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

I agree following your heart is the best you can do for your family. As the head of a museum education department, I want to let everyone know that museums will reopen and continue to be an amazing place for families to visit for homeschooling, to get out of the house and to remember we are all part of the same community. The amount of effort going into cleaning, modifying gallery and exhibition spaces, fully changing ventilation systems (OSHA has all new requirements already!) and figuring out how to extend a warm welcome while fully masked is incredible. The education materials, including at-home activities, are being dusted off, improved or even invented just for families and virtual schooling. Portland area museums are some of the best in the nation. Like the restaurant industry, cultural and science organizations are suffering, so for anyone able to keep their memberships or even start a new one, your support is deeply appreciated. It's also a perfect time to say what you'd like - drawing activities for just your family in front of your favorite artwork? Customize a scavenger hunt at home then have other family or "pod" members follow it at the museum? Didn't mean to go on so long - I just feel passionate about education. Good luck!

Such tough, personal choices. I do speech therapy in schools in TX and had to learn to do teletherapy. Just a practical note for you, so many museums and zoos and conservancies offer virtual field trips that are very cool. I used some of those with speech therapy. Also our botanical garden has a member hour 8am-9 am. We went last week, and we were easily able to social distance. They have a great kids area and no one was there. I texted my friend with little ones who had been looking for outdoor spaces. My baby is 22 so I couldn't get him out there but 20 years ago, I would have had my 3 kids there at 7:59 to get every minute of outdoor time safely. Maybe, probably, Portland has those kinds of options too. Peace to you.

I was so terribly burnt out from homeschooling (warning it WILL drain you, but will be wonderful at the same time) and loved the idea of enrolling my kids in school. For the first time, I too experienced that local community, belonging, my kids playing with neighborhood kids, it was wonderful. And then that ended, so abruptly. Of all years I choose to get divorced and enroll my kids in school. Math and grammar are the two crucial things to teach this year. For history I always chose what the homeschool community called "living books" which are basically very accurate historical fiction/non-fiction books that draw you in. Its a win/win because the kids learn without knowing it; you reading out-loud to children is incredibly good for them; and its easy (no textbooks). It will be a wonderful adventure for you two!! Haha, just don't make the mistake that most of us HS moms make and buy tons of unnecessary curriculum. My garage is full of it! :)

I have always homeschooled my 2 children - we are going into our seventh year. As a lover of homeschooling, I can only say positive things about it. However, homeschoolers are also very sad and feeling the loss of our regular interactions and activities outside the home. It is a hard time for everyone, though harder of course for families who have always gone to school. We have always been a part of a co-op, and that is where all their friends are. The co-op is trying to figure out how to navigate next year, and it will be very different if it even happens at all. These are trying times, for sure.
I want to encourage you, however. Homeschooling Amelia may end up being a beautiful experience you both look back on with joy and even longing in the years to come. You are more than capable, and so creative that I am sure you will do an amazing job. When I started, I purchased a boxed curriculum with the teacher's book that literally walked me through the lessons, step by step - even telling me what to say, lol! I needed that at the time, and it was a wonderful help. After a few years I gained the experience and confidence to piece together my own curriculum. Many, many families are currently wrestling with this decision, including my best friend. Do not be afraid. There can be blessings and growth even in the darkest times. You will both thrive, I am sure of it.

Barbara C. says: July 07, 2020 at 10:13 AM

I am a retired teacher. I don't believe in one-size-fits-all education. You know your child best and you know your own values and goals for her best. Even if you try one way and don't feel comfortable with it, you can always change your mind. If you don't know this blogger, you might want to read her take on homeschooling, which is basically: Don't stress about it. https://www.jennifermurch.com/2020/07/so-youre-thinking-of-homeschooling.html
This is going to be a hard autumn for many families. Do the best you can and remember to bre-e-e-eathe.

My kids are grown so take this with a grain of salt because I'm not living the current situation with little ones and school looming. You said it yourself, Amelia is thriving at home and doesn't seem to know what is missing. Hopefully by the time she is entering third grade she will get to go back to the classroom. Hugs to all of you. It's such a stressful time. You deserve to feel bereft for what has been lost.

You are not alone. I remember privately crying many times in March and April, and even some in May as I continued to try to figure out this new normal. Like you, I became a teacher for our fourth grader overnight. It was hard in so many ways for myself and my daughter. But we made it to the end of the school year, even though it wasn't remotely easy. And here we are again faced with the issue of school for the upcoming year. Do we send her back - I don't think so. Homeschool it is for fifth grade. We trying to make our decision based on three really great remote online homeschools. I will say I'm a bit nervous, but it is what it is and we will figure it out along the way. I think it is the right and safest decision for the time we are in as there is a significant rise in cases here in NC. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Nicole James says: July 07, 2020 at 11:04 AM

Alicia, thank you. When this all started my first emotion was incredible grief. No one understood what I was saying. Now they do: we have lost so much. We will likely never get it back. It’s fitting to grieve what has been lost. However this is also true: this difficult season presents unprecedented opportunity. For our families, for our nation, for our cities and communities. To do some things that we have wanted or needed to do but didn’t have the time/energy/courage/reason. We have been homes cooling for 6 years so I know how amazing it is and I hope that many parents will discover that, and also see that most young children are like Amelia- yes they like school but they love their families and want to be home with them so if we can find a way to embrace this enforced change, perhaps there will be some good that could come out of it. But still, it was not wanted or welcome and is difficult for us all.

What a lovely and thoughtful blog post. I haven’t read through all the comments yet but you have created a lovely community here, the advice and recommendations are always so spot on. As a former Montesorri teacher, I can say the most basic tenet is to follow the child and as her mother, you know her best and will absolutely make the best decision about her education. Also taught environmental education for years too, so if you need any recommendations or curriculum planning for using the garden as a classroom, please reach out at my email address.

So many thoughtful posts about kids and schools. I'm childless but I still felt (feel) the same grief and uncertainties. But most of all, I really want to know what the deal-breaking Poldark scene is, lol!

My husband and I home-schooled our two children starting in middle school. My eldest begged to be home-schooled and we finally agreed. Best thing ever! It wasn't always easy but it worked. You just have to find a way that works for your child's temperament. The amazing thing is that there is so much room for creativity and freedom. When I think of all the positives of home-schooling and the negatives of sending children to school, I wonder why more parents don't home-school. Of course I say that in hindsight as someone who has experienced both. Just don't assume home-schooling won't work for you until you try it. If you all hate it, you can always change back.

Hi! Have you considered going to any summer camps? I'm not at all sure what school will look like in North Carolina in the fall but we've signed the kids up for a couple of weeks of camps, just for a break this summer. We've been able to find ones that are doing a great job at social distancing - everyone (kids included) wear masks, less than 7 kids per class, no mixing of classes. It's a huge privilege to be able to pay for camps that can have these types of restrictions, but it's been good for all of us. Stay well!

There are actually 2 schools at my son's high school, one being for refugees. Sometimes those kids are COMPLETELY UNSCHOOLED for years but they catch up really quickly. So don't worry.

And yes it's hard on mental health. My 15-year-old spends way too much time in bed and/or gaming. He hasn't been to school since March and doesn't socialize or go out even as we have increasing freedoms here in Toronto. I've had advice from social workers to be patient as he should improve.

So stay home where you can---and wear a mask when you go out. This horrible situation will pass although it might not seem like it right now.

Sending best wishes to everyone out there.

Just as I suspected... a lot of support and comments already filling up.
I had a few thoughts to add: One, homeschooling is easier than what the schools tried to accomplish for the last part of the school year. And it's possible that by Fall there will be improved systems, but I think remote learning, online, is simply going to be a poor fit for a lot of students. Secondly, try not get overwhelmed! That's my homeschool advice... there are SO MANY resources, good ideas, good intentions, and it's easy to over do it. Just know, that it's ok to keep it simple. And with that in mind, I won't offer any more tips and ideas. You'll find plenty! I would like to add a note of thanks... for your honesty and reflections, and for your perspective. We are pained, too, by the idea of Maria missing out on time at the school she loves, we all love, and we also know that numbers are rising, and there's still no comforting plan for how to get two-thousand teens in classes, around campus, safely, effectively. I was struck by your observation that you *can* homeschool, and by making that choice, you free up space, facilitating safer options for the students that need to be there, because they don't have options. Like wearing masks, it's kind and thoughtful to do what we can to make things easier for others, however we can, and I will bear this in mind as we figure out our options, so thank you.

Sorry, not sure what happened to my previous email! I did want to say that you will be fine if you do decide to home school. It is a learning process but rewarding.

It seems to me that you already know what to do. You have demonstrated wisdom in things you have done before, judging by what you wrote here. We have home schooled when we lived in African and South America. It worked well, the kids learned to discipline themselves. They knew a teacher in the US would see their work and grade it. The family has to be disciplined in terms of time. They both liked it. I bought lots of "extra" books that didn't came with the curriculum. True they need a social side to this. You will have to see how this can be done at times like this. Keep in mind this will not be forever. Sending you a hug during all these decisions! This book : What Your Second Grader Needs to Know (Revised and Updated): Fundamentals of a Good Second-Grade Education (The Core Knowledge Series)

This webpage may help in your considerations of homeschooling: https://makeamericansfreeagain.com/homeschooling/

I homeschooled my kids when they were in primary school and I have always thought you have many qualities that would make you excellent at home schooling! I hope it will works out for you. everything is so weird and I am pretty sure you aren't alone in your private crying. I usually sob when I'm in the shower (that way if my eyes look red I can just say I just have got soap in my eyes 😂) Not that there is anything wrong with crying but I don't want to add to everyone's worries more than necessary.

Hi - I have been reading your blog for *years* and this is the best post of yours I have read yet. You sum up so many of my own feelings on what it is like to have a young child as part of a school community.
Really moving.
This is my first comment - hi from by the sea in Hastings in the UK!

Whatever decision you make will absolutely be the best for your family! Which implies no pressure, there is no perfect solution, but you will for sure pick a good one. Also, as my supervising teacher says (we homeschool), it's ok to have times where academics are relaxed. Life happens, and kids are constantly learning! You've got this!

Elizabeth says: July 08, 2020 at 07:18 AM

So many big decisions to make - I truly have felt so badly for the parents that have to make this tough choice - balancing what is best for their family and their community. It is a big decision and it feels so weighted. I wonder if you have read any of the writings by Erin Bromage? He has a blog he started but you can also go to his Facebook page. He is an immunologist - but is great about using lay speak. He has young children and his family has entered into a partnership of sorts with a couple of other families - he says it is important to make sure that everyone is on board with the same level of safety measures - but it has allowed their children to have friends to play with (always outside - never in-doors). It seems like such a realistic way to allow some normalcy. Of course the sticky but is inquiring ever so delicately into people’s personal decisions. Praying for all you mama’s and papa’s who have such hard choices to make - choices that you can always change!

You do such a great job articulating what we're all feeling, Alicia! My kids have all been homeschooled since kinder, and I had a graduating senior this spring--even though he was homeschooled, I grieved the losses of all the things for him, too. Cancelling everything this spring has been hard on everybody. It wasn't at all what I'd envisioned for his senior year. Ugh.

On the bright side, I think most of us homeschooling parents have felt the doubts and worries that you write about. I worried every year that I'd end up ruining my kids for homeschooling them. ;) So when we graduated our oldest this spring, and he turned out terrific, it was a huge relief. Hang in there! This is a weird time and everybody feels so conflicted about everything--BUT it sounds like Amelia will thrive wherever she is! xox

Susan from Tsawwassen, BC says: July 08, 2020 at 12:32 PM

I don't have children but I am moved, as always, by your post. So I don't have anything insightful to say (but your insights are resonating with me and all of your readers) ... I just want to send my love to you all. xo

My husband and I were just discussing this very issue! We don't know if it's a good idea to send our daughter, who is going into the 2nd grade, back to her public Waldorf school or attempt homeschool. We both work, but can be flexible with our schedules so we can technically homeschool. But with no other kids, she has no social life. She is only 7 but I imagine it is going to get old, without seeing friends. If this goes on for another year or two, I wonder how she will be impacted in the future. This decision is heart wrenching. Good luck to you and your family!

Jennifer says: July 08, 2020 at 07:34 PM

Our school district just announced today their learning model for the upcoming school year. It's either 100% in school or 100% virtual. i had hoped for a mixed bag and since I have to go back to work she has to go back to school. We were just in McMinnville for wine tasting. It was gorgeous weather and nice to be away from Denver's 95+ degree days. We practiced social distancing, mask wearing and constant hand sanitization. I think we were pretty careful with our group and those who interacted with our group. I know so many are not careful. Good luck with your decision.

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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.