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Challenge: Pandemic Parenting

A mom's perspective on remote school (Spoiler: I love it!)

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This essay originally appeared in Seattle's Child.

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My kids are in online school and I love it.

Other parents are demanding that schools reopen. Meanwhile, I am dreading the end of school at our kitchen table. Every time the hybrid learning start date gets pushed back, I do a silent cheer.

Insert huge disclaimer: I fully acknowledge the privilege of working flexible hours from home so I can oversee remote school. ’Cause there’s no freaking way any elementary school kids can do this on their own.

It took a pandemic for me to realize that a traditional classroom wasn’t working for my older son. He slipped further and further behind his peers every year. I’d trusted my quirky child’s learning to teachers juggling the needs of an entire classroom, and that was a mistake.

I don’t love the day-to-day of remote school: remembering all the meetings and log-ons, haranguing my kids over their assignments, and, hello, online P.E.?

I do love seeing the mute button accomplish what Ritalin never could: complete focus.

When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Luton, had our class take turns reading aloud from a book. That’s when I found out there were kids in middle school who could not read. Not every kid is well served in traditional school.

I hope COVID pushes a big reset button on how we think about school, about how we expect kids to learn. Remote learning doesn’t work for everyone, but traditional school doesn’t either. Before we rush back into school buildings, this is a chance to consider alternatives for those kids who get promoted through the grades by being funny or being quiet without ever actually learning.

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One year ago
Tracking the spread of the disease last spring was like watching a horror movie in slow-mo: the first U.S. case, the first death, all of Microsoft and Amazon switching to work-from-home. The tension rose higher and higher, and yet school inexplicably remained open.

March 11, 2020. That day, the Washington state’s governor banned events with more than 250 people in the Seattle area. The COVID death toll: 29.

The district finally pulled the trigger around noon, declaring that school would be closed for two weeks. At pickup an hour later, I found my son in a crush of students in the Lysol-scented hallways. I met eyes with a beloved classroom assistant we’d known for years. “See you on the other side,” we told each other.

Two weeks of closure turned into mid-April which turned into the end of the school year. In a few days, we’ll hit the one-year anniversary of remote schooling. Other districts across the country have reopened with kids in masks, but I’m in no hurry to get back into the building.

My kids aren’t eye-rolling, sullen teenagers who do all their schoolwork on their own in their bedrooms behind a closed door. (Ha!) This year, my youngest entered kindergarten, and it was supposed to be the first time in a decade that I’d get 30 child-free hours a week. Believe me, I had plans for that time. (Namely, sleep. I’ve freelanced from home for as long as my kids can remember, and I was looking forward to sleeping at night for a change.)

But with a 2:1 ratio at home, my kids can’t slide under the radar. We have good days and bad days, but academically, they’re thriving. They’re safe and they’re comfortable and they’re learning. Sleeping in isn’t so bad, either, since we don’t have to be up as early with remote schooling.

The very best part of remote learning? This year, none of us got lice.

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