By Cristina Rubio and Alma DeMange
Los Alamos friends and neighbors choose different options for 2020-21 school year.
Why I Am Sending my Kids to School
By Cristina Rubio
Sometimes life pulls you in two different ways and it is tough to make a decision — especially when you have kids. You always want the best for them, but you must consider what’s best for you as a parent, too.
I am a teacher and behavioral therapist. My daughters are 4 and 2 years old. I have been at home with them since my little one was born. We recently moved to Los Alamos from California, and my goal for 2020 was (and still is) to go back to work. I had big hopes, and the pandemic has put a serious damper on those hopes. I am lucky that I could stay home with them during lockdown this spring. I practiced homeschooling, mainly with my older daughter, for a couple of months.
In June, we decided to sign them up for summer school at a local private school. The school took all the precautions against COVID-19 (teachers wearing masks, taking temperatures and using hand sanitizer before entering the school) Teachers, parents and the community in general made summer school possible. We felt very comfortable leaving our girls there three mornings a week, and I had some time to put my work life together. Even if we had contact with other families, we always felt safe because it was within our community and within safe contact guidelines.
I applied for public school pre-K for Aurora, my older child, and she got accepted. We were so excited to be able to give her the opportunity to learn and develop in a school environment. This way we also could be saving money by sending one kid to public school (we all know how expensive private preschools are!).
We have been spending most of our time at home since March, like everyone else. Having the girls going back to school is a taste of normality. We are venturing out of our bubble, slowly and safely. We can’t hide in our homes forever, so getting our work and school lives back is one step closer to our “normal” (though it seems we will not likely return to the normal we knew before).
Our plan right now is to have our little one in preschool three days a week and the older one doing pre-K, which in September will be in school two days a week and remote the rest of the week. With this schedule, I still can’t go back to work, but hopefully soon the option of full-time school will be available. In the meantime, we are making the best of what is available to us.
I am telling all this from our perspective. Obviously, this choice is not for everyone, and each family must make their own choices during this unprecedented global pandemic. This is what works for us and our kids right now.
Homeschooling Provides Stability in the Time of COVID
By Alma DeMange
During this time of “coronacation,” my family has been blessed with our decision to continue homeschooling, as we now take an incoming kindergartener on the adventure of homeschooling.
My youngest daughter had been attending a lovely little preschool since 2017 until our whole world changed — a time I refer to as BC: Before COVID.
Homeschooling allows time and flexibility for family field trips to Bandelier National Monument, White Sands National Park and the Jemez Mountains.
Like many of you BC, we were elbow deep in the routine of our lives. My youngest was enjoying the preschool program and playing with her friends, I was unschooling my now-9-year-old and tending to the home, and my husband was always busy with work, while our two oldest were away in different states. In a whirlwind of mass panic and dwindling toilet paper products, everything came to a sudden halt. Preschool abruptly ended, social activities ceased, and my spouse began to work from home.
But the one thing that offered up a sense of stability in our household was the fact that I had been homeschooling our 9-year-old. That one part of our routine kept us going day by day as everything else around us remained uncertain.
There were many things that I loved about our preschool program that the littlest was attending: the smallness of the school, the organization of the activity centers, and the attentive and caring teachers. I saw my daughter transform from a shy toddler who always wanted Mommy to a more outgoing and confident girl. She had darling friends and loved them all. I was enamored with our school and soon became a parent board member to become more actively involved. Everything felt in its right place.
But amid the sea of confusion and concern these past several months, the decision to homeschool our youngest seemed a natural course of action. We would have a sureness about what we choose to teach and how, not have to expose her to the abnormalities of things like wearing a mask at school or the alternative of her learning on a computer for most of the day. We know she would be safe at home and sheltered from the possible stresses of the weirdness of limiting distance and contact with friends, plexiglass shields, and the who-knows-what-else that will be asked of parents who send their kids off to school. And I certainly would not have looked forward to “distance learning,” having either to constantly tend to my child on the computer, or deal with the possibility of her inability to retain focus.
No, we will not be engaging in any of that unpredictability beginning this school year. While the homeschooling community is not without challenges of its own amid the pandemic, like the continued limited social exposure that we all face, I am glad of our decision. Homeschooling offers us continuity and a sense of normalcy as we continue most of our day-to-day activities, as we have been doing for the last couple of years. We will dictate and create each day, as we have the gift and flexibility of time. We can have adventures, whether they be on a trail, in the kitchen, or in our own backyard, while creating cherished memories. We can reclaim childhood for our littles while learning and growing together. But the biggest blessing and joy is in strengthening the bonds of our little family unit by being together.