A few weeks back, I found myself with a lot of anxiety unsure about what to do about school. I had my own fears of my children falling behind—my future first grader has very little interest in reading and my preschooler cannot identify the letters in the alphabet. I know this is not a huge concern but at that moment, it was paralyzing.
One night as I was doing homework with my son, my fear came through in the tone of my words and I was less patient than I’d like to be. He paused and said, “Mom, you are not being kind. You are mean right now and I need you to apologize. I don’t think I want to do homework with you.”
Wow. I had a surge of emotions but I paused and apologized. I thanked him for sharing his feelings and expressing his needs. That was my first nudge that I was not showing up as the parent I wanted to be.
After having many conversations with friends (and even some strangers at the park) around school, academic learning and what to expect from my children during these unprecedented times, I came to the decision I had been tiptoeing around in my head: Our kids are not going back to school this year.
By keeping both our children home, I will be focusing on creating a space of physical and emotional safety for all of us. I wanted to show up from a place of love, abundance and support and ensure we inspire a love of learning, curiosity, kindness and community. I learned that my well-being and space for reflection and growth was critical to be the parent I want to be and that means some balls will need to drop—in our house, that will mean a rigorous academic schedule with uncertainty around COVID-19 will not be a priority.
My children are watching me almost 24/7 and that means how I show up as a leader in my life has a huge bearing on their beliefs and choices.
The risks around coronavirus have felt heavy, and as much as I love the idea of pods and micro schools, we couldn’t come around the risks of exposure.I am hopeful that we will make up for the losses our children are incurring with minimal social interaction in their lives at this moment.
This means both my kids—almost 7 and 4 years old— will be home this fall.
We’re not quitting our full-time jobs.
I know this will be hard, but we can do it.
The first grader will have distance learning at his local public school that I know will be challenging given my husband and I will have our own Zoom meetings to navigate. There will be a lot of, independent play as the boys are obsessed with Legos and can play for a good chunk of time with minimal supervision.
I just ordered a homeschooling reading and math curriculum—more for me to have some support—so that we can encourage their academic learning at our own pace and not stress about attending all Zoom sessions. We will read a lot of books, learn from Khan Academy Kids and Epic, listen to podcasts and work on our Big Life Journal. We will learn coding on Scratch junior to foster their interest in building things. We will spend a lot of time outdoors, cook together, make art, play board games, do chores and create memories.
My highest priority is that our core family values of joy, growth mindset, kindness and learning are honored. This is an incredibly hard season of our life and I will not let my children’s academic success be a major source of stress in our lives. We want to savor this time we have as a family and ensure we look back and feel proud of how we supported each other and chose love when things were hard.
I have made peace that my kids may likely be behind academically but that it is okay. We are in the midst of a pandemic and my goals are different compared to a month ago. There is a lot more that my children will learn around life skills and that will be enough for now. There are days I fail and give in to the noises around me, but this is my North Star that I will keep pulling myself back to.
It was not easy to come to this decision and I am giving myself permission to change my mind as the days and weeks go by. What is working for us today may not work a month from now. I came to this place after a few rough days and finally some insights from my favorite teachers—my children. As I look ahead, I know some days will be harder, especially as I let my inner critic take over and I start comparing myself and my children to others but, hopefully, writing this will remind me of what matters most.
If you are in the same position, I sincerely hope you find a decision that feels right for you. There is no easy choice around but I hope you put your values at the forefront and make a plan that aligns with that so you have as much joy, ease and purpose as is possible in this season of our lives.
You are working incredibly hard, mama and I hope you see that for yourself and love yourself for all that you are doing.