Considering

comments: 90

ElkRockIs

Oh, hello my dear friends. How are you? We are all home today. Andy is in the garage playing guitar. Amelia is smashing something with the pestle and mortar (I dare not ask). I am cutting linen for the new summer cross-stitch kits. It is slow going and I don't think I've cut literally anything in parallel (I'm sorry). But it's getting cut, and that is something.

Thank you so much for the movie and TV-show recommendations! I am adding everything to the list. Many of them I have seen (because I love the genre) but many are new to me. Last week Andy and I together watched all of Godless, recommended by my friend Jolie, and wow, that was seriously intense. I thought it was amazing. (Very heavy on the sad, violent, and terrifying, though. Be warned.) Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey is in it. I think she is most soulful and lovely. I really like her. This week we're watching A Knight's Tale (which was recommended by many people!) and Ken Burns's The Civil War, and are trying to get into Poldark again. I watched Poldark a few years ago but there was one scene in season one or two that almost killed me and I never watched it afterward. But, so many good things on the list. Thank you again. I really appreciate it!

Today I've been thinking a lot about school next year and I'm moving toward a deeper acceptance of what our reality — everyone's reality — will be when (if) we start leaving the house: I'm considering keeping Amelia home, even if her school does physically open. I have been having this discussion with many of my friends, not just from our school but my friends from Oak Park and River Forest and my friends on Instagram and my best friend in Boston, and just all of us who have small children right now. I was really surprised to hear that many are considering home-schooling, if they have that option (and many people do not have that option). This is such an intensely personal decision, and everyone’s issues are so different. I will admit that I have never, under normal circumstances, considered home-schooling Amelia. But these are not normal circumstances. I suspect that our school's curriculum will include in-classroom teaching and online assignments. Online school absolutely did not work for us. Like, counter-productive disaster. I don't know if there's a way we could stay "virtually" in our class so that she can be connected with her people socially without actually doing the work (but doing other work, from whatever home-school curriculum I follow). I will definitely need a curriculum because I have zero teaching experience and, quite honestly, I will need structure and support and everything that would go with a tested program. I absolutely do not want to reinvent this wheel. I am researching several Montessori home-school programs (there are many!) and another literature-based one that my friend from school will be using with her kids. If we do home-school, we would definitely (hopefully) be returning to public school for third grade. (She's a rising second-grader right now).

I can't quite put into words exactly what school meant to all of us this year. The year before, when we went to a private Montessori pre-K-to-8 school and commuted a half-hour each way (and paid a lot of money), well — that was just actually a horrible year. I couldn't see exactly how miserable we all were (well, me and Andy, mostly) until we were out of it. I think it was also horrible because I had expected it to be so great. The school was great. Don't get me wrong — it is an amazing school (Franciscan Montessori Earth School). But traveling way out of our neighborhood; not having any classmates from our neighborhood; having a really gross, depressing, extremely irritating drive; having ZERO playground culture — all of those things wiped out every positive aspect. We just didn't know it would suck the life out of us like that.

But this school year, when we went to our neighborhood public K-5, was like a dream. Not necessarily academically, because I still prefer the Montessori pedagogy and know it would've been excellent for Amelia. (I will never stop wishing that public school was more like Montessori school.) But everything else about our school — the teachers, the playground, the other parents, the kids, my volunteer hours reading with the kids, the neighborhood, the five-minute drive, feeling a part of our community, having a mom crew, feeling like this thing that I, personally, had waited for for so (soooo) many years was finally happening. Just, the belonging. She felt it and I felt it and I loved it. She loves everything but I do not love everything and I loved this, for all of us. I won't lie. I cried at one point or another in the day almost every day for the first two months of lockdown, when everything just vanished. I just couldn't stop crying. I’ve never cried so much in my life. It was fear, I am sure, but also grief. Grief for worldwide suffering and pain but also grief for our family’s inevitable risks as well as our smallest, most prosaic losses: Everything about our now-big girl’s daily big-girl life had just gotten started — and then it was all just as suddenly gone. She told Andy, quite brightly, that she wished she could drink milk out of a bottle again. She wondered aloud to me whether it was weird that she felt the urge to suck her thumb (something she didn’t even do as a baby). I didn't let Amelia see me crying, except for the one time we did a drive-by birthday party for our friend Jaxen, and when it was our turn to approach and I saw Jaxen and his little brother and his mom out front with her streamers and her signs and her giant smile I just burst into sobs, honked and waved furiously with my big red face about to explode, and drove on. But on a daily basis, when I wasn't crying (privately! I swear! privately! [mostly!]) for what had been lost, I was crying because I was just so moved — every time she'd get on a Zoom call with her teachers (ballet, too) and her classmates,  I was just so moved by the incredible efforts that everyone was making to keep all our kids healthy and happy and safe and emotionally connected during this time. Seeing all these little kids on the screen in their pajamas, eating breakfast, with dogs and baby sisters barging in, and computers not working, and Mrs. B being her calm, loving, insanely patient self, teaching them how to turn their microphones on, telling them how good it was to see them. I mean, I just could not stop crying. Amelia was not crying at all. Not even close. She's been thriving at home, says she loves being at home, says she loves being here with us every day, and she's such a go-with-the-flow person that I believe her and I literally think she's seriously forgotten what she's missing. Like — she lives completely in the moment.

So, yeah. Oregon's numbers are going back up. Part of me is devastated that whatever school will look like, it absolutely can't and won't look like it did. Part of me feels obligated to keep my kid home because I can, and thereby will make more room for the kids and teachers who will have no choice (because their parents don't have a choice) but to physically go to school. Part of me thinks it will be a great adventure for us to home-school, and really dig into something that could be wonderful (but without museums? without the library? will they still be closed? will they close if they reopen?). Part of me just wants to do whatever PPS says we're going to do and trust that they’ll make the right decision about how to proceed. And part of me just feels unsure about everything.

90 comments

Jennifer says: July 06, 2020 at 05:11 PM

It is all so hard. I have homeschooled my kids for 5 years (intentionally) and it has been wonderful, but we are still sad about not getting together with friends, or going to museums or libraries, and all the uncertainties of this upcoming year.

I really feel like it is hard for younger elementary aged kids to focus in virtual lessons. They really learn through play and interactive, tactile lessons. Homeschooling is definitely an adventure...I'm sure whatever you chose will be great though because you and Andy are such loving, involved parents, and that is key to success in eduction :)

It's all so awful. Our schools keep sending out surveys and I won't fill them out, because I have no idea what I want, what's best for the community, what's best for my kids (all so very different). My oldest has significant special needs and these last four months were so hard. His mental health deteriorated so much I just started him in a summer respite program, hoping the healing benefits outweigh the risk of infection. As my friends keep telling me, there's just no way for us to know what the right choice is.

Whatever it is, I know you will do the very best you can for Amelia.

Alicia, I'm sorry you're having to go through all this mental and emotional gymnastics on how to proceed. I was never tempted to home-school but my kids went through Corbett schools and also 5 minutes away and they are in their 40s now so it wasn't much of an option. But I know you'll make the right choices. It's just so good that Amelia is rolling with whatever you plan. Good luck.

((hugs)), Teresa :-)

So hard all of this is!!! I homeschool my girs 8 and 6 and always have. I too (like Jennifer) feel that it is hard for elementary kids to focus in virtual learning. I do have to say that my kids love to be at home and thrive. My kids miss our exta stuff that we do outside of our home. Some things like 4-H have been virtual and are starting to meet again a little bit, our group has 50 plus kids in it so I'm not sure how that is going to work. My girls have many interests and I somehow work them into school. I found myself using a Woldorf curriculum (Christopherus Homechool) and I reference to it and use quite a bit of it, but not all of it. In fact some subjects are interest led like science and geography. My daughters are much like Amelia,it seems they have a lot of the same interests. Have peace in whatever your decision is.

I home schooled because things became difficult at school. I would say (in normal times) that if your child is happy in school then it is perhaps best to leave them there.

However, these are unusual times and I know that some of the plans schools have when they re-open really do seem detrimental to a child's welbeing, and not a little alarming. That being the case I would certainly be considering home schooling if it were applicble to my circumsances (child now grown up).

Nothing has to be forever and nothing is cast in stone (you seem to be considering just a year out). Amelia seems to be resliant and adaptable, so rather than any decision being right or wrong, it is perhaps merely a choice of path. So, good luck with whichever you choose.

I'm the self-employed, work at home homeschooling mom of an only child daughter as well. My daughter is 13, has always been homeschooled, and she loves being home. Some kids truly do love the freedom that comes from being able to just flow through the day in their own head and creativity. Not only do they love it, they need it. Amelia reminds me a lot of my Caroline in the way you describe her.

The three of you clearly have a lovely family dynamic, just as we do. It truly can be done with an only child. Is the pandemic making it challenging in some ways? Yes. My daughter misses her volunteering and co-op and such. But I want to encourage you that if Amelia is happy at home with you then you will be great. Put together a relaxed plan, read a lot of books, watch interesting videos, and let her relish being a free and creative child. That's a fantastic gift you can give her that so many children never get.

Sallie

I'm the self-employed, work at home homeschooling mom of an only child daughter as well. My daughter is 13, has always been homeschooled, and she loves being home. Some kids truly do love the freedom that comes from being able to just flow through the day in their own head and creativity. Not only do they love it, they need it. Amelia reminds me a lot of my Caroline in the way you describe her.

The three of you clearly have a lovely family dynamic, just as we do. It truly can be done with an only child. Is the pandemic making it challenging in some ways? Yes. My daughter misses her volunteering and co-op and such. But I want to encourage you that if Amelia is happy at home with you then you will be great. Put together a relaxed plan, read a lot of books, watch interesting videos, and let her relish being a free and creative child. That's a fantastic gift you can give her that so many children never get.

Sallie

Luanne Graham says: July 06, 2020 at 08:19 PM

Alicia, you make a very good point about homeschooling Amelia because you can, which leaves more space for the children of parents who can't homeschool. I would certainly homeschool if I was in your shoes. I'm sure you would do a fabulous job.

Carrie Bry says: July 06, 2020 at 08:25 PM

Don’t worry it will all be fine what ever happens.
You’re a great Mom, she’s a great kid and it will all work out.
It’s only 1 year ( hopefully) and each challenge you are faced with will be a
Good lesson to learn from. We are all in the same boat trying to figure it out as we go along
Whether our kids are grown or not. I know you will be fine and so will your daughter.
She has GREAT parents.❤️

Kate Sprague says: July 06, 2020 at 08:28 PM

Thank you for this. You captured many of the ways I felt this spring - still feel, as you note, too. I am a teacher by training but in a district-wide teacher coach role now, and a parent of rising first-grader and a two-year-old, and I just don't know what the right answer is, even just for our family, let alone in our schools. I feel really fortunate to feel like we have some choice as a family, but it does all feel so, so hard.

My daughter’s school district just released their fall 2020 plans and it looks like k-3 will be going in person 4 days a week. I’m feeling positive about it, she is so social and is having a harder time not being around friends. I just read a news article today that said that Danish kids went back to school in April and Finland went back in May and there were no outbreaks tied to schools. It said there seems to be less transmission between young kids and adults bc kids aren’t getting it with as many flu like symptoms. I am cautiously optimistic because I know it could all change again. We are in semi rural WA but the numbers have been climbing in our county too. It is a very hard and very personal decision, solidarity with you on that one. I also researched homeschool curriculums already to have on hand in case we all go back in lockdown because trying to get a Kindergartner with ADHD to do zoom classes seems way too stressful.

Well, I’m a doctor, so I’m on the reopening committee for our kids’ school...no pressure (gah). The plan is in-person, at this point, but our numbers are also going up— surging, actually— in Southern California. They were so stable at first. Then people got stupid (seen those beach photos? Yeah.). My patients are poor, in crowded conditions, essential workers who can’t afford to stop working, and they don’t have room to quarantine when they get sick. The poorest neighborhoods in our county are hard hit, while the beach cities have anti-mask protests supported by our GOP county supervisors — don’t get me started. I’ve lost one patient and one colleague. I have one college junior (100% online learning, and 100% not organized enough to manage his 7-year-old little brother), an incoming college freshman going halfway across the country for in-person at a small private college, an incoming high school freshman with a hybrid model planned, and the aforementioned second-grader, who did really well with online learning but wants to see his friends. I hope in-person works out, in part because we don’t have an alternative— my husband is teaching in person and I’m at the clinic. Good luck with your decision!

Patsy J Messer says: July 06, 2020 at 09:34 PM

It is amazing how everyone is feeling the same way, same dilemma & issues. It's apparent we all want the same ending- just have different ways of getting there. I love public school for all the reasons you mentioned. It's such an unpopular view these days... or so it seems. It was nice to read your thoughts here. It's such a wonderful thing to do go school in your own neighborhood & I too love the other moms, volunteering & community.
thank you for sharing here.
It was so nice to think about.

Fellow PPS Mom here, first year too as our 12 yr old was in a private school in Seattle from YPK-grade 5 - and for all the reasons you list (commute, money, no local friends) I was so happy when she started at our neighborhood MS and had neighborhood friends, activities, took the bus!! and had so.much.fun.
Then the pandemic - and an only child Tween whose life has screeched to a halt. We can sorta school from home, amongst our work from home workdays,and we're lucky to have space, internet, a computer etc. but I don't think it can be compared to a "regular" homeschool situation without libraries, museums, parks etc...so I am not excited about whatever September brings us...Feeling for you!!

I'm sure you'll do great whatever path you choose! And it's not an ironclad thing either - it's possible to start one way and end another, if whichever you pick doesn't work out the way you hoped.
And this whole ::waves hand around:: thing, this truly will not last forever. I swear/hope.

I'm a public school teacher (middle school) and I cried almost every day for the first 8 weeks.
I've never been so sad. I missed my work and my students so very much.
I wasn't great at remote teaching- I never want to do it again except I want people to be safe and healthy.
So I am learning how to do this remote thing better while praying for in-person classes and safety and NOT having to teach remotely.
Just my two cents- it is totally ok to home school for a year. Find a neighbor friend that is also doing it and swap days or subjects or something. Re-evaluate in January. Don't stress about what she might be missing, think about what she could gain from you. In the grand scheme of things, this will only be a blip on the radar. When she goes back to school she will be able to measure fabric like a champ!

My husband and I have been having similar conversations. We've decided to homeschool our rising first grader this year. I have a hodge podge of curriculum going, but feel excited about all of the possibilities. It can all be so overwhelming at first. I'm just trying to remember to take my time making choices and that we don't have to cover everything at once!

Amanda Schnabel says: July 07, 2020 at 05:47 AM

You write SO well and it always picks up my day to read your thoughts--probably because they are so similar to what the rest of us are feeling at one time or the other--thank you for sharing them with us and helping us all to feel better--such a kindness!
All three of my children were Montessori students from age 3-11 (they are 18-22 now) and of all the parental things we wonder if we "did right" giving them a Montessori education was 100% one of the very best. I think that any way you can give your daughter that gift--in a classroom or in your home (even just after school/on weekends, if she's in a traditional classroom full-time) is the way to go. You are an outstanding parent and I know you and your husband will land on exactly the right place for your girl!

Jackie Ricotta says: July 07, 2020 at 05:51 AM

First of all, we are ALL unsure about everything these days - but I so appreciate hearing it from others. As a college professor, I have had a number of students who were home schooled K-12, and all of them were well-prepared emotionally and academically for college. They were self motivated, wise, and seemed to have experienced a lot of the world. I am sure you will make the right decision for your family, and have peace that it will all work out. Sending hugs and much gratitude for your wonderful blog.

Our daughters are close to the same age and I also really struggled with intense grief this year for the same reasons you mentioned. It felt like she lost the opportunity to come into her own as a little girl this spring. Solidify friendships, find her passion like my other children had at that age, explore new things. We are digging deep now trying to rework what the next few months will look like.

Stephanie says: July 07, 2020 at 06:37 AM

As a homeschool graduate who is currently at the beginning of my own adventure homeschooling my own children, please be encouraged that it can be such a wonderful enriching experience for everyone! The unsocialized homeschooler is such a myth as there are so many resources in the homeschooling community. I also really enjoy the opportunity for my children to pursue their own interests and work at the pace they need. It is hard at times (yes, sometimes being the teacher and mama is overwhelming and utterly exhausting!). But the investment is so worth it.

I wouldn’t ponder a moment about your choice really....homeschool for sure, since you are fortunate to be able to be home. The library and museum are nice of course, but I have seen so many people on line do such amazing things homeschooling!! This is not going to last forever. I think of those that are sick and suffer so and have to do it alone. That’s the tough stuff. No one wants to be there.

Kari Hanson says: July 07, 2020 at 07:35 AM

I honestly never thought about how hard school closure must have been for kindergarten families. My oldest was in 5th grade, so there was a lot of sadness about losing his last year of elementary school and saying good by to a place we loved in such a weird way. But kindergarten families had just started a big, new, exciting phase and it was all pulled out from underneath your feet! I live in Seattle and it's still unclear what next year will look like, but I am pretty sure my kids will get to be in school a few days a week. Online school did not work at all for my youngest, we shall see what happens, but I think I'm going to need to get creative too...

Hi Alicia,

Such a touching post. I have homeschooled both of my children from the beginning (we're headed into our ninth official year!), so I thought I would chime in to offer words of support and encouragement. (Side note: My husband and I NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS thought we would homeschool! It was never on our radar. It's amazing the paths our children take us down, isn't it?!)

Educational decisions are so difficult and personal; trust that your heart will point you towards the right choice for your family. (And rest in the knowledge that, either way, one year will not make or break your child's education!) That said, homeschooling the elementary years is so much fun. (As a long-time reader of your blog, I've always thought you would make an excellent homeschool mom!) And second grade is so DOABLE. Really! The actual sit-down work of second grade--when done in a one-on-one homeschool setting--can easily be completed in under two hours per day, if not far less. (A little math, a little writing, a little reading practice, a ton of read-alouds from a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books...that's pretty much it. Add in some outdoor time, and then the rest of your day is free for play, chores, meals, games, and all of the incredible artistic, creative things you and your family already do!)

Covid has been hard on all of us, everywhere, and homeschoolers are no exception. Some of the richest parts of the homeschool experience are the constant field trips and visits to libraries, museums, co-op classes, outside extracurricular classes, etc., so life has definitely felt diminished without these wonderful things in our schedule this past spring. But I'm still optimistic that we'll have a fantastic upcoming year; we're just planning to dig into projects we don't always have time for in the context of our usual outside activities.

And lots of families like to use a boxed curriculum in their first year. I went that route when I first got started, too, and it definitely helped develop my confidence. (You learn so much about your children and about education as you go, and now the only boxed curriculum we use is math!) But there's no one right way to do home education, and so many of the boxed programs out there are great! If you're interested in recommendations, I think you would enjoy Oak Meadow curriculum (OakMeadow.com). It's secular and very child-centered. Other books I think you would enjoy (and would help get you started with homeschooling): The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart, Rethinking School by Susan Wise Bauer, and The Call of the Wild and Free by Ainsley Arment. (All of these books are wonderful, helpful resources on home education, but the information and ideas in them are applicable to any parent.)

Anyway, wishing you all the best, Alicia! Just trust that your love for Amelia will carry her through. Try not to worry too much. :-) Take care!

I haven’t read the other comments yet but I will because your blog is beyond fantastic and the comments you elicit are interesting as well, a testament to your writing. There is a June 24, 2020 NPR article: What Parents Can Learn from Childcare Centers that Stayed Open During Lockdowns, that I think you’d really find interesting. Basically over 20,000 kids no child cases of Covid. I’ll be sending my youngest off to university for her junior year (she’s biomedical engineering/premed), that will be fraught with worry, for me. Luckily, she’s too focused and busy with getting ready to take the MCAT to fraternize, literally. Good luck, you’ve got this. Sounds like Amelia’s got this too. How nice it would be if the US had some sense and leadership, deep sigh. Take Care, Keep Calm, and Craft On! As always, thanks to Andy for being on the frontlines, and thanks to you for spreading your joy.

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.