Families share why they’re doing in-person, virtual or
homeschool learning for the 2020-21 school year
TRI-CITY AREA — Parents all over the state are being asked to make an unusual choice this school year—having to decide how their children will receive an education whether that be in-person, through a virtual program or homeschooling.
Parents from the Tri-City area have offered to share their perspective on schooling choices for the 2020-2021 school year. Dryden’s Erica and Kevin Young are choosing to send their children to school in person, while Sarah and Brandon Griffin of Imlay City have decided to enroll their children in the virtual school option. John and Vicki Verougstraete of Almont, have chosen to homeschool their younger children.
When considering their back-to-school options, Erica and Kevin Young had a few factors that influenced their decision—their employment, their children’s daily structure and the effects that any big change would have on their children.
“My children thrive on structure and while I am working from home, I cannot give that to them. My oldest is in speech and needs in person guidance. My kids have always been in some sort of childcare since the age of 10 weeks old, and they are now 7 and 4. Being in that type of setting, whether it be childcare or school, they have always had friends to play with, or a schedule to follow. And I fear for their long term mental health if they continue to learn from home,” Erica said.
There are fears that go along with choosing in-person schooling due to COVID.
“One big concern is other parents knowing their child is sick and dropping them off because they don’t have anyone else to watch them. Another worry is little kids putting everything in their mouth and even though the school is saying they are cleaning every four hours, how do I know that for sure?” Erica said.
At the elementary level, students will need to wear masks in hallways and in common areas. Erica feels that her girls follow the new regulations well.
“I think they will do fine, not great, but we will see. They love wearing their mask, and ask to wear it when we go out,” she shared.
Local school districts have all rolled out virtual options, and the Griffins will be enrolling their children in Imlay City School’s online program for this school year.
“The choice of virtual school was not an easy one to make. Two days before the deadline to register, I was planning to send my kids to school for face-to-face learning. That was my plan all summer but then once my husband and I officially decided that we were going to do that, I couldn’t sleep for two nights, worried if it was the right decision. I woke up the second morning to a news release that there were more COVID cases in Lapeer County that included a 7-year-old and I just knew at that moment I wanted to keep my kids home,” Sarah said.
“I felt that there were too many unanswered questions regarding face-to-face learning.”
A major reason for the Griffins’ choice to utilize the virtual program is to cautiously protect the health of extended family members.
Sarah explained, “Three of my children’s grandparents and a cousin have health issues. I am not willing to put their lives at risk, so putting my kids back in school for face-to-face learning would mean we couldn’t see family for the entire school year. This was a huge factor in my decision.”
The family opted to stay local for virtual learning for several reasons.
“We will be using the district’s virtual program for a few reasons. I like our schools and they do a great job teaching our children, so I trust their judgement that this program is one of the best choices. The staff at the school will be trained in the virtual program so they will be available to mentor us and help us when needed. We wouldn’t have their guidance if I chose another program. Also, the high school counselors will be assisting in choosing courses for high school students. My daughter does well in math and science and the counselors will be able to match her with the best suited courses because this program offers advanced placement courses too,” Sarah said.
“For my son who is in elementary, it is my understanding that he will take a pretest and then his learning will be centered around his current level in each course. This is great since last year was cut short, the program can easily meet his needs where he is at and he won’t be thrown into a second grade program when he still has something to learn that he missed at the end of first.”
Griffin said she also appreciates that the program is self-paced.
“My biggest worry is making sure that my family sticks to a schedule and a routine and making sure that we put at least six hours a day into the program. Our plan is to treat our day as if the kids were going to school, get up, get dressed, have breakfast and then start the virtual program at the same time school would start,” she said.
When making their final decision, Sarah said the Griffin family chose virtual because it offers consistency.
“The most appealing thing about the virtual program is knowing it will be consistent for the year. We will start it at the beginning of the school year and we will be able to finish the school year on the same path. I feel like what little amount of consistency I can provide for my children in these times of the constant unknown is what is best for them.”
The Verougstraete family will be jumping into school this year by homeschooling their elementary aged children.
Vicki Verougstraete talked about their choice to homeschool.
“When we were distance learning in the spring, I realized how much I enjoyed being a part of my children’s education. I still didn’t think that I wanted to homeschool but then as schools were coming out with their plans for opening in the fall,” she explained. “I became more and more uncomfortable with the guidelines set in place. I wasn’t comfortable with sending my little ones to in-person school and doing the virtual school seemed like an even worse option for my youngest children.”
She continued, “After much contemplation and prayer, my husband and I decided that traditional homeschooling would be the best option for our children.”
Vicki has given homeschooling a try in the past, and looks forward to trying it now that she has researched how homeschool differs from a public school setting.
“I attempted to homeschool my third child for preschool and I failed miserably. I tried to make our homeschool environment exactly like public school and I was completely unsuccessful. I realize now that one of the perks of homeschool is that it doesn’t look like public school. We can learn history while snuggled up on the couch together rather than the kids sitting in rigid desks with me lecturing them.”
She believes there is an added bonus to homeschooling.
“I’m incredibly excited to draw closer to my children while we homeschool. I didn’t realize how with the busyness of public school life and after school activities, I failed to really get to know my own children. I didn’t know what subjects they loved to learn about and I truly didn’t know their hearts. As a mother, that’s a devastating realization,” Vicki said.
“I’m also excited to incorporate our faith into their curriculum. Faith is a huge part of our family and I look forward to weaving it into their education.”
Although the Verougstraete family
is confident in their decision, Vicki agrees with Erica Young and Sarah Griffin, in that
she still has some
“I’m extremely nervous that I’m not going to be a good enough teacher to my children, I’m afraid that they will fall behind their peers or that I won’t teach them everything they are supposed to learn,” she said.
As for school years to come, Vicki says she is remaining open to schooling in whichever manner works best for her family. “We agreed to have an open mind about homeschooling. If we love it and it worked for us,” she said. “I’m open to homeschooling for as long as it continues to work for us. If it was a struggle, the children would go back to public school.”