COVID19 Parenting

Day 129: One decision, made.

July 22, 2020

I received a phone call yesterday about 2 slots available at Genevieve’s Montessori (private) school. And after a brief confirmatory discussion with Josh, I enrolled Cameron for first grade. Genevieve will be there as well, like last year, and they plan on staying open for her age group even if schools are mandated to close, as they meet criteria as a day care.

And I feel . . . so much better about the months to come. I also feel:

  • guilty for abandoning our public school system (though Annabel is staying enrolled and I highly doubt Cameron is leaving it behind forever)
  • guilty about the privilege associated with being able to make this choice
  • anxious about inevitable outbreaks (and likely temporary closures) — but I do think they are taking as many measures as possible to mitigate this risk

Class sizes are very small, children will be masked (not sure G will keep hers on, but they will attempt), and they will not have any large group gatherings or activities. They have had a (small) camp running all summer without incident, so they have had some practice with putting these safety measures in place.

I acknowledge that there is some risk involved, and I know that taking risks involving our children is not a popular concept (and I may receive some comments that reflect that — bracing myself). The thing is, this is a risk that feels worth it to me right now. YES, there are a very small number of children who become very sick from COVID-19. But it is quite small from a percentage standpoint. YES, even young children seem to be able to transmit the disease — but at fairly low levels.

But online learning was just not working for C, and I’m not sure the traditional public school setting was ideal for him either (we had discussed the idea of having him move to this school even pre-pandemic). It was not working for our nanny (I am not going to go into detail, but I could see her stress levels increasing — quite understandably!). Having to care for G while attempting to manage two kids doing online learning (one that has trouble sitting still for more than 30 seconds) DID NOT WORK.

I thought about what society would probably think was the ‘best’ choice: I leave my job and homeschool all 3 kids (with our nanny continuing to help with G). I did consider this; I honestly did. From a financial standpoint, we could do this, though the financial outlay would be far higher than private school tuition. There is also no guarantee I could get my job back, and there is a not-insignificant chance that leaving would also realistically mean giving up the GME portion of my career, because those positions are hard to come by (and I got really lucky!).

I also considered hiring a college student to come to our home and work with the kids, or joining a local learning ‘pod’ (though this opportunity hasn’t really come up and I’m not sure a ‘pod’ would be a great setting for C either). So in the end both Josh and I felt the risk/benefit ratios of sending them to school to be worth it.

(At least we felt like this yesterday.)

Okay. Here’s one more journal pic from the week.


  • Reply Sue July 22, 2020 at 6:31 am

    If I could make the same choice, I would! These are hard times and I don’t think any choice—other than the obvious ones of mask wearing etc—is without fallout. My 5 year old is enrolled at the local public school for kindergarten. When I found out that he would have to do all virtual or mostly virtual, I looked for half day transitional kindergarten for him instead. Of my four, he is struggling the most with the lack of educational/play stimulation and social interaction. Unfortunately, most private options are doing virtual too. Obviously, I care about public health. I also care about my four kids, and it’s been very hard to see how this is all playing out for them…and trying to stay mentally and physically healthy, myself. Anyway, it’s obvious you aren’t making thoughtless decisions. I hope the new situation goes well!

  • Reply Heather July 22, 2020 at 6:47 am

    The politicization of this has been insane (and I’m very liberal overall). Our school district is offering a choice – all e-learning or all in-person – and apparently a bunch of moms started a private FB group where they’re calling those of us that chose in-person murderers.

    • Reply Amy July 22, 2020 at 7:18 am

      I think the “conversation” insisting that virtual learning is the only way, and tarring those of us who disagree as murderers, is so frustrating. It’s profoundly classist, for one thing, and reveals an underlying belief that education is apparently not essential! No one’s suggesting schools should open irresponsibly, and maybe it’s not possible at all, but to pretend “virtual learning” is going to meet kids’ needs (and their families’) is laughable. They should at least be honest about the costs incurred.

      • Reply Sharon July 22, 2020 at 3:45 pm

        Unfortunately, some people *are* suggesting schools open with no distancing, no masks, regularly switching classes, just business as usual — and I think that’s very irresponsible. For a while it looked like the options we had were totally online or THAT, and it was going to be really rough but I think we’d have chosen online –even though it’s not great. Fortunately our governor now has established guidelines for when schools open, so I’m feeling more comfortable that it will be safe-ish for our kids to go.

  • Reply Kristen July 22, 2020 at 6:50 am

    I know we only see a portion of life (thank you for sharing all you do!) and based on that I’d make this choice too. Trust yourself. Trust your training – both in medicine and in life. Self trust is a ever evolving process and I continue to grow in it myself. That peace feeling means right decision for right now (knowing we can always change our minds.)

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 22, 2020 at 6:59 am

    I think that sounds like a great option. The nice thing about many private schools is that they are much smaller, which makes following the recommendations and guidelines that much easier. I personally don’t feel you should have to feel ‘guilty’ about it at all; just be grateful the option exists and you can make it work. C will probably thrive there and it will be a big relief. Our private school is planning to open, with many, many changes and adjustments to meet all guidelines. We should get the detailed plan today, actually, so I’ll be interested to see how it will all work. Our local public schools are NOT opening (virtual only). Who knows though if anything will happen between now and then to change things further..

  • Reply Nadine July 22, 2020 at 7:05 am

    You made the right decision for you and your family – which makes it 100% the correct decision! I know it is hard not to feel guilty about privilege, been there, done that – got the t.shirt. But as a wise friend said to me it’s what you do with that privilege that matters. You are contributing to the health system, being a great (female) role model to your children AND to the female medical staff who come after you. We need more women in leadership positions, you are doing an ace job. (You also have a pretty wonderful podcast & blog by the way, it’s kept me going in these challenging times). Take care & stay safe lovely.

  • Reply Amy July 22, 2020 at 7:15 am

    I think this is a great decision. Don’t feel guilty. Your first obligation is to your children, not to your local school district! My kids are enrolled in private school as well and I have absolutely no regrets and make no apologies — it meets their needs far better than our local public school can. And they get to go in person. Yes there’s a level of risk, but it’s one we’re comfortable with. Like you we’re not in a position to drop everything and homeschool. Good luck with the new school — I bet he’ll really like it.

  • Reply Chelsea July 22, 2020 at 7:25 am

    I’m glad you feel relief about making that decision. That was the way it was for us when we made ours. It wasn’t one I’d ever expected I’d make. It isn’t the one I’d make under normal circumstances. It isn’t the one *any* of our friends are making for their kids. BUT, ultimately it *is* the right decision for our family right now *and* it’s not forever. Which gives me peace, even when other things don’t.

    • Reply Susan July 22, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Thank you for writing this post. I’ve received pushback regarding sending two of my kids to a small, private school that follows CDC guidelines, from some of my friends who homeschool. Your kids’ school sounds like it takes the same precautions as my kids’ school does. And I made this decision after discussing the risks with a doctor. I think you made the best choice for your family. Likewise, homeschooling would absolutely NOT work in my situation, with three kids 5 and under plus a baby due in September. A lot of people seem to think there is one single solution for every family.

  • Reply Marci Gilbert July 22, 2020 at 7:35 am

    It sounds like a great option for all of you! We are also at our private school, and i am confident in their safety when they hopefully open and their ability to do distance learning.

  • Reply Rachel S July 22, 2020 at 7:39 am

    I’m soooo excited for you! Obviously we only know what you choose to share, but Montessori sounds like it could be a really great fit for Cameron. I was in Montessori preschool, and then in parochial and public schools after that, but Montessori principles have definitely stayed with me. I’m enrolling my two-year-old in part-time preschool this year. (She’s a few weeks older than Genevieve.) I don’t HAVE to, but I feel she really needs the interaction with peers, and I’m comfortable with the precautions the school is taking. Sure, it’s a risk, just like you are taking, but we’re allowed to make what we feel are the best choices for our families. We all have unique situations and base our decisions on different factors. We shouldn’t need to apologize! 🙂

    On another note, could I suggest Kendra Adachi as a podcast guest? I’ve been reading an ARC of her new book and realized she would be great on your podcast.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 7:40 am

      i LOVE Kendra! I think she’s on our list (though I don’t think she’s been pitched yet). I preordered her book!

      • Reply Rachel S July 22, 2020 at 10:11 am

        Awesome! You will love the book! I’m seriously considering preorder-gifting it to a bunch of my friends now that I’ve read most of it.

  • Reply Ali July 22, 2020 at 7:43 am

    C sounds a lot like my middle son, which is scheduled to start K in a few weeks. He’s bright, but acts tortured by needing to sit in place for any length of time. Wish we had a Montessori option for this year as I fear distance learning will not go well. (My plan is joining a pod with neighbors.)

  • Reply A. July 22, 2020 at 8:04 am

    I think these decisions highly depends of a lot of things… My son is back in school now, in a city where there is 0 active case and the school sanitary protocol is very good imo (only 8 kids, 75% of time outside and they take their temperature 3 times a day, everyday, staff included). I feel safe. We will see after summer how it goes.

  • Reply Rebecca July 22, 2020 at 8:10 am

    I’m a nurse and our hospitals daycare/preschool has stayed open the entire time. The teachers wear masks and the parents are not allowed inside And there have been no cases At the school. Our Hospital transmission rate has also been very low. I hate that all of this has been so politicized and I think any choice you make as a mama is the best choice as long as you are informed. We’re all doing the best we can and mom shaming in these uncertain times don’t benefit anyone. I am so grateful my child’s Day to day life hasn’t changed much. You’re doing a good job mama.

    • Reply Erin July 22, 2020 at 8:49 am

      I work for a hospital system (researcher, not a frontline worker) and our 2.5 year old has been at my hospital’s daycare for about a month now and we’ve had a similar experience. The daycare has also been open throughout the pandemic, but those of us nonessential workers have kept our kids home until our county went “green” in June (and I was on maternity leave for part of this time). As of Monday our state is now asking (requiring?) all children 2 and over to wear masks and while it’s only been two days, our toddler and his classmates have apparently been quite successful at wearing them. Our 3 month old will join her brother at daycare this coming Monday.

  • Reply Omdg July 22, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Im curious why you think that “society” would want you to stay home? Of all the alternatives, this seems the dumbest — other options that are good exist, and you can afford them. 🤷🏼‍♀️ You being a doctor IS good for society! And your kids are all thriving! I really don’t see a problem with what you are doing. Have people made comments to you? Is this something you have just internalized?

    I have heard from so many SO MANY parents of bits that public school just isn’t working for their kid – for exactly the reasons you say. As the mom of one girl, who follows directions well, I only sort of get it. But I am wondering how our schools are managing to fail so many boys so badly at this point in history and what might work better.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 8:19 am

      the ‘society’ i am speaking of is what i am seeing on community WhatsApp threads and also (oddly) what has been said to me by some of my patients

      • Reply Omdg July 22, 2020 at 8:52 am

        Ah yes. You know, I only have received a handful of comments like this since I started being a doctor (maybe I will get more now that I don’t live on the east coast?) but every single one stuck with me. And reflecting on it, I find myself feeling angst over what other mothers say they will be doing (quitting their jobs, homeschooling, joining a pod, supplementing school work). It’s like there is this mothering arms race, with the idea that if you don’t pour 100% of yourself into molding your kids they will fail in life. I feel this too! In past generations being perfect wasn’t necessary, but maybe moving forward it will be, and I’ll realize I failed my child. I sort of suspect that no matter what happens, though, I will feel that somehow. Anyway, this is really long. Just want to reiterate, what you do is important, and your kids are doing great. You are obviously an engaged, thoughtful mother who is doing her best for them.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 8:58 am

          You made a great point above about how we remember those few comments that stick out. I need to check myself when I assume that one strongly-worded opinion is the “main” one!

    • Reply gwinne July 22, 2020 at 8:29 am

      OMDG, that’s an interesting (maybe the right?) way to put it, about pubic school failing boys. I think actually that public schools are very good for certain kinds of kids and not others (I say this as someone who EXCELLED at school starting at age 4, when I started K). Those kids tend to be rule abiders, calmer, etc. That’s true in the best of times. Tiny Boy sounds very much like Cameron, who could do okay with the right teacher. He would very clearly do better in another school environment… but I believe so wholeheartedly in the public school system and also do not have the $$ to really think about private as a long term strategy.

      In the short term: Sarah, if this were a choice I could make I also probably would. Right now my options seem to be the guarantee of bad outcome (for mental/social health) with online learning vs risk of bad outcome (of COVID) with some semblance of school opening. Given the choice, at this time I’ll take the risk over the guarantee.

      • Reply Omdg July 22, 2020 at 8:45 am

        Maybe schools fail some girls too. I wonder if when it does it is framed by more parents as a problem with the girl or not talked about as much. Just speculating, really. This is definitely not my area of expertise.

        • Reply nicoleandmaggie July 22, 2020 at 9:38 am

          I hate it when this is framed as a gender issue. My kids haven’t shown any signs of gender dysphoria, but the boy sits quietly, takes direction, and is an all around sweetheart and has been even as a toddler. The girl… not so much. And yet… they seem fine with their gender identities.

          Society forces girls to behave themselves but is much more lax with boys starting when they’re infants. It pathologizes behavior in girls that is considered normal in boys.

          Re: women dropping out of the labor force because of Covid, I just saw a talk yesterday about that.

      • Reply Sarah K July 22, 2020 at 9:32 am

        Gwinnie – your framing of this was a guarantee vs a risk is really interesting. My family is in a similar situation and I feel like I need to send my kids to school (and they want to go) but all this societal drama about being an awful parent if I want that is hard to take.

        • Reply gwinne July 22, 2020 at 10:08 am

          As a single parent, I don’t understand any of the drama or hand wringing about what society thinks. It’s about you and your family’s needs. My needs and my thoughts about them would likely be different with live-in help (and I consider a spouse live in help!). Thanks for your comment; it’s crystalizing the issue for me.

      • Reply xykademiqz July 22, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        I think this issue where women are pressured to stay at home is wholly an issue of an affluent society where many can and do live on one salary. I grew up in a different culture where all women worked; actually, if the woman in a couple didn’t work, everyone felt sorry for her husband because it meant that she either couldn’t find work or was lazy, both of which were reasons for pity. My grandma only had a 4th grade education but she was extremely bright and energetic; she should’ve been a Fortune 500 CEO. She drilled into her daughters, as well as my sister and me to never, ever be financially dependent on anyone. My mother worked my whole life and so did all the moms of all my friends. Of course I am always going to work, and it’s impossible to make me feel guilty for working.

        Here in the US I am always puzzled at how low the percentage of kids who go to afterschool is. Less than 10% per grade, and my kids always went (I am a mother of three boys; one is 20, the other two at home are 13 and 9). That tells me there is a high percentage of nonworking moms in the neighborhood or some pretty elaborate nanny and/or relatives support networks, none of which I have access to.

        I am a university prof and have never thought about quitting my job. First, I’m the primary breadwinner and have the job security of tenure, so if anyone is quitting it should probably be my husband, yet nobody in the society would suggest that, right? Only mommies are supposed to become 100% subsumed by others and not have any identity outside caregiving. **** that noise. Being a scientist is a way bigger part of my identity than being a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, but the kids are not the be-all, end-all of me. As a result, I am not a helicopter parent, and I hope the kids have enough freedom to grow up into who they’re supposed to be without being smothered. (So far, so good; the college kid is doing great and appears to be psychologically sturdier than many of his peers.)

        I am teaching in person in the fall. My kids’ schools are all online. If they were in person, we would’ve sent them. We are committed to public schools and whatever they decide, we’ll do it. We can all be cautions without completely giving up our lives to fear. And anyone who calls a person sending kids to school a murderer can go **** themselves. (Then again, I have also never understood the appeal of Facebook and the like.)

        tl;dr You do whatever you feel is best. Guilt is a pointless emotion. When you feel guilty, ask yourself what a dude in your situation would do. They always go for the most self-serving option yet remain blissfully guilt free.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 4:46 pm

          Really appreciate this comment. Thank you.

        • Reply Sarah July 23, 2020 at 6:27 am

          Slow clap. **** that noise, indeed!!!!!

        • Reply omdg July 23, 2020 at 2:50 pm

          Best. Comment. Ever.

  • Reply CBS July 22, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Ah, well done! I think that’s an awesome decision. I’m a bit squeamish about private schools in principle, but think they can be really valuable in practice, and I’m glad you’ve found a setting which will give Cameron what he needs. And quitting your job to home school…that’s bananas. I feel like we’re pretty similar personality wise and honestly, I don’t think home schooling would be awesome for us/our kids.

  • Reply Maxine July 22, 2020 at 8:46 am

    Kudos to you for making the best decision in the moment that suits your family and your situation best. And even more, thanks for sharing your informed decision-making with us, even at the risk of hearing from those who have different opinions.

  • Reply Robin July 22, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Good job, mama, on making a decision. I know it’s not easy in these times. It sounds like you are doing what’s best for everyone so don’t mind the naysayers.

  • Reply Karen July 22, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Well done! We’re sending our 4 year old back to daycare and pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to is doing the same. It’s a little scary as there’s been a spike in Western Canada, but she really needs the socialization and the risk of Covid is small. I also worry about long term mental health for kids kept home that long. There was a really good article in the Atlantic on the anxious child that spoke to the benefits of daycare.

  • Reply A Teacher July 22, 2020 at 9:01 am

    As a private school teacher who will be forced to work or be fired because we will be staying open…people making this decision signals that they believe their jobs and lives are more important than ours.

    • Reply CSZ July 22, 2020 at 9:52 am

      This is the first time I’m commenting on your blog, although I’ve loved reading it for awhile now. I am a teacher and agree with this comment. Please make sure that the school has measures in place to protect the teachers who are caring for your children every day.

    • Reply Another Essential Employee July 22, 2020 at 9:56 am

      A TEACHER – I respect your inputs, but I’d also implore you to look at the other essential professions who are forced to keep working in a pandemic or lose their jobs. Teachers are not alone in this; there are MANY other essential employee professions who are forced to continue working in this pandemic under imperfect conditions. Teachers NEED to be ensured a safe working environment with ample PPE and social distancing, where possible. The private schools that I’m familiar with are working to do this – masking kids, providing ample PPE, health screening, etc. I’m curious why you feel teachers uniquely shouldn’t be asked to go back to work, with safety precautions in place, and yet other essential professions should? I agree COMPLETELY that we should not ask teachers to go back to work without PPE and safety measures, and that is why I support my local public school districts decision to be virtual. – Signed, Another essential employee who’s going to work daily.

      • Reply Yet another essential employee July 22, 2020 at 11:01 am

        This! As a physician who has been at work daily despite living in an area with tons of cases, I guess I am struggling with the argument that education (and for many of us the custodial care if provides for our children) is somehow not essential. Proper PPE works. Despite seeing patients in person in NY in March and April not one of our staff members has gotten sick. School is essential and teachers are essential workers and should be treated as such.

        • Reply Irene July 22, 2020 at 12:47 pm

          I can’t imagine how ANYONE can read Sarah’s thoughtful post and take away that she thinks her life matters more than anyone else. She is also working in an exposed environment on a regular basis because her job cannot be done 100 percent remotely. You can disagree all you want with her choice but saying she values her life and career more than yours is just crazy to me and does nothing to move this sort of conversation forward.

    • Reply AEP July 22, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      If I don’t keep my son in daycare then I can’t do my job. It is what it is. Either 2 people are out of a job or one. I would get fired if l didn’t have childcare. Daycare and school for younger children is supposed to be relatively safe. I would do what Sarah is doing with absolutely NO GUILT.

      Your comment really rubs me the wrong way for some reason – are you saying that if school isn’t safe and remote learning doesn’t work then you should still get paid? That seems to be the logical outcome of your comment. If you don’t feel safe maybe it is time to find a new job.

      • Reply Another teacher July 23, 2020 at 11:32 am

        I couldn’t agree more. It’s insane that some teachers don’t think they are essential. This is 100% driven by union nonsense. I see it with my own eyes in the school district I teach in. Yes, I am a teacher too.

        You are welcome to take your teaching skills and go to the corporate world as a trainer. There are jobs available and it might suit you better.

  • Reply Sam @ Eye to Wonder July 22, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Thanks for sharing your decision making process. It sounds like you made a thoughtful choice that is right for your family and will work for each of you kids!

  • Reply gwinne July 22, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Sarah, totally unrelated, what’s the black pen you’re using in this spread? It looks gorgeous.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Papermate Flair Fine tip

  • Reply Melissa Hall July 22, 2020 at 9:17 am

    We pulled our oldest out of traditional public school and into a Montessori setting and it was the best thing we ever did. She needed to move, lay on the ground, run, etc. She went back in fine at fourth grade and it was the best thing we ever did. My younger two did Montessori preschool and then did fine in public K. Different kids need different things and it was the right thing for her confidence!

  • Reply Sarah K July 22, 2020 at 9:27 am

    I’m so happy you’re talking about your decision making process around school. It is so agonizing! Our public school system is releasing their reopening plan tomorrow and I am nervously waiting to read it. I *need* the kids to be in school but my husband is extremely nervous about the health risks. We don’t really have an easy private school option and more virtual learning sounds awful to me. Fingers crossed the school has a good plan!

  • Reply Jamie July 22, 2020 at 9:58 am

    I just went through an outbreak and closure at our preschool, where we sent our daughter back in June. I would be happy to talk further about the details of that if you would find it helpful but I would say based on how these facts and circumstances played out, we have no regrets about the choices made for our family. We were dealing with a similar economic calculus and school setting, but smaller kids. Good luck in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you for being brave and posting this.

  • Reply Colleen July 22, 2020 at 10:11 am

    If it helps you, I have similar age kids and have arrived at the same decision. My incoming 1st grader will be switching to private school (in person, masked, teachers with PPE, etc) because her public school will be virtual. My 3 year old will be at daycare (similar safety precautions). This isn’t perfect, but it’s the “least worst option”. I agree with other commenters that there’s CERTAIN negative outcomes with them staying home vs. potential risk of negative outcomes attending school under these conditions. We do risky things every day (I say this as someone who’s mom died in a car accident); life is about balancing risk as best as you can. I agree that this year is going to be one heck of a ride, but I’m proud of you for weighing the options and making the best choice for your family.

    RE – you quitting your job and homeschooling your kids – I find that a RIDICULOUS option. NO ONE would expect / ask this of Josh? Why is this reasonable to expect of you? And how is that the best option for anyone? I’m pretty certain that you’re VERY unequipped to teach C phonics / reading skills, despite your intellect? Wouldn’t that be a certain path to misery for your family AND leave a hole in your profession? Can’t help but throw this out there!

  • Reply Sara July 22, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Thank you for being open about this! I’m making the decision for my 6 year old for almost all of the exact same reasons. We don’t have a nanny yet but will when I go back to work in September from maternity leave and I feel guilty that I’m not keeping my 6 and 4 year old home since I could do so without quitting my job. Elearning was not good for my 6 year old’s mental health or mine! If we don’t do the elearning curriculum we lose our hard to get spot at our charter school for all 3 of our kids so just focusing on life skills for a year like some people have advocated isn’t even an option. We may still keep our 4 year old home since he is better at at-home learning to reduce our exposure. And if I stop working to homeschool for a few years (Assuming I’d be good at it, which I’m not) I can’t get my job back so I understand the dilemma.

  • Reply protectedtruth July 22, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I am so grateful you shared your decision-making process about the decision. I think having more non-politicized and personal stories of online vs in school will make us realize…in the big picture, families are just doing the best they can for their particular circumstance and we should all be less willing to rant/spout are judgments.

    My thought is what about Annabel? She will have the least social exposure with others her own age. Even if she seems to thrive in the online learning/home environment, do you worry about her social development or unseen need to have peer social interaction outside her siblings?

    Again, thank you for putting it all out there, and risking criticism and snarky comments. Your honesty and transparency are sorely needed by our society, imo.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 10:41 am

      I definitely thought about putting them both in. But, she loves her friends that she has in her current class, two girls in particular. I didn’t want her to have to make all new friends when the educational component seems to be going decently well for her. It’s not the same as ‘in person’ but at least she’s interacting on line with those she already knows. Interestingly I didn’t feel like C built those kinds of relationships last year, but maybe it’s more his age. And, being more of an introvert, she kind of liked the idea of having peace & quiet to do her online school while G&C left the house!

      And I’m also hoping that (maybe?!) public won’t mean virtual for the entire year.

  • Reply Theresa July 22, 2020 at 10:15 am

    So I teach in an urban multi racial high school in special education. I truly believe in public education. I also send my child to a private Montessori school. I am conflicted. I try really hard to still support our local elementary school fundraisers and such. I pay attention and am engaged in issues with my local school board. I am torn on the issue of resource guarding. I think it is really easy for non parents to advocate that parents should not do anything to give their kids a leg up. It is more complicated in real life. I know this Montessori environment is amazing for my daughter. I acknowledge the privilege in this situation but as many people point out on environmental issues we need more global solutions and less shame on individuals. Companies and the USA can do so much more to effect the environment then individuals and communities as a whole could do so much to boost schools. In the absence of that putting the blame on individuals for doing what is best for their kids is short sided.

  • Reply Irene July 22, 2020 at 10:29 am

    I see you have already gotten a nasty comment. My god! I really appreciate you putting yourself out there like this. I think we all need to accept that you cannot hold kindergarten and first grade virtually. If it’s too dangerous to take care of kids in schools then that job is being passed on to parents. 100 percent. If you can’t do it you get to try and resolve that how you feel works best for your family.

    And private schools aren’t going to be able to keep paying their teachers without an in person component. No one I know is willing to pay $30 K for virtual instruction, not for elementary school. We got an email from our sons daycare teacher asking us to send him because they have no kids. And we’ve been paying tuition! The reason public schools can do this is because they have a huge union. Daycare teachers, private elementary school teachers and many essential workers don’t have the ability to do their job remotely and that sucks, it really does. I say that as the family member of some one who has been working at a grocery store this entire pandemic.

    Having kids out of school for a year (we got an announcement that school will be virtual until Jan 2021 yesterday) is not great. It just isn’t. I don’t know the answer but it’s all just terrible. Don’t feel bad for which imperfect choice you make because there really are no good ones right now.

  • Reply Dana July 22, 2020 at 10:46 am

    This is such a good conversation! I am a teacher and willing to go back, but also aware that beginning the year in-person doesn’t guarantee that we stay in-person and beginning the year virtual doesn’t mean it has to stay that way all year. My school is huge and even with lots of protective measures I expect Covid cases to find their way in. My son didn’t do well with virtual so in-person would be nice. My issue is that my teaching in-person schedule likely won’t match his in-person schedule for hybrid schooling and it just seems likely to be a big mess. We could all use a little less uncertainty about schooling this year and everyone deserves grace for their decisions!

  • Reply Annie July 22, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Sarah, thanks for putting yourself out there. I sent my 4 year old back to daycare in May. What finally decided it for us was realizing that the situation we were in was not sustainable (what brought this realization on was a big, old-fashioned, not-pretty meltdown on my behalf following a few weeks of 90+ hour workweeks and homeschooling in my ‘spare time’). My husband and I, like you and Josh, are both doctors and were working much more than normal (in part to protect the health of many of our elderly colleagues who couldn’t or wouldn’t come to the hospital). Does me sending my 4 year old back to preschool mean I think my job and life are more important than her preschool teacher’s life? I guess you could look at it that way. But it’s not like me working (or you working, or my husband working, or Josh working) is exactly a ‘lifestyle’ choice – sure, it’s not like every single patient and every single day is a life-or-death situation. But on a ‘societal’ level, unless women are going to suddenly start all delivering themselves at home (may sound great for some but as a high risk pregnancy doctor I can assure you this will not work for all) or patients are going to start taking out their own cancerous organs (my husband), we should go to work and to do that someone has to watch our kids. Is that person less important than me? No, not unless we would be willing to say all of my patients combined are less important than that person (and the patients the residents I supervise take care of, and the future patients my medical students will take care of, etc etc etc). We all have a role to play and infighting and shaming is wasting time that could be spent making school/daycare environments as safe as possible (something I 100% agree needs to happen, and something that was done well in my work environment, which didn’t 100% eliminate risk but sure reduced it).
    Now my 9 year old (who is one of those rule-following girls) we will also likely send back to school once it’s an option (she goes to a public school), but the calculus is different.

    • Reply Jamie July 22, 2020 at 11:33 am

      Agree with all of this! Regardless of how you feel about the importance of kids missing a year of school, school is childcare for smaller children. Essential workers have children, which makes childcare essential. I’m a pediatric hospitalist married to an editor at a major news organization. We are both working our butts off (me for the reasons mentioned above, to allow at risk colleagues to stay home, and him because…have you seen the news lately?!) and neither of our jobs feels optional to us right now (and I’m not talking about a from a financial perspective). I agonized over the decision to send our two small children back to daycare, mostly because of my concern for the wellbeing of the staff, but when we realized how careful they were being, we went for it. It’s too bad that we don’t live in a country that funds public education and public health in a way that might allow schools across the country to open safely AND supports people who are at high risk of significant complications or mortality from COVID in staying home without them having to worry about paying their rent or feeding their families, but we don’t, and I’m not sure that the answer to this problem is for people who are essentially on the same side of this argument to turn against and shame each other. Thanks for sharing Sarah, I think these are important conversations to be having!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 22, 2020 at 10:58 am

    I would have made the same decision. The fact that you feel relief indicates you made the right one, IMO. Try not to consider what others will think and say. I felt like I had to justify why I sent our son back to daycare after keeping him home for 7 weeks. But we could not keep up with our work and watch an active, boundary-testing 2yo. Luckily things at daycare have gone very well. We had 3 cases in 1 room – 2 teachers (one asymptomatic, the other felt tired) and 1 student out of 15+ I think. That was around Memorial Day and we haven’t had a case since. I think the teachers are all still glad we be working and to have a job – I don’t get the sense they feel the way the teacher who commented did… Our son goes to a Spanish Immersion school, though, and many aren’t fluent in English so I think they have limited employment opportunities and really need their jobs at the daycare. Maybe I just tell myself this to feel better about our decision to send him? Emily Oster published an update on daycare/camp tracking of COVID cases and the results are encouraging. It does seem like young kids do not transmit the disease, so hopefully the risk to C and G’s teachers is fairly low?

    Every time I hear a news story/read an article/hear on a podcast about a woman leaving her job because of COVID/having to home school/etc, it makes me sad. We are going to take a huge step backwards in terms of female representation in the work force if this trend continues. It’s one thing if a woman truly wanted to leave the workforce and this gave them the push to do it, but my sense is that most women feel forced to do this to care for their kids. And it’s just so frustrating and sad.

  • Reply Amanda July 22, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I would do this as well in the same circumstances. Our schools are starting at 100% online with 4.5 hrs/day of live instruction planned for my rising kindergartener. He would hide from the screen and it was a challenge to get him to participate in 30 min. sessions from his daycare, and all of my friends had similar feedback. so this obviously isn’t ideal (for teachers either!).

    Our school system asked parents in a survey if they preferred a hybrid model or fully online and 75% of parents preferred hybrid.

    Cases have stabilized here, and he returned to daycare over a month ago with certain restrictions in place and things are going well so far. There is certainly a risk/benefit to weigh and you should not feel guilty, especially as you make decisions that are best for your kids and family as a whole.

  • Reply Kip July 22, 2020 at 11:37 am

    You made the right decision for your family. I’m so sorry you have to deal with the nasty comments. I have 3 days left to decide between distance learning or distance learning until our school is allowed to open with an alternating schedule (am/pm). I’m leaning towards only distance. I’m concerned about the transitions of going between distance and in school and possibly back to distance if there are any cases. Obviously I’m concerned about all the health risks. My son is going into 4th and will do fine either way. My daughter, going into 2nd, really needs someone else, anyone else, to teach her. I’m fortunately in the position that I’ll be able to hire someone at least part time to teach/guide them while I work. I don’t feel guilty (maybe I should?). I feel extremely grateful for my situation and incredibly heartbroken and very concerned for all the families struggling right now. There are so many families in desperate situations right now. Yes I am privileged but I don’t believe I take it for granted and I try to use that privilege to help out others. I think we all just do the best we can.

  • Reply Nikki July 22, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Echo all the supportive comments above. And also want to share that my 2.5 year old and 4 year old actually do a good job wearing masks at school and so do their classmates, mostly! Their preschool has been re-opened about 3 weeks and the children are not required to wear masks, but they have shocked all the parents and teachers by wanting to wear masks and not having much trouble with it! We do have to send 3 per day as the teachers follow mask hygiene really carefully so they have to have a fresh mask after snack and again after lunch/nap. Even if they are touching it a lot or get sweaty on a walk on a hotter day, they’ll want them to change it, so you may want to stock up! I like that the masks are working out because I do think that helps protect the teachers even a little more, which is great. The frequent and full 20 second hand washing has also been a complete non issue. Kids are so willing and open minded, especially in a school setting (not always with parents of course 🙂

  • Reply Nikki July 22, 2020 at 11:55 am

    Also, just want to add that I know how stressful it is to make a change, but you have to make it through this pandemic, and that means being adaptable and thinking outside the box. It sounds like school for G & C is going to give you that lightness that comes from having consistent support you can count on and a good, safe environment for both of them, without over taxing your amazing nanny. And to share words from a friend when several of us were having a similar conversation about various decisions – it sounds like this will create space for you to be able to be a better mom, better doctor, and better human finding your way in the pandemic too!

  • Reply Emily July 22, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    I understand the decision you are making and why it is best for you and your family, Sarah. That being said, I am just so sad that the situation we have ended up in is that people with means (even those with a form of at-home childcare like a nanny) can send their kids to private schools and the most at-risk kids–poor kids, disproportionately Black and brown kids, those whose families don’t have nannies or the ability to supervise online learning, or don’t have good Internet access, or depend on school for food, or need special education services–will end up left behind because they are more likely to attend large public schools that will be going all-virtual or mostly virtual (at least, this is the case in my area in the Midwest). I wish as a society that we had pulled together and shut down the “right” way back in March and stayed shut down and/or wearing masks for as long as possible (with govt benefits/increased UI/stimulus payments to those who lost jobs and income) so that we were in a position for ALL kids to go back to school this fall. Instead, we prioritized reopening other things and now we are in a situation where existing inequalities in education will be even more exacerbated going forward as those who have the ability to pay their way out of the problem do so, and the most marginalized kids end up even further behind. I don’t think it’s that particularly fruitful to criticize individual parents’ choices, but I am also mindful of the fact that those individual choices do add up to generating further inequality and systemic racism, which is part of the reason why I personally have decided not to send my kids to private school, hire a private tutor, etc.

  • Reply Sophia July 22, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    FWIW, we are leaning towards doing the same for our younger two despite being very much pro public school. Remote learning was a poor fit for our pre-K child and she was thriving when pre-K was in person. I don’t think it’s fair to kids to say that if risk cannot be eliminated in schools then schools should stay closed until there is a cure or vaccine. We don’t hold any other essential worker to this standard and kids will suffer real quantifiable harm if they are deprived the opportunity to learn.

    A lot of professional women (myself included) have internalized sexism. No one would imply that Josh is less of a father for continuing to work instead of quitting his job and staying home. The work you do is important and meaningful.

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 22, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    I’m curious if the teacher who commented has data to support that teachers are apparently dying at a disproportionate rate in other countries or areas here with open schools/ daycares or compared to people currently working in other essential businesses? Our grocery store, Home Depot. Menards and other “essential” stores have been PACKED since Day 1 (with people wearing masks and face shields/ other precautions) and I am unaware of any large, sweeping death rate of these employees who have been on the front lines all along.

    My boys’ private school is planning to open, but only with meeting ALL local governmental guidelines for social distancing, PPE, etc. I feel that teacher comment above makes it sound like they are being forced to open and work under fully normal circumstances like in the past, with no precautions in place. That is simply not the case! Many, many changes are being made- literally a full overhaul- to ensure everyone’s safety and to make sure they are fully compliant with prevention measures while still allowing the kids to get back in the classroom.

    • Reply omdg July 22, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      I saw a study showing that 10% of workers at grocery stores were infected (I apologize, I can’t find the link), and I know employee to employee transmission was a HUGE problem at meat packing plants and among migrant workers on farms. Amazon employees also complained that it was impossible to socially distance at their warehouses. However, all of that was prior to universal masking, and teachers will not have exposure to nearly as many people in such close proximity. Furthermore, children don’t seem to transmit the virus as effectively. I know people are really afraid. I was afraid when I first started working in the hospital. But there are data points to draw on that should provide some reassurance.

      Teachers are essential employees. They are just as important as doctors, nurses, janitors, grocery store workers, people working in meat packing plants and harvesting and processing food, nannies, and babysitters. We need to make sure we support them, give them adequate PPE, and listen to their concerns. We can do this.

  • Reply Anne July 22, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    Our CA school has decided to be virtual for the foreseeable future so no real decision to make for us. My 7 yo son did surprisingly well with his schoolwork in the spring so I’m hopeful about the coming months.

    Previously when considering in person learning, I had been wondering what happens if a student or teacher tested positive. Well that has been decided at our state level now–automatic quarantine for the entire class for 14 days. So OMG I’m actually relieved about having virtual learning because I just can’t plan to have emergency childcare (aka me or DH) for 2 weeks. I think it’s inevitable that going back to school will mean positive (but hopefully mostly asymptomatic) cases.

  • Reply Marina July 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    I just want to echo everyone else and say that you made the right choice. The “best” choice is most certainly not you quitting your job, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Every article out there is right that a lot of women will be forced to leave the workforce due to this pandemic and the bad response to it, so if you can stay in, do it. You’re also ensuring the jobs of the Montessori teachers, as well as the parents of the other kids there (the more people there, the likelier it won’t close due to funding). So yes, of course teachers should have all of the PPE they need. But in person learning is crucial for the younger kids. I just don’t see how it’s possible to do kindergarten – 1st/2nd grade virtually. I hope that more districts emphasize the need to have younger kids in person, but if yours doesn’t, then I think you’ve made the right choice. And go vote in November! And encourage all your swing-state Floridians to do the same…

    • Reply Amy July 28, 2020 at 9:40 pm

      I also pulled my upcoming kindergartener from public school to go to Montessori school with her younger sister. I know it was the right choice for us. But it feels gross. I feel so disgustingly privileged to be able to make this decision. So, solidarity to you in that. Thank you for sharing your decision.

  • Reply Joy July 22, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Every family needs to make the best decision for their kids. I homeschooled my three boys from K through High School and don’t regret it at all for various reasons.

    However, it is not for everyone and every family needs to look at the parents’ responsibilities, the children’s needs, and their resources and then make the best decision they can.

    Your reasoning is sound, and I don’t think you need to feel guilty at all. Not every child thrives under every condition. You are taking that into account and doing what you believe is best for your children. Good for you!

  • Reply coveredbridgegenealogy July 22, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    My favorite thing on FB this week: Thanks for posting on this because I’m trying so hard to figure it out. Private school wouldn’t be easy financially but it would be possible, so I may need to look into that for my soon-to-be 2nd grader.

  • Reply Cathy July 22, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    Sarah, I enjoyed hearing your thoughts behind your decision and all of the subsequent discussion.

    Our oldest is entering kindergarten and will be remote learning until labor day (and then hopefully hybrid one week on/one week off if local case numbers support that). Talking with friends that are teachers, the biggest concern seems to be having enough staffing to cover hybrid plans. I think the more structured schooling my son has, the better he will do. We’re also worried that if we opt for the entirely remote option, we’d then be stuck with that for the entire school year.

    All three of my children have been going to daycare thus far and this has felt like the right decision because there haven’t been any cases associated with our daycare. Much like you, I like my job! And I don’t believe I would keep my position if I went part time or took a leave of absence. Supervising a toddler and trying to work at the same time would equate to no work being done. That said, if daycares in our area started having Covid cases, I imagine my thinking could shift drastically.

  • Reply Cara Sheekey July 22, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Sarah. Love your blog, especially your daily posts during this time.

    Reading all these comments has saddened me. This is such a divisive issue in the US and it just seems so wrong that that there is no leadership on any level to take this away from a parent vs parent/parent vs teacher/have vs have not issue. I’m Australian, but lived for many years in the US and worked in the public school system. I’m surprised a less black and white answer hasn’t been put in place for you guys.

    We have a different situation here with covid but in my state we’ve had an increase in cases and gone back into lockdown again. Both versions of remote learning for us have involved an option for kids of essential works, kids at risk, and this time around kids with special needs, to attend their school in person where they are supervised to complete the learning. Public and private schools have been compelled by the government to offer the same model. Child care and pre school programs here have never closed.

    I’m not telling anyone this to point out how much better we have it, but more that there are other ways to achieve an outcome that meets the needs of more than one “side.” I hope leadership in all levels in the US steps up for you guys on this issue rather than creating yet another way to divide people.

    Stay safe everyone!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Me Too!!!!!!

    • Reply BPS July 23, 2020 at 11:53 am

      YES! I completely agree that more than anything that the school re-opening debacle is a huge structural failure that isn’t the fault of teachers, parents, school districts, etc. It is a failure of our country and how we’ve valued education and school safety for decades (or perhaps even longer).

      It’s exhausting for parents that have means and choices to do the risk/cost/reward/safety calculus; it is impossible for those that don’t have this privilege.

      SHU – FWIW, we sent our 2.5 year old back to daycare in June. We’re in TX, which re-opened far too early without hitting key metrics, and thus there is a major surge right now. Within 2 weeks there were rumors (later confirmed) of cases in his class, and we pulled him out. The school was taking precautions re masks, temp checks, etc. However, the school wasn’t great about communicating what was happening and a clear protocol on COVID+ staff/students returning back (e.g. requiring a COVID- test and/or 14 day quarantine).

      As annoying as it is, I also know it shouldn’t be on the daycare alone to figure out what’s right when they don’t have clear requirements and guidance. DS will be at home until things settle down, whenever that is. My husband and I work from home and I’m pregnant so that’s the best we can do for now. If one of us had to go into work, it would be a different calculus all together.

  • Reply Abby Meyers July 22, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    I think if I had school age kids, this is exactly what I’d do. Also, re: the guilt about privilege for having this option, I would think of it as you’re allowing the remaining resources in public schools to focus on fewer children (who may not have that option) while continuing to pay your same amount of taxes. No guilt here.

    • Reply September July 23, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Unfortunately, in many place funding is provided on a per-pupil basis, so even if the tax base stays the same, individual schools lose funding when students withdraw.

  • Reply Coco July 22, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    thanks for sharing your thought but I want to say please don’t think you need to justify yourself for making the best choice for your family situation. Nobody can tell what’s best for your situation only you!!! I totally feel you about the guilt of feeling privileged to be able to make such a choice, I feel the same. 🙂

  • Reply Lauren Miller July 23, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Yay that the decision is off your shoulders! I am happy for C. Please let us know, within privacy constraints, how it goes for him. As an elementary educator and parent of young children I believe schooling is essential. As many folks have mentioned above, there are several industries that have been reporting for work throughout this time because their work is essential. We know much more now about protective measures and I have seen firsthand that very young children are far more adaptable to these measures than we assumed they were when we began discussions about masks/distancing in schools back in the spring. Teachers who cannot take the health risk should be given personal or medical leave options. We may have to back off of our traditional goal to cram content into kids and be willing to go at a slower pace… to give kids more time and space to talk, play, and process. In my opinion, even with all these restrictions, face to face learning would be far superior to whatever can be offered virtually, especially for young children. I was a huge fan of the AAP guidelines that were released in June and am sorry that their thoughtful recommendations became politicized. It is disappointing, though not surprising, that our country has not prioritized planning to bring children and teachers back safely, which we should have been doing since March. To me, the hierarchy of priority goes something like hospitals/medical care, the food chain, and then schools. Everything else (I’m looking at you bars, restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys, pools, children’s museums, etc.) falls below that. But alas, the connection between immediate vs. future benefits to our economy continues to be difficult for us to grasp. These are our children and they matter too, even if their voices aren’t the ones we listen to.

  • Reply Emily July 23, 2020 at 9:41 am

    I love this!! While we live in such a complicated time it sounds like this will be the best plan for your family. That peace of mind about the decision is priceless

  • Reply Lani Inlander July 25, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Jumping in here late but wanted to affirm that with the facts, I don’t see how you could make any other decision than the one you did. There is no “right” decision, only the one that is best for your family. I also wanted to correct you on something. You did not get your GME position because you were lucky, which is a term women, not men, employ. You got it because you earned it and you deserved it. P.S. Glad to see I made your bullet journal list!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 25, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      thank you Lani!!!

  • Reply VSH July 27, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    Just want you to know we just made the same decision (pull older kid from public to younger kid’s Montessori). The older one would not be able to do distance learning at home with our caregiver who doesn’t speak English and doesn’t know how to use a computer. I was able to help this past Spring, but now I’m back to a busy fellowship and not around.

    It’s expensive. I have guilt that we can afford it.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 27, 2020 at 9:13 pm

      I have the same guilt.

  • Reply Amy July 28, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    I also pulled my upcoming kindergartener from public school to go to Montessori school with her younger sister. I know it was the right choice for us. But it feels gross. I feel so disgustingly privileged to be able to make this decision. So, solidarity to you in that. Thank you for sharing your decision.

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