After I posted my blog last week, I saw a friend share this on Instagram:
Can I get an AMEN, people? We can be so quick to compare where we are to where our neighbor is. How many of you are or have been runners? I was a runner for a few years after college and loved every minute of it, until my hips told me they’d rather not do that anymore. But even so, let’s dive into this metaphor a bit so I can reminisce a little. One of the first races I ran was the Quad Cities Marathon Relay. Five of us divided up the marathon route, so I got to run a little over 3 miles of the full 26.2. Some people were running that entire distance on their own, so by the time they crossed the finish line, they were completely gassed. But I had a tribe to run with me, so we could all be super fresh for our own leg, and finish that race with strength. Still others ran the half marathon. They took a different route to shorten their distance. But no matter which route was taken, we all finished, and we all crossed the same finish line.
We’re all running, everyday. One may be running the 5K while another chooses the marathon. Or maybe you’ve taken up permanent residence at the water station. I’m going to be really blunt with you - your route is up to you alone. Like mine is up to me. You don’t get to have an opinion about where I am in my race. Likewise, I don’t get to have an opinion about where you are. Chances are, if I’m not speaking into your race with love, empathy, and understanding, I don’t know you well enough to say anything whatsoever about your race. For some, those three miles are the farthest they’ve ever run, and they have every reason to be so proud.
You know what has been the most challenging race of 2020? Figuring out how to educate all of these children! And entertain them. And feed them. And keep them alive. Okay, basically that’s just parenting, but hasn’t 2020 felt like the longest leg of this race so far? And the debate about how to school our kiddos has been so heated, we’re almost afraid to speak of it. I know that with every back-to-school conversation I’ve had this late summer and fall, questions of in-person, virtual, hybrid, and homeschool have been present. I asked a friend if her granddaughter was starting preschool, and asking if she’d be online or in-person was such a natural question to follow with.
So, before we get too far into this, we need to make one thing perfectly clear - there is no right answer. If you approach this reading thinking I’ve got it all figured out, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I’m struggling to make the right decisions for my family of three, so I wouldn’t dare presume to know what’s right for your family. Okay? Okay.
Friends, school is a RACE. Every kid is running at their own pace; some are taking different routes. We want them all to get to the finish line somehow. And in a season such as this, lots of parents have concerns. Welp, my kid forgot everything she learned before March 2020. Will my child learn anything if he’s not physically in a school building? What will the quarantine plan look like? What happens if our entire family gets sick? I cannot do remote learning with my kids! Okay, deep breath everybody. Yes, these are concerns. And these issues only run deeper when you have kiddos with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), or kids that need the additional services our schools provide. So, yes - there is a lot to think about right now - for parents, educators, and administrators.
So then we start to consider our options - In-person instruction? Virtual? Homeschool? Where do we even start, guys? It’s so overwhelming! And yes, I’ve had countless, rattled conversations with dear friends trying to wade through it all. But here comes my annoying optimism. Shouldn’t we count it a gift that we live in a world where all of these options are possible? Yes, yes - each of these options have pros and cons. But every single one is going to help your kid through their race.
Our family chose the path of homeschool this year. I think we were in the perfect storm to make that choice. At our house, there is a mom, a dad, one kid, and two cats. Dad works during the day; Mom works in the afternoon and evening. The kid has a pretty easy time with learning and has had some fantastic teachers along the way to prepare her for this moment. The cats are a complete pain in the butt. That point is not particularly important to this story. As we were looking at our options for Ella this school year, homeschool was the option that we kept coming back to. You know what my biggest hang-up was? What other people would think.
I have always been an enthusiastic, unapologetic supporter of our local school district. We have the best teachers and administrators. I was so excited to see their Return to Learn plan for the school year, because I knew they were going to put the best plan forward for our students. And they certainly did. But as I considered consistency, and the probability of time in quarantine, and how crazy the schedule can get as the year goes on, my anxiety level started to climb with how I was going to manage. And with Husband working in agriculture, I knew the idea of not going to work for two weeks in the fall if we got stuck at home was not going to fly. In the end, we decided to take control of what we could. We were going to keep Ella home. And if we were going to keep her home, we may as well create a curriculum just for her.
I never thought the words “home” and “school” would come out of my mouth together, guys. Here are some of the thoughts that kept me up at night: It’s just too out there, too different. I’m going to look unsupportive of our school and teachers. I’m going to be a pariah. I’m going to screw up my kid. She’s going to lose all of her friends. Guys, I made myself sick. Worrying about the maybes and the what ifs was not serving me in a productive way. So, yeah - the choice to homeschool definitely did nothing positive for the anxiety right away. It absolutely made it worse.
You know how I got over it? I posted on social media. I just told everybody. I decided to put the what-ifs away and just get into reality. People are either going to support us, or they’re not. And I can’t control that. So, let’s go.
Y’all, I cried that day. I cried big tears. I was overwhelmed with kindness, and thankful for a supportive community. The people who mattered understood.
Most people I know chose in-person instruction this year. It’s what works best for their families, for a multitude of reasons. At one house, both parents are working 9-5. Their young kiddos would need someone with them to help with school online. At another house, Mom may be running the show with three kiddos, working two jobs to keep the bills paid and food on the table. The neighbor may have shared custody with his ex-wife and the kids are with him half the time and with their mom the other half, in a completely different community. Maybe you’ve grown your family through adoption and you’ve opened your home to 3, 7, or 8 children, some whose first language isn’t English. Y’all are my HEROES, even in the times before COVID. Having your kiddo in a dedicated school classroom with friends her own age all learning together may be exactly what she needs. And I am so happy you got to make that choice for your family. I am with you in this race.
Teachers and administrators - thank you for making school happen. Thank you for running two classrooms so the in-person kids and the virtual kids all get the most out of this school year. Thank you for being flexible. Thank you for literally re-inventing the wheel this year. Thank you for being understanding with families who are making hard choices. Please be sure you’re reaching out for help and support. I am with you in this race.
Parents who chose to keep their kids home this year - whatever curriculum you chose, whatever school hours you’re keeping, whether your kids get dressed up or do school in their pajamas…just make sure they’re learning. As their parent, you will always be their first and most influential teacher, and I’m sure the parents and kiddos alike are going to get a heck of an education this year. I am with you in this race.
Most importantly, guys. This year is not going to screw up our kids. Regardless of what school choice you made, it’s the right one. Stop second guessing yourselves. You’re teaching your littles how to navigate rough times and how to make hard choices. Let’s count that as a gift from this race. No matter what route we choose, let’s be sure to cheer each other on along the way, and then cheer loudest when we all cross the finish line.
Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking onto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
My name is Miranda and I'm a mom, spouse, dance teacher, and entrepreneur. I’m going to share my life with you. The good, the bad, the weird. I hope to inspire you, encourage you, make you laugh. I’ll be honest. And I can’t wait to learn more about you through it all.