Thoughts on the Upcoming School Year

Let’s talk about this upcoming school year. Our county’s school board is planning on giving us their Plan this coming Wednesday, July 15th. They have already said that their goal is to have students in the building on August 10th. I have quizzed my public school teacher friends, and they are all as equally in the dark as I am as to how this next year will proceed. Which seems pretty crazy to me. You would think that if teachers were about to be asked to teach a completely different way than normal, they would be given lots of time to prepare. Apparently not. 

 

We HAVE been notified that all of the children in Knox County will be given a computer. Which is great except, I don’t particularly want my kindergarten and second grader to be handed a computer. Sure, I would like them to start learning the basics of computer use, but I don’t want them to be doing their school work on a computer on a regular basis. I want them using manipulatives, and hands-on items, and writing with big thick pencils and crayons and turning pages on books. Not clicking and typing. 

 

I have had more than one teacher tell me that I should probably homeschool. If not all the kids, at least the youngest. That is also alarming. I have NEVER had a public school teacher advise me to homeschool. Things are definitely upside down. 

 

While I don’t want to homeschool, it is a viable option for me. I homeschooled for twelve years. I kept most of my curriculum. If I suddenly chose to homeschool all my children right now, I would have to buy very few books to do it. Even for high school, which I’ve never taught at home, I have talked to friends, and they have curriculum ready to lend me if I need it. I also have a home school umbrella school handily at my church and the lady who runs it is a friend of mine. I’ve already consulted her on how easy it would be to switch mid-year to homeschooling, if public school is a flop, and she has assured me that it’s very doable. In other words, I can very easily homeschool if I have to. Let’s also throw in the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom and my only plans for this next year was to take care of my three year old at home and help my children get to and from school and take care of them after school. There will be very little hardship on our family if I have to homeschool.

 

This is NOT true for a large percentage of people I know. Single parents. Dual income families. Parents whose children have special needs. Parents whose kids need extra remedial help. Low income families who can’t afford the extra cost of purchasing homeschooling material or the fees for signing up under an umbrella school. Homeschooling is not a viable option for these people. 

 

Why do I need to homeschool? School is going to be open after all, whether it’s in-building, hybrid, or completely online. Well, here is my big question. What is going to happen when (not if) a child or a teacher in a classroom tests positive for Covid-19? Will the entire class be sent home for two weeks of quarantine? And if one child is sent home to quarantine for two weeks, what about the rest of my family? Will we all have to quarantine? What about my husband? Will he need to stop working for two weeks as well? If that is the case, I can foresee our family, which will have seven school age children this year, spread through three different school buildings, spending most of the year in quarantine. 

 

Ok, so doing school completely online is also going to be an option in our county. That might work for my older children. But, a teacher just explained to me yesterday that teachers are trained for classroom teaching. Not at-home school. For younger children, especially, trying to do regular classroom work on a computer is not going to be an effective way of learning. 

 

What I see happening this coming year is the gap between the Haves and the Have-nots becoming significantly wider. In the end, families who have resources will make the sacrifices necessary to make sure that their children get an education, no matter how creative or ingenious they have to get. And families who don’t have resources will just have to take whatever public school can offer. And right now public school has so many hurdles to jump over, (through no fault of their own) that they are simply not going to be able to offer the quality of education that we used to getting from them. 

 

My heart goes out to public school teachers right now. They are in an impossible situation. Please remember this in the coming weeks as your public schools roll out their plans for the coming year. Turning our anger and frustration on the teachers is just ridiculous. And really, I don’t know who it’s appropriate to turn our anger on. Does turning our anger on faceless School Boards and Governors and Secretaries and Presidents help us? 

 

If we turn that anger towards seeking change, all of these people were elected after all, we can certainly elect new people, then the anger is doing something good. But if we turn that anger simply into moaning and complaining and slandering, we have accomplished nothing. 

 

This is also the time for all the HAVES to step up and see what they can do for the HAVE NOTS.  Get creative. If you don’t personally know any HAVE NOTS then contact your school, ask if there is anything tangible you can do to help families in need concerning the upcoming school year. 

 

What comes to my mind is that I have three neighbors whose children play with mine. If we end up having to school at home, I could easily walk over to their houses and offer to babysit their kids during the school day if they need to work. Or at least be an adult directly on call, if they choose to leave their children home alone. That is just what comes to mind in the first five minutes of thinking about it. I’m pretty sure we could each find at least one thing we could do to help ease someone else’s load. 

 

And if we can turn this chaos of trying to do school during a pandemic, into a time of reaching out to help others, then in the end we are succeeding, no matter what happens. 

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