It's hard to believe the changes the last six months have wrought on the whole world.
There has been no official words on the status of school in the fall for Boston, except that it won't be full time in person. But after thinking it out and emailing with Janey's teacher, I finally had to face facts. Janey won't be going back to school, not at all.
If she went to school, it would be a school experience stripped of everything she likes about school, and everything that is important to us about her schooling. Being in a classroom of teens with severe special needs, teens with little or no understanding of social distancing or the importance of masks, she would be behind plexi-glass shields. She would not leave the classroom all day. Teachers would not be able to touch her. She couldn't move around.
Even under those conditions, if someone got sick at her school, it would be closed, and the little hint, the pale shadow of her old schooling experience would shut down again for weeks. Her school is very close to the area of Massachusetts the very hardest hit by COVID-19. It wouldn't stay open much.
The bus would likely be impossible. It was the weakest link last year, often not showing up, changing drivers almost weekly. I can't imagine it would work, with older drivers, with kids that would certainly take off their masks often, with social distancing. If Janey went to whatever version of school was available, we would have to drive her. In Boston traffic, it's an hour's drive each way to her school. We'd spend 4 hours of our day in school transport.
So...I finally,reluctantly admitted to myself---Janey isn't going back to school.
And distance learning, Zoom meetings? It's almost an afterthought in my mind to say "No thanks". Like so many other kids with Janey's kinds of needs I've heard about, Zoom meeting school simply doesn't work, in fact,more than that, it makes things worse. Imagine a bored, frustrated teen, and trying to keep them from melting down all day, and then add in an hour or two or more of also trying to force them to sit in front of a screen they don't want to watch, one that seems to them to be playing a video strangely featuring some people they recognize, but one where now and then they are asked to say something on command. A video that tries vainly to meet the needs of a dozen or so kids with wildly different needs, but all with high needs. Imagine spending the whole time this video plays trying to keep your teen sitting in one place, waiting for their turn to answer a question they wouldn't be inclined to answer under the best of circumstances. No, that is not school.
And so, one way or another, we are going to homeschool. I'm not scared of that. It's not my preference, and I'm quite sure not Janey's preference either,but it's what we are going to have to do.
I think it's human nature when faced with a situation we don't like to place blame. It's almost comforting to be able to have an enemy, a foe to defeat. There is one in this situation, but it's not human. It's a virus. No-one human has done anything to cause this (politics aside, and that is how I generally try to live my life, with politics aside). Everyone would like Janey to be able to have school in the way she could last year, but safely, and practically, she can't.
I lie awake nights thinking about how I can best educate Janey. Sometimes, I admit thinking I might not really try, not to formally educate her. She will be 16 in less than two weeks, and in our state, I think that's old enough to drop out. I could just call it a school career for now. But I don't think that's the best plan. We had planned on Janey being in school until she was 22. I am still hopeful that after a year or so, she will be able to go back to school.
I'll write more in another post about how I'm going to try to set up homeschooling. For now, I'd love to find out how the rest of you out there will be handling school this fall. I'm feeling isolated, scared, alone, more than I have in many years. It's such a house of cards, this life we cobble together for our kids, and it takes just a touch for it all to fall apart. We have gotten, as a world, something more like a hurricane aimed at our house of cards. It's going to take a while to build it back.