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School in the time of COVID-19

My son Ari loves school. Like most 4-year-olds, his favorite thing about school is friends. He is social, full of random facts, has a great memory, and an inquisitive mind, full of wonder, imagination and questions. So many questions!

It’s 2019, like everyone else, we were having a great year with our beautiful routine and vacations sprinkled in it. Then, came this spring and with it, the Coronavirus. School, as we knew it, had to abruptly end. We moved to virtual schooling with some zoom meetings and lots of school work from home. Even though I’m a teacher by profession, I had never been a full-time school teacher to Ari. I tried my best by setting up a schedule and changing our formal living room to a play/school room. His school, his teachers and Ari also tried their best, but it all fell short! No one knew what the expectations were and how to really execute them.

Virtual school started well, with Ari eager to learn. We called it Mama’s School and he would jokingly call me, “Mrs. Mama”. However, with a new baby, I was not able to give him my full attention 100% of the time, as he would have had in an actual school. Slowly, he lost his drive and stopped getting excited about school altogether. It would break my heart to see a boy, who loved learning about new things, gradually lose interest. Knowing my son and the pride he takes in his work, it was very difficult to witness his frustration.

We tried Zoom play dates and Marco Polo with friends. Zoom play dates did not provide the kind of social interaction he craved. They would end with kids wishing they could visit and with questions like,

“When would COVID end?”,
“Why would God send the Coronavirus?” etc.

So we waited for summer, for the heat to kill the virus, and then life could begin again.

Now here we are again, the back-to-school season. However, this time around it’s a different game altogether with options we didn’t even know were available. During last year, we figured out that virtual school, for a boy like Ari, does not work. Not with Zoom classes, not with recorded classes.

Like everyone around us with pre-K or school age children, we have explored homeschooling, joining a home school Co-Op, going to school in-person, forming a learning pod with a few other families and a dedicated teacher, just forgetting about school for a year because “It’s just pre-K and he already knows his numbers and alphabets.” I would not lie, It has been up and down. A hurricane of emotions for everyone involved!

Self doubt is never good, but especially as a mom, I rely on my mommy instinct almost 100% of the time. However, my lack of being able to make a decision in this case was taking a toll on my confidence, and causing me to lose focus. Therefore, I decided to sit back for a minute and regroup and figure out what is important for our family. And after all is said and done,

It’s okay if plan A doesn’t work out there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.

As hard as the uncertainty is on us, it has been doubly hard for the children. Their lives were changed suddenly and they lack the ability to really understand why and how it happened. I have had to answer many hard questions during this time, and I, for my son’s sake, hope I did justice to them. What is important, is to be truthful to our children meanwhile be as simple as possible with explanations. During our conversations about why there is COVID, we talked about viruses and how they spread. We used a lot of examples of other diseases caused by viruses which made it less scary for him. 

Then came the question, well why can’t we just take medicine and we had to explain that since the virus is so new there are no medications for it yet. We also discussed the importance of hand washing, wearing masks and the reason why we are not seeing many people in person.

The truth of the matter is, Mamas and Daddies, after all is said and done and long after COVID-19 is just a memory, we would only remember doing the best for our children and families. In the words of Spiderman, who by the way is Ari’s favorite superhero. “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” And we are those heroes to our children.

About Author: Sabeen Riaz

Sabeen is a mom of two boys, Ari – 4 and Kai – 8 months. She moved to Carrollton in August 2017 from Austin. She has lived in Overland Park, KS, Scottsdale, AZ and Lahore Pakistan. She joined CECPTA in February 2018, is a part of yellow and purple groups and is serving on the Character and Spiritual committee this year. Before she became a mom, she was a middle school Special Education teacher. Some of her favorite things are cooking and baking cakes, watching Netflix with her husband of 11 years, Bollywood music, Pinot Noir and traveling.

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