I’m going to start this post with a very clear disclaimer: My family believes in public schooling. We think that it’s a vital part of each city and also an integral step towards equal opportunities for all citizens. It’s essential that our public schools get the funding that they need in order to operate… and I get very worried and anxious over the idea of how this pandemic might affect our schools long term.
With that disclaimer aside, I also see the motivation for the families who are pulling out of public school and choosing to go private– be it for the in-person options that are being offered, the smaller class sizes that have a new appeal, or even forming their own “pods” to continue socializing and learning, but in a select group. We all want the best for our children and our families. And there’s really no simple answer for the coming school year (for those who do have a choice) because NO option is what we want.
It’s about choosing the least-awful option.
Our district is a little further outside of inner-Madison, and they chose to offer two options unlike the virtual-only MMSD. One option is in-person hybrid learning, where the days are cut in half in order to halve the class sizes with optional supplemental online learning. The other option is full-virtual. I, as a parent and community member, am thankful for seeing our district offer options that consider all family’s capacities, but I also know that none of these options are ideal for my family.
Despite having more options than most Madison area families, I found myself still floundering for that “least-awful” option. I’m a stay-at-home mom and, really, my family is set up perfectly for virtual learning… in theory. However with my oldest entering 1st grade, my youngest two in the Pre-K level, and expecting another child in November, I know that facilitating virtual learning just doesn’t click for me or my younger elementary kids who are prone to “the wiggles”. I cannot begin to wrap my head around facilitating the hands-on requirements of younger-kid virtual learning while also having a newborn paired with sleep deprivation.
So I made up an option C for my family.
One that seems to fit our family much better than a structured virtual learning for my little learners who simply don’t thrive in that environment. We enrolled in the virtual option in our district… but we began our own homeschool curriculum as of August 1st.
We chose to enroll virtual when given the choice for a couple of reasons: 1) to stay enrolled and continue the funding to our school district from our children’s enrollments and 2) to use the resources that DO benefit our family. While we won’t be checking in on zoom meetings or Happy Numbers activities, we will still access video speech therapy through our district and accessing the extracurriculars when we are looking for a little boost. Staying in touch this way will also ensure that I see my kids are on par with where their regular curriculum is at.
It took a few months for me to find the curriculum that seemed to resonate best with my family and we ultimately settled on a program called The Good and The Beautiful. Doing our own paced homeschool curriculum allows us to work hands-on, together, where I am tracking and addressing areas of struggle and turning learning into active, hands-on games such as Sight Word Hopscotch or matching math card games– the type of learning where I can SEE my boys learning and understanding concepts, that we previously missed when completing last year over the computer. Most importantly, we were able to set our own pace, and I began in August in order to allow a much-needed maternity leave for myself as a teacher.
And since we’ve made it a few weeks in, I have to say I’m a big fan.
I was really hesitant to make this decision. I never wanted to homeschool and I have no confidence in my ability to educate my children (in the book sense). I completely believe that someone who holds an Education Degree would be much better suited to handle the job, but again… “least-awful” mentality. So far, I’ve seen my son gain back a lot of lost knowledge with reading and re-learn in a way that seems more effective for him. I’ve seen my youngest take to a beginner curriculum with joy and excitement. Our three-year-old happily rolls out our “school cart” after breakfast each morning, and within an hour, our book work is done and our day is ahead of us. (But that doesn’t mean we’re done learning).
One of my favorite points of the past few weeks has been visiting the sunflower field and supplementing the visit with an introduction to watercolor techniques and painting our own sunflowers after bringing a bouquet home. The full-family learning that reaches each age level has been rewarding to experience.
But, we’ll be back.
While I probably sound like a homeschool-convert who is now forever planning to homeschool, I promise that I’m counting down the days until my kids can safely enter school and return to normal. We plan to return to our in-person schooling once we feel personally comfortable with the decision– which is looking like it could be the 2021 school year. We’re just making the most of our “least-awful” decision, and finding the joy in the less-ideal scenario has been a welcome change to this crazy year.