Back to school, but not back to normal

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Back to SchoolMy oldest child is headed back to school in person this fall to begin second grade. This is after a year of virtual school and spending the majority of the past 18 months at home with one of us. His return to the classroom comes with some ambivalence. We’re both excited for his return and worried about all this particular school year entails.

My son was only in Kindergarten when the pandemic began. He wasn’t very receptive to working on the at-home learning resources our district sent home, so he basically missed half of Kindergarten. I still feel sad thinking about all he missed out on and how this may have impacted his learning for years to come.

When registration time rolled around last year, we made the choice I never expected us to make: 100 percent virtual learning. His teacher was fantastic, he got extra help in reading and math, and he made loads of progress. It was sometimes challenging to juggle his school schedule and my workday schedule, but it worked well for us for the most part. But by the end of the year, he was clearly over “computer school.”

Virtual vs. In-Person

If the virtual option were the same this year we’d do it again in a heartbeat despite the challenges. We still feel that learning at home is the safest choice for our family until our kids can get vaccinated. Last year’s live video call(s) with teachers were an effective way for him to learn.

I’m thankful our district offered a virtual option for families to consider, but this year’s option recommends 5-6 hours of hands-on help from a learning coach. It’s not a feasible option for two working parents.

I thought we would be in a better place with COVID-19 cases by the fall, but it’s August and cases are rising quickly again. I’m incredibly nervous to send my unvaccinated child into a classroom where masks are not required and there is little opportunity to keep kids distanced. This year there has been almost no communication about plans to reduce the spread of germs beyond maintaining higher cleaning standards.

But like last year, and like most parenting decisions that must be made, we have to make the best decision we can given the information we have at the time. So back to a school building he goes, even though we’re not back to normal. Despite my worries, I know there is a lot to look forward to this year.

I am excited for him to make new friends, to see old friends, and to socialize with other kids his age. These past 18 months have definitely been lonely for him. He especially loves his after-school program, and he is looking forward to returning to it. I’m hoping he will make more progress learning in an in-person classroom again.

With him back to a full school day outside the house, I can focus on myself and my work 100 percent of the time without interruptions. That is something I am most definitely looking forward to.

I’m sure I’m not the only one having big feelings about school this year. How are you feeling about sending your kids back to school this fall?

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Kimberly is a Northwest Iowa native, a Drake University graduate, and a fan of all things Des Moines. She is a girly girl who grew up and became a boy mom, and is now an expert on all types of construction equipment and big machines. She shares her Des Moines home with hubby Sam (2006) and sons Jack (March 2014) and Henry (December 2016). Kimberly studied magazine journalism in college, spent 10 years working for a newspaper, and recently became a postpartum doula. In her abundant (and almost nonexistent) free time she enjoys writing about mom life, drinking coffee, documenting time with family and friends, starting Shutterfly projects she rarely finishes, doing Crossfit, and daydreaming about future decorating and crafting projects.

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