Like all other New Jersey parents, we’ve been doing this remote learning thing since March. I had high hopes that by the time school started in September, my kids would be back in a classroom. At first, our district told us school would operate on a hybrid model, with students attending for two half-days in person, two times a week. When I first heard that I thought it was a ridiculous proposal. If kids were in school for just two half days, where would they be the rest of the time? What were working parents supposed to do? And what about parents like me who work and also have a child with special needs?
Experts pointed out that a hybrid model poses its own set of COVID risks since no one knows where children will be on the “off” days – at a daycare, with friends or grandparents, maybe roaming the street? Now that my district has changed its mind and pushed us back to all-remote learning those two half days suddenly sound pretty good – at least it was something.
We have taken coronavirus seriously. We wear masks where they are required, we avoided seeing relatives for over four months, we wash our hands and social distance and follow the rules. We have also gone to grocery stores with our kids, swam at our community pool and even sent our child to summer camp. Thankfully, none of us have contracted coronavirus.
While it’s necessary to take the virus seriously and stop the spread I worry for my kids now that September is almost here and there’s still no school. Not all kids thrive with remote instruction. In fact, I’ve seen my otherwise happy, engaged kids turn into glassy-eyed zombies, staring at screens all day with all sense of school community lost due to lack of school. All of the Zoom meetings including the dance parties and book readings and exercise videos – stuff that’s supposed to give our kids some sense of normalcy – I think they’ve done more harm than good. It saddens me to see my 8-year-old twins disappearing into their laptops. The learning loss is real. The lack of socialization will have staggering effects.
The nature walks, and days spent reading books, taking bike rides and seeing the friends whose parents will allow it – those things have been our saving grace. We’ll continue to do those things in the fall, as we wait to hear when we’re told that it’s safe to reopen.
We’re looking into the idea of learning pods and will convene with other like-minded families who are taking the same precautions that we are, and who believe the benefits of children attending school outweigh the small risk of them contracting or transmitting coronavirus.
But for now, back to school will be back to the kitchen table and taking it one day at a time.
Ronnie Koenig is an NJ mom of 8-year-old twins.