An Open Letter to the Florida Department of Education

Today was our first day of virtual/distance learning. I cried for 30 minutes, all before 10 a.m. I thought there would be “instruction” from our child’s teacher, but I’m learning, that may not be the case.

New concepts will be taught in short video clips from the Internet or other teaching sources, and the bulk of instruction will be coming from parents. You know, in our free time.

Those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs and work remotely, are now supposed to navigate shouldering an abbreviated school day of six hours with our child, while working, while trying to keep our family safe, in a pandemic.

I can’t help but think of parents who are fighting on the front lines, working 12 hours a day to keep the rest of us safe. I’m thinking about the families who have a family member battling cancer or another hard health diagnosis. I’m thinking about the children whose family environments are less safe than the school environment. What about families with multiple children? What about families with children who have special needs, IEPs, 504s and learning disabilities?

After 10 minutes of a google class meet up so my daughter could see all her little friends, I looked at the amount of school work in our virtual classroom and broke down in tears. How are we supposed to do distance learning with a child who has special needs, a paraprofessional, three therapists at school, and every accommodation available in a school setting on her IEP? No matter each family’s unique situation, families are not set up to add another two full time jobs to our responsibilities.

I know that our county school district is just doing what they are required to do from the Florida Department of Education, which I’m sure is getting their recommendations from the Education Department for our country. Did anyone think that maybe a parent’s goals are a lot different than a school’s goals for their child when navigating a GLOBAL pandemic?

My goals are to stay home and healthy. My child, who like many in our world has a compromised immune system, she cannot get sick during this outbreak. We cannot find ourselves in a hospital trying to receive help through an illness. Not to mention that if she were to be exposed to the coronavirus and get sick, it’s possible she might be deemed “not worth saving” since she has disabilities.

This is all too much. It’s too much for everyone. Please don’t add teaching our kids to a laundry list of new requirements every single family now has. It causes undue stress on parents, children and life. We have enough stress that’s been added to our life.

Can the Department of Education realize that:

  1. I didn’t go to school to teach.
  2. My child’s teacher didn’t go to school to run a virtual classroom or learn what’s appropriate for online instruction during a pandemic.
  3. The learning environment is no longer cohesive or structured.
  4. Parents are working from home, trying to keep their current jobs, or find a new job.
  5. Children who are already struggling will find themselves frustrated, lagging behind even more.
  6. There is no reason to add additional anxiety and stress to parents and children during a time of uncertainty.
  7. As parents, we need to provide security and love.
  8. Life lessons are also important, maybe even more so now than meeting educational milestones.
  9. Realize that everyone’s best effort will look much different than in a structured classroom environment.
  10. Hitting the pause button on education for a moment in time is OK.
  11. Allowing our families to use this time to slow down, reconnect, have dinner together, plant a garden, pick flowers, go for a walk, watch movies, make cupcakes or stare at the sky, instead of rushing to complete assignments is important too.
  12. Adding stress to an already impossible situation is not helpful.

I’m sure some families can handle distance learning better than others, but the point of the public school system is to provide a predictable environment for learning.

According to the Department of Education’s website, “ED’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Right now across our nation, equal access to learning is not happening. Virginia has shut down school for the remainder of the year, Pennsylvania is closed indefinitely. Each state has their own new standards of how to teach: PBS stations in Los Angeles, distance learning, zoom calls, or putting the burden on parents. One thing’s for sure and that is nothing is consistent or equal when it comes to education right now.

Equal access for kids with IEPs, learning accommodations and 504s are not being met. Access can’t be considered equal when the education is falling on families with different home environments, work obligations and access. Yes schools can help bridge those gaps virtually, but they fall short and the gaps remain, crossing county and state lines throughout our nation.

I am imploring the Florida Department of Education, and I guess in a larger sense, the Education Department for our nation to please consider stopping school for the remainder of the school year so we can resume when the health of the people in our nation is no longer in jeopardy. Please allow families to focus on what’s really the most important thing: staying safe and loving one another.

Sincerely,

An essential, full-time, working from home business-owner with employees, that is a mom to a special needs child, who’s also a wife to a husband who owns a business that is also considered essential, and who would also like to keep all his employees, and together we would like our family to remain somewhat sane in our planet’s current and shared environment.

Coronavirus + Faith

I am not an overly anxious person. I do tend to worry, but I’m not prone to anxiety attacks or being paralyzed by fear.

However, this coronavirus has made me freak out a little bit. So I am turning to God’s word to help guide my thoughts and actions.

I started in Philippians 4:6-7 and it states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Ok, let’s unpack that. Don’t be anxious about anything. Don’t be afraid, apprehensive, concerned, distressed, fearful, nervous, scared or uptight about anything. I am definitely guilty of being anxious when I look at all the synonyms for it.

I learned a long time ago, I can’t control everything. Honestly I can’t control very much at all. I’ve learned to let go of A LOT in my own life, personal and business alike. But, I’ve also never been faced by a global pandemic. Should this change what I’ve learned up to this point? Should the facts of coronavirus impact or lessen my faith? No.

But, if I shouldn’t be anxious or think about all of the reports on what coronavirus is doing to our nation, what am I supposed to think about?

Paul continues in Philippians in verse 8 and says, “Finally, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Easier said than done right? I decided to think about what is actually lovely, and not just things like the ocean or pretty flowers, what does God say is lovely? What has God done? What has God told us about what HE thinks of us? If the media is filing our feed and our minds with pandemic, and I agree that’s what we have on our hands, how can I combat the fear? The only thing I know is capable of combating fear is God’s word, and here’s what it says.

Jeremiah 29:11 God knows the plans he has for us, plans to prosper and not harm us, plan to give us a hope and a future.

Psalm 119: 89-92 God’s word is eternal, it stands firm in the Heavens. This set of verses reminds me that no matter what, God lasts, his word lasts and coronavirus can not overtake what is true.

Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus talks about how God takes care of even the sparrows and we are more valuable than them! So do not fear.

Joshua 1:9 My man Joshua is a total gangster. If you have not read Joshua go read it. God commands him over and over to be strong and courageous. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” If the coronavirus comes to my house, I will not be afraid, discouraged or anxious because The Lord is with me wherever I go.

Can you imagine if we all took this mindset? Yes, adhere to the CDC guidelines, stay home, practice social distancing, but do not be afraid or discouraged. It’s easy to become afraid and discouraged as soon as you open up the news app on your phone, or turn on the TV or look online. Yes this virus is very real, but like Paul said in Philippians, think about whatever is lovely, admirable and noble. Where do I find these thoughts? In God’s word, and his word is eternal, it has stood the test of time.

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” I’m seeing a theme here.

Romans 8:38-39 Nothing can separate us from God. Add coronavirus to this set of verses and stand confident.

John 3:16 I’m certain we all know this verse, Tim Tebow also made it pretty famous.

If you are struggling through this worldwide pandemic, know that God loves you and finds you extremely valuable.

Genesis 1:27 God created you in his image.

Psalm 139:13-16 God knit you together. Now THAT is a lovely thought. He knows all your days before even one came to be. Honestly all of Psalm 139 is lovely, you should read it. It is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and you should think about such things. It says God’s thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand. Wow.

John 14:18 God will not leave us as orphans, he will come to us. It’s in times like this that further solidifies my knowledge that we can count on God; He is the only one who can save us, rescue us and comfort us.

John 10:29 Nothing can snatch us out of God’s hands. Not even the coronavirus.

Philippians 1:21 But, if the coronavirus does come to our house, if someone I love does succumb to it, this verse epitomizes the Christian life. To live is Christ, and to die is gain. For those of us who know Jesus, death means eternal life in Heaven, and there’s no greater gain than that.

I know this blog is like a sermon, but the other day I needed to remind myself of what is true and I wrote all of these things down as a reminder. Maybe you or someone you know needs a reminder like I did.

I heard the other day that the word remember is in the Bible more than the word trust. So I looked it up, remember is mentioned 231 times and trust is mentioned 170. And I think that’s because when we remember what God has already done, who he’s proven himself to be, in times of war, in times of famine, in times of uncertainty…if we remember, how he’s rescued those who follow and trust in him then we can know he will do the same for us. We can trust God, and trusting God is part of the building blocks of faith.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I can see the news of coronavirus, but this virus is temporary, it is not eternal.

So what now?

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord guys. Don’t lean on your own understanding.

Take this time of social distancing and lean into the one who can give you peace that surpasses your anxiety, your fear, your understanding. Rely on the one who has proven that He is reliable and trustworthy. God has been there for every generation, and He’s here for ours too. Lean into Him.