Lisa Kaplin, a psychologist, told me the kind of anxiety caused by this level of social pressure can be debilitating for children, seriously impairing their ability to learn. “It would be like trying to memorize something in the middle of a construction zone,” she said.
During quarantine, Izac hasn’t just finished schoolwork with more ease — he’s dived into hobbies and subjects he’s actually interested in: mountain biking, cooking and practicing archery at the local outdoor range. He even makes his own pizza crusts and sauces from scratch.
It’s been painful for my husband and me to realize that in the years leading up to this pandemic, he was driven to exhaustion every day. But, we thought, doesn’t everyone hate school from time to time? Isn’t every teenager tired? So we nudged him back onto the hamster wheel, assuming that was the alternative to becoming “helicopter parents” who cushion and coddle their kids into lifelong dependency.
We never questioned whether we were pushing him into suffering. Now we have to ask: Will we do it again when his school reopens?
Of course, the ability to explore this question is itself a privilege. Home-schooling is off the table for many working parents, single parents and those whose children have disabilities. Adiba Nelson’s 11-year-old daughter, Emory, who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and relies on a specialized tablet for communication.
Ms. Nelson knows that Emory is missing out on social and academic skills that can be particularly hard to replicate outside of the classroom. When I asked Emory if she liked being out of school for so long, she gave me an emphatic thumbs down.
But those of us whose children are thriving outside the classroom and who are lucky enough to have the time and resources to contemplate home-schooling have difficult decisions to make.
When there’s a vaccine or herd immunity, things will eventually return to “normal.” But for our children, was normal wrong all along?
Joanna Schroeder is an editor at YourTango, a website about relationships.
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