29th Jan 2021
Many of us are counting down the days until our children are back in school. But for some, the sharpened pencils will remain at the kitchen table. Amanda Cassidy reports.
We have spent months anxiously watching the numbers on the nightly news rise, and then decline, and creep up again. Little did we think when we waved goodbye to teachers mid-March 2020 that our children’s education would get such a bumpy ride.
Getting them back into their school routine to see their peers has now been prioritised. But as well as the focus on allowing our children back to a sense of normality, for some, there is also fear and confusion over the school return. And not everybody is prepared to take that leap of faith.
Limerick-based Marion won’t be concerning herself with when they go back. After almost six months of adjusting to life outside the school corridors, her and her husband have made the decision not to send their ten-year-old son back to school at all. “He has absolutely thrived on the informal structures of home-learning,” explains Marion, an IT professional who continues to work from home herself.
“Luke has ASD and we have always tried to miminise the nose and distractions which he finds very overwhelming, especially at school. We wanted him to fit in which is why we focused on sending him in the first place, but after a few weeks of seeing how he has adapted so well to learning from home, it has made us reevaluate everything.”
Marion says both her and Luke have found a better way of learning and they don’t see a reason to change that. “Everyone is giving out about having to homeschool, which is really hard when you have to also work. But for our family, we actually found it easier and better for our son. I will meet with the teachers to discuss a formal home learning programme when things have settled down, but for now, this pandemic has helped us realise that having Luke remain in his own environment is far better for him.”
“My biggest worry is that I will send them back, there will be an outbreak again and then they will close the schools and then we run the risk of having COVID in the house”
Treasa Ni Hoistín’s three children also found homeschooling a very positive experience. But her decision to keep her children at home is rooted in concerns about their safety.
Treasa says that for her two sons (10 and 12) and her daughter (15), the success of home-learning was that they found a routine and stuck to it. “We focused on subjects that they struggled with like sections of maths, and spellings,” explains Treasa who lives in Dublin 12. “My daughter who was in third year, found the live video calls with her teachers very helpful and easy to follow. We also did fun activities, art, and some sports too.”
Treasa’s biggest fear is that with the spike in cases currently, the Government might rushing the reopening. “I think it is going with a ‘let’s see what happens’ approach. With the large class numbers and small classrooms, my biggest worry is that I will send them back, there will be an outbreak and then they will close the schools and then we run the risk of having COVID in the house.”
And their family is higher risk when it comes to coronavirus.
“We have spent the last few months going by the advice of NPHET and restricting our movements, avoiding large crowds and following social distance. We all wear a mask where needed and we have been extremely careful because my husband is asthmatic and also has mild heart disease.”
Treasa says that all three of the schools that her children attend have been 100% behind her decision. “They have been really supportive to us and also to other families who have either high-risk children or parents. We are currently working out a plan for children who are staying at home, even though they are still awaiting some guidance from the government.”
“I don’t trust this system just yet”
Louise, a stay-at-home-mum from Cork has also decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach with her twins. “They are in third class. But I have a chronic respiratory condition so I simply can’t take that risk with numbers this high. Not now. I understand how hard all the schools are working to keep things as normal as possible for children but for me I need to wait it out a little. I’ll homeschool the twins and see how all the measures work out.”
I know there will be a tipping point over managing the risk and getting on with our lives, but I don’t trust this system just yet.”
For Treasa, happily, her children are on board with the new homeschooling arrangements. Treasa says they simply just want to minimise their risk of bringing COVID home.
“We have all sat down and discussed this with the children and they are happy to stay home and continue with remote learning. The hope is that sooner rather than later it will be safe to go back to school.”
Image via Unsplash.com
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