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My friend shared a meme regarding school that hit a little too close to home. You know the scene, it’s from The Princess Bride where Vizzini is with Westley and trying to guess which cup has the poison. The meme was a screengrab from that moment with the text, “Clearly, I can’t choose the back to school option in front of you…I also can’t choose the back to school option in front of me…”
Truth because, us moms, we are exhausted. Not just from trying to manage distance/virtual/home/whatever-you-want-to-call-it learning. Not just from playing IT person and personal secretary to our kids, “You have a project due today and don’t forget your math lesson starts in five minutes.” Or from the constant run around of trying to keep papers organized and headphones charged, and heaven forbid get something productive of our own done during daylight hours. No, not just that.
We are exhausted from the continual moving target of exactly what education should look like right now and constantly having to re-evaluate options and choices. It also doesn’t help that there seems to be no consistency or consensus on how to best educate children in the middle of a pandemic.
A friend in New Jersey just sent her kids back to a hybrid model and has a schedule that is being adjusted approximately 237 times a day. A California friend has been told they will stay virtual until the end of January with no hope of even attempting to get into a classroom before 2021. A friend in Iowa has been back face-to-face since September without a shutdown.
Us? Well, here in Houston, we’ve been virtual for the first six weeks and had to make a decision last week on if we wanted to stay virtual or return to face-to-face. In true 2020 fashion, we had to make this decision for our family with very little information to go on for what either option would look like. For extra fun, people at different schools in our district were getting different messages from their principals. Cue lots of late-night texts and long Facebook discussion threads with fears of kids on screens at school or being assigned to district virtual teachers with no affiliation with our home school.
Like I said, exhausted.
I know we should stay in our own lane and make the best choice for our own family, but even that has challenges. There is very little Covid-19 school data that helps us pick an option. We don’t have great stats on the effectiveness of barriers around kids’ desks but do know that masks and limiting of shared items are a must. Our fifth grader impresses us daily with how well she is navigating her new virtual world, while our twin second graders seem to be learning how to get away with minimal effort. “Put your headphones on and stay in your own class” should be painted on the wall above their desks.
It also does not help that each and every single family has a complicated matrix of evaluating personal risk and how distance learning is going for their family. No two situations are the same and the cycle of unanswered questions is endless. If we send our kids to school, is it still safe to visit grandma? If we stay home, will our kids get the same kind of education as their peers who go to school? Will the kids really be able to wear a mask all day without their teachers fussing at them? How hard will be for them to social distance? Do their teachers get a say in this? What happens when someone tests positive in their class? Do I get to keep my same teacher if we go virtual? Does my kid even remember how to act in public at this point?
I wish I could tell you I have found the secret right answer and that I am 100% confident I have found the best path forward for our family. I haven’t, but we made a choice anyway to return to school when it opens at the end of October. I am terrified of all of the unknowns. Our kids haven’t seen the inside of a grocery store since March, but to school we go. We made some concessions we wouldn’t normally make, like asking for our twins to be in the same homeroom to cut down on exposure. We have confidence in our administration to do all they can to keep up sanitation and other Covid safety measures, but we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Other friends have understandably made the choice to stay home and continue with distance learning.
I have no answers. None.
What I do have is solidarity. We might not all be making the same choices, but we are all being asked to choose nonetheless. No matter where you are in this process, I wish us all luck.
Originally published on Mommy Nearest