anyway! Kids are going to technical schools! Kids are starting businesses! It’s all very different these days than the ideal we (80s kids) were sold. Kids will learn. Someone will teach them. It won’t be easy. We will all make mistakes. But our kids will be ok. The only ones I really stress about are the ones with special needs. Those need to be addressed early or they WILL lose the window to catch up. We should put MORE resources toward those kids, way more, at home or in the classroom. They are the ones who need our focus. And we all need to support each other and be prepared to change. It’s a Pandemic and so basically the End of the World. As we know it. So change is inevitable.

  • Regarding commenter Marti’s report of non-highlighted and non-working links in this article, I checked every possible link (which were all light-green highlighted), and every one of them is working as intended. I happen to be using the browser Brave, but any of a zillion browsers ought to yield the same results.

    Is it possible that Marti is clicking on this article that arrived via some censoring social media or censoring Big Tech source? Gmail, for example, is notorious for censoring Daisy’s article links so that when one clicks on them from within Gmail, the entire left half of every article’s page is whited out.

    The remedy in such cases is to copy the article link elsewhere, bail out of the censoring system, and paste that link into something the censoring system can’t reach.

    Or … the trouble may be elsewhere.


    • @Lewis,
      Running FireFox here, all the linkys worked for me.
      Maybe Marti’s running a VPN?

  • Now this is interesting and something I have never seen before…….I read some comments regarding the links & decided to try one. I clicked on the one attached to the question: “Am I putting my child and family at undue risk by sending them to school in the fall?”. Well, I got a notification from Google that they wanted me to click to give them permission to identify my computer! Obviously, I got out of that screen. Never saw that before!!

      • I just checked the links. I am using the Brave browser and do not have a problem with the links. It is possible the links are browser-specific, so will test them on a Firefox and Safari. Thanks again.

  • Hi Lewis and 1st Marine Jarhead,

    thanks for the feedback. I am using Microsoft Edge which has worked in the past. The items listed in the article are not even highlighted so I can copy and paste. For example, the section that gives links and says, here, here, and here – nothing is underlined or highlighted, just black text. Haven’t had problems with other links outside this article so not sure what the matter is. Again, thanks for your feedback. Never had problems from any of OP links before so maybe a dysfunction with something in my system. Again, thanks!

  • Before covid19, schools have been have more resembled prisons, metal detector, campus police, RFID name tags to track their location. Now enter increased restrictive environment of 6-8hrs of having to where masks restricted their oxygen intake which is vital to the brains function in learning, face shields, (Isolation)restriction on being able to socialize among their friends and peers, subjected constant harassment over social distancing on buses, lunch rooms, another essential element vital to learning and socialization, children need the freedom to express their ideas, emotional socialization among peer is vital to mature psychological health. To restrict & deny children these essential elements of learning is psychological torture. During the covid19lock-downs many adults suffered the debilitating psychological effects of isolation, anxiety, fear, dismay ,depression, suicidal tendencies. Do you really want to subject your children to this type of environment & expect them to come out as emotionally whole on the other side of 12 years of school resembling a high tech Guantanamo Bay?

    • Also you must consider having to subject your children to a entire new required vaccinations to include ,a untested, unproven safe potentially harmful Covid 19 vaccine, Mr Gates has already stated that multiple continuos vaccinations ,not just one would be necessary to treat (sic) Covid19.

  • There was a time when the critical thinking, individual thought was heralded as innovative of the great inventors, imagination and striving for excellence not (mediocrity), when reading ,writing, arithmetic, history , (not Common core) If Biden were to win, he has already said Islam should be part of the curriculum, no doubt with more social justice classes, increased emphasis on the erasing history (already removing of monuments), teaching evils capitalism, white privilege, of microaggression towards perceived injustices, instruction on social justice change championed by Antifa/ BLM as ideal mentors. These antifa anarchists are the product of modern institutions of high indoctrination. We have already lost one generation to this mind control..if we do not take back our children’s education countless future generations will suffer the same travesty.

  • Speaking of kids. This is the peak growing season. Now is a good time to try and get warm clothes for the growing ones. I’m having a hard time finding new and am going to the used places now to get warm stuff for the grands. Sigh. Such critical resources should be gotten now. Some say it’s going to be another cold winter.

  • Nobody has any legitimate right to dictate to parents how they must teach their children, what school their child must attend, or what their child must learn, etc. Nobody has the right to interfere with another family.

    But statists think they do. They think they have a right to force their beliefs on others. Via government of course, their god that they think gets special exceptions to ordinary morality.

    Can you steal from your neighbor and call it a tax, and threaten them with being shot or jailed if they refuse? Of course not, but statists think government can.

    Can you tax your neighbor in this manner than then set up a school with it and demand that they send their kids there, again with threats if they don’t want to comply? Of course not, but statists think government people get to do these things.

    I will homeschool my kids as long as I can. I won’t let a liberty-hating thieving lying warmongering corporatist immoral entity, the state, teach my kids its lies and propaganda.

    At home they get to learn real useful information. How to do math correctly, no Common Core BS. Real science, not the “science” of corporations and government. The same people who will tell you viruses can’t go through masks, but if someone doesn’t have a mask then everyone with a mask is in danger. Amongst other pseudo-scientific illogical nonsense.

    At home they get to learn real facts and history. Which I’m sure infuriates the statists, because truth shines a light on their god, the state, and reveals its fraudulence, and its murderous horror.

  • We homeschooled both our kids K-12 and it was the best decision we ever made. However, I’d like to caution parents about homeschooling high school IF they intend to send the students back to public school. Many public high schools will not accept homeschool work for credit, which means your student might not be able to graduate in the expected amount of time. Private schools might be more lenient about accepting homeschool work for credit. Therefore, if your student is in 9th – 11th grade, I would call the school and ask if your student decides to return whether or not your student is eligible for credit at the school (e.g., through portfolio evaluation, testing out of classes, etc.). Those in 12th grade might want to stick it out through the last year as otherwise the parent will need to issue the diploma and prepare college application materials like the counselor letter by him/herself, which can be very intimidating for a brand-new homeschooler. That being said, I don’t want to discourage anyone from homeschooling; I just want them to have the facts before taking the leap. It is a fantastic way to allow high schoolers to explore interests and careers, gain college credits before graduating high school through dual-enrollment, and learn deeply.

    • Very valid points! My son will be returning to school this fall as he’ll be a senior… and I hope he’s able to have at least a bit of normalcy for the year. We did homeschool for part of elementary, and if he were younger, we’d very likely homeschool again this year, if for no other reason than to avoid all the uncertainty.

  • Thank you for all the thought-provoking comments. The article is spot on. Thank you Linnea. My school district has yet to decide if we will go back to school. The local health department says no. The school board will make a decision next week. As a teacher, I am horrified at what we will be requiring our little ones to do if we do go back. Masks. 6 feet apart. No hugs. No high fives. No sharing learning tools. All in a neat row. No circle time. No helping each other. Lunch in the classroom which I actually enjoy. No play on playground equipment. No playing with balls, jump ropes, etc. If we don’t go back, what will that look like for those grade levels that are so hands-on? How do I show my kids how to hold their mouth to make the correct sounds the letters make when I am required to wear a mask and how can I tell what their mistake is when I cannot see their mouth due to a mask. How do I help them learn to hold a pencil without touching them from 6 feet away? Can you tell I teach Kinder? I am afraid for their future and future in education without a strong foundation. We as teachers in my district have NO CLUE how it will look nor how we will be evaluated, how we can effectively evaluate our students learning then if that data will be valid to adjust our lessons accordingly. My advice, if at all possible HOME SCHOOL. As many others in this forum have stated, they will get a better education and it will be more well rounded. You must be diligent but you can do it.

  • In Australia we are back to homeschooling again already , and in my state we are back in a second lockdown. I did have a teaching placement later in the year but at this stage I’ll probably cancel as I dont want my kids back in physical school as they are both high risk due to health issues. But it’s a damn tough call . Not an easy call for anyone.

  • Well the CDC can put their unrealistic wishes in one hand and poo in the other and see which fills up first.
    The teachers, unions and administrators can do the same.
    I’m not paying property taxes for them to sit at home and work 2 hrs a day. If we as parents, grandparents and others are going to do all the work then I don’t need them at all. I’m sure as heck not gonna vote for any more bond issues because you don’t need buildings.
    Every single school here is crying and whining but everyday I’m driving by watching school football practice. Every weekend I’m watching softball games. But muh football. If y’all can have sports you can have class.
    Private dance classes, gymnastics, martial arts and lots of other things are being held every evening. It’s treated similarly to the flu. With the flu there has the be an outbreak of a percentage to shut down. With covid it’s one.
    The amount of direct known exposure we’ve all had means we either ain’t going to get it or we’ve already got it and we ain’t gonna get it for a bit.
    I chose my profession and I gotta work out in it every single day. Now so do you. In fact I’m going to be your new security officer after I retire next year.

  • Privatize the schools letting teachers who want to work from home open private schools for those who want to learn at home and then rent out the school buildings to groups of teachers who want to provide a traditional education to those who want it. Nobody is forced to do or not do anything. Give vouchers to the students and let the best schools win.

  • People are starting to realize that around 25% of the teachers aren’t going to show up, more than that if a school district has a lot of older teachers. All school will be online this winter

  • Some parents may want to look into ” unschooling “. Unschooling seems to work best with older students (5th grade up) who are self directed , independent learners. The student picks something they are interested in and learns everything that is possibly related to that subject. For example, say your 5th grader likes stories about dragons. They can learn about maps, GPS systems, medieval life, physics and airplane flight ( how would a dragon fly?) reptiles, heat and temperature, food chains, biomes, to name just a few things. Then they choose a new topic and do the same.

  • Where I am at here in China, theystaggered the opening of schools. The older kids started first. They evaluated things and a week later, the younger kids went back. A couple weeks later, they opened the preschools/day care facilities. At school, social distancing was not a focus. In fact they acted like they never heard of the term. But mask wearing at all times was mandatory. For the first couple weeks, they took the temperature of every student before entry to school grounds. Parents were notified that if they sent their child to school and that child was coughing, there was a good possibility the entire school would be shut down. So, if your kid coughed, keep them home and the student would have to have a verified OK in order to be accepted back to school.

  • My kids are going back. As long as proper safety precautions are followed, I’m not that worried. They do much better with in-person learning with their peers than they do remotely at home or being homeschooled by me.

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