Most Hillsborough families are waiting to see how the first week of school will go during the COVID pandemic. You’ve had to make many difficult decisions lately and it’s hard to tell if it was the right one.
Unlike most families in Hillsborough County, Monday, August 10 was our first day of school.
First, you should know a few things. My husband is a teacher at a small private school and my three children go there with him. We have a 7th grader, 3rd grader, and a Kindergartener.
Over the summer, we were presented with three options, similar to the ones presented to public schools. We were able to choose a traditional school, hybrid, or remote (until December).
The Hard Back at School Decision
My husband and I debated the decisions over and over wondering what was best for our family. We considered our confidence in the school to provide health and safety protocols. We wondered what kind of social and emotional experience would the kids have with a rigid rules where they had to maintain 6 foot distances and talk to their friends through face masks.
How would Kindergarten look to a child who is entering a classroom for the first time ever? Would he be able to wear his mask all day? How would you stop the spread of germs in a classroom of 5 year olds when everything is so hands-on?
We thought about the fact that we have high-risk family members that we’d like to continue to visit. My mom works in a nursing home. Would we have to skip the holidays for fear of spreading something to loved ones? As a work from home mom, the option to keep the kids home, while getting assignments from their teachers, seemed perfect to me. But, would it be? Would I fall behind at work or would I even be a good teacher?
We chose Hybrid for our 7th grader, and remote for our two youngest. Then, I spent the end of the summer creating a comfortable learning space in our dining room/ living room area. The kids can use the office if needed but I wanted a space that they could spread out and be comfortable so this mostly unused space was the perfect place for a home classroom.
Here is how our first week of school went:
My husband and my 7th grader have to be at the school by 7:30 am, which means getting up at 6:20 am. I knew this was going to be a big adjustment for her but, she couldn’t sleep because she was so excited. I came down the hall to find her dressed with lunch packed.
It was harder for the other two to wake up at 8am for remote learning. My kindergartener was starting his day was an 8:30 Zoom. The kids got dressed and we took first day of school photos. He seems uninterested in school but my third grader encouraged him and then he was excited to see his teacher and friends on the computer.
After the morning Zoom, we started our day with assignments. Assignments were all fun and easy- worksheets like Tell Me your Favorite Things and Color this Picture, and videos reading about the first day of school. I spread the assignments out between morning and afternoon and let them have breaks though-out the day.
We did a TV break in the morning because my Kindergartener wanted to watch Mickey Mouse and this gave me a chance to get some of my own work done and reset for the next class.
In the afternoon, my husband and oldest came home. Our school came up with a plan that broke down the classes into smaller groups, so my 7th grader is in a group with 3 other students and they are together all day. She liked her group and enjoyed socializing with them, even through a mask or plastic divider on the desks.
The rest of the school week was actually pretty easy.
My oldest went to school 3 of the 5 days and did assignments from home on the other 2 days. My kindergartener lost some of his euthasiasum for school as the week went on. He didn’t like waking up early. My third grader had two meltdowns. She couldn’t remember how to spell “out” and that caused her some grief. She also had forgotten how to do fractions and decided math was too hard. All of this was nothing that I couldn’t handle! I just redirected the conversation and reminded them they could do hard things.
The truth is, we can all do hard things.
We can make hard decisions. It might be to send our kids to school if it feels right or we can keep them home it that is a better choice for us.
I am so thankful for the flexibility and care that our school put into their return plan. I am impressed and equally saddened that other moms are struggling with what to do with their kids this school year. With so many uncertainties in this world, you just have to do what feels best for YOU!
Good Luck to all of you this school year!