Lioness with cub
Jessica Gatewood

I grew up with a mom who was a true lioness. She would march up to the school and advocate for my brothers and me. I am forever grateful that she stood up for us and helped us thrive academically. I am determined to do the same thing for my children, but I am flying blind. It’s been a hard year and homeschooling was no easy task last spring while my husband and I were working from home. We now feel our children are behind academically. The school districts in Missouri were clearly not prepared to deliver sustained virtual learning. School districts have had all summer to get their act together and they haven’t. 

The lioness mom in me is concerned. I haven’t heard anything about professional development over the summer preparing teachers to effectively teach virtually on a new online platform. I don’t know if the teachers will bring the same level of care and passion when teaching virtually. And I don’t know how my kids will handle full-time virtual learning.

I also can’t ignore that, to the school, my children represent funding; there is an incentive for the district to keep them enrolled in our school. The district provided no information about the proven virtual alternatives available via the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP). If I wanted to enroll in something like K12.com, which was “designed as an alternative to traditional ‘brick and mortar’ education for public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade,” I would need my school district’s permission and would have needed to start the process weeks ago. Many schools are just now announcing their plans for fall 2020, which leaves parents with little time to react and explore alternatives. On July 29 we learned the district will now be going all virtual for at least the first nine weeks.

I am very concerned about my kids falling further behind typical grade-level expectations and forever playing catch up if I simply go with the flow. I realize that teaching my kids is no small task, and as their parent I am responsible for ensuring they get what they need. For my fourth-grade son, we plan to join a few families with fourth graders and create a micro-school. The district’s virtual learning program will be facilitated by one of the moms and we will include some other programming. For my sixth-grade daughter, we are going to do both virtual education with our school district and hire a tutor. If and when in-person learning is possible at our school, she will return to the in-classroom format, which we believe is best for her learning needs.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for parents to direct the education of their children and take responsibility to ensure they have every opportunity to academically thrive. Many will figure out a way to make something work this year because most parents are tireless when it comes to figuring out what’s best for their children. But it didn’t need to be this difficult. I don’t think parents will forget—or forgive—what they had to endure this year because of the failings of the education establishment in Missouri.

 

About the Author

Jessica
Jessica Gatewood
Director of Development

Jessica Gatewood joined the Show-Me Institute as Director of Development in July 2016. She previously served as Director of Development and Director of Corporate Relations at Lindenwood University.