Well, I think it’s safe to say that the 2020 school year didn’t start the way anyone would have imagined.
My daughter started kindergarten in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) this year, and the first day of school was not like anything I pictured when I looked forward to this milestone over the last couple of years.
My husband and I enrolled our daughter in the standard enrollment option at ICCSD, due to our work schedules, young age of our learner (and minimal experience with a computer and the expectations of schooling), and no immunocompromised family members living in the house (there are definitely strong reasons for choosing either virtual or standard!).
Standard Enrollment is the A/B hybrid option with possibility of all virtual depending on local COVID-19 case rates. The school year was set to start on September 8, with my daughter being in group B, so her first day in the physical classroom would have been September 10 — and she was so ready to go!
However, before the start of the year local positivity rates rose high enough for ICCSD to be granted a two week all-virtual waiver from the state. So, we started this milestone year online.
As understanding and supportive as I am about the reasoning behind an all-virtual move considering the circumstances in Johnson County, I couldn’t help but to be a little bit bummed (about the scenario we’re all in) that my only child’s kindergarten year started so differently than planned. I’m sure we all feel this way — nothing about what’s happening is an ideal situation for anyone, whether the family opted for all virtual or not.
Nothing compares to how your typical school year feels.
For the last couple years, my daughter has been so excited to start kindergarten, and learned all about things like the school cafeteria, gym class, and the library while in preschool.
But as much of a letdown as it is that she still hasn’t experienced any of that yet, I’m choosing to see some of the silver linings in our temporarily virtual scenario:
I get a glimpse into her classroom
I log her into her morning full-class Zoom meeting at 8 a.m. This is as close and I’ll ever be to physically sitting in the room with her. In a normal scenario, I never would have such an intimate look at the workings inside the classroom on a regular weekday. Now, I watch how she begins her day having shared time with their friends and going through the calendar. We also get to debrief right after classes are over and she can share what she learned while I give her a snack.
I’m much more involved in the learning process
When my daughter was in preschool, we worked with her at home on reading and some other activities, and I always went through the items in her take-home folder to see what she’d been working on. However, none of that compares to how deeply I already know the content that she’s currently working on and what products and services the district uses for instruction. If she started any other year, it would have likely taken me longer to become comfortable with all the programs and workbooks because I’d just be looking at them a little bit at a time after school hours. Now, I deeply understand how to work through programs like SeeSaw and I know the exact content of her core activity lessons. I think this crash-course in instruction will aid my ability to assist with her homework for the long haul and I’ll be able to provide assistance that meets her where she’s at in terms of learning style and ability level.
Mornings can be a little slower
Getting to preschool and the office was always such a mad rush in the morning, and preschool didn’t even start that early. It was always a blur of locating shoes and coats, and getting everyone into the car with all the things they need. It’s nice to temporarily enjoy a slower pace because I know one day we’ll be back to the chaos. We sleep a little later, dress a little slower, and just head down the stairs to start our day. My daughter also enjoys breakfast a little more leisurely because she doesn’t have to rush to eat before jumping in the car for the school day.
We’ve set up a schedule where I work from home and facilitate kindergarten with my daughter and a neighbor in the morning, and then my daughter goes to the neighbor’s house in the afternoon while I have some undivided time to focus on my job. Every day feels a little bit more like a circus, so I really appreciate that at least the mornings can be a bit more low-key and we aren’t rushing to jump in school traffic.
I’m learning about flexibility
I can be pretty “type A” and there is nothing I like more than having an organized, detailed plan laid out ahead of time. Well, the ability to even do that is completely nonexistent this year, as the reality we’re facing essentially changes by the minute. We chose the standard enrollment option because it would work much better alongside our jobs — but then we just had to figure out how to manage all-virtual anyway. A dose of learning how to adapt and adjust has been good for uptight me, and I’m sure I’ll have to continue to be flexible as she continues from K through 12th grade. My future of carpooling back and forth to activities; keeping track of spring concerts, back-to-school nights, and picture days; monitoring homework; and more will benefit from my new found flexibility.