The Back-to-School Jitters

Today, I decided to take a break from discussing new product development or productivity and linger a little on a subject that is near and dear to my heart . . . preparing for the beginning of the new school year. Yes, I said it. And, I wouldn’t have even brought up the subject, but I’m being inundated with all things “back-to-school” right about now. So, it’s hard not to focus attention on the topic.

For most (if not all of us parents), last school year ended on an unprecedented note and I do believe that we’re in for more of the same. As a matter of fact, I would love to hear what kind of experiences you faced at the end of your child’s school year and what challenges you presume you’ll be facing at the beginning of this new one.

I’ve been dangling on a very skinny balance beam, wondering what would be in store for my 10-year-old and his fifth-grade year. Not because I wasn’t receiving any communication from our public school system (because they were doing a great job of keeping us informed of any updates as they arose), but because there was no conclusive information about what the school year would look like until very recently.

Within the last few weeks, parents were informed of two very monumental pieces of information.

  • Our Governor would sign an executive order moving the start date of our city’s public schools from mid-August to after Labor Day.
  • During enrollment, parents have the opportunity to choose one of three educational options for their children.
    • in-person schooling for the child through the child’s neighborhood or magnet school
    • online schooling for the child through the child’s neighborhood or magnet school
    • online schooling for the child through the district’s already established virtual school

Whew! Getting those particular pieces of information have taken an incredible load off of my mind. But before this information was disseminated to the masses within my city, my husband and I had already determined that my son would be attending fifth grade here at home — no matter what the school district rolled out. But knowing that my son will be taught by a teacher at his current magnet school (the same school my two adult children attended and received a great start to their academic careers) gives me such hope and comfort.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for several years now, and the experience has been such a blessing to me. It’s afforded me the opportunity to do what I’m doing now with my content creation, be more present for my husband and children, and be available to assist my elderly family members. It’s also giving me flexibility in the options that I have for my son and his schooling.

Now, a year ago, there’s no way I would have foreseen myself looking homeschooling directly in the face once again. I homeschooled my son for first and second grades and had decided (along with my husband) that he would return back to public school for the remainder of his schooling. Don’t get me wrong. Homeschooling was such a blessed experience, and I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. But, I was good with letting him return back to the public school setting after second grade. I even looked forward to him being around children his age who he could learn and socialize with. He was missing a bit of that socialization aspect by being home with me.

So, imagine my surprise when I came face-to-face with the prospect of homeschooling my son again, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Well, the no-brainer decision for me and my household is to keep my child at home for his schooling for this upcoming year. I’m home, so why wouldn’t I keep him home with me? I simply couldn’t justify sending him off to school on any possible level.

Me, myself, and I am very regimented in the places I go: pretty much only to stores, maybe to the post office and to pump gas in my car, to check on elderly family members (and I always pray that I’m not exposing them to anything), to go for walks close to the house, and do gardening work around the house. So, you can probably surmise that it would be very difficult for me to send my son out into the world to receive his education while wearing a mask.

I’m aware that not every mother and father have the same set of circumstances, and the different variables we’ve been allotted force us to make the decisions that we do. However, I’m hopeful that we can do right by our children by determining our final decisions based on the best possible outcomes we can hope to receive out of a very difficult situation.

Mothers, fathers — let’s just strive to do the best we can with what we’ve been dealt. My admonition is to encourage all parents to treat the decisions you make for your child with the utmost importance. Our children’s well-beings are in the balance.

Yes, I’m totally going to miss my son having other children to interact with face-to-face; but what is face-to-face interaction going to look like anyway with social distancing and face masks? What kind of policed socialization can children hope to receive in brick-and-mortar schools come this school year? I have a great imagination, but it’s hard for me to picture children getting to be children at school. It almost feels as if they’ll have to learn to act like and think like adults in order to keep themselves safe.

I’m really not trying to be the pessimist here. I’m just viewing things with my realistic eye wear on these days. I truly hope that school (amid Coronavirus) will be safer and more productive for the children than I’m currently picturing, but only time will tell. I mean, I have all these questions floating around in my mind . . . like . . .

Will the children wear masks during physical education and recess? Seems like it would be hard for them to breath while doing physical activity, if they’re wearing masks.

Or will they do away with physical education, recess, library, music class, etc. and cut down their school day and possible exposure to the virus with taking away their exploratory classes and recesses?

How will the school administration ensure that children are sanitary after using the bathrooms, and certainly they won’t be allowed to use water fountains anymore, right?

What will lunch time look like and how do you make sure that children don’t mess with each other’s food or eat and drink after each other? (I was a stickler with this one with my children and made sure they knew it was a HUGE NO-NO). But, we aren’t with our children when they’re at school, so . . . 

Older children may do fine with wearing face masks throughout the school day, but will it be so easy to keep the younger children (like the Kindergartners) from taking off their face masks?

What kind of testing will be done to insure that children and adults don’t have COVID? And how often will the testing be done: daily or weekly?

What is the protocol if a child or adult gets sick? I assume the child or adult will be sent home, but what about all the individuals that were exposed to the compromised individual? How are they handled?

How can you truly socially distance children when they’re so naturally drawn to each other? They’re children. Children do what children do and think like children think.

How will teachers be able to effectively monitor social distancing efforts, while focusing on what they were actually trained to do, which is educate children? 

Time will eventually tell all and I pray that time shows some positive outcomes from the get-go. But for now, I’m keeping Little Man with me. I know I can’t protect him from every possible bad thing in life for the rest of his life. But, I sure can do my best to keep him out of harm’s way while he’s under my care, anyway.

And, I pray for all of you out there that have hard decisions to make on what to do for your child’s schooling this upcoming year. I pray that you’ll be given the opportunities to have choices to make the best possible situations out of a difficult one. Take care and God bless.

Back to School Jitters

7 thoughts on “The Back-to-School Jitters

  1. I feel all this and more! Being a school teacher and mom of a 1st grader and kindergartner, all these decisions are so difficult! And there are no real answers yet! I feel for everyone who has to make these difficult choices. Everyone is doing the best they can and none of these decisions are easy. I still have no definite answers about what my district fully plans on doing or what my kids’ district is doing. This is not something any of us expected back in March…

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  2. Mom of 3 – I truly appreciate you wonderful teachers. You have such an awesome responsibility. What a blessed role you assume in inspiring your students throughout their childhood personal and educational development. My mom was a Kindergarten and first-grade teacher for 30+ years, so I’ve grown up around such positive influences in the educational field all of my life. As a teacher, I know your desire is to do what you love, which is teach the children in your classroom. It’s so unfortunate that children can’t just go to school and learn these days (and teachers can’t just teach them) — there’s now another level of obstacle to doing just that. And as a mother, we want to protect our children and give them the best life possible amid such challenging antagonists that have placed themselves before us. I pray that your district offers your family and all the families opportunities to allow you to do what you love and allow your children to learn safely. Be encouraged.

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  3. I’m very happy our school district took the worry and choices out of our hands and decided weeks ago to do an online only start. The one thing that bothers me is elementary schools can apply to reopen. I know there is absolutely no way my 6 year old will keep a mask on all day, so I’m very lucky I am a stay at home mom. We were talking to one of my cousins recently since she has kids around the same age as ours, but she and her husband are much needed doctors so she feels like she’s placed between a rock and a hard place right now. It’s so tough for parents right now, having to choose between their children’s health and the jobs they need. Our district has come up with so many idea, most of them kind of weird and some of them just sad, like giving every child their own ball they can play alone with during recess and having learning centers in parks, which just brings up too many weather concerns since it gets hot here through December. I can’t help but feel lucky to be home right now, but my heart goes out to all the parents who have to make tough choices. And all the kids who may or may not be resilient enough to get through this.

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  4. Hey there Kat – Yay for California! I like your district’s start of school plan. And, I’m so thankful that you are able to stay home with your son as well. What a blessing! These are truly unprecedented times we (parents) are faced with. I have so many more questions than what I mentioned in the blog post and I can’t begin to imagine what school administrations are going through right now because they’re pretty much in between a rock and a hard place (like the parents). And, they’re not going to please everyone. But, the overall focus should be on the well-being of the children. REGARDLESS. Our children are our futures and their health is so much more important than all the big business and politics behind the school machine. My thing is that leaders need to slow down and refuse to make hasty decisions, since our up-and-coming generations are hanging in the balance.

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  5. Things are pretty good in my neck of the woods as far as keeping the virus controlled, but I still haven’t heard exactly what the school year will look like. There’s supposed to be an announcement on August 1. I am hoping my boys can go back to their schools, but I’m also wanting to be cautious. I have always felt that I was more concerned about the transmission of flus, colds, and viruses than some people and at the very least, am glad that more preventative measures are being taken now. However the infrastructure doesn’t always support it. My son’s school is crowded and his classes are in a small, separate building that has been added to the school grounds. They don’t have easy access to washrooms or running water. Before the pandemic they would only use hand sanitizer before eating lunch – they weren’t even given a place to wash their hands without going outside (through weather that is regularly -20 degrees Celsius or below in the winter). This to me is not ideal… pandemic or no pandemic.

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  6. Hey there Lisa – Wow! It does sound like there were some definite challenges to your sons’ school settings even before COVID, but I’m so happy to hear that the virus seems to be in check where you are. As a mother who loves her children, I can tell that you put great care into rearing them and that you will instruct them on how to best handle themselves (when and if returning to school). And as a praying woman, prayer over your children before they leave the house is ALWAYS in season. So, keep praying. Take care and I sure hope that the info on August 1st provides you with the options that will work best for your family.

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