I have until this Friday to make a choice about what school option Seth and I are choosing for our children. I don’t know why I am so surprised by how many different opinions the parents and teachers have. Isn’t the expression that differences are what makes the world go around? We are not all supposed to think the same way.

I have spoken to so many parents that my head is completely spinning. When I say this next statement, I know you will all understand. You can talk to a million people and if you truly listen to your instincts, you will hear yourself tell you what the best option is for your children. I also want to say, that what is good for one child may not be good for their sibling. We don’t have to choose the same option for all of our children (at least in my school district we don’t have to).

There are the parents who are choosing 100% virtual for their children for many reasons. I know that many parents (and some teachers too) do not feel it is safe for their children to go back to school, or they don’t feel the school is prepared and ready. I know some parents, or their children have autoimmune issues and don’t feel it’s worth the risks. I also spoke to a couple parents who are living with their elderly parents and are concerned about germs that their children can bring home. I know many children have asthma and this increases their parent’s concerns. Some children did well with virtual learning and their parents want to continue with this route. I have also heard parents tell me that students are probably going to all end up full time virtual, so they want to keep it consistent and start off that way. You know that we could go on and on about the reasons that parents have chosen this option. This is definitely a great and safe option. If your children hate zoom like mine do, you may not feel it’s the best option.

There are parents who are choosing to send their children to private school. Private schools are smaller, have less children in each class and are able to have the kids come in person five days a week. At least this is what I’m hearing from the parents all around me who are choosing this option for their child. I have also heard that waitlists are starting as more and more parents turn to this option. I do think my children would love private school. That is a whole different conversation for another day. I did bring up this option to my husband. Let me tell you what he said, “We are not paying high taxes for a great school district to send our children to private school.” I knew he was going to say this to me! Sometimes I am able to read his mind. I still wanted to discuss it. This is mostly because of the amazing things I have heard about the private schools around us. This is not because I think my kids have to be in school five days a week. I personally am okay with the hybrid that my school district has chosen. I know that I am in the minority when I say this. I am also well aware that I am home with my children and not stressing out about balancing a full time job out of the home.

There are parents choosing to send their kids to school as much as they can. I personally am more comfortable with the hybrid model than I am with sending my children back to school for five days a week. Let me explain this to you. Instead of 25 kids in my children’s classes, I am hoping that there will be 10 – 15 kids in their class. This enables them to be able to spread out more and have the six feet between them that our Governor is mandating. I feel this is a safer option for my children vs. a full class. I know this means that they can only go to school two days a week. My thought is that it is better than zero days in person. Teachers are magical. Sitting in a classroom and learning from a good teacher is irreplaceable. Do I think that teachers can pull this off virtually? Absolutely. Do I think my kids will benefit more from being in the classroom? Absolutely. Do I worry about them getting Covid germs? Absolutely.

My biggest concern is that I don’t trust other parents. I trust the teachers to stay home if they don’t feel well. I don’t trust that parents will keep their children home when they need to. I am hoping that parents are going to be more cautious this year and more courteous when it comes to sending “germs” to school. I know parents give their kids Motrin and send them to school. This is my biggest concern. I also know that kids are contagious before they get symptoms. I also know that kids sometimes have Covid with no symptoms. I also know that our rates are low right now. If they stay low, I will feel comfortable with my children in school. If the rates increase, I may feel the need to pull my kids from school. I have more conversations to have with my husband before our final decision, but we are strongly learning towards the hybrid model for our three children.

I also don’t have to choose this option for all three of my kids. Max and Ella do not want to return to middle school. Lillie would like to go back to school. This is not up to them, but I will happily discuss this further with my middle schoolers. I want to hear them out. Ella is much more agreeable to going back to school a couple days a week. If Max gets his way, he will go straight virtual. I am still leaning towards sending him back the two days a week. Unfortunately, he has never liked middle school. I didn’t either. I’m praying he enjoys high school. One more year of middle school for Max. He can do it!

I’m also concerned with all the changes the school is making. I think we all need to prepare our children that school will not look the same. They will have to wear a mask all day which is problem number one. I absolutely hate wearing a mask. I am not telling you that I won’t wear one. I am telling you that it negatively affects me. I am pretty sure it is giving me headaches every day. This concerns me for my children. I have not told them my issue. If they start complaining about headaches, I will have to pull them from school. I need to discuss the mask concern further with my husband, but he is so much more laid back than I am, and he doesn’t think it’s an issue.

The lunchroom will be different if they are able to eat in the lunchroom. Specials will be different (gym, art, library, music). Socializing will be different (or won’t exist). My kids may come home the first day and tell me that they hate it. I hope not! I want the teachers to know that I believe in you. Despite the challenges this year, I know that you will get our kids through this year. I know that you may want to cry or scream right now, but I have witnessed your magical powers with my children, and I know you can do this.

Lillie’s teacher called me last year as I was about to hit my head against the wall trying to teach Lillie math. Thankfully, he was on my speaker phone and I could hear him talking to Lillie and explaining the math to her. It’s like a light bulb went off in Lillie’s head. I listened carefully to how he explained it to her and learned a great deal from one phone call. Teachers are talented. Teachers can do this. Teachers are there for us to help us get through this. Have faith in them. Show them respect. Watch them do their magic. This is just one reason I want Lillie in the classroom. I do my best, but I am not a teacher. In fact, my mom (who is a teacher), better watch out. I am going to put her in charge of Lillie’s schoolwork. If only she could come teach Lillie every day instead of running that great health food store! Marlene and Phil’s Vitamin and Herb Center is my parent’s store. Go talk to them and load your children up on vitamins! I hope it will help my kids stay healthy this year!

I don’t want to forget all the parents that are getting their curriculum together to home school their children. I give them so much credit. I am currently listening to our Superintendent describe the hybrid model during a community forum. My children will go to school Monday and Tuesday and will be online at home on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I am listening to what their days at home will look like. They are supposed to log on to the computer and watch their classes all day long at home. That doesn’t sound appealing to me, but I am hoping that I am wrong. I found myself fantasizing about how different their day would look if they were being home schooled. Parents who are home schooling will have the freedom to design their days with their children how they think it should look. I think it is a fabulous option. I am also not willing to do this at this time. However, I think it is amazing that there are so many parents out there who are taking the plunge and going for this option. I’m giving you a big high five!

Teachers and parents seem to be very split in their opinions. I know there are teachers that are itching to get back in the classroom. I also know that there are teachers who don’t feel safe yet to go back to the school setting. I completely and totally understand both sides of this. I tend to be able to see both sides of everything. I try to put myself in people’s shoes to try to understand how they are feeling. My heart goes out to the teachers as they embark on another challenging year with our children. I have so much faith in them that they will do a great job. I also don’t think third, sixth and eighth grade are huge big deals. Maybe I am completely wrong when I say that. My concerns are more with the high school kids. Your kids will still be able to be successful regardless of what year in school they are in this year. We as parents need to do our best to teach our children to go with the flow this year. I understand that these are not ideal school circumstances this year for anyone. I am trying to teach my children that we will get through this year together no matter what school looks like for them.

There was an article in the newspaper about parents in my district being irate. Sure, there are parents who are irate. I understand why. There are also plenty of parents like me who are not. I asked Seth if I am supposed to be more fired up? When there is a pandemic going on, health and mental health go straight to the top of my list. Education is third to me. If they keep my kids safe and healthy, I will be happy.

I encourage you to talk to your friends, teachers and administrators to gather information to help you make the best decision that you can. This is a decision for you and your children’s other parent to make together. This is not a decision that you have to justify to anyone else. We all have to do what is best for our family. I hope that you will make a decision that sits well with you. I hope that you are not losing sleep over this decision. Your kids will be okay if you are okay. They are always watching and learning from you.

I had an interesting conversation with my husband about decision making. He tends to make decisions quicker than I do. He gathers the information he needs, makes a decision, and then doesn’t agonize about it. He also isn’t a woman. I am not trying to put down women. I think women are fantastic and I also think women tend to think differently than men do. Maybe it’s not a gender thing. Maybe it just depends on the person. I will correct myself and say that typically I have noticed that women have a harder time making decisions than men do. They tend to talk to everyone they know to help them feel like they are making the best decision. What decision did my friend make and why is she choosing that? I think women are excellent at gathering opinions and information to inform their decision making process.

Seth was explaining to me that in the book that he is reading, it talks about making the best decision. We weigh the pros and cons, we gather information, and we make the best decision that we can. Regardless of the outcome, we still made the best decision that we could make. I argued with Seth. I told him that we would find out if we made a good decision. This turned into quite the conversation. He feels we are making the best decision for our children and that no matter what the outcome is we still made a good decision. I disagree and say that my decision will be good if: my children stay healthy, if they enjoy going to school for the two days and if they get something out of those two days at school. Will we really know how good our decision is until we see how it goes? Thankfully it sounds like we have the freedom to change our mind.

Speaking of changing our mind, that is one of the best things my mother ever taught me. I had made a decision that I wasn’t happy with and I went to talk to her about it. She told me that it is always okay to change my mind. Why didn’t I know that? I am such a loyal and faithful person that I like to follow through with whatever I say. However, that seemed to be the wrong standard to be holding myself to. Why was I being so strict and hard on myself? This tends to be a pattern for me. I trust you all that you are doing your very best to make the best decisions for your family with school. If it turns out that you don’t like the decision you made, you can change your mind. I know some districts are locking your decision into ten weeks/a semester. Then you wait until after that semester and you change your decision if you feel you need to. All we can do is our very best. Let’s all turn our worries and fears into faith. Let’s have some faith in ourselves that we are intelligent and good parents and are doing the best we can for our kids. Let’s have some faith in our schools to do the best for our kids. This is going to be another strange year ahead. I have told you this before and I will continue to tell you this today and in the future – my greatest coping strategy is to lower or get rid of any expectations. If we don’t have expectations, then we can’t be disappointed. I know a lot of you don’t agree with me, but our administrators, our teachers, our board and our committees are doing the best that they can. Have some trust in the process. Your children’s health and mental health come way ahead of their education in the grand scheme of things.

My children are going into third, sixth and eighth grade. Do you think that my education in any of those grades determined my future? If your child is in high school or college, I understand how much more important this year is to you. The day that I sat in my first sociology class in high school is the day that I saw a whole new world of education open up to me. A world that I couldn’t get enough of and a world that showed me that I was excited to learn something. I hope that your children can still find some joy in learning this year. I hope that you can stay sane in the process. We are all going through this. You aren’t alone. One of my greatest coping strategies has always been to reach out to supports. Reach out and talk to your friends, family, teachers, board members and administrators. Gather as much information as you can to make the best decision. Then make your decision and let it rest. Let your mind rest. The stress is not good for any of us. Teach your children how to make a decision and feel good with it. Encourage them to go into this school year with an open mind and an open heart. Let all of us stay healthy and let all our children get a good education in whatever form you choose. I wish you all the very best this year.

How to make a decision:

  • Make a list of pros and cons.
  • Gather information from multiple sources – talk to professionals, friends, family. Read articles and look up information on trustworthy sites.
  • Don’t hesitate to email or call anyone you feel the need to talk to.
  • Picture each option in your mind and what it would look like.
  • Sleep on the decision before you make it. We tend to be clearer in the morning.
  • Once you make the decision let it go. You did your best. Reassure yourself and move forward.
  • Watch your decision play out. Evaluate it. Is it going well? Do you want it to continue or do you think you need to reevaluate and do something different?
  • Decision making is a loop process. We are constantly evaluating our decisions.

As your children embark on this school year, I want to tell you about my nephew’s website. He is a super smart kiddo who is entering 8th grade.   He has created a website called Kids-tutor-kids.com. He is tutoring children ages K-5th grade online. This could definitely be a help to parents. Especially during this school year. He is currently taking 11th grade math and honors English. Go check out his website!

It may not be the ideal school year that we are used to. I understand that completely. We only have control over so much. The biggest thing we have control over is what we decide for our children and how we handle this school year. We are teaching our children how to get through a pandemic. We are teaching our kids every day. I believe in you. I believe in the teachers. We will all get through this year together.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R