After all the CONTROVERSY yesterday (click here if you missed it: Homeschooling in Fall 2020? The CONSIDERATIONS, COMPLICATIONS, and CONTROVERSY (part 1) ) and all of the inherent controversy in today’s post, I feel compelled to start off with some REALLY GOOD NEWS for parents who are facing the “Back to School” dilemma of 2020. (I’m a self-initiated member of the “Good News Club” after all!)
According to the most recent polls and research, homeschooling no longer seems to be favored by or be exclusive to a specific political party or perspective. I find the divisiveness of politics draining at best, so for me this is a real cause for celebration! Finally, something that doesn’t have to be a political debate! Homeschooling has also long been criticized for being a predominantly Caucasian occupation, but this is no longer the case and anyone who says otherwise is using either incredibly outdated information or data from a geographically specific sample set. When you look at the numbers for homeschooling on a national scale (USA), and even increasingly on a global scale, there no longer seems to be a significantly distinguishable divide among race, class, religion, or political affiliation. Furthermore, some recent polls are even showing homeschooling to be slightly more prevalent in minority groups in the USA and UK! You can check out some of the most recent data for yourself at the links to follow, but the gist is that the modern homeschool family can no longer be pegged or stereotyped on the basis of race, religion, affluence, or politics. This means that the decision for how to educate our children can (and should) finally be freed from societal pressures and strictures (aka all the controversy discussed yesterday), and instead solely be based on what it always should have been in the first place: what is best for your child and your family. I think that is pretty cool.
- Poll: 40% of families more likely to continue homeschooling after lockdown ends
- Fears Children Going “Off Grid” as Homeschooling up 700%
- Harvard Professor wants to ban Homeschooling
So, as we go through the following list of considerations and complications for the upcoming school year, let’s all attempt to lay aside the controversy that is intertwined in each topic and get to gettin’! What to do about “Back to School” 2020, to each his (or her) own? How do we determine what is best for each of our own children and our family as a whole? For each of us, the answer can be found at the heart of where our concern lies in light of COVID19. For some of us, that may be our children’s safety from the actual virus, for others, that may be the fallout or effects of the pandemic. You may even be thinking bigger than just your immediate family, and be concerned about what is the best choice for your community or society as a whole! And all of the above will vary greatly based on where you live (what country, state, city), what school district you are a part of, and what type of school you are planning to send your child.
Ok, breathe! This is no small subject, so I have broken it down into twelve categories for consideration. Each topic will resonate differently for every parent and student. Depending on your family’s specific circumstances and needs, some of the considerations may require a lot more . . . considering than for another family. Likewise, some of us may find certain complications a whole lot more . . . complicated than other families. I invite you to take your time in considering each issue as it will affect your child and family, and/or your community/society if you believe that to be applicable or necessary. You, your spouse, and your child are the only ones who can decide on the order of importance or concern for the following topics and the challenges each may present.
My hope and prayer is that this list of considerations will help you navigate this conversation with your spouse and/or children so that your family can make a conscious and confident decision for how you will best thrive as a family unit this year.
Back to . . . School??? Or, Homeschool???
CONSIDERATIONS & COMPLICATIONS for Fall 2020:
Please Note: The following list of topics is largely based off of the newly released list of guidelines from the CDC for reopening schools in 2020. I have taken each point and explored and expanded on the possible challenges therein, in regards to health, practicality, special needs, overall well-being, and so on. If you have not already reviewed the CDC list, you may want to do that first:
*Disclaimer: the following list contains a wide spectrum of differing opinions and concerns relating directly and indirectly to the COVID19 pandemic in order to service as many parents as possible in helping navigate the many challenges and considerations for “Back to School 2020”.
If I were sending my son to “regular” school this fall, I don’t think the mask thing would really be a problem. My son thinks wearing a mask is awesome. . . like he’s some kind of virus-repelling super hero. My husband works all day in his mask and even jogs in his mask to catch the metro rail! Me on the other hand, I can barely make it out of the house in mine before I start feeling like I’m coming down with the flu. So this is going to be a highly individual topic for you and your kids. Some kids may have absolutely no problem with wearing a mask to school all day. But for some children who have special needs or conditions —such as asthma, anxiety, and claustrophobia to name a few—wearing a mask may be incredibly problematic. For some families, you may be concerned about the psychological effects of wearing a mask for your child. For others, you may be concerned about your child’s physical safety if their school will not be requiring masks in the fall.
- The specific mask rules at your child’s school
- Your child’s willingness/ ability to wear a mask
- Special needs or conditions that make wearing a mask difficult or impossible
- If your child is deaf and relies heavily on lip-reading at school
Just looking at this picture of the See-Saw makes me a little sad. How many times did I play at a park as a kid on the swings or the see-saw or the monkey bars and not once did I even thin about getting sick or worry about not keeping enough distance from other kids. For many schools, recess will be cancelled this year. The implications of this are many, and to be honest, they cause me a lot of distress. I love kids, and I loved being a kid, and playing isn’t just a part of childhood . . . playing IS childhood. For older kids, free time and outdoor recreation falls under “play.” So, for this one I suggest asking yourself: “where will my child be able to enjoy the most free play this year?”
- The rules and protocol regarding recess and free time at your child’s specific school
- Your child’s age and activity level
- Weight management & increased risk for childhood obesity and type II Diabetes
- Children with ADD, ADHD or just lots of energy
- Children who hate being inside all day
3.) Parent’s Job, Ability, & Desire
Not all parents have the ability to homeschool even if they want to. I am blessed that I am able to stay home with my kids. Being “home” is kind of important to the whole homeschooling gig, so if your family requires two incomes, or you love your job and are unwilling to leave it, and/or if you are unable to work from home, than it is probably not an option for you to homeschool your kids. However, with so many more companies and businesses moving their employees to stay-at-home-jobs, there are a lot of parents out there who now have the ability to homeschool—perhaps even including many who have always wanted to and couldn’t. My guess is that this is probably the largest factor behind the 700% projected increase in CA homeschoolers; all the Silicon Valley peeps now working from home, for example.
As far as being “qualified” to homeschool, that is a complicated question. First, it depends on the age of your child. Generally, more parents will feel equipped and confident to tackle content for their 1st grader than they would for an 8th grader. Similarly, every parent will feel more adequate or qualified for one or more subjects compared to another. For example, I shudder thinking about teaching High School level math and science. On the other hand, given the CDC guideline to “keep children in one classroom and with one staff member” as much as possible throughout the day, I have a question to pose: WHAT MIDDLE SCHOOL OR HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER IS QUALIFIED TO TEACH ALL SUBJECTS AND CONTENTS TO THEIR STUDENTS? The answer is practically none . . . trust me, I was one. So, how will that be accounted for? Well, the teacher will act more as a facilitator while other teachers are screened or “zoomed” in for different contents. This can also be done at home, of course. So, if qualification is your only concern for homeschooling, you may just need to look into “sub-contracting out” certain subjects and content.
- You or your spouse’ job requirements
- Your own desire or willingness to homeschool
- Your child’s age and your ability to “sub contract out” certain subjects or content
- If you are required to work outside of the home
- If your stay at home job is very demanding (such as being required to be on the phone or focused on computer work for much of the day)
4.) Distancing & Socialization
I think it’s safe to say that most of us as parents want our children to be well socialized and adjusted. Homeschooling families have definitely gotten a bad rap over the years on the socialization front, and in many cases for good reason! In my own homeschool upbringing, we begged our mom to stop taking us to the homeschool group outings because the kids were so “weird”! May sound mean, but it was true. The kids in our homeschool group were obviously not well-socialized or adjusted. All of my closest friends growing up went to “regular” school, and socialization was never an issue for our family because there were just SO MANY KIDS coming in and out of our house all day long. My mom was and still is a piano teacher, and every day of the week piano students were coming and going, often toting along a few brothers and sisters to play with me and my siblings on the farm. The parent of the piano student would get to sit on the couch for a half hour, sometimes 45 minutes while her other children got to run through orchards and corn fields and build incredible forts with the crazy homeschool farm kids. Honestly, looking back on it, my mom provided a truly amazing service to the community and should have charged way more for it!
In addition to our “piano student play dates,” there was church, Sunday School, Youth Group, swimming lessons, dance, gymnastics, Pioneer Girls/Boy Scouts, Karate, summer camp, Vacation Bible School, and endless birthday parties. We also got to have a friend over or go to a friend’s house every Sunday after church and I had more sleepovers growing up then anyone else I know. I can, in 100% honesty, tell you that I never experienced loneliness until adulthood when my husband and I moved across the country for his post-grad training. On the other, my husband, who grew up in “regular” school, admits to having felt lonely often in his childhood. Outside of school there were precious few outings of any kind, and he hardly ever had friends over. Now, I don’t believe this has anything to do with his not being homeschooled. I think that when it comes to socialization, it completely depends on the family. Being completely transparent, socialization has been the hardest aspect of homeschooling for our family. Living in the city has made many things difficult for us, and getting out and meeting people has been one of those things.
In light of COVID19, however, socialization looks vastly different for fall 2020. Many schools will be incorporating social distancing, masks, no recess, no group lunch, etc. Having been a teacher in a “regular” school, I’m not sure how much of this will be accomplished given the myriad of personalities and special needs among any given student population. I’m not sure which, “regular” school or “homeschool,” has the upper-hand on socialization at this point. Of course, it will greatly depend on the school and your state or country’s particular guidelines.
- How will “social distancing” affect your child? Can he or she manage to keep distance?
- Are you concerned about your child’s safety and there not being enough distancing?
- Are you concerned about your child being able to make friends and socialize, given the rules that will be in place in your child’s school?
- If you homeschool, can you manage to find outings and activities for your child to socialize and make friends?
- A child with special needs / inability to keep social distance
- A child who already struggles to make friends
- Less available extracurricular activities / groups for Homeschool families
There are going to be a lot more screens this year, at home and at school. That’s about the size of it. Our family is by no means a “No-Screens-Family” but we do try to be a “Low-Screens-Family”. What this basically means for us is that we watch movies together as a family, and our son gets to watch a very limited number of documentaries and movies on his own during the week. We do not allow our kids to use any handheld electronic devices or play any video games. If limiting screen-time is important to you, or you have a child with a condition that is exacerbated by screens (such as ADD, ADHD, or migraine headaches) than you may want to ask yourself where your child will be able to be more screen-free. If your child is in middle-school or high-school and you do not feel qualified to teach various subjects/content, then the venue that boasts less screen usage may very well be their “regular” school.
- Your concern for screen usage
- Your child’s specific plan for screen usage
- Your ability to teach your child with or without additional screen-time
- Children with special needs exacerbated by screens (such as ADD, ADHD, or migraine headaches)
- Your child’s age/ability and their need for online or screened-in teaching
6.) Extra Curriculars
We’re all in this one together. Extra-Curriculars have been cancelled or greatly reduced across the board whether we like it or not. I’m not sure if there is much to distinguish here between “regular” school or homeschool. However, if you were planning on sending your child to a private (aka expensive) school that boasts a lot of extra-curriculars and artistic programs, you may be rethinking that venture and expense. I was fortunate to attend such a high school and was able to participate in incredible choir and drama programs. Would my parents have paid out for such an education if I was going to have to forego those programs and instead be “zooming-in” in a classroom setting just like everyone else? It’s a tough one, and a rough time to be the school leader of any school, particularly a private one.
- Your child’s school’s specific plan and protocol for extra-curriculars
- Your comfortability with your child participating in extracurriculars
- Your ability to procure extracurricular activities for your child
- If you were planning on sending your child to a private school specializing in the arts or other extracurriculars that are now suspended
7.) Normalcy & Security
Children need a sense of normalcy. Without it, children can feel anxious, insecure, or tossed about. So, what venue will provide the most normalcy for your child this year? If he or she is used to getting up in the morning, getting ready for school, waiting for the School Bus . . . that may be the answer. This may especially be true for older children. If, however, your child has not yet started school, 2020 may be a gulp of an introduction. In addition, if donning a mask, adhering to social-distancing, hand-washing multiple times throughout the day, or worrying about catching coronavirus will challenge your child’s sense of normalcy and security, he or she may be better off at home.
- Your child’s age and understanding of COVID19
- Your child’s school history (have they attended school before)
- Your child’s own sense of normalcy and what will be abnormal at his/her particular school this year
- If your child has not yet been to “regular” school
- If your child has never been homeschooled
- If your child struggles with anxiety over altered routines, worries about germs in general, or is especially worried about Coronavirus
8.) Rules & Freedom
As someone who has always struggled somewhat with authority, I have a little bit of a soft-spot for the rule-breakers. There are so many rules at home and at school, it can be exhausting for some kids (not to mention for the parents and teachers). And this year, there are even more. How do you and your child feel about the rules and protocol for his/her school this upcoming year? Will your child be able or be happy about following the rules and protocols in place? Is your home regimented or is there freedom within limits? Where will your child be able to experience the most freedom this school year?
- The rules and protocols for your child’s specific school
- Your child’s ability (or desire) to follow the rules and protocols
- The strictness or level of regimentation in your own home
- Children who already struggle to follow rules at home or at school
Many schools will not be providing “hot lunch” this year, and many will not be allowing traditional “sack lunch” either. “Pre-packaged foods” will be the only form of nutrition offered or allowed for certain schools. If this poses a nutritional issue for your child or family, than you will want to check on what your child’s specific school will be serving up and what you will be allowed to bag. Also, traditional lunch in the cafeteria will be suspended for many schools, so if this is something that is important to you or your child, you may want to check up on that as well.
- Your child’s school’s plan for lunch (allowing hot lunch or sack lunch? or only allowing pre-packaged options)
- Your child’s feelings about eating lunch in the classroom
- Your child’s dietary needs or preferences
10.) Physical Health
If your main concern for “Back to School” 2020 is your child’s protection from Coronavirus or his/her role in the prevention of the spread of Coronavirus, than homeschooling may provide the most obvious answer. For many parents, however, allowing children to be exposed to Coronavirus in addition to all the regular bugs out there and gaining “herd immunity” is of top concern and may be a key deciding factor in how and where to educate kids this year. Uh-oh!!! Here we are back to more CONTROVERSY. Depending on which camp you fall into, your responses to the following will be highly individual:
- Where do I feel my child will be most protected against Coronavirus? OR, In what way do I believe my child will best be able to gain immunity?
- How do I believe my child will contribute to the spread or prevention of Conronavirus?
- If your child, or a family member has an existing health condition or immune-suppressing disorder
11.) Mental Health
It’s important to me that our son is not worried during this time, and I’m sure many people reading this feel the same. If you are on the fence for whether to “regular” school or homeschool your child this year, ask yourself where your child will remain the most mentally healthy (or ask your child outright if they are old enough). Where will your child be the least worried and the most secure? Where will your child be the most academically challenged and the least mentally drained or bored? Will your child be negatively affected by the rules, protocol, hand-washings, or is he or she mentally resilient and strong enough to manage it? Will your child be negatively affected by being kept home, feeling cooped up and kept away from their normal life or fearing the outside world? These are big questions and should be tackled now, preventatively.
- Where will my child experience the most calm, the most academic challenge, the least stress, and the least worry?
- Is my child resilient or fragile? How will the fallout of COVID19 affect my child?
- How will my child’s mental health be affected by all of the above issues/challenges?
- If your child has an existing mental health condition
12.) Emotional Health
How does your child feel about going back to school or not going back to school? Where will your child find the most joy and respite for “Back to School 2020”? At school or at home? Where will your child experience the most belonging and hope for a strong and secure future?
- Your child’s emotional needs and resilience
- Your child’s specific feelings about the COVID19 pandemic
- Children who are prone to loneliness or being outcasts
- Children who suffer from depression
May you and your child find your ordained journey for “Back to School” 2020, and may many unexpected blessings and silver-linings emerge this school year, for us all.
Thank you for reading.
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~