When you decided to become a parent, you knew there would be high highs and low lows. You anticipated nursing your kids through broken bones and broken hearts. You prepared for sicknesses and sleepless nights. You braced yourself for the terrible twos and the even more terrible teens. School was supposed to be pretty standard though!

But you probably never thought you’d be parenting your children through the worst pandemic in a century. And so far, you’ve managed pretty well, surviving a summer mostly under lockdown and a spring semester spent learning from home.

Now, though, the new year school has begun, and as infection rates continue to soar, you may find yourself facing a frightening decision. If schools reopen, is it safe to send your children? Or should your family face the risks of continuing to homeschool?

Online School Only?

As states across the US repeatedly break daily records for numbers of infections and deaths, public health experts are warning of a second surge to begin even before the first has subsided.

That’s prompting some of the country’s largest school districts, including many across Florida and New York, to remain fully online, at least for the first half of the fall semester. To be sure, though, that’s not a decision to be made lightly.

A Less than Ideal Solution

By any measure, the sudden transition to remote learning in the spring was less than a stellar success. The Brookings Institute recently warned of a “COVID slide” brought about by the spring school closures, predicting that students will start the new school year significantly behind where they would have been in math and reading proficiency had the lockdown never happened.

And that’s led to a lot of anxious speculation about what both the short- and long-term impacts of continued school closures will be. And yet, even as educators and health officials fear the effects of delaying school reopenings, particularly for minority students, the very communities who are most likely to suffer from school closures are also those most at risk for the spread of the virus and critical outcomes from it.

But it’s not only children of color who may be suffering disproportionately from the school closures. Schools don’t just educate our children. They also provide other essential services, from nutrition to mental health services.

Additionally, schools give much- needed social and emotional support for children who may not receive that kind of nurturing at home. For example, many LGBTQ youth report that school is the only place they truly feel accepted and affirmed for who they are. With the loss of this support, LGBTQ children are experiencing higher rates of anxiety and depression.

And the simple fact is, screen time, as beneficial as it may be, just can’t replace in-person human interaction. For young children, in particular, too much screen time and not enough face-to-face time can have long-term detrimental effects on their social and psychological development. Children may even be hampered in the development of other essential life skills, such as empathy, helping, sharing, and communication.

What to Do With School?

Studies suggest that children are at far less risk of contracting the virus or being severely impacted by it if and when they do. The question remains, however, as to what the risk of reopening for teachers and school staff will be.

And while such questions remain, it may well be that online learning will be around for a while, despite the widely-acknowledged necessity of getting kids back into the classroom as quickly and as safely as possible.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you need to write off the fall semester as a loss. Your child can still be successful when learning online. It just takes a bit of strategy.

First, and most important, is setting up a dedicated space and time for studying. Choose a space that is quiet and uncluttered. Make sure that your little scholar has good lighting and all their study needs close at hand. Creating such a space doesn’t just make it physically easier to work, but it also helps signal to the brain and body that it’s time to settle down and focus.

Second, to make the most of online learning, it’s a good idea to explore all that technology has to offer the home classroom. There is an endless variety of free and low-cost apps to help you customize your learning content for your children. These include collaboration and gamification tools to make learning not only more effective but also a lot more fun.

Finally, if you find yourself by choice or necessity teaching your kids at home, it’s also important to set limits on the school day and, even more crucially, on screen time. For young children, in particular, too much screen time can have some pretty detrimental effects, including interfering with their sleep quality and their attention span.

Even if you’re using screen time for entertainment, make sure you’re opting for quality programming that you can share and discuss with your little one. And, above all, whether you’re using them for school or fun, know when to turn them off.

The Takeaway

Parenting has never been easy. But you’re not just a parent anymore. You’re a pandemic parent. And right now you’re probably facing one of the toughest decisions of your life in deciding whether or not to send your child back to school, when and if they decide to reopen. The important thing is to trust your gut, stay calm, and keep informed.


Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

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