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Why I Decided to Send My Kids Back to School

Yeah, it’s a controversial opinion and one you wouldn’t expect me to make. I wouldn’t expect me to make it. I am very firmly on the side of “take this virus seriously” because it’s not a flu. You could get brain damage, lung damage, kidney damage, etc.

But I also know my kids. I know what they need I know what’s best for them and their lives and me & my wife know they are better off going to school and risking the virus. Since I’m sure you’re all fascinated by my decision-making process, I’m going to outline my reasons here.

Distance Learning Sucks Donkey Balls

So last year, school closed down in March by state mandate, and it was never certain when it would reopen. The state took some time to “evaluate” and distribute their “distance learning” strategy, it slowly trickling down to local schools. Some teachers showed enthusiasm, but some stayed silent.

For background, my kids were in fourth and sixth grade last year — one was in middle school, one was in elementary. They both had to start at about eight o’clock in the morning because the Schoology application they used to submit schoolwork and get lessons would start suffering service outages around ten to two.

The teaching they got was garbage. It was either worksheets, a paragraph of instructions, or some reading. Everyone kind of threw up their hands and said “there’re only three months left in the year. Let’s just half-ass it until June.” I can’t imagine what it was like if you had a student that didn’t have access to the technology we do.

The elementary art teacher pointed students to a YouTube video and said “do that”, but never checked any work. My eldest had to time-lapse record herself doing forty minutes of physical activity for gym. Besides the fact that we had to figure out how to use time-lapse photography, my wife had to take time out of her day to do this. You think the teacher watched all those videos of kids rollerblading and biking?

No one learned anything. No one interacted with anyone. Attendance was not taken. In fact, we didn’t get notification that my eldest hadn’t turned in assignments for a month. Was this the fault of the student? Was it the fault of the teacher for not notifying her or us until so late? The communication we received from the teachers and principals always left us with more questions than answers.

They are miserable staying at home

The elder had about four hours of schoolwork per day, taking her until noon. The other only had two hours. This makes things difficult when you want to play together or schedule some outing. And it can trigger some deep-seated jealousy when your kid sister gets out of school twice as early as you because they’ve decided not to teach her anything.

Our kids are smart. We make them do give them workbooks during the summer to keep them out of our hair stimulated, and it shows. They’re at the top of their class. For both of them, the teacher can’t technically tell what reading level they’re at because the test scales don’t measure that high. The youngest often tells me she finds math boring because she already knows the lesson. The eldest never has homework because she’s already done it in class. They have a social studies/music teacher for a mom and a writer/software engineer for a dad, so between us, we’ve got all the subjects covered. There’s not much they gain from school, content-wise.

But what they do need to get, we can’t give them. Independence, responsibility, accountability, hard work, honesty, socialness, and so on. All those secondary characteristics.

My kids don’t make friends easily. We have to get them up off their asses to go call or text someone. They’d rather play with each other all day than with anyone else. So getting them to separate from each other and make their own friends and develop their own personalities and likes. They aren’t “into” anything, like I was when I was their age. I was easy to buy Christmas presents for–just give me anything with Ghostbusters, Disney, Ninja Turtles, video games, etc. My wife likes softball, the Twins, the Vikings, skiing, Legos. But what do our kids like? I couldn’t tell you.

The sports that they play, we have to shove them into it, drag them to every practice and game while they whine and complain about doing the thing they supposedly volunteered for so they can go in and give about 40% of themselves to it.

We also considered their desires into the decision, because they acknowledge the misery of it all as well. Both of them wanted to go to private school at first. But when the eldest learned about the middle school’s hybrid learning plan, she wanted to go back there. She wanted to see her friends and didn’t want to risk losing her place in the G&T program. We agreed and that’s what we’re doing.

You Can’t Just Stop School

This coronavirus thing is not just a blip. It’s going to go for about two years–that’s how long pandemics usually last. And life doesn’t stop for anyone, not even viruses. That especially applies when you’re a young child.

The longer you go without education, the dumber you get, especially when you’re young. I have no scientific evidence for this, but I know what I’ve observed and what my teacher-wife has observed. After three months of summer, it takes about one month to get the kids back to the point where they’re learning something new. That’s one-ninth of the school year spent on review because of stupid summer vacation. And remember–they’re teaching to the lowest-performing student.

Exercise is the same way. If you take a few months off, then go back to the gym, do you continue on like nothing happened? No, you’ve regressed. You’ve got to build yourself back up to where you were before you stopped.

We seem to be low risk people in a low risk area

We live in a rural area of the suburbs, on the very edge of the metro area (which means we still pay taxes for that metro area <grumble, grumble>). It’s not densely populated here. No one I know has ever had Coronavirus. That does not mean it doesn’t exist, it just means it’s not prevalent in this area.

Our family has general good health. I’ve only been to the hospital once, for meningitis. My kids have no maladies or chronic health conditions besides lactose intolerance. My wife does, but she’s not scared. She intends to go back to work as a substitute teacher. In fact, she’s looking forward to it, because she thinks most other subs won’t be going because (because they’re mostly retired teachers) so she’ll be getting all the juicy jobs they’ve left behind.

I don’t share her sentiment. She is the most vulnerable to coronavirus in our family–she has asthma and heart arrhythmia. I’m very scared for her if she gets it–she might get permanent lung damage or long-term hospitalization or something worse. But I am not her controller.

Conclusion

I think a lot of the factors in making this decision depends on where you are, and my state has a lot of diversity in population-densities. The state can’t make a one-size-fits-all solution. A rural town of three hundred in Northern Minnesota doesn’t have a nearby hospital. It doesn’t have the Internet or technology to enable distance learning. It’s not that they’re not affected, just that the outbreak chance is low.

And that’s what I’m playing on–the chance. I am balancing the chance of my children getting Covid-19 vs. the results of public school distance learning. And how our school district dealt with it last year did not fill me with confidence.

Now please note, here’s what I did not say. I did not say “all schools need to reopen”. Clearly the clusterfuck in Georgia is evidence against that.

I did not say “it’s no big deal”. It most definitely is a big deal–this is a weighty decision and due time was given to its evaluation.

I did not say “it’s going to go away soon”. Like I aforementioned, this won’t get properly blown over until March 2022.

I did not say “teachers should go back to work”. Everyone needs to evaluate where they’re at, what they can do, what they can risk.

I said “My kids need to go back to school. I’ve looked at the situation and it’s the best thing for them right now.”

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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