With the school year upon us, parents must make the difficult choice between online and in-person learning as in-person learning is available or becomes available in school districts throughout the region. Never did we think we would have to navigate these waters, but here we are. If you’re feeling stressed out, uneasy, unsure and teetering back and forth between options, you are not alone. This choice is a big one, especially if your district makes your decision permanent for the entirety of the school year. To ease your mind and make a rational decision that works for your family, weighing the pros and cons of each learning style is essential to make an informed choice. The most important thing to know, as the deadline approaches, is how each option works for your specific family. Make your decision based solely on what is best for your household.
The Pros and Cons of Online Learning
Pro: Social distancing and a lessened chance of COVID-19 exposure. Students do not have to wear a mask at home or follow strict safety procedures at a school level to keep the children there safe.
Con: Less social interaction with peers.
Pro: Increased flexibility in their school schedule. Students can work at their pace and take on tasks based on a timeline that feels comfortable for them.
Con: Lack of structure for kids who thrive in a structured environment. With this, there may be some difficulty, for working parents, in keeping up with your student’s academic schedule. This can be especially difficult for children with focus issues, challenges working independently, or those with IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans).
Pro: Less time getting ready in the morning or dealing with transportation issues.
Con: Overall classmate interactions are lacking with online learning. There is less of an opportunity to make friends without a classroom environment.
The Pros and Cons of In-Person Learning
Pro: Structure and consistency are established during the first weeks of in-person school. Students understand what safety measures need to be followed to stay safe in the classroom.
Con: Increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Understanding your school’s specific safety protocols and worst-case-scenario plans is key to setting your child up for in-person success. If your child is in a classroom with someone who was exposed to COVID-19, your school needs to have a plan in place to inform the families, clean and sanitize the facilities and quarantine those at the highest risk of possible exposure.
Pro: Peer interaction is heightened in the in-person learning environment. Students can meet their teachers face-to-face as well as establish relationships with their classmates to some level. Learning is more interactive and group-oriented.
Con: Limited peer interaction along with increased regulations may increase mental stress and anxiety in some children. Speaking to your children about social distancing and mental health is imperative to a successful in-person learning environment experience.
Pro: A planned schedule is established based on the school’s schedule. Working parents can send their children to school while still maintaining their career without too much strain on additional help requirements that would come with online learning.
Con: With the uncertainty of COVID-19 cases that can come with school reopening, parents may be hit with quarantine requirements for their students abruptly. This can cause more strain on a parent’s work schedule and require more time off than available for the parent, increasing stress levels.
Ways to Support Your Child with Either Learning Style
Now, more than ever, your children need your unconditional support. Understanding that this school year is completely different from all others they’ve experienced needs to be communicated to them early on and often. Talk to your kids about their feelings, mental state, and academics daily. Make an informed choice about their learning plan and then discuss it with them, in detail, before the school year begins. This will relieve anxious feelings that they may have around COVID-19 and the new school year in general. Make sure your children are comfortable with your choice and provide reasoning for your decision.
The weight of this decision is heavy on our minds and hearts as parents. The feelings you have are valid as you are trying to navigate a pandemic while also ensuring your children receive the best education possible. Stay up-to-date and informed on options that your school district provides and ask questions as you see fit. Your child’s health, safety and education are of utmost importance as we venture into a new, unique school year.