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School Options, Homeschool and COVID-19

School Options, Homeschool and COVID-19

My youngest son is scheduled to begin kindergarten this year. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, we talked a lot about his new school and how exciting it will be to join his big brother. Now I’m not so sure if he will start there. 

This was going to be the year of big changes. The end of preschool and the start of his elementary school adventure.

I would send the kids off to the same school for the very first time and start a new job. Then this nasty virus took over the planet and everything changed.

The Kindergarten Decision

Now I sit here trying to decide what to do about school. I’ve read tons of statistics on kids contracting the virus without showing symptoms. 

I know that most kids do not get ill or die from the disease, but I am still incredibly nervous about it.

I also wonder about the quality of school given COVID-19 conditions. Can my five year old wear a mask all day?

What kind of experience will he have sitting in a desk six feet away from other kids? Isn’t kindergarten supposed to be about socialization? How much will he be able to socialize?

Other questions swirl around in my brain too. Is limited socialization worth the risk of getting sick? Is this the way I want to introduce him to elementary school?

What if COVID numbers increase? Will the kids return to remote learning? Is there value in remote learning for a five-year-old?

School Options

Does it make sense to send my older son to school, but leave my little one home with me? My youngest was going to join his big brother at school. Is it strange to tell him he’ll stay at home now?

Of course, my oldest could still contract the virus and pass it on to the rest of us. Although he’s older and better able to keep his mask on that doesn’t mean he won’t get sick.

Would it be worthwhile for him to attend remote learning sessions to ensure he stays away from the virus? How will he feel if his friends go to school, but he stays home? 

My Health

The decision doesn’t just impact my children. I am concerned about my health. I suffered through a series of pulmonary embolisms a decade ago.

It’s not clear what permanent damage occurred as a result of those blood clots. Ever since that incident I’ve been prone to fits of coughing every time I get ill.

What if the children pick up COVID-19 and pass it on to me? My youngest loves to grab my cheeks in his hands and pull me in for a kiss. He is still my best little snuggler.

Remote Learning, Homeschool or an in Classroom Experience

I’m not sure how or if our school system will choose to open. Fairfax Virginia, a county pretty close to us, is providing two options to students.

  1. Full-time online instruction where students will take part in virtual, face to face instruction four days a week.
  2. Two full days of instruction in school each week with independent study on the other two days.

I don’t love either of those two options, but I have a feeling our school will offer something similar.

Homeschool Options

I am considering pulling the kids out of school this year to homeschool them. I’m not the only one. I’ve met a couple of other families who are considering the same option.

This year I planned to return to the working world after an eight-year hiatus. I started looking for jobs in February, but recently paused my search. 

Even if the kids go to school it seems unlikely that they will attend five days a week. If they attend five days a week it seems unlikely that they will attend all day.

We are living in uncertain times and I just don’t know what school will look like this year. Can I get a new job and help my children manage school work?

Thankfully I don’t need a job to pay our bills. I can remain a stay-at-home mom for another year to help the kids get through school. 

I recognize that privilege. Plenty of families are struggling with much larger problems than mine.

Making Decisions

I hate making decisions and I’m not a big fan of change. Both are extremely difficult for me. One minute I make a decision on how to proceed and the next minute I switch to the opposite point of view.

I’ve polled friends, neighbors and other bloggers. Each have provided valuable input and advice.

Many tell me to follow my heart, but I’m not sure what my heart is telling me. There are so many reasons to choose one option over another.

The Unknown

We live outside of the Washington, DC area. Right now our numbers are looking much better than they did earlier in the year. They are consistently dropping, but will they continue to move in the right direction?

What happens if the numbers rise again? Will we spend the year bouncing back and forth between being in school and remote learning. Is it better to just yank both kids out of school this year and homeschool them?

Forty-six percent of parents in our county said they’d prefer to continue at-home instruction when school starts. We’ve had the highest number of cases in the state. (18,645 and 622 confirmed deaths.)

Paying for School

The kids are currently enrolled in a pricey private school, which adds to the complexity. Supplementing a free, remote learning program might make sense for those enrolled in public school.

Paying for a remote learning experience seems to make a little less sense in our situation. I feel guilty for leaving during a pandemic, but I know the school can fill our slots if we choose to leave. They won’t suffer financially with our absence.

Homeschool Versus Remote Learning

Why homeschool at all you might ask? What’s wrong with remote learning?

Remote learning felt like a lot of busy work. We had to schedule our days around various Google Meets, which didn’t always feel particularly necessary or helpful.

My oldest son performs above grade level in most subjects so he didn’t need the lessons and didn’t seem to gain any knowledge as a result of them.

I think we could create a better curriculum at home and possibly provide advance coursework.

My youngest didn’t like his preschool Google Meets at all. He asked us not to call into them after the first two.

Still Undecided

In terms of academics I’m pretty sure we could provide a better curriculum at home and perform the work in a fraction of the time. We don’t have to wait until 2 o’clock to join a call and we don’t have to risk getting sick if the kids go in person.

But for some reason I’m having a terribly hard time making this decision. I guess I fear my oldest will miss out on seeing his friends in school or even seeing their cute little faces online.

Then I worry that my youngest will miss out on the first year of elementary school that we promised.

Thoughts

Is anyone else in a similar predicament? Are you struggling with the decision on how to move forward with this school year? What are your thoughts and what are you leaning towards doing? What would you do if you were in my shoes?

*Note: This is just a plan for this year. When COVID-19 is under control they would return to school. Hopefully, the following year.

Tara

Monday 27th of July 2020

Eep! A lot of factors ... Mine (age 7 and 9) are being unexpectedly Homeschooled this coming year (I call it City Schooling() due to COVID-19, but it is slightly more complicated than that. (We FIREd this year ... were suppose to move to Spain in August, delaying that until Spring (we hope!) ... etc ... etc). With that said, I was a public school teacher for 11 years, and they were at school with me in the Dual Language program. We are in Houston, and our cases are really bad. I don’t feel comfortable sending them back regardless. I think it will be a huge mess - at least in our area ... in school, remote, all of it (again, from my experience / our area). I know there are many different factors involved though. Best of luck in choosing what is best for your kids and family!

-Tara of Four Take Flight

Liz

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

This is a tough decision more difficult to make because your kids are so young. Mine is 12 1/2 and will be a 7th grader and we chose the "hybrid" option with optional in person school maybe once every couple of weeks. I felt like it was too soon to be making any decisions so the hybrid felt like a hedge. And honestly, I figured they would be out of school and back to full time online learning by October or November anyway. And it seemed less disruptive to have chosen that route to begin with. I'm keeping her enrolled at her public school though I've given her some Khan Academy stuff to supplement. Even though it's virtual, there is something nice about being connected to school and a larger group and I feel like there would be resources I could tap into if I needed anything. Big picture is the calculus is going to be different for everybody so whatever decision you make - well, it's going to be the best decision you can make with the information you have at the time.

One Frugal Girl

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I think older kids definitely need to feel connected. While my kindergartner will be fine without friends I definitely think my older son will miss seeing his friends. In fact, that's the one thing that makes me want to send him to school. If I could guarantee a play date or two a week I wouldn't be so concerned about it, but everyone is so busy these days I'm not sure how much of that will be possible once the school year begins. I'm also not sure how he will feel if they talk about school and he's not there.

A lot of people think that school will end shortly after it begins. It's so difficult to know what will happen. You are absolutely right that we must make the "Best decision you can make with the information you have at the time."

I'm the kind of gal who likes all the info before making a decision, so this one is particularly tough for me.

Thank you for your comment.

Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

We're going over our options right now but the local public school that JB is *so excited* to attend is not giving us any information until August when it's almost too late (for a planner) to really make an informed decision.

On the one hand, working and homeschooling at the same time is simply not sustainable. I get stressed and mean and cranky at not doing anything well. I can't create enough hours in the day to do both well, even when we share the workload pretty evenly or when PiC takes the bulk of it.

On the other hand, even if kids mostly aren't hit as hard by the virus, they're still carriers. And anything JB brings home takes me months to recover from. That's just for run of the mill stuff! This is not that.

So we're very conflicted as well. I think we'd both strongly prefer to keep them home with remote learning, five days a week.

The thing about seeing their friends is they still won't be able to play with them at school, AFAIK, but I also want JB to get to know their cohort at the local school at the same time as the other kids are getting to know each other. So, also conflict there. Sigh. We'll keep working at what we think makes the most sense for our family but I wish that it were a more feasible option to homeschool without knowing for sure it's going to make us go quite noisily mad.

One Frugal Girl

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

These decisions are so difficult especially where matters of health are concerned. We have friends with no fear of the virus and no reason to believe they will become ill. They smile and say "send them school." It's not so easy if you think you could get horribly sick after being exposed to the virus.

I don't think there will be any interaction between classes, so if my oldest son's friends aren't in his class he won't be able to interact with them. It's not clear how much they can play alongside their classmates either.

My husband and I talked tonight about separating time and making sure we both get out of the house for walks, meditation, etc. more often. Having the kids under foot for another year might make me a little batty. I love them dearly, but school was a nice little break that we won't have if they stay home with us.

Robyn

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I feel you!! This is such a hard decision to make. I had planned to send my baby to the babysitter next year but thinking I will keep her home and cut down on my work hours/ work nights instead.

I think its the safest option even though it will be extremely hard

One Frugal Girl

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

A friend of mine is doing the exact same thing. She's going to keep her son at home and try to figure out how to work around his schedule. She will save a ton of money with this solution too!