HE SAYS: Let’s do online school again
"Our kids were home this entire school year with online schooling, and I think we should continue this next year with a certified online state program. The flexibility was great."
SHE SAYS: The kids need to get back to normal
"Our kids need to go back to in-person schooling. They need socialization with other kids and a real teacher in a traditional classroom. We had no choice last year, but now we do."
WHAT DO THEY DO?
As catastrophic as the pandemic has been, it has also elicited some unexpected benefits. Families previously separated by long workdays, commutes and overbooked social calendars were suddenly forced to shelter in place for months on end. For many, this has not been easy. But some found not only a new cohesion, but also positive experiences with online schooling.
For all such parents of students, the thawing of the COVID-19 winter is a fitting moment to reevaluate whether to return to former, traditional school setups.
For starters, apply the right values. Fundamentally, we are not only social beings, made to relate with and learn from others, but also incarnate beings, made to connect best with others through in-person contact. All of our intermediate forms of communication, ranging from the age-old written letter to the most modern means of teleconferencing, are, at best, second best.
To be clear: This doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means we should always view them as aids to, and never as replacements for, being physically present to and with one another. This is why throughout the pandemic we could never be said to actually “attend” a Mass virtually; we could only observe it “remotely.”
St. John the Evangelist intuited this value at the conclusion of his second epistle. However much he expected its recipients would appreciate what he was writing, he also knew that being with them physically was more valuable: “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face so that our joy may be complete.” (2 Jn 1:12)
What’s the solution? There are no universally right answers. The types and amounts of educational technologies that might be best for one family – or even for one child in the same family – might not be best for another.
So, while keeping in mind that it is ideal for your children to learn through in-person, face-to-face interactions – whether with you at home or at school with a teacher – ask yourselves, without an undue concern for your own convenience, what would be optimal for the fully human education of each of your children.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento