My Kids Have Had Their First Quarantine Of The School Year, And This Is Life Now

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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It all started during a three-day weekend. We were supposed to spend a solid 72 hours sleeping in, swimming, and doing a few chores and home projects. When one of my kids complained of a sore throat, I blew it off as allergies. Then a few hours later, another kid started sniffling and also stated her throat hurt. Like dominoes, each of my kids started complaining of the same symptoms.

Being the responsible parents we are, we took them to get COVID tested as soon as their doctor’s office opened. We had to wait 48 hours for the results, so we settled them in at home, each with a pile of school work, to await the verdict. In the meantime, one school nurse called me. That’s when I heard the dreaded words. My child had been exposed to a COVID-positive student. We had been back to school for just four weeks, and my kids were already in quarantine.

We’ve taken all the precautions since March of last year, so the only way my child—and their siblings—would have COVID is through the school exposure. Two days after they each got their noses swabbed, the pediatrician’s nurse called. All the kids had rhinovirus, not COVID. Thankfully.

I was keeping my kids home until their cold symptoms resolved, anyway. Who can wear a mask and blow their nose at the same time? However, as the week drew to a close, my kids were ready to go back to school. Yet my child who was exposed to COVID wasn’t allowed back to school for ten days and couldn’t ride the bus for fourteen days.

For two weeks, my child was back to learning-at-home, using paper packets and online assignments given by the teacher. I was thrown right back into the world of remote learning as my sole life’s purpose. We had moments of joy, mostly when playing outside, but also moments of sheer exhaustion and frustration.

After all of my children returned to school, I had the realization that this school year, even with masks, distancing when possible, and health checks, with four kids, I was going to end up with kids at home—for several weeks at a time—several times. Brace yourself, parents. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

I am not complaining that our school districts are working hard to keep students and staff safe during the pandemic. All of the precautions and quarantines are absolutely necessary. I know that none of us—parents, students, or educators—are thrilled about the pending, numerous disruptions. More exposures and nurse phone calls are coming.

With the reality of our situation in mind, we need to keep our expectations low. I mean, this is not the time to set the bar high. Our kids aren’t going to “catch up” from missing so much in-person school last year. Keep in mind, they haven’t truly fallen behind, because when you think about it, behind what? Behind whom?

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I hate to be cliché, but it is what it is. When our kids spend chunks of time learning from home, rather than alongside their peers and with trained teachers, their educations are going to be messy. Even when they are in school, masks and other precautions limit some of their educational access. There’s no end in sight, there’s no going back to normal (what is normal, anyway?), and everyone is struggling.

Parents, we’ve got to ease off our kids. I mean it. We need to stop stalking their grades and hounding them. Learning during a pandemic is a whole different level that none of us have experienced before. If our kids get the bare minimum right now, I consider that a win.

We’ve also got to give our teachers lots of grace. They are doing their best in the midst of a hot mess. Not only do they have our children to teach, but many of them are raising their own kids—who also are dealing with remote learning, quarantines, masks, and more.

We also have to stop telling ourselves that our kids’ school success is going to make or break them. Maybe we all just do the best we can right now and let the rest go. None of us enjoy the pandemic, so instead of fighting against it, perhaps we embrace what we can. We can’t control much right now, but our attitude toward our kids and their educators is one of them.

The sooner we realize that this year is going to be much like a roller coaster we’ve never ridden before, the better. How we take on this school year is going to teach our kids how to respond, too.

Am I happy that only a month into school my kids were at home with a mere cold and then one ended up home for two weeks due to COVID policies? Absolutely not. However, I quickly realized that I could either help my kid keep learning or let them flounder around solo. Doing the latter would only cause more stress on the teacher and my child, and the real villain here is the pandemic.

Learning from home isn’t the same as homeschooling, nor is it anywhere close to being in the classroom in-person. But it’s the option we’ve got when the inevitable quarantine shows up. Of course, I hope we won’t face several of these quarantines—but if we do, I have a choice. I can either fight the reality or embrace the opportunity. The latter sounds better to me.

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