Because of COVID-19, I’m Not Sending My Son to Preschool This Fall

My oldest son is precocious, extremely social, outgoing, a voracious reader, and an avid lover of learning. It almost goes without saying that he is disappointed that he won't be starting preschool in the fall. When the school year abruptly ended for his older cousins because of COVID-19, I don't think he fully understood what was happening or why. He was mainly focused on not being able to have weekly dinners with his grandparents or play with his cousins. It's a challenge for adults to cope with these sudden and dramatic changes to our daily lives, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be for children.

My little one often feels cooped up and more easily agitated now, even though I make sure he gets plenty of playtime outdoors. He always greets neighbors and their children when we go outside (from a distance, of course), and he loves to watch other children play and ride bikes. More than anything, though, he tells me he wants to see his grandparents, uncles, and cousins. He can't fully grasp the reasons for our abundance of caution, but his safety and that of his grandparents are our first reasons for any preventative measures we take right now.

With the recent news of a Kawasaki-like inflammatory condition linked to COVID-19 affecting some children and with grandparents in vulnerable groups, my partner and I have decided that it is safest for our son and our family to hold off on starting preschool. Some may worry that my son will fall behind his peers, but this is honestly not a major concern for us. I am a teacher by trade and a stay-at-home parent by choice, so I figure there is no better way for me to put my 15 years of teaching experience to use than to homeschool my son. My partner and I have been considering homeschooling for quite a while. We have been hesitant because of advice from our family and fear of judgment, but the pandemic has forced our hand.

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Considering school closures and the prospect of another peak in coronavirus cases in the fall, my partner and I discussed the risks of sending our son to preschool versus the benefits he might gain from it. We conducted what was essentially a cost/benefit analysis. We had not yet paid preschool fees, so that really didn't factor into our decision-making process. What did figure in was the health of our child, the health of our family members, and the health of his future teachers. We know COVID-19 is contracted through exposure particles that can easily spread in closed spaces that aren't well-ventilated. Air-conditioning systems can apparently facilitate the spread of these particles. The possibility of our son contracting COVID-19, bringing it home, and potentially spreading it to his brother, to us, and to his grandparents is a cost that, in our minds, outweighs the benefits of starting preschool now. Our plan, then, is to homeschool him, then send him to kindergarten in the fall of 2021. He will not miss out academically speaking, but he may have a little catching up to do socially. To us, keeping our children and family healthy is well worth slower socialization. There are simply too many unknowns with this virus at this time.

In many ways, the transition to remote learning for schools across the country has prove to be a boon to any parent curious about how homeschooling would look and how to navigate its unique advantages and obstacles. For one thing, there is so much helpful online collaboration with other parents and teachers. Teaching materials, curricula, handouts, activities, and videos are more widely available and easy to access than ever before. We have had great success with Scholastic's Learn at Home materials. My son looks forward to his lessons every morning. Additionally, we recently subscribed to the ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy, which I highly recommend for anyone with small children. PBS Learning Media is also a fantastic resource.

I completely understand the importance of socializing my son around other children his age, and I haven't quite decided how best to approach that in the age of COVID-19. However, I know my son will benefit from the extra time at home to bond with his younger brother, to explore his own creativity, and to learn how to play independently. It's also exciting for me to get a little more one-on-one time with my boy before he heads off to preschool. Ultimately, I feel privileged to be both mom and teacher to my children during these unprecedented times.