How Are Parents Coping With the Pandemic School Year?


Illustration for article titled So... Hows School Going?

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I took my son to a doctor’s appointment yesterday. It was an appointment with a new doctor, a specialist we’d never seen before, and the nurse took a moment to pause and look me straight in the eyes. “So,” she said. “How’s school going?”

It wasn’t the usual doctor’s office small talk of, “Oh, what grade is he in?” or “What’s your favorite subject, buddy?” It was a genuine question, asked—if I had to guess—from one parent to another. How is school going? How are you doing this? How are any of us doing this?

Yesterday, a mom I know told me she briefly considered saying to hell with it all and unschooling her second-grader. Her older son, a fifth-grader, is doing fine, but her younger son? Yeah, not so much.

“He is struggling on every level, and remote school just feels completely inappropriate for him,” she told me. But when in-person school isn’t an option (because pandemic) but homeschooling isn’t an option (because work), what is left besides either watching him struggle day in and day out or pulling the plug completely on formal education?

“[In the] spring I told both boys just to get their attendance points and I didn’t care what happened after that,” this mom said. “But the ‘fuck it’ approach is not sustainable, and I don’t know what else there is if we can’t make remote school work.”

I’ve spent months trying to solve my way out of this particularly vexing mental escape room, but if there is a key, I haven’t found it yet—for myself or anyone else. If this doesn’t work, what else is there?

Even as I’m writing this, my son’s fourth grade teacher is sending a message with yet another new tactic for us to try: a paper checklist of assignments to help students keep track of what needs to be done each day. My son is on a hybrid schedule, home three days a week and in school two days (and on an opposite classwork schedule from half of his classmates). We’re three weeks into the semester and we’re still trying to figure out something as basic as “when are things due?”

I didn’t have a good answer for that nurse yesterday—or at least not one I could give in front of my kid—but it was nice to be asked. It was nice to be reminded that this isn’t normal, even if it feels like life is going on around us as if it were, as if we’re supposed to have adapted by now.

So, tell me in the comments: How is school going? How is remote school, or hybrid school, or homeschooling, or even unschooling going?

What is working, and what isn’t?

What do you wish you could do differently?

If this doesn’t work, what else is there?



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