The decision I made will make my life much harder, more stressful, and more chaotic, but it was the best decision for my family.
We finally made a decision: Riley Homeschool will be in full effect for 2020. It was something I contemplated long and hard. When schools closed in March, I knew deep down there was a chance they wouldn’t reopen this fall. I tried to remain optimistic, but my gut kept me grounded.
Hunter is four. He would be in Pre-K in a traditional school, but he attends a private Montessori school with a class of children ranging in age from three to six.
His school gave us options. We could do in-person learning, distance learning, or defer enrollment. The Montessori pedagogy is that children are self-guided and learn from each other and through one-on-one lessons with a teacher. Under Covid restrictions, students won’t be able to learn that way. There’s no running on the playground with friends or eating at lunch together at the table, and the school is requiring students to wear masks. I can’t imagine my four-year-old actually wearing one all day.
I decided against distance learning because Hunter struggled to engage in it during the Spring. I think it’s hard for a child so young to sit and learn in front of a computer. Switching from a hands-on Montessori school to online learning was very drastic for him. He’s used to playing freely and in person.
We were officially being separated from the community that has educated and loved my son for the last two years. The community I’ve dedicated so much time to. It felt like a bad break up.
After numerous Zoom calls with the school and talks with other parents and teacher friends, I had the courage to finally send an email to defer our enrollment for this year. Ultimately, I wasn’t comfortable with in-person classes, given the limited data we have on children and the virus. I’m so thankful to his school for providing multiple options to families, and we intend on returning once things get better. In the meantime, I will do my best to provide him with face-to-face learning and Montessori materials in our home.
It wasn’t until I received an email back from our school, confirming our new status, that it really hit me. I cried like a baby. We were officially being separated from the community that has educated and loved my son for the last two years. The community I’ve dedicated so much time to. It felt like a bad break up.
So many families across the world are being forced to decide between in-person, distance learning, and homeschool. There are pros and cons to each, and it is my hope that we show grace and understanding to those who make a decision different from ours. I am in a unique and privileged situation. Hunter isn’t required by law to be in school, since he is only 4, which gave me some flexibility. I’m also a stay at home mom, and while that can be stressful, I know a lot of working families don’t even have the option to keep their children at home. The decision I made will make my life much harder, more stressful, and more chaotic, but it was the best decision for my family.
Everyone is just trying to make the best decision for their family.
Several of my peers have said homeschooling should be easier for me since I’m a trained educator. I used to think that, too. I’ve managed a classroom of 18 children, so I was certain I could handle distance learning with just one. But this spring proved to be a different story. Being trained as an educator doesn’t mean anything when it comes to teaching my own child. He doesn’t see me as his teacher, but as his mom, and we all know what means.
On many occasions, I found myself frustrated and overwhelmed. Juggling weekly assignments, Zoom calls, and a needy infant, all while managing the house and fixing dinner. Every. Single. Night. There were days that I cried. Or drank wine. Or cried while drinking wine. But I also learned a lesson – the importance and value of “me time”, which is something that I haven’t always carved out for myself. As we start this new journey, I will be taking that lesson with me.
My heart breaks for the socialization my son will miss during this year. He randomly tells me how he misses his friends and teachers, and his swim class. But I’m committed to making this year the best it can be. I know every day won’t be great, but I’m determined to find something great in every day. With all the bad news that’s circulating, we’ve started a new tradition at dinner. We each go around and tell the best part about our day and the one thing we would change. It’s brought so much joy hearing each person’s perspective, especially the days where we’ve all been together.
Right before school closed in Spring, Hunter hugged his teacher and one of his classmates goodbye. Before he got in the car, he turned and yelled “I love you” to his friend. I hold on to that memory and pray we’ll get back to that place soon.
Cyana Riley was born and raised in Washington, D.C..She graduated from George Washington University and spent the first 6 years of her career as a preschool teacher. It was during this time that she noticed the underrepresentation of Black and brown children in books. She has since become an author, recently publishing her first children's book, "Not So Different," which was insprired by her biracial children and interracial marriage. The book encourages children to embrace their differences and celebrate diversity. Cyana currently lives in Maryland with her husband, two children, and their dog Bella, the Golden-Doodle. Follow her journey on Instagram/Facebook @notsodifferentbook and on her website: www.notsodifferentbook.com