My youngest starts kindergarten this week but kindergarten looks very different this year than last year.
Back to school time is here and the shelves are lined at storest with school supplies that are barely touched. Every state and every community is doing something a little different in terms of school openings. The heightened weight of uncertainty and worry is in almost every mom and teacher’s post I read on social media. It feels like there are no good answers.
This year vs last year
This same time last year was so full of hope and joy. I was eagerly looking forward to the start of kindergarten with my oldest. We did all of the traditional kindergarten things; picking out a backpack with his initials on it.
Picking out the perfect lunchbox with astronauts on it. Buying school supplies. Going to the kindergarten orientation night and visiting his classroom. Sitting in the cafeteria where he would be eating his lunch with new friends. Walking him into his class on his first day of school and watching his eyes light up at the wonder of it all. Putting him on the bus for the first time like a big boy.
Last August felt so fresh and open to possibility. It felt like a season of new beginnings, fresh starts, and a bright big beautiful world for my little boy.
THE DAY EVERYTHING CHANGED
Fast forward to March and suddenly the tail end of his first year in kindergarten was stolen away by a nameless, faceless virus that made its appearance and changed our lives overnight. I’ll never forget sitting in my women’s group meeting on the morning of March 5th and getting the call from my son’s school district that there had been a confirmed case of coronavirus in our county and schools would be shutting down the following day, a Friday, as well as Monday for deep cleaning.
Little did I know that he wouldn’t be going back. His sweet teacher packed up all of her kids that afternoon and bundled them out the door for car rider pick up and bus rides, not knowing that it would be the last day she would have a full classroom for the 2019-2020 school year.
The weeks dragged by at home as our temporary school closure turned into a statewide stay at home order than shut down nearly every aspect of our life. I’ll never forget trying to hide my tears from my kids as I drove them through my son’s school for an end of the year reverse parade. He happily waved out the window at his teacher, music teacher, PE teacher, teacher’s aides, and all of the countless staff at his sweet little school who had helped make his kindergarten year so special.
It was all so heartbreaking. This wasn’t how his kindergarten year was supposed to end.
MAINTAINING A SENSE OF NORMALCY
We have spent our summer trying to make it as normal as we could for our kids. Days have been spent in our backyard inflatable pool that took the place of our neighborhood pool that didn’t open for the first two months of summer.
There have been none of the usual library trips, museum visits, or zoo trips. But we’ve gone blueberry picking and tie-dyed T-shirts at our picnic table. Despite the craziness of the world around us we’ve managed to make sure that our kids had a funfilled summer with as much normalcy as we could muster.
But we’ve turned a corner, into what should have been back to school season. This was the year that my daughter would be entering kindergarten and my son would be entering 1st grade. Only this year looks significantly different.
Because of the instability of the school year, this year in public school with the uncertainty of getting bounced from remote learning to in-person learning my husband and I have made the tough decision to homeschool our kids this year. It’s not a decision we came to lightly. And I know it’s not the right decision for everyone. But it felt like the right decision for our family in this particular season.
We moved to this neighborhood specifically for the schools and we have loved our time at my son’s sweet little elementary school. The teachers and staff are amazing. And we hope to one day return. But for now we feel like homeschooling is the better fit for our family situation.
IT’S OK TO MOURN
While I feel at peace about the decision and I truly feel like I am trusting my momma gut and doing what is right for my family and our family circumstances, I am so unbelievably sad.
I’m mourning the back to school season that should’ve been for my daughter.
Instead of picking out backpack colors and lunchboxes I’m picking out curriculum.
Instead of buying school supplies I’m registering for an umbrella school.
Instead of attending kindergarten orientation night and watching her little face light up as she finally gets to go to “big girl school” just like her brother, I’m having to sit my daughter down explain to her how we’ll be doing school from home this year. And trying to manage her disappointment while also making it a fun prospect, “We can do cooking class together”, “You can do school in your PJs”
My heart is breaking for all of the firsts she will miss and all of the usual kindergarten memories she won’t have from this year.
But I am trying to focus on making both of my kid’s lives as normal as I possibly can while navigating a new normal.
I’m focusing on all we are going to gain from this new adventure.
More time at home together.
More time to pursue their individual interests.
More bonding time with their new baby brother due around Thanksgiving.
More time to focus on their weaknesses in their schoolwork and cater their education to each of their individual learning styles.
I know there is so much good to be found in this new season.
But my mommy heart is deeply mourning the “should have been”s of a season that feels ripped from us. And that’s ok too. I can cry and mourn what is lost behind my bedroom door and then step out into a fun new season with my kids. Because as moms that’s what we do, protect our kids’ innocence, and try to make sure that their world is full of as much fun and stability as possible.
But I see you momma. And it’s ok if on what should’ve been the first day of kindergarten for your little you mourn what could’ve been. We’ve lost so much this year and it’s ok to grieve it.