“We’re Hanging in There”: 6 Moms From Around the Country on How the First Month of School Is Going

real moms on back to school cat

It was late summer when we first checked in with a group of moms across the country, grappling with the pros and cons of sending their kids back to school with the risks of coronavirus still weighing heavy on their mind. In the eight weeks since, some went virtual, some sent their kids back to school full-time and some are doing a combo. Here, an update about how it’s all going so far.

1. The Tennessee Mom Who’s Nervous About Flu Season

The Kids: A second grader and a pre-kindergartner

The School Situation: “We sent the kids back to school full-time in person, which was our original plan.”

The Pros: “We are surprised at how good the kids are doing with their masks. We thought that was going to be a struggle, but it’s become the new accessory to wear, so we’ll take it.”

The Cons: “Some of the high schools near us shut down because of spikes, which doesn’t impact us directly, but still feels scary.”

What’s Keeping Her Up at Night: “Flu season is coming. I just worry that we are in for a rough winter.”

What’s She’s Learned About Herself: “I’m still learning to be more flexible and trying to digest that I can’t control everything. I’ve also learned that kids are really tough and can roll with the punches. I honestly think they have better coping skills and know how to enjoy the day with a simple hike outside or a bike ride, which makes me proud.”

2. The Massachusetts Mom Who Had to Pull Her Kids Out to Get COVID Tests

The Kids: A first-grader and a preschooler

The School Situation: “My son started back at his public school doing the hybrid model—in person two days and remote three days. On the remote days, he’s doing a ‘day camp’ at his karate school where they troubleshoot online activities. My daughter was set to go full days, full-time at her private preschool, but with the cost of sending my son to the day camp, we’ve swapped her to a half-day program and then have our long-standing babysitter coming in the afternoons.”

The Pros: “Both kids are thrilled to be back in-person with their peers and teachers. Their attitudes are much improved, they don’t seem phased by having to wear masks. Even my three-year-old, who is in a ‘mask optional’ program, opts to wear it full-time most days. Remote learning is not going as terribly as in the spring because he’s doing it from a different location and is able to focus better than being at home with all the ‘fun’ distractions.”

The Cons: “Every cough and sniffle makes my anxiety spike. My son’s school had their first COVID case (asymptomatic). Then, my son woke up with nasal congestion and a cough, so we kept him home from the day camp—even with no fever—and got COVID tests. We won’t get the results back for two to three days, so it’s more of the at-home shuffle. He can still participate in the remote-day activities during this time, but his in-person absences ‘count’ against the yearly absence. If the test does end up coming back as positive, he’ll have to change classes to a full remote model for 10 to 14 days.” [Editor Note: Since the interview, the tests came back negative.]

What’s Keeping Her Up at Night: “I’m concerned with how the year will fluctuate between remote, hybrid and in-person learning. When there’s a case identified at the school, those impacted are required to shift to the remote model for 10 days. They’ve said it takes at least one day to change around the framework and, if it’s the whole school, then it will be counted as a snow day.”

What’s She’s Learned About Herself: “I have a hard time with no real set schedule, but I’m willing to outsource some of the harder parts of this. I’m thankful we can afford to do that with some budget adjustments. I do think it’s going to create more of a discrepancy with people who can afford to do it and those who cannot.”

3. The Single Mom from L.A. Who Finds Distance Learning Better Than Expected

The Kid: A high school freshman

The School Situation: “In our city, all the schools are shut down due to high COVID numbers.”

The Pros: “Surprisingly, my 14-year-old son is doing really well at school, thanks to me getting a tutor to help him with schoolwork. He even got a commendation from his biology teacher! And it seems like he is turning in most of his homework, although I could be better about checking Google Classroom to make sure he is. All in all, I’m pleased with how the school year is going so far. He’s more successful and less antagonistic than I had anticipated.”

The Cons: “I got in the bad habit of racing to get him fast food for lunch over the summer and now he’s refusing to eat anything except that every weekday. It’s too expensive, plus a time suck because I need that lunch hour to run other errands or work to meet deadlines. So that’s a boundary I will need to draw.”

What’s Keeping Her Up at Night: “I’m worried that he’s not going to get enough exercise as it starts to get a little bit rainy and cold. Also, that maybe he’s not getting the education/socialization he should be—and won’t anytime soon.”

What’s She’s Learned About Herself: “I’ve learned that, to my chagrin, the more I show up for my son’s education, the more he will. So, I guess in a way so far, the COVID home learning has been a gift because it’s shown me what works with my son’s development. Or at least that’s how I am trying to make a silk purse, I guess.”

4. The Pennsylvania Mom Who’s Stressed About Staying Organized

The Kids: A high school junior, a sixth grader and a third grader

The School Situation: “Our school board decided to go all-virtual until October 5. From then on, we’ll be doing a hybrid model where students go in-person two days a week. They also very helpfully made sure all my kids were scheduled on the same two days, which was really nice (but also more COVID-safe).”

The Pros: “I think the wins for me are the attitudes my children have had about online learning. A telling anecdote: I scheduled a brief beach weekend for the first week of school since it was the only time we could fit it in. I told my kids they could skip school on Friday since it was supposed to be a sunny day and we could spend it at the beach. All three kids thought about it, then declined. They explained that they really felt like they wanted to be in school that day, so they attended. I had taken the day off and wished I had spent more time with my feet in the sand, but I was insanely proud of them.”

The Cons: “I’m worried about helping my kids with the organization of their school materials. I feel at the end of my rope keeping my own stuff aloft during this time, but now I have both physical and virtual things to help oversee with them, and it’s just a lot. I’m trying to be Zen and only focus on the big stuff, but it’s hard.”

What’s Keeping Her Up at Night: “Making sure that my kids aren’t letting balls drop. The executive functioning required to keep all the things straight is tough for adults, let alone children.”

What’s She’s Learned About Herself: “While I’m a pretty liberal ‘live and let live’ kind of person, it really helps everyone to have clear expectations and a clear plan, even if it is a compromise plan. We spend far too much time fighting about petty things and not getting things done in this country and that’s often because we are selfish rather than thinking more collectively.

5. The NYC Mom Who’s a Self-Described Wreck

The Kids: A Pre-K student and a Kindergartener

The School Situation: “After the mayor pushed the start date two times, we are finally back. My four year-old is in full-time, in-person Pre-K. My five year-old is in a hybrid model where he goes to school one of out of every three days (different each week!) and is remote the others. We’ve teamed up with a family in his class and trade off taking both boys for a few hours on remote days.”

The Pros: “I’m so grateful my daughter can attend full-time in person. She absolutely loves it, and it gives my husband and me the time to figure out our son’s bonkers situation. I’m also impressed with how happy my son is when doing school activities at home. (I’m the one who’s a wreck!)”

The Cons: “The daily schedule is a nightmare to figure out. My son’s Zoom meetings are at the same time as my daughter’s drop-off/pick-up which means neither parent can be working at that time. There are also so many online assignments to keep track of. It’s impossible to stay on top of my own work and do them all. I can’t imagine how families with fewer resources or flexibility are managing.”

What’s Keeping Her Up at Night: “After many months of really low transmission rates, New York has seen troubling case spikes in recent days. I’m terrified they’re going to shutter all the schools, just as families get back into the swing of things.”

What She’s Learned About Herself: “I do not do well with uncertainty. I need a plan, even if it’s a crappy plan.”

[Editor Note: Since this story originally published, her son's school went fully remote, due to a nearby cluster of cases.]

6. The Ohio Mom Who Is Feeling Good About the New Normal…For Now

The Kids: A kindergartner and a preschooler

The School Situation: “We had the option of fully remote or fully in-person. After a lot of back and forth, we decided to send both kids back in person.”

The Pros: “Our kindergartner has done amazingly well with the transition. That’s surprising since he had embraced the homebody life. They’ve also both done better than expected with masks. And, since parents aren’t allowed in the building, teachers have done a wonderful job with sending pictures and updates.”

The Cons: “When our preschooler’s nose started running. It set me on an anxiety-provoked downward spiral. It’ll be a long fall/winter!”

What’s Keeping Her Up at Night: “We’ve accepted a higher level of risk of exposure by sending the kids to school. We aren’t seeing my parents as often, but putting them at risk keeps me up.”

What’s She’s Learned About Herself: “I’ve learned that life feels less overwhelming when I focus on one challenge at a time and take it day by day. I’ve also learned that melatonin gummies help me sleep!”

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Rachel Bowie

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...
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