How We Decided on Sending Our Preschooler Back to School
A friend and I were chatting the other day about preschool, and whether or not to send our kids during this insane time of coronavirus.
She had just gotten word that they were off of a very long waiting list, and – surprise! – had 24 hours to make a decision on whether or not to enroll their 2 year old in the school they’d been waiting for.
If you’re finding yourself in a situation like this, you are so not alone. We struggled for seemingly forever about whether or not to send our kids to preschool, especially our son.
Talking things through with a friend helped me feel much better about our thought process and our decision.
So, if you just aren’t sure and just need a sounding board or to hear another average parent’s thought process on whether or not to send, here are the six main factors we considered when making the decision to send – or not send – our kids to school in-person.
Big Disclaimer: These are just the major factors we used to decide, and this is 100% a personal choice. I am not a doctor or epidemiologist by any means, and this is absolutely not an official guide – in any way – to making a decision on sending your child back to school.
1. Are there any developmental or personality needs that preschool can help with?
One of the most important factors for us was our son’s personality, development thus far, and learning style.
He is a very strong-willed child and super active, and has previously done really well in school.
Like many kids, he’s basically a different child in the classroom. He pays attention, follows the rules, and follows directions from his teachers without question.
I think at least part of the reason, is because he’s so engaged and stimulated the entire time he’s there. He doesn’t have time to act out.
Our son also had a speech delay that was diagnosed when he was around 19 months old. One of the most helpful things we did to tackle his speech issue, was to enroll him in preschool — and it worked wonders.
The socialization and the individual instruction really helped his development, so we obviously wanted that to continue. Zoom classes weren’t really cutting it, so this was a big factor in our decision.
2. Is preschool “necessary” right now?
I personally didn’t go to preschool, and I think that was fairly typical for my generation. A lot of women at that time were stay at home moms, and either didn’t see a need to send their child to preschool, or couldn’t do it on one income.
After seeing how much it’s influenced our son’s development, I do think preschool offers a huge advantage to kids, and is a big help in preparing them for kindergarten, both socially and academically.
This question was the decider for us in NOT sending our daughter to school right now. She’s a newly turned 2 year old, and her speech and development in general has been either right on target, or exceeded expectations for her age.
Though I think she could really benefit from the social aspect of school, it didn’t seem as “necessary” to us, as it did for her brother. She also has plenty of time ahead of her to attend preschool, whereas our son will be in kindergarten in just two short years.
3. How large is your school and class size, and how is your state doing?
Like many people, we have been quarantining ourselves and only socializing with a small bubble of people – our parents and some of our siblings. The idea of enrolling our son in school and suddenly opening up that bubble – especially in Florida – was scary.
The New York Times came out with a really helpful graphic and article on how location and school and class size can affect the chances of a student showing up positive for coronavirus in the first week of school. The article is based on a study done at UT Austin, and you can read it in full here.
The basics? Pods of 10 have a pretty low to even zero chance of a child coming to school with COVID-19, even in states/areas that have been hit hard with the virus.
A school of 100 has slightly worse chances, and by the time you get to schools with 500 kids, the chances of multiple positive cases increase substantially.
The problem with all of this, is that nothing is certain, and not everyone has the opportunity or the resources available to send their kids to a private school or program with 10 kids.
We were fortunate enough to find a great Montessori school nearby that had limited class size to 12 kids max. The small class size, and the fact that the school uses the Montessori method – which we were familiar with and prefer – were probably the biggest factors in our decision to send in-person.
4. What kind of measures is the school taking to protect students from the virus?
Figuring out the rules for masks is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t keep track anymore!
Each state and county has seemingly different regulations regarding mask wearing and social distancing, and it seems that the rules can then vary depending on school – especially when you’re adding private schools to the mix.
So once we found a potential school, we definitely had a lot of questions. Here are a few of the things we asked about.
Questions You May Want to Ask Schools About How They’re Handling Coronavirus
- Are kids required to wear masks? Are teachers?
- What happens if a student tests positive for coronavirus? What about an immediate family member of a student? A teacher?
- What are the daily procedures? Will temperatures be taken? Is there a way to facilitate hand washing when kids arrive at school?
- Is there any extra cleaning and/or daily sanitizing?
- What is the policy for a student or teacher that has shown symptoms of coronavirus (which are common in so many other illnesses)? Is there a required time for them to remain out of school?
- For private schools, if the school is forced to close because of an outbreak, what happens to your tuition?
5. Does your child’s personality and age work with online/distance learning?
Not every child is old enough or mature enough to be focused and disciplined with their online classes.
We did online Zoom classes with our old preschool for three months, and it was rough. My daughter, as expected for her age, paid attention for probably a grand total of 10 minutes.
Our son would occasionally pay attention for longer spurts of time, but it was difficult for him too. Their attention spans just simply aren’t at the point yet where online classes are effective.
So if you have older kids, are online classes conducive to your child’s personality, or do they really need in-person instruction? Is it possible to do a hybrid of in-person and virtual? Are you willing to accept the risks of in-person classes, even if it’s part time? What are your school’s plans if a student or teacher tests positive? Will they end up in 100% virtual classes for the whole semester?
6. If childcare is an issue, what are your other options?
I’m currently a stay-at-home mom and my husband is working from home, so needing school for childcare reasons wasn’t a deciding factor.
However, our kids are very young – newly 2, and 3.5 years old – and need almost constant attention and stimulation.
When all of this started, I realized very quickly that I couldn’t do one-on-one projects with them, or really give them more than a few minutes of individualized attention, and on top of that, keep up with my business and household “stuff.”
For us, giving at least one child the option to have that individual attention was big. And as I mentioned before, we really wanted our son in particular to continue to have the cognitive and social development opportunities preschool provides.
In the end, I knew I couldn’t be the homeschool teacher he needed.
Now with big bro at school, I can work with our daughter one-on-one, and help her get a jumpstart on her letters, numbers, and other basics.
Mom Tip: If you’re looking for at home activities with your kids, we love KiwiCo boxes. They send you a monthly subscription box of STEM related activities to do with your child, which are perfect if you’re struggling to come up with new ideas. You can also get $10 off your first order!
If you and your partner are both working from home, or if you’re a single parent, what are your options?
A nanny? How expensive will that be? A mother’s helper? More affordable, but can you control how big that person’s social “bubble” is, or will you be exposing your child and your family as much as if they were in school? Or are you going to try to do it all, and work and homeschool?
Cost, exposure risk, and maintaining sanity, all played into this factor.
Whatever you decide to do, know that the decision is so incredibly difficult for every parent out there, and that you are not alone. No decision is likely to be perfect, but doing what you think is best for you and your family, is most important.
For a very deep dive into a multitude of factors to consider when it comes to sending a child to school during coronavirus, check out the CDC’s decision tool here.
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