“My husband has lived in Ann Arbor for more than 20 years, and I’ve been here for nearly 14 years – this is our community. We have three kids: in first, fourth and sixth grade.”

“I’ve always been super active in the public schools, from PTO to room mom, all that sort of stuff. We’ve always been pleased with the schools. Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed. Kids in our district have not been inside the classroom since March 2020. An entire year.”

“Other districts have started to go back. Livingston County has been face-to-face since the beginning of September, for example. We’ve started to feel that Ann Arbor has put our community in a position where it’s really starting to hurt families, by being closed for this long.”

“We decided to opt out. When decisions were being made last summer, and after our spring experience, we decided this was not going to work for us. Virtual wasn’t serving our children well. It’s a really tough system, most parents say it has been a really tough go.

“It has also never improved as time went on. I felt like the communication during the summer with families was vague and open-ended. We felt very removed in the process and from having our needs met.”

“I didn’t think the district has been supportive of families and their input, and that was the last straw for me. We’re still rallying to open the schools, and they’re planning to begin phasing back in starting April, but we won’t participate in that because it’s just too uncertain and too restricted. That’s just not the environment my kids would thrive in.”

“I grew up going to public school. Public schools were all we knew as a family. We had to grieve this loss of everything that we knew: friendships, the trust in our school, the safety.”

“My kids specifically asked me to not put them in virtual school. I was really struggling with what direction this was going to take, so we made our decision in July to pull them from the district and to homeschool instead.

“It was a really scary decision to make, because I had never considered homeschooling before. I had a business where I do artwork and woodworking, and it was thriving. I have a passion for that, but I knew I couldn’t do both. Homeschooling felt like a foreign idea to me. But what I have realized is how empowering this has actually been, for myself as a mother.”

“I dug in my heels and said, this is what we’re doing and we’re going to make it work. I spent July and August researching curriculum, networking, reading books and talking it up to the kids. Then we dove right in. Here we are, seven months in, and we’re doing great.”

“We will probably continue homeschooling for the next year at least, but we may even continue to keep homeschooling after that. We’ve discovered the freedom to step away and have felt empowered by taking back control of our children’s education.”

“We know are very fortunate that we can homeschool. At the same time, we’re grieving for what the community has lost. A lot of families don’t have that option or don’t feel like they can take that on. There’s a big toll on mental health with kids enrolled in the district. The parents we speak with say they’re kids are acting poorly, they’re disengaged, they’re always in front of the screen. Parents are frustrated… those that have kids with an IEP are saying ‘I need help, I don’t know how to help my child.’”

“Ann Arbor has a very strong union, that’s common knowledge. Back in July, they released a letter proposing what it would take for them to go back and it was an unattainable caseload. Our community’s kids have been struggling and they were just not having their needs met by the district.”

“There’s been a big push by a political action committee, A2 Reasonable Return, an organization of doctors and parents that I have been taking part in. They have physicians and they have community members that are speaking out and saying, ‘let’s listen to the science, let’s get these schools open,’ but our Board of Education does not want to hear it. They don’t want to engage in that conversation with our community doctors, who are also parents. The science says we can open safely without a vaccine necessarily, but our teachers and our board are saying ‘no, we can’t.’”

“Many parents are feeling lost and that’s a big problem. Parents need to feel empowered, and we’ve discovered that possibility through homeschooling.”

Pamela Stom
Ann Arbor, MI