As parents make tough school choices, local groups pop up to offer support
Sending children back to school this fall has parents across the nation making difficult and anxiety-ridden decisions about their children’s mental and physical health. It’s clear there is no one choice that is best for everyone but deciding which option is best for their individual family has many parents in a quandary.
What is everyone else doing?
With decision deadlines looming, we asked area parents to weigh in on which direction they were leaning. As of publication, it seems to be split down the middle with plenty of parents still undecided or considering homeschooling in lieu of either option.
Families choosing the traditional model are largely playing the waiting game to see what version of school they’ll get come mid-August. According to HCS Superintendent Christie Finley, families choosing the traditional model should expect that school will likely be running on a blended (3/2) schedule or potentially a fully virtual schedule if cases of the virus continue to spike in our area.
Parents who are looking for guidance on what to expect and how to make those scenarios work with their own family schedules are turning to Facebook groups like Let’s Talk – HCS Community Forum to help them navigate this difficult time. With more than 2,000 members, this group’s focus is to help “build community among parents, plan get-together’s and connect about ways to support our classrooms and schools.” Similar groups such as Uplifting Huntsville City Schools, Concerned Parents – Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Traditional School Parents Support Group, and Madison City PTA are also helping parents to connect and discuss concerns about the coming school year.
For those considering the distanced learning option offered through the school system there is much to like, but also obstacles to consider. Families who choose this option will keep their child enrolled in their home school, will have access to school resources (electronic device, curriculum, virtual instructors), and will suffer no disruption to the child’s schooling if/when an outbreak occurs.
However, distanced learning poses plenty of impediments for many area families including those who have no adult able to stay at home during the day, those who feel that their children need/crave peer interaction, and those whose children needs lots of hands-on help with school work that they can’t provide even if they are able to work from home.
Recently started groups like Safer-at-Home Schooling Support Group of Madison Co and HELP- Huntsville Elementary Learning with Parents are aimed at helping area parents by offering to “support and connect families in Madison County while navigating the virtual learning environment via public schools.”
These groups are helping parents form smaller groups of families who are looking to pool resources and help each other through obstacles faced by virtual learning. For example, some parents are hoping to form “pods” with a small group of families with similar risk levels. These pods would allow for peer interaction, support for families’ working varying schedules, and even pooling of resources to pay for a tutor/teacher to assist with virtual learning.
For many years North Alabama has had a robust homeschooling community and there is an abundance of information online about how to get started homeschooling as well as accounts from area parents on best practices, tips for success, and more. Parents who are newly considering this option can look to groups like Homeschooling Alabama without Cover, North AL Homeschool Playgroup, Homeschooling Huntsville North AL Secular Homeschoolers and Rocket City Homeschooling Info.
These groups largely exist as a place for homeschoolers to connect and “share local home schooling resources, events and enriching activities for kids” and to get feedback about what’s worked and what hasn’t for those with homeschool experience.
Fall 2020 is Coming
Regardless of which choice they make, parents and children alike face an uncertain future heading into the new school year. There will be plenty of challenges and, no doubt, disappointments regardless of which option is chosen. It is critical that parents model a positive outlook in order to help their children navigate these unprecedented times and keep spirits high. Having so much support in the community certainly helps. <3
Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.