Here's how the 2020-2021 school year is going so far, according to 12 parents

Sept. 15, 2020

For many parents, summer 2020 was spent agonizing over whether or not to send kids back to school. Because of the looming threat of COVID-19, people started making plans to create learning pods, figuring out how to home-school and stocking up on masks and hand sanitizer to protect kids headed back to in-person instruction. None of these choices were easy ones to make, and if you’re a parent who struggled with which path to choose, you might be wondering how it’s all going for everyone else.

We spoke with 12 parents around the country to learn what their kids are doing and how they really feel about the return to school so far.

1. We switched schools to avoid distance learning, and my kids have never been happier.

“I sent my 6- and 8-year-old kids to in-person, private school because their public school was virtual, and my children really struggled with that. I’m so happy we made the switch. My kids are the happiest I’ve seen in months, and that’s saying something because they love being home and one of them usually hates school. In-person school has been the most amazing positive change for our family right now. My son said school is awesome. He’s never said that before. And their school is doing things right with safety measures, so I’m not worried they will be sick.”

— Rebecca Marsh, parent of two from Wilmington, Delaware

2. My schedule feels impossible sometimes, but it’s worth it to have healthy kids.

“I’m a single mom with twin girls in fifth grade and a little boy in kindergarten doing virtual learning at home — oh, and I work full time from home. I love having my babies at home and teaching them life skills like cooking and cleaning and watching them help each other with school. I do find that as far as time management, it’s impossible to accomplish everything I need to do. I have basically given up, and I’m just doing my best to keep up. Mental health, what’s that?! But at least I have healthy and happy kids.”

— Melissa Nicole, parent of three from Palm Springs, California

3. We’re happy with home schooling, but my middle schooler has never been so lonely.

“We've always been home-schoolers, but we've also always had home-school co-ops, playdates and field trips. With COVID-19 going on, we no longer have access to those activities. Our co-op completely shut down because many of our members are immunocompromised. My middle schooler is very lonely and struggling with not having access to their friends and their social group. They have texting and messaging apps, but it's just not the same as being able to see your friends in person. We're all making the best of it, but we're definitely feeling the loneliness.”

— Tamra Moon, parent of one from Destin, Florida

4. In-person classes are vital to my only child’s mental health.

“My daughter has loved going back to school! She is super happy every day when she comes home. She is an only child, so I think in-person class is really important for her mental health. Plus, I think she is actually learning. She was distracted and bored while e-learning in the spring, and it was hard to keep her at the computer paying attention. I ended up getting her a tutor because of it. I do think if I lived in an area where cases were higher, the decision might have been a little harder.”

— Kristen Hall, parent of one from Frisco, Texas

5. My daughter’s school isn’t taking precautions, so I’m hoping for the best.

“My 14-year-old is doing virtual learning this year. It’s her first year online. Technology isn’t always her friend and she’s having some issues, but it’s not horrible … My 9-year-old chose to go back to class at school. A lot of people here think COVID-19 is a hoax, and there’s almost no changes at all from a ‘regular school year.’ While I’m scared of how it’s all going to work out, I’m glad she’s trying it because I work two jobs, and I know she needs more attention than I can give her.”

— Jeena Morgan, parent of two from Boise, Idaho

6. I feel like I’m supervising my distance learners all day long.

“I've got a kindergartener, a second grader and a fourth grader doing virtual learning. It's great having them home because they don't have to get up as early to get ready, I'm not packing lunches and there's four days of school and meetings instead of five. But the amount of meetings and work is stressful right now. I'm basically standing over them all day making sure they understand the work and are logging in to the meetings on time. I feel like once we get their schedule down and understood, we'll find our rhythm.”

— Melissa Fisher, mom of three from Southeast Michigan

7. We never expected to home-school, but we’re making the best of it.

“We’re on week four of home schooling for the first time, and I love it so far. It’s not the school year we expected, but we’re making the best of it. My daughter sometimes asks when she gets to go to ‘real’ kindergarten, and I remind her that this is real kindergarten, and next year she’ll be in first grade whether that’s real school or home-school. Kids are resilient, but missing her friends is hard, but we start speech therapy again in two weeks on Zoom, and I think that added interaction will really boost my daughter’s mood.”

— Meghan Harper, parent of two from Dallas, Texas

8. My sons are going to school in tents, and it’s actually amazing.

“My two boys, ages 12 and 14, are in private school doing outside school under tents for the morning, and then they come home to have lunch and do virtual school for the afternoon. I’m thrilled they are getting time in school with their teachers and friends. This plan also accommodates the teachers who are unable to teach in person to teach virtually in the afternoon.”

— Julie DeCheser, parent of two from Montclair, New Jersey

9. The extra precautions are worth it to have my kids back at school.

“My kids are in fifth, fourth and first grades at a private school with full-time, in-person learning. The administration and teachers have gone above and beyond to make it as ‘normal’ as possible while still being safe. Honestly, some of the changes have been absolutely for the better, and I hope they are here to stay. The kids are doing very well with masks. My biggest concern is that we have an infant at home, so we’re doing things like taking uniforms off outside in our backyard and being extremely diligent about hand-washing and cleaning lunch boxes and backpacks.”

— Alysha Bebon, parent of four from New Haven, Connecticut 

10. My kindergartener’s school has thought of everything, and we couldn’t be happier.

“My oldest just started in-person kindergarten, and so far it is great. His school is incredible. They have thought and considered and planned for every possibility. And remarkably, they have put all their plans into effect relatively seamlessly while still giving the kids the in-person school experience that they have been missing for the past six months. I am thrilled with it.”

— Samantha Brinn Merel, parent of two from White Plains, New York

11. We’re making a conscious choice to focus on the positives.

“We are doing e-learning and trying to focus on all the positives: No commute, lunch at home together, gaining valuable skills. My 7- and 13-year-olds will be able to host their own Zoom meetings by next week, and they could create and manage their own Google classrooms. I think we should be expanding our understanding of what virtual learning could provide, not complaining.”

— Candace Lee, parent of two from Chicago

12. Distance learning is chaos, but we’ve been won over by our teachers’ dedication.

“The first week was a nightmare. There was a lot of confusion about classes and assignments. We knew that this would be a crazy ride, but we have been totally won over by how dedicated and caring the teachers are. They are scrambling to meet so many different needs from so many directions and at a time when there is no blueprint on how to do any of this. None of this is perfect, but hopefully, it is only for a year. In the meantime, we're rooting for our schools and teachers and doing everything we can to support them because this can't be easy on them either.”

— Sarah Cottrell, parent of three, Bangor, Maine

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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