Happy Friday, loves!
This is one of those days that’s just so sweet. Who doesn’t love a Friday? I make sure I have all my deadlines met prior to Fridays so that I can sleep a little late, linger a little longer over my morning cup (cups…who am I trying to kid?) of coffee, and spend the day doing whatever makes me happy in the moment.
Today, that’s botox and shopping followed by a fab weekend filled with family, friends, and date night, and the ensuing progress on all the big things happening at home – I’ll come back to that in a week or two to share with everyone what’s happening in the Raiford house. For now, though, Friday means a morning to myself while the littles are home with my husband (definitely not interrupting him while he’s working) and my forehead is officially fixed (the judgement lines are worse than ever thanks to COVID cancelling my most recent appointment and, well, everything that’s going on in the world). It’s a good, good day.
It’s also a day that I thought I’d share with you some big news from our house. We are actually filled to overflowing with big news these days, but I’ll start with this one and leave the rest for another day. After months of deliberation, uncertainty, and research, my husband and I have officially enrolled our three youngest kids in virtual school for the upcoming school year. Fourth and first grades will be learned from home, and we are feeling really good about our decision. Sweet Addison is uncertain what she’d like to do. She’s waiting as long as she can to make a decision as to whether she will go back to brick and mortar school for seventh grade or learn from home. It’s her decision, and we respect whichever decision she makes.
However, the three littles will not be returning. This was not a decision we made lightly, nor was it one that was easy for us to make, but it’s the best decision for us for many reasons. A culmination of things led to this decision, and it feels right. If you’re on the fence about what you’re doing during the upcoming school year, I hope that our thought process and the factors we took into consideration might help you make your own decision a little better.
*No one knows your child better than you, so please use your own judgement when making this decision.
Nothing makes me at all comfortable with little kids and the uncertainty of the upcoming school year. The fact that our twins ended their kindergarten year abruptly and without warning in March without so much as a goodbye to anyone was hard on them. Our two oldest have years of experience in school. They know that this is not what school looks like, or how it works, so they just went with the flow. The twins, though; they’re 6. They don’t know what elementary school looks like. They haven’t had a full year in school to compare it to.
The uncertainty of what it will bring next year with kids this age is a bit too much for us, as parents, to handle. For example, one of our twins is a boy. He’s not a child who sits still for long periods of time – as no little boy should be expected to do. He loves recess and PE and the physical aspect of playing outside and being active and rough and tumble with his friends. He likes to learn, but the idea of him sitting in a classroom without being able to leave for lunch or specials or outside time is hard for me to imagine.
My fear is that he will spend all day in his classroom as they work hard to protect the kids through social distancing and lack of contact with as many people as possible, and he will foster a distaste for education. What 6-year-old wouldn’t develop a negative feeling for school if it doesn’t involve any sort of enjoyment to break up the educational aspect? I worry that being confined all day, being asked to wear a mask, being asked to stay in one room with one set of kids without being able to play up close and personal without books and toys and fun is going to ruin school for him.
The uncertainty is frustrating, and the fact that everything changes on a daily basis doesn’t leave us confident that what’s currently being touted as the plan for the new school year will, in fact, remain in place. Everything is changing every single day, and I worry that the uncertainty will cause too many upsetting changes.
My other main concern going into the 2020-2021 school year is the potential disruption. Let me preface this with a small statement that I have three educators in my immediate family who work at a total of two different schools in two different counties – and I’ve befriended many amazing admins and teachers over the years; and not one of them has a clue what the new school year will look like. Not one of them is confident that these kids will go back to school as scheduled on August 10. Every single one of them is leaning more toward a return after Labor Day, and every single one of them is worried they’ll return for a few weeks and be asked to cancel school again due to the pandemic.
When my own mother – a woman who has been teaching at the same school since I was in elementary school in the 80s – is recommending we keep our kids home for the year, well, that speaks volumes. When I mentioned it to all my educator friends and family members and not one of them came back with, “Oh, I don’t know that this is the best idea,” because they all said, “I don’t blame you,” instead, it speaks volumes.
The disruption was hard on our kids when school was cancelled initially. They did so well distance learning, but it was hard to help them understand why they were in school one day and never went back after that. It’s not easy.
It’s also not easy for my husband and I. My husband works from home, and he spends the vast majority of his day on the phone with his clients. I work from home running my content creation company, and I spend my time working with strict deadlines for numerous clients, and disruption in my everyday schedule is inconvenient, at best.
Distance learning was quite the transition, but we really did make the most of it. We created a schedule that worked well for us and for the kids. I’ve learned that without the constant interruption of needing to leave for school and get backpacks and lunches and stuff ready all morning, I can sit down in my office at my typical 5 am and finish my work before the kids are even all awake (it really is amazing what happens when you don’t have to stop working after an hour, spend three hours doing all the things, work for an hour, spend another hour doing all the other things, work for a half hour, pick the kids up from school, go to sports, do all the things, etc.) because it all gets done with absolutely no interruption.
After that, I’m free to focus on their schooling. The transition was hard, but the disruption to our schedules was harder. Right now, we aren’t in a place where we necessarily want to bother with the potential disruption again. Why bother creating a new schedule and new routine only to have it changed on us again, forcing us to create yet another schedule and routine? It’s not worth it to us.
Our kids go to an amazing elementary school, but it’s dealing with its own set of transitions for yet another year. Our daughter is going into the fourth grade this year, and she’s also going into her fourth principal at the same school. So many of the amazing faculty and teachers who we have grown to love and respect so much have left, leaving just a small handful of the amazing people we know to teach our kids. Honestly, almost every single one of them save for a small handful of amazing educators that we adore. Sadly, it’s not the educational leadership that is the problem over there.
At the end of the day, one thing that really helped us come to the conclusion to keep our kids home is that it’s what is best for our family right now. Our hope is that when everything goes back to normal, our kids can return to school and have a normal educational experience should they choose. If they want to continue to learn from home, we are fine with that, too. We love to travel (and cannot wait to be able to take real vacations again when this is all over) and we can work from anywhere. If the kids can learn from anywhere, we can really take our time exploring the world and living an adventure.
We chose this for our kids because keeping some consistency in their lives during these times is so important to us. It’s also been amazing for us to see them thrive at the distance learning game – though we know it will be significantly more structured and far better in the upcoming school year.
We are not traditional people in our house. We don’t have traditional careers. We’ve never really followed any sort of ‘normal’ life guidelines. We’ve never really been much for conforming. We like doing life our way, and we like being in control of what we do, where we go, and how we live. We hope our kids will do the same, and we feel that the experience of learning from home will help them see that life is not meant to be lived in a box and that they don’t have to conform. We hope that it teaches them the discipline that they need to be productive and efficient so that they really, honestly learn the value of the phrase “work hard, play hard,” and I am looking forward to this new adventure in our lives.
This comes as a big surprise for many, I know. I recognize that so many people say year after year that they’re tired of the educational system and the schools and all the politics in schools and they’re making a change, yet they never do it. We just aren’t those people. When we say it, we do it. But, we also don’t say it until we’ve made a decision, which is probably why so many people are surprised we’ve made this decision. However, I know so many people seem to struggle with the decision-making process as it applies to their own families, and I wanted to share our story and our thoughts. I hope that it helps you make a decision that works for you, your family, and the little ones who should love learning and feel confident in their education.
How are you feeling as June comes to a close and the last full month of (the longest ever) summer vacation is upon us? Are you sending your kids back to school? Are you waiting until there is more information available so you can make the most informed decision? What are you worried about? What are you excited about? What is at the forefront of your mind?