Why My Child Won’t Be Returning To School

returning to school

Before I start; this post is non judgemental. It is my opinion and thoughts of our situation which I think, live and therefore write. I am not judging others whether they send their child to school or don’t. Whether they have been going all along or not or anyone else’s personal view or situation. I am merely stating my take on it and what is right for us in this time.

As we move into the next phase of lockdown it has unhelpfully and unnecessarily become a sensitive topic. Yet another divisive parenting subject set out to pit one against the other akin to the days of breast or bottle. Discussions and judgment only serving to make each party feel bad yet survives on the emotions of parenting. I get it. I just think the narrative is somewhat damaging. 

In short. I respect your decision I would be grateful to receive that same respect if you decide to read on.

Announcement  

So, we heard the news, we watched the briefing. My heart skipped a beat in the announcement of schools opening on 1st June to reception (year 1 and year 6) children and I immediately began to question myself before I had even digested the rest of the briefing. I really wasn’t expecting it. The words of Boris Johnson simply washed over me like some kind of dream. Entering the ear but not quite settling into the brain as I tried to navigate the narrative already whirling. 

One of the first steps to opening society would start with school. With my child.

Contemplation

Having a child in reception, plus one in year 4 (whom are not eligible for return, yet), and me at home able to look after them seemed like a no brainier right?

But should I consider it at least?

Should I warrant making a decision based on more than just whether both of them could go back at the same time or to save the hour long round school trip with only one child in their uniform able to see their friends and the inevitable household divide that would cause?

There’s no denying that was a big part of the initial response and meant that everything else became almost a moot point. I have no doubt it would have been a whole other level of discussion should we have been considering both children at the same time. Maybe. At some point in the future we will cross that bridge when they are both set to return. If there becomes any choice.

For now though it was all about Roma and it felt right to get it out and contemplate all of the feelings surrounding it.

If in school, reception year is so important. Not simply for learning their phonics and numbers but for getting used to school surroundings, friendship groups, doing that within the safe haven of play after 4/5 years at home or within other mostly play led scenarios of life. To acclimatise to their new normal. Yet here we are staring down the barrel of only getting half of that time and not by choice. To be faced with more traditional desk/classroom led learning before it feels like the time.

I am thankful that Roma is not a complex character in terms of her learning and will, in my opinion, be in no way educationally detrimentally impacted by this time off. Quite the opposite. I can emulate that learning at home and (for our school at least) the ‘at school’ learning will be exactly the same as the learning that is currently being sent home. 

What I cannot emulate however, is the rest of it. The friends, the school community, the rules, the structure. Neither would I want to.

Physically and emotionally Roma is a complex character. She has hypermobility (just like me) so being at home has helped her as we can adjust for her needs and pace as much as is required. We have a flexibility that just isn’t there or understood at school which has benefitted her greatly.

Emotionally she took a long time to embrace school life. Despite being a seemingly confident child she struggled to settle and I worry that we will go through the same when the time comes to return and I would really only like her to go through that once. 

Similarly school will look so different. It has been made clear there will be no ‘normal’ in at least our school for the time being whilst they do their best to follow guidelines for the children and for the staff to keep everyone safe.  To ensure as much as possible everyone is happy, there are restrictions and differences in place. They will have their own little bubble of children and adults no more than 15 which may or may not include their usual teacher (Roma’s doesn’t) or her usual friends, with different pick up times, packed lunches in classrooms and no freedom within the school. No playground immersion or school community integration, free of screens that is. As lovely as modern technology is, we all know it can be a stark reminder of the one thing that is missing. People.

Don’t get me wrong I know it would be ok. Children adapt (far better than adults do) and it won’t be the heartbreaking scenes depicted in the press of circles in the playground of play and avoidance of any human contact if needed. They are still familiar people after all. However for us it isn’t the same teacher, same classroom and whilst they are doing their best to provide that safe haven and the children will no doubt be so excited to go back I think likely for ours it will be unsettling and confusing. Emotions which I do not need to add into our situation right now. 

Add to that the risk of reversal. Either for public health reasons should the R rate increase and the governments take the decision to close once again for the safety of the nation. Or someone in their bubble falls ill and everyone is at home again for 14 days re adjusting to the old/new normal for however many weeks it is until the summer holidays. 

The other thing to consider is illness, of the ordinary non Covid variety. Of course school is full of children and germs (although much less I would imagine at the moment), as is life and it’s been a welcome break not to have any of those minor illnesses that seem to dictate every down time of life with young children. We have not had one runny nose, temperature or ear ache in lockdown which has been quite frankly wonderful. Not just for the girls, especially Eva with allergies and asthma but for me as I seem pick up every single little germ they have and run with it! 

Part of me understands the reasons for sending back the youngest first. Then again I feel like social distancing for the youngest children in our society is so very difficult and personally I don’t want them to subconsciously learn that people, and germs are a normal thing to fear as much as learning their abcs. It’s a no win situation I get it and everyone is in the same dilemma considering that. I am just not sure of the impact and how that sits with me because at home it is almost normal.

They are aware why we are at home of course. Just not to an extent they have to worry or be fearful and life at home isn’t any different. Merely an extended long (long!) weekend. We will have to enter society with some kind of social distancing in place and a world that will not look ‘normal’ for a long time eventually. I guess I am just trying to hold off on that as long as I can so it doesn’t just become a trait they carry for the rest of their lives just as people assume missing some school will follow them I think the wariness of people and germs may do too. Forever impactful on their lives no matter what we choose. 

Not returning to school however?

She will be missing out on seeing friends, teachers, on socialising, on structure, routine and on learning to learn in that environment again. Yet when you talk to her she is happy here, unlike her sister she isn’t rushing to go back to school and to her that 6 months of school is only a drop in the ocean in her life thus far. She isn’t conditioned with it, she was settled but not too much that she misses it and really she is just a home bird, content in our company.

Eva on the other hand would go back in a heartbeat.

Although she does say she loves being at home because we get delicious healthy fresh lunches every day.. The way to her heart is her stomach for sure! Maybe the decision would be different if it was her year group we were discussing I am really hesitant to say. Because that being said the new rules, the missing out on the ‘normal’ will be so incredibly hard for her. So much so I am not sure she would cope with the changes too well despite being old enough to carry them out without the same issues facing the younger children. It would no doubt be stressful for her and the benefits of seeing friends and being back in that environment for learning at that time would not outweigh the negatives. It’s a lot of mental strain for her to shoulder.

She is conditioned for school. She remembers more of her life with school days in it than not, so for her the change has been big and I am almost positive that the difference in the two would mean I would have meltdowns on my hand every day as her sister was ‘allowed’ into school and she wasn’t and no-one needs to add that into their life. 

Heck if I had the choice I would keep them homeschooled forever. Not in the ‘stuck in the house go by someone else’s curriculum’ sort of home school but the usual kind that goes on up and down the country very successfully every day.

I am most probably in the minority here but I do not think school can give more than home education on the most part. I understand we all have lives to balance within that but there is a socially accepted norm that school is the sole way they learn and therefore missing it is hugely detrimental for years to come.

Personally I simply do not agree. I think this is yet another conditioned thought in our society as much as the things we buy, the clothes we wear and food we eat. A life where no one challenges and it becomes a norm, the majority and therefore ‘correct’ or ‘the best’ meaning deviating from this results in becoming a social pariah. Again I’m not saying it’s wrong, heck I stand at the school gates every day and participate in all that school life brings, and we as a nation are privileged to have free education at our disposal and a ‘choice’. It’s merely my personal opinion on challenging the societies norm and saying there are more than one way to educate our children with maybe more benefits than the perceived limitations. 

Though Eddy isn’t on board so off to school they will go and maybe that’s a discussion best kept for a whole other post. 

Yet it supports my decision that I can, for now, offer educationally what they need at home albeit marching to the beat of someone elses drum to enable the transition back to be smooth. Believe you me my home school would look alot different than the one it does currently. 

Decision 

Thankfully Eddy and I are on the same page with the end result and with just 6 weeks of school left until the summer holidays we both feel no immediate benefit and too many immediate risks/variables to send her back to school now.

I have also made the decision not to tell them. They are not aware that anyone is returning to any sort of school and whilst I am not quite as confident if that is the right judgment call. Come the time I will have to tell them lest they hear it from someone else might bite me in the bum. I feel it’s right to stay in our own little home bubble as long as we can to preserve their mental health, not to mention mine, as much as anything else.

Whilst mature girls they are, the complex nature of making these decisions are far and above whether they want to and feel like they can. I am just not sure that will be understood or respected fully right now as they are desperate to see friends and be children amongst children once again. And you know who will feel the brunt of the blame there!

Life at home at the moment isn’t a walk in the park (literally and figuratively). There are so many challenges that I won’t go into here but this decision isn’t made lightly because it is an easy one. Not because we are finding this life a breeze or that my goodness me I would give anything for some alone time and physical respite! I can’t remember what that even feels like. I just thought I would add that in there in case everyone thought our home was a fairytale. If you’ve read the week 6/7 update you will know that is definitely NOT the case. So weighing up options quite carefully I have done. 

So for our family, for my child and for our life right now it isn’t the right time. We are fortunate (whatever that cost may be) to have the choice to keep her/them at home, to carry on exactly as we have been and that is what we will be doing for now and assuming until September or we enter a more settled society. They will have to get used to a new normal then anyway I have no doubt about that but for now this is us at home doing out best for the foreseeable and hoping more than anything that we are making the right decision for our family. For now and for the future.

Do you ever really know if any parenting decision is the right one?

I guess only time will tell.

This week as some of her classmates have started back at our school I have to admit to feeling odd. I am not sure what that feeling is, I am confident with my decision. Yet any decision we make on behalf of these little people is always going to come with some emotional baggage and questioning isn’t it? If this is your child though, good luck, I am sure we will all settle into this new lockdown limbo in no time and lets hope we can remain stood together, united in the storm, wherever that may be. 

 

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