Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My husband and I are locked in serious disagreement about how to handle our kids’ education this fall. With the recent news that the school district plans to reopen, he is all for sending our children back. The thought fills me with anxiety and dread; I am 100% certain we should home-school them. Our daughter is 7 and our son is going to be a freshman.
I am the breadwinner in this household — lawyer — so staying home and teaching them and supervising them is not an option for me. But my husband makes his own hours and has a very light schedule — he’s an artist. I believe the reason he’s against home schooling is that he doesn’t want to have to do the work. He says that is ridiculous, and if it was the best answer he would do it, but that our kids need to be around other kids and in a classroom setting.
I’ll admit this spring wasn’t ideal — we were as surprised as anyone when they extended spring break and then canceled school altogether. We struggled with the kids at home, like most people did. But we’ve had time to prepare for the fall and I feel like home schooling is the safest option, plus now the district is offering teacher support. I am furious that my husband won’t entertain the idea. It’s like he’s prioritizing his own free time over our children’s lives. Maybe it’s my fault for basically spoiling him for years and letting him float around with very part-time self employment. I just don’t know what to do. Advice?
Let’s begin by giving your artsy hubbie the benefit of the doubt and assume you both want what’s best for your children. For you, this means keeping them safely tucked in your home bubble away from germs and a COVID-19-impacted world; and for your husband, he is willing to accept that risk for what he likely sees as a richer education, plus the benefits of socialization.
Those are two very different options. It must be said that you’re incredibly lucky you have the resources and flexibility to decide. There are parents who would like to keep their kids home but have absolutely no way to do so. That said, this really does have to be a decision the two of you agree upon. No one can pull rank here, especially not when you consider it a matter of your children’s safety.
This also isn’t one of those easy conversations where one parent is clearly in the right. On the contrary, you could go either way and make a strong case for either home schooling or sending them back to the classroom. But you won’t get to parental consensus by digging into your respective corners and refusing to listen to each other — and assuming selfish intent on your husband’s part is definitely a step in the wrong direction. Try another heart-to-heart and really listen to each other. Be open about your fears and anxieties, and be open-eared to your husband’s feelings and thoughts too.
And here’s a thought: at least with your older child, you might consider asking him if he has a strong preference either way.
First things first: a long overdue shoutout to America’s teachers. This pandemic has taught us many lessons and given us many reminders of people and professions for which we should all be very grateful. The importance of teachers — this army of overworked and underappreciated, smart and caring professionals — has certainly elevated to a new level of gratitude for any parent out there. Talk about some of America’s most essential workers …
And another shoutout to all of the hardworking parents who have had to hold down jobs in already crazy working and world environments, and then taking on like a million more full-time jobs as school teachers, counselors, tutors and nurses, as well as summer camp counselors, for their school-aged kiddos.
Back to the lecture at hand: Like everything these days, even the best-laid plans can be forced to change considerably or be canceled in the matter of a month, week, day or hour. Getting too worked up with your husband and locked into a plan — or variety of plans — for the upcoming school year is probably premature and the ultimate decision might be made for you by someone else, anyway. So why not continue this conversation with your husband by backing up a bit and focusing on what’s most important to your family as a whole instead getting into your individual feelings and opinions?
Health, happiness and home. Safety, schooling and socializing. Discuss how you’ve already successfully navigated these areas in the past months and how you can do your best to ensure they remain priorities in the months ahead, no matter how the school year begins and plays out. Removing your personal emotions and needs — wants — out of the equation and placing the family unit ahead of everything else should put the conversation into a different light. You’ll both have to sacrifice, but we’re talking about your family and kids here. Aren’t they worth it some adult conversations and a little give-and-take?
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