Parenting in a Pandemic: The New School Year

Let’s face it, school is what is on every parent’s mind right now. With the official New York State announcement that schools may open according to district reopening plans and our schools recently publicizing their plans for the upcoming school year, it’s pretty much all parents can talk about.  The most up-to-date information on the reopening plans for White Plains Public Schools can be found here, including the recent announcement that a 100% remote learning option will be available for anyone who wants it.

I have heard from so many people that if they don’t like the plans, they will just homeschool their child(ren). Technically, if you wanted to homeschool, you would have had to submit a letter of intent to homeschool by August 1st, which was already an extension to the previous deadline of July 1st. According to NYS homeschooling laws, you may also submit this intent within 14 days of starting homeschooling. Many parents have decided to take this approach and are now looking for resources after realizing exactly how much is involved in the homeschooling process. Among other steps, there are two main things that need to be done at the outset to notify your school district that you intend to homeschool your child(ren): 1) provide your school district with a Letter of Intent for homeschooling and 2) submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan for your child(ren) to your district, which includes your curriculum plan for the year.   

Determining your curriculum is a daunting task – it’s not just what you are going to teach, but how you are going to teach it, and how you are going to report on your child’s progress to your district. New York State offers the EngageNY curriculum online for free, but is not the easiest to use, particularly if you have no teaching background. The most straightforward way to go is to investigate paid online curricula. 

Check out these links to explore information on homeschooling in New York, types of styles of homeschooling curriculum, and for reviews of various paid curricula. Note: some of these sites may link to paid content or be paid to promote content.

Many homeschooling parents also make connections on social media which can be a very valuable resource, especially considering the abundance of homeschooling options and the intricacies of getting started and reporting throughout the school year. It can definitely help to reach out and learn from those who have already been homeschooling!

That being said, the majority of parents I’ve interacted with are dealing with three huge concerns about public schooling this year. The first is obviously safety. The hybrid model of children attending school part time brings up many safety issues. Many of us have been quarantining since March and this will greatly expand the people with which we have contact. At this point in time, many schools are not offering a full remote learning option, luckily White Plains is, though more and more schools are starting to make that decision – be sure to check your district's plans regularly as they are all in flux. Second, remote learning is NOT easy. Particularly for those of us with younger children and/or children with learning disabilities, remote learning can be incredibly difficult and time consuming. I, for one, know that I cannot work and help my child with remote learning simultaneously. Remote learning, as shown by the end of last school year, also has significant effects on children’s mental health.

Finally, childcare is a huge issue with this type of hybrid learning. Up until this point, many parents have been able to work from home. As the state reopens, however, more parents have to go back to their respective workplaces. This creates the problem of who is going to watch children as they work on their remote learning days. Afterschool programs have been canceled, daycares have closed, choices have become both scarce and expensive. Working parents are forced to turn to different kinds of childcare options, some which may expose their families to even more people. Personally, we have chosen to have a babysitter come live with us. We are lucky enough to have the resources to make this happen. Many people are not this lucky.

My point, parents, is simply this: this is not easy for anyone. Schools do not want to put extra pressure on parents, teachers are certainly not to blame (many are parents themselves), and we mustn’t blame each other. Whatever you choose to do this coming school year, please recognize that everyone is simply doing the best they can. Please, please do not put down the choices of others. Remember that the choice they are making is the choice that they feel is best for their family and that choice may simply be different from your choice, but not a wrong choice. We are all in this together.

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