There has been major concern this summer regarding whether schools should or should not reopen for face-to-face instruction this September. There are numerous aspects to consider. Yet it seems a great many concerns are not directly related to education and subject matter. We seem to be stuck on what I would call the “extras” which we have come to expect from our schools. Things like before and after school child care, hot lunches, transportation, sports programs, and a variety of other extracurricular activities. Parents have come to depend on schools for far more than the education of their children. Practically speaking, it is as if we have forgotten that we as parents are the ones who are ultimately responsible for our children. Perhaps we need to look at priorities.
I’ve been thinking about how school closings might have impacted previous generations of parents, children, and teachers. As we have become increasingly accustomed to schools doing more and more, parents have taken on more and more responsibilities outside the home. Families these days must be especially organized in order for everyone to get to where they are going each morning. Each family member typically spends weekday hours away from home pursuing their individual routine. They typically regather in the evening and hopefully spend evening time together. Often, however, they catch dinner on the run and hurry off to evening activities.
Some families have told us that their time of quarantine was a welcome break from their stressful daily family schedule. They enjoyed having more time together as a family and even experienced less marital strife.
I think the main concern for families as a new school year begins needs to be the education of their children more than their daily schedule. If the kids are doing school from home, how can parents be there to help and also do their own work? What if a parent is also a school teacher? How can they be there for their students and also for their own children? What about students who do not have reliable internet access? What about parents who are not available to help? What will a hybrid schedule look like? What is the health risk to teachers and their families?
What if that stress of who’s picking up whom, at what time, for example, could be downsized? Many of these questions are prompted by our complicated lifestyles. We have created schedules for ourselves that do not allow for flexibility, much less a full blown pandemic. What if, at least for the parenting years, we returned to the model of a stay at home mom (or dad or grandparent)? A stay home parent would be in the best interest of the young student as well as the parents. In my opinion, we have created a family style that is beyond stressful. It doesn't allow for unprecedented events. It doesn't allow children the consistent stability they need in their growing up years. Our children will only pass through childhood once. Let's do all we can to put them first while we still have them in our home.
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