Todd Talbot

What’s the Verdict? Facing a school year of uncertainty, we’re choosing Home

In a recent Instagram post, Todd voiced the possibility of homeschooling versus sending our kids back to “the new normal” for school this year.  The overriding response was something along the lines of “You do you-” and also, “the thing that is going to best benefit your children is the thing that they feel your positive vibes about”. So whether we chose to send them to school or kept them home it had to be a choice that we were clear and happy with in order for them to inherit our clear happiness.

I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize that the fact that we get to make this decision is a gift. We have a couple of very important contributing factors that allow us to debate and be at choice about where our kids will go to school this year. This was a very personal decision and we are sharing it with you in case you are on a similar journey.

Todd and I deliberated for days, talked to the educators in our lives, our siblings who home schooled, parents who are teachers, or community school coordinators and neighbours who specifically dealt with the reintegration of students who had been homeschooled (something we intend to do). Much of the advice from our family and neighbours (not 100%, but the majority) actually seemed to be pointing us towards sending our kids back to school- the good thing about that is that it made me realize it was not what I wanted to hear! I think for the most part the concern was how it would affect us as individuals. I deal with mild anxiety and depression (currently under wraps) and the fear of the feeling of being “stuck” at home with the kids all the time contributing to mental un-wellness is a real concern.

I put that thought on hold because it’s a big one and I really wanted to choose what was best for our kid’s education and then figure out how to make it work after. So once I realized that I wanted some outside influence to tell me that home schooling was the best choice, I owned up to the fact that that was what I wanted to do. 

Then it was time to discuss my realization with my husband who has always been a firm believer that keeping our kids at home all the time is a recipe for disaster. It definitely requires more attention, focus and some very deliberate parenting. Even the idea of it is exhausting. Not to mention the impact on the husband-wife relationship. After batting ideas around between the two of us, we came up with a new context for homeschooling as an adventure full of possibilities for fun and connectedness. Sending them to school was still the front runner for Todd due to concerns about missing their school friendships and missing out on school activities you can’t do at home.

Next we had a conversation with our school principal to determine the worst case scenario for getting the kids back into their classes next September. (The worst-case scenario is re-applying in January). She encouraged us to hold off on making a decision because there was some more information about to come in the next few days regarding the return to school.

The new information was the back-to-school info regarding staggered starts, management of recess breaks, the usual Covid protocols of masks and hand sanitizer, no field trips, no library, no multi-grade buddies, (and a few other ‘no’s), which staircases and entrances to use, which directions to walk and how being divided into cohorts will help manage any cases of the virus that may arise without affecting the whole school.

With this new information, we called a family meeting to brainstorm the plusses and minuses for going back to school versus homeschool.

Here is our brainstorm:

The kids voted unanimously for home schooling before the meeting but Kesler was more open to either option after looking at the list. Todd switched in favour of homeschool. Rebecca and Ashlyn remained in favour of homeschool.

Our diagram depicts the following

  • Home schooling holds the majority on the plus side including flexibility and stability
  • Going to school has a couple of very big minuses; the biggest two being 1. going back to school may not be the answer to socialization and interaction that we think of when we think of going to school normally, and 2. there may be disruption to the school year at any time due to illnesses, if someone in your cohort tests positive, or if for some reason we go back to the type of necessary quarantine that we endured in the spring. 
  • Home schooling also had the most minuses such as keeping the house clean and nagging the kids to do their work.

It appeared as though we were all ready to take on a new experience for 2020-2021 so from there, we had to take care of business. The biggest order of business was getting our kids on board with the responsibility to which they were committing and taking care of the mental health of our family as a whole in prolonged close quarters. For that we drafted this letter of commitment:

Other solutions we came up with:

-Classes to be spread out between two families and four parents for three kids. 

-Scheduled breaks for parents, to tag team off duty

-Regular date nights. 

-Learning resources that do not require parent participation: IXL Math, outschool.com, Cynthia Sonheim art https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLroCMySQv0JOpI_S8mPiBCHw7MZpt5BC4 and Epic! books.

While we are now fully engaged in the exciting world of our kids learning organically and intentionally from us this year there are some areas of worry such as, will they transition easily back into school next September, will we be equipped to handle all the areas they need to cover, and will we make it to June without destroying each other and our home? It’s easy to let the worries take over when I’m alone with my thoughts but thankfully I have a wonderful community of educators that I can reach out to and friends that I can chat with about anything. And we’re talking about grade 4 and grade 6 here; it’s not rocket science… (unless we want it to be)!

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