Like just about every parent I know, I have literally been obsessed with WTF is going to happen next year in terms of my children’s schooling. For the past few weeks, I have obsessively read every article on the matter. I have kept a keen eye on any news pertaining to the way the virus spreads in school environments (spoiler alert: there is a ton of evidence that it does, including a massive outbreak in Texas daycares over the past few weeks).
I’m sure I’ve lost a few Facebook friends considering the amount of times I’ve posted about the issue. At least a few times, my husband has asked if we could please talk about something—anything—else. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night numerous times in a cold sweat feeling completely and utterly bewildered about whether it will be safe to send my kids, and what I would do if they were home with me (while I work full-time) next school year.
The thing is, in normal pre-COVID times, I absolutely without a doubt want my kids to be in school. School has been generally wonderful for my kids—they’ve had fantastic teachers, made great friends, and had nurturing learning experiences. And for me as a working parent, having them in school is a no-brainer.
But after wrestling with the idea of what to do next year should schools where I live open up—and literally making myself sick with worry—I had a lightbulb moment over the weekend where I realized that what I needed to do here is listen to my gut. And my gut told me that, unless something completely transformative changes between now and September (a miracle COVID-19 treatment, maybe?), there is no way my children will be attending in-person school next year.
Now, our school district hasn’t given us a plan or options yet. If there is a remote option, one or both of my children will likely take it. But regardless of what is offered, since about Sunday of last week, it has been crystal clear to me what I will do — which is educate my kids at home, by hook or by crook.
I didn’t realize what a freaking weight would be lifted off my chest when I made such a decision. Now that I am clear about what our family is doing, I can start to actually plan for next year—talk to my kids about it, look into educational options, imagine how I can rearrange my schedule and life to make it work.
And I actually feel so much better than I did before.
Mind you, I am a parent who can work from home. I have neurotypical children who fare much better in a school building than at home, but they will be fine with distance learning for a year of their lives. I fully acknowledge that this is not the case for all families.
But I also know so many parents who are in the in-between right now, trying to make a decision for their family about next year—grappling with the thought of staggered schedules, distance learning, hybrid models, and the real possibility of their children or families getting infected with COVID-19.
We all have our own struggles and considerations, and there is no one right answer here, but I thought I’d share my list of reasons why this choice made the most sense to me, because I think it may be useful to others to see it all laid out in one place.
Again, this list may not apply to you and your specific situation. I’m also being super honest and not holding back on any of my thoughts or opinions…
So here are 15 honest AF reasons at-home learning next year is right for my family:
1. School Is Not Risk-Free For Kids
No matter how anyone downplays the risk, no one is saying that kids never get the virus, nor that they sometimes don’t get very ill and die of it. Everyone admits that putting them in a school environment is a risk—no matter the safety precautions. I have two asthmatic kids, one of whom was hospitalized last year during an asthma attack triggered by a respiratory infection. I’m not willing to take that risk.
2. We Don’t Know The Long-Term Effects Of COVID-19 On Kids
Sure, kids don’t usually get very sick with COVID-19, but we don’t know a damn thing about the long-term effects of contracting the virus. This virus is about six months old. We cannot know in what ways it affects children long-term. Period. There are adults out there who “survived” COVID-19 who still can’t breathe properly and who have experienced organ failure. This virus is no fucking joke.
3. Teachers And School Staff Definitely ARE Vulnerable To COVID-19
We do know that adults can become severely ill with the virus. We know that in all likelihood, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, principals, secretaries, etc. WILL get sick with the virus if schools open. We know that in all likelihood, some of them will die. I’d like to do everything in my power to minimize that likelihood.
4. The Fewer Kids In School, The More Likely Safety Measures Can Be Carried Out
Very small class sizes with room for social distancing is the only way we have a shot of protecting kids and teachers in schools. The fewer of us in the buildings, the better for everyone.
5. Even If You Send Your Child To School, There Will Be Many Interruptions Due To Outbreaks
You know that there will be outbreaks. You know school’s going to be a shitshow during cold and flu season because most schools will adhere to a strict “no sniffle” policy. You know entire classes will be quarantined for two weeks even if one person in the class tests positive. You know remote learning will be a part of next school year. I’d rather my kids just be doing school on the damn computer in the first place than have to go on and off all school year, while also being exposed to the virus and awaiting test results.
6. Outbreaks In Schools Have The Potential To Affect Entire Communities, Including Vulnerable Populations
School outbreaks aren’t just about your kids or their teachers. It’s about them bringing it home to you and your family, and your family spreading it through the community. Israel just blamed its latest spike in infections on outbreaks that started in schools. That will likely happen here too. We really need to think about public health, and not just opening the school doors and sending our kids in.
7. Remote Learning/Homeschooling Is Temporary
It sucks, but we can do this for half a year, or a year. Our kids will be okay, trust me. Again, this is especially true for those of us with neurotypical kids and who can spend even just a little time each day helping our kids with distance learning/homeschooling. Especially those of us who have a remote work option, which is said to be about half of the population right now.
8. Teaching Our Kids To Make Sacrifices Is Good For Them
My kids would rather go back to school. They complained about the idea of staying home. But they understood that it made sense for our family and that it’s a choice that has the potential to protect others. Case closed. Lesson learned.
9. I Find It Hard To Trust That Other Kids Will Abide By Safety Rules
There are plenty of parents in my town who think COVID-19 is a hoax and that masks are for “sissies.” Do I want my kids going to school with their kids? NOPE. Even adults around here can’t maintain distance or wear their masks properly, so how can we expect kids to adhere to those standards?
10. I Don’t Want My Kids Wearing A Mask All Day Or Being In A Strict Socially Distanced Bubble
I’m all for masks, and I wouldn’t let my kids go back without them, but I don’t think wearing one all day, for six hours, is the best way for them to learn–or the best way for teachers to teach. And if they can barely interact with their peers because of social distancing, then the whole “socialization for mental health” argument is out of the window too.
11. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome In Children (MIS-C) Associated With COVID-19
MIS-C is a syndrome linked to COVID-19 that causes inflammation in the blood vessels, including the heart. Hundreds of kids in the U.S. have been hospitalized with it. Several kids in my state (New York) have lost their lives. It causes heart problems and requires ICU stays. This shit scares me, and I don’t want my kids getting this.
12. We Have No Clue What Will Happen When Everyone Returns To School During COVID-19 Because It Literally Has Never Happened
Why is everyone saying school will be no big deal in terms of viral transmission and that kids are largely spared from the virus? Maybe it’s because most kids have been quarantined or partially quarantined since the spring. No one fucking knows what happens when 56 million kids go back to school in the fall. Maybe the outbreaks will be minimal. Maybe they’ll be horrendous. My kids will not be the guinea pigs in this experiment.
13. What Happens If I Get Sick?
Real talk: if I were to get this virus, and if I were to get a bad case of it, my household would be a wreck. If my husband got it too, there would literally be no one around to take care of my kids because they are staying away from grandparents (their babysitters) these days to keep them safe. If my husband and I were out of commission because of COVID-19—or God forbid one of us was hospitalized or passed away… I’m not willing to risk either outcome.
14. I’d Like To Be Able To See My Parents Again
We have just begun socially distant visits with my kids’ grandparents. There is no way in hell that would continue if my kids return to school. No way I’d put their grandparents at risk.
15. My Gut Tells Me That This Is The Best Choice For My Family
I think this one is key. Like I said, I wrestled with this night and day and drove myself and my family bonkers trying to weigh the pros and cons of this decision. Once I made the choice (in agreement with my husband), it felt like a literal weight was lifted off my shoulders. That’s how I knew it was the right choice.
No, I’m not dancing in the streets at the prospect of schooling my kids at home next year. It’s going to be bananas here with two parents working full-time while schooling two kids. But, now that I don’t have to worry about the above 15 things that have crowded my kind for weeks, I can start to see that while next year will suck in many ways, it will be doable and okay.
Because in my mind there literally isn’t any other choice than to make it work.