To send, or not to send? That is the question many families have been faced with during this back-to-school season.
Covid-19 has prompted parents to either stay the course with adjustments or try something new.
The answer is going to look different than usual for our family. My husband and I decided to homeschool instead of sending our three eldest children back to the local Catholic school.
It was a painstakingly difficult decision. I can’t count the sleepless nights or time I’ve spent analyzing all the angles. I finally surrendered my doubts and fears during an hour of Eucharistic Adoration before the Lord in prayer.
My husband works from home and I am a stay-at-home mother. We have been gifted with five children ages 9, 8, 6, 3 and 10 months. Given such unusual times we decided to continue cohorting together, trying to build up our family identity.
Am I worried my children will miss seeing their friends as often? Yes. Or fall behind in school? Yup. Am I hopeful my children will become each other’s best friends? Indeed. Or that the individual attention I can give will meet their individual needs? I pray, yes. Do I worry I am not enough for my children? Big time. Will I ever be enough for my children? No. Only God is enough.
My goal this year is to see just how weak I can be; how dependent on God I am willing to become for my strength; how low can I humbly go so God can raise our family up to give Him glory. I expect this to be a difficult year, and a holy year filled with joys and surprises. I hope we can follow our passions, so we can more clearly see the mission and purpose God has for our lives. I hope we can remain in search of the face of God in one another and together we can each transform into people more fully alive and share this joy with our community.
Angela and Justin Stastook, parishioners with St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Airdrie, thoughtfully discerned another course of action –– to send their two children back to school. When I spoke with Angela it was clear she and her husband had also carefully weighed all their options.
“There is no correct option, no best option, just options and dealing with them as best you can,” said Angela. “We pray things turn out positively. I pray every day that things get back to normal and we can defeat this (pandemic).”
The couple discerned they needed to keep their dual income, and it wasn’t feasible to facilitate online schooling while trying to work from home. They also thought sending their children to school with friends would improve their mental health.
“The hardest part is we are not going to know. In a month we will find out if it was a terrible decision or a good decision. For me, we can’t hide. We have to do our best to prepare our kids,” said Angela.
“My view of the mission was never not to catch Covid. Covid is here, people are going to get it. It’s just not to overwhelm the healthcare system.
Still, Angela worries about how schools are going to practically enforce social distancing to lessen the spread of Covid-19 and the pressure that enforcing all the safety protocols will place on teachers and administrators.
As vice principal of St. John Paul II Collegiate in Okotoks, Ryan Fox is excited to welcome students back to school and has been working every angle to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
“The presence of kids in our building is what feeds us as professionals and we've missed it so much.
However, “Teachers are about to become front line workers in an environment that is scary and stressful for a lot of them. Please be kind and understanding.”
As an administrator Fox is happy to field questions and concerns and he also encourages people to remain positive and even offer a bit of cheerleading.
“Offer suggestions if you have some, recognizing we are mentally exhausting ourselves trying to figure this out from every angle. None of us is as smart as all of us!”
One way to reduce the stress on students is to reduce the stress on teachers and school staff.
“We are doing our absolute best based on the guidelines given to us by our health authority to redesign our entire operations to keep kids and staff safe,” said Fox. “Hearing someone say, 'I'm glad you are doing what you are doing for our kids' goes a long way to reduce stress.”
Fox encourages everyone to be loving and compassionate and merciful. “We all need each other’s mercy. God is with all of us through this.”
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully. Sara is a writer living in Calgary with her husband Ben and their five children. They attend St. Bernard's / Our Lady of the Assumption Parish.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers