A few weeks ago we decided to take our kids out of school and be responsible for their education full-time. Today I’ll explain why and how we were able to take on this huge responsibility.
We have been thinking of homeschooling our children for over a year now. We got a taste of it last year when the schools were closed due to the pandemic. We had not planned our homeschooling curriculum or schedule in that case because, like all parents, the start of the pandemic closures was a surprise. I think we did pretty well in our efforts but we decided to send the kids back to school in September. Since almost all other kid related activities were still off and lockdowns could still limit who we could visit, we figured school would be the best place for them to socialize. I think it was the right choice. Although some of the back-to-school rules were different, the kids didn’t experience much of a difference in their school life. The data and many experts were pretty clear that kids were at an extremely low risk of COVID and if they would get it, extremely low risk of actually getting seriously sick (A recent CDC memo actually states that kids are more at risk of complications from the seasonal flu).
Regardless, the experts also told us that schools were not likely to be a huge spreader of COVID, probably due to the fact that kids are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers if they do get COVID and asymptomatic people probably spread the virus less than symptomatic people would (not zero but obviously less). Again regardless, no one was to go to school if they had any symptoms whatsoever and the schools were pretty good at monitoring this from my experience.
Certain rules were put in place, which seemed to make sense at the time. Older children had to wear masks indoors. Younger ones were not required to because logistically, it might be counter productive if it actually made the kids touch their faces more often or if teachers needed to help them put their masks on (touching the child’s face in the process). Any symptom whatsoever meant that the child had to stay home until they got a COVID test. Testing centres were opened and ideally school disruptions because of a runny nose would be short. Unfortunately, that was not the case when we ran into our first 2-day runny nose in the Fall and had to withdraw our kids from school for over a week waiting to get a test appointment and subsequent test results.
Then in January, although the experts again stated that schools were not a source of frequent spread of COVID, they would still close the schools down. Virtual learning was offered, however most parents with young children will attest that it does not work. Especially not on a short term basis. Once we got through the expected peak of the seasonality of most respiratory diseases, I figured children’s lives could maybe start resembling normalcy again. Unfortunately I was wrong.
As cases and hospitalizations in Canada were dropping and even after a report from one the most prestigious medical journals in the world outlining several studies showing that school-related COVID spread risk was low, the restrictions on kids got worse. Now all children as of grade 1 had to wear masks and not just indoors but even outdoors at recess. This meant our son would have to wear a mask for up to 7 hours a day.
Now, many will say, cmon masks are easy to wear. Surgeons often wear them non-stop for 10 hour procedures. Suck it up… And, cmon, there are NO drawbacks or risks involved in wearing masks. Contrary to what the mainstream narrative will tell you, there could be some risks that we are not taking seriously enough. Our closest world ally, England, actually advises against mask wearing in children under 12 in schools. England's chief medical expert specifically states that “covid infection rates are low among their age group and wearing face coverings could affect their development”. Other important countries have taken a similar stand.
Now, I’m not an expert on this so I can’t determine if masks pose long term harms to a child’s development or if they create more benefits than harm to kids. But to say that there is 0% chance that there are dangers and we should accept them on our 6 year old children for 7 hours a day without question is crazy.
Even if there is a 1% chance that full-time mask usage could have long-term developmental consequences on our kids (as some experts have stated), then we need to have more debate. Unfortunately, the only option today is to blindly accept whatever rules get introduced from one week to the next.
Our son is pretty resilient. He clearly did not like having to wear his mask even at recess, however he wanted to continue going to school. We supported him (our daughter is in pre-kindergarten so she was not subject to this new rule). Last month though, he changed his attitude and so did we when his seasonal allergies started acting up. He’s been prone to these allergies at certain times of year and gets a runny nose for weeks at a time. This has been diagnosed as likely related to an adenoid issue that we follow. His first runny nose started on a Friday so we had a whole weekend to monitor if it was in fact related to this issue or if it could be something else. Come Monday, he experienced no other symptom and felt 100% but still had to have tissues nearby all the time. We were relieved and were planning to send him to school. The problem was, he didn’t want to go. Anyone who knows my son, knows that, one, he loves school and two he’s obsessed with rules. Although we had some worries about him blowing his nose at school we planned on explaining this to the school and were somewhat confident he could still attend. We never discussed these worries around him. We didn’t have to… He had spent 6 months in a school environment that scrutinized nose blowing and any minor symptom and sent kids home on this basis.
So let that sink in. My seven year old son who loved school no longer wanted to go because he was afraid of getting into trouble for blowing his nose.
He had had enough and so did we. When we sat down with him to discuss these anxieties we had a humbling moment where we had to ask ourselves if we were crazy. I said to Danielle. WTF are we doing? We send our kids to a place where they have to wear a mask for 7 hours straight and now we are trying to relieve our perfectly normal and healthy son of his nose blowing anxieties.
So that is the long in the short of why we decided to homeschool.
Luckily for us, Danielle has been planning a curriculum for them for months now. We had planned to take them out of school in mid-May and embark on a cross country camping trip. So Danielle had about 60 days of curriculum planned out. So she started with that and the kids have been thriving with just 60-90 minutes per day. In just two weeks we have seen huge improvements already. Our son has started fully reading books on his own and our 4-year old daughter started to tackle the grade 1 math curriculum. We have already started planning for the next school year. We will follow the provincial curriculum, however we can increase the challenge for each child depending how advanced they are. Our son seems to be in the right grade but might be able to move ahead quicker in a few months. Our daughter on the other hand is showing that “regular” school is just too easy. She is loving the challenges we have presented to her so far. From counting past 100, multiplications to reading and writing she is already doing way more than she would have experienced in the last few months of pre-kindergarten.
I’ve always found that I do my best thinking early in the day and I think this is the same case for my kids. We do all their learning first thing in the morning after breakfast at around 7:30 or 8AM. They are always sharp and have lots of patience. They get through their 60-90 minutes by 9AM most days and then have the entire rest of the day to play. They love it. We have been playing at the park and going for bike rides every day. They help us find so many other ways throughout the day to learn as well. From helping do some home renovations to helping us with the yard work, they are constantly learning new things and asking great questions. When we don’t know the answer, we watch a youtube video together.
We are extremely grateful for the lifestyle we have that has allowed us to make this decision. With the unpredictability surrounding schools that we are hearing of this week, we are even grateful for this recent move. We are going to continue following our schedule and we do not need to tune in to the news everyday to find out if schools are closing and for how long.
In our house, education will always be the first thing to open and the last thing to close. That’s how it always should be.