What Is Normal for School During the Pandemic?

Photo Credit: Andrew H Walker/Shutterstock

It’s been a long few months of home-schooling. Some have been successful while others struggled. Home-schooling during COVID-19 forced me to face realities that had been in front of me for a while. While many children have had difficulties during this time, whether it be from anxiety, difficulty with social isolation, or the lack of routine, my children have also had their challenges. When COVID-19 hit, I never thought that just four months later I would be in this spot, but for us, navigating “back to school” this year is going to be more about new experiences than anything else, as I plan to change my son's school this September.

On the last day of school, I was driving in the car with my son and he mentioned how he was sad that school was over. At first, I was caught off guard, but as I continued to listen to him, I understood what he meant. He wasn’t sad that the online learning was over (what kid would be?), but he was sad that he wouldn’t be going back to school with the friends in his class as they all move to different classes next year. I turned around to see his hands covering his eyes and realized that he was crying.

What Did School in the COVID Age Teach Me?

The end of the year brought an overwhelming sadness for him and a feeling of loss for what he and his peers missed in the past few months. He shared his worries about not being in class with many of his friends next year, and I suddenly felt like I had been punched in the stomach and was short of breath. I reminded Jonah in that moment that his friends are his friends, and that even if they are in different classes next year, they will still remain friends. I also reminded him that he is one of the friendliest people I have ever met, and that no matter what class he is in, he will continue to make new friends.

He shared his worries about not being in class with many of his friends next year, and I suddenly felt like I had been punched in the stomach and was short of breath.

I am faced with a decision that I can no longer ignore. Being out of school for four months made Jonah’s academic struggles crystal clear to me, and the decision to move him to a smaller school will ensue in September. While most kids will be looking forward to going back to school in some way — whether it be virtually in Zoom classes with their friends or back to a physical school that is familiar to them — I am faced with telling Jonah that he will be going somewhere new. I am sure that we will both feel a bit anxious about it. He will be anxious to go to a school with all new kids, to a school without his sister, to a school that he can’t walk to. I will be feeling anxious about him and how he will adjust. I will feel anxious about how to make it all work — getting two kids to two different schools, being involved on the parent council at two different schools.

Our back-to-school prep will likely be test drives from one location to another, coordinating possible schedules and learning the new routine of a new school. We will need to make playdates with potential new friends and so much more. Am I nervous for September? Yes. Am I excited for them to have some normalcy? Yes. Am I worried about what it will all look like, from new schools to a potential second wave of COVID-19? Yes. But whatever will be will be, and we will continue to get through that as we have this.

For us, preparing for back to school will be a time of anxiety, but it will also be an exciting time, knowing that he will be going to a school where he can get the academic support he needs so that he can shine in all areas and feel confident academically.

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