Friday. It has become my favourite day of the week. It marks the end of another exhausting week of “teaching” a whingeing grade two daughter and a short-tempered kinder son. It’s a temporary reprieve from having to lavish excessive praise, plead and badger, and issuing empty threats to get the children to complete tasks in a timely manner. It’s the end of being the rope in the tug of war between two children who need my help. I get a breather from juggling household chores and schooling the children. By Friday, I am utterly and completely spent. I’ve tapped out.
Back in mid-March when my daughter was still attending school, my husband and I had many arguments on whether it was safe to send her. At the time, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Australia was on the rise, and there was mounting pressure from parents and school teachers for the Government to close schools. My husband was working from home, along with hundreds of others from his workplace. We had pulled our son from childcare to save money and reduce exposure. So in my mind, I couldn’t understand why we would risk my daughter and us by sending her to school.
Despite the Chief Medical Officer and Prime Minister reiterating that going to school represented a low risk to children, it did not sway my opinion because what-if my children were the exception? I wanted my children safe at home and I did not care about the costs or impacts of that decision.
My husband had a different opinion. He believed that the cost of closing schools and businesses was too steep a price to pay, given our significantly lower confirmed cases compared to other countries. He strongly believed that the economic and educational impacts far outweighed the risk of transmission through schools. He argued that schools needed to remain open for people who needed to work, hospital workers and emergency service personnel. He reasoned that children need normality and remote-access learning could affect children’s mental health and see vulnerable children left behind. He didn’t feel the level of response matched the level of threat.
The debate raged on for weeks and we kept to our staunch views on schools. I was relieved when there was a state directive to close Victorian schools. I was prepared to step up to the plate to do my best with home learning if it meant keeping my family safe from Coronavirus.
As of yesterday, Victoria had six new confirmed cases, with a total of 14 confirmed cases nationwide. Have closing schools made a great impact on reducing infected numbers? Was the cost to students, parents, carers and economy worth it? Or was the success in reduction largely due to social distancing, restriction of businesses and border closures? Who knows. The important thing is that our collective efforts and temporary hardships have led to containing this virus and prevented the devastation seen overseas.
Now with the threat diminished, I want to return to some kind of normalcy. I would like to see schools reopened and children able to see their friends and teachers. While I love (*cough*) playing substitute teacher, sitting in a classroom with fellow students being taught by a teacher is better for everyone. No parent needs their seven-year-old discovering that they have to google and phone-a-friend lifeline the answers to grade two homework.
More importantly, at this point, home schooling my children poses far greater health risks than any pandemic.
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