A COVID summer: Farmington area families brace for fall

Editor’s note: We’re checking in with Farmington area families to see how they’re coping with the COVID-19 pandemic – disrupted summer plans, keeping everyone safe, and the back-to-school decisions they face. Our hope is to share resources and ideas, and to let families affected by the pandemic know they are not alone.

With the first day of school moved to August 31, the start of the 2020-21 school year is right around the corner for Farmington Public Schools families.

The Recker family
The Recker family: Dominic, Branden, Breanna, and Kalia. (contributed)

Prepped for virtual learning

The Reckers have been doing homeschooling-type activities since the start of the COVID-19 quarantine.  Breanna and Branden have been raising their family in Farmington Hills since December of 2016. They both work as project management consultants, and have two children, Dominic, 5, and Kalia, 3.

“We have been practicing letters, counting, writing, sight words, preschool workbooks, reading, and art projects,” Branden said. “The kids have also been spending a lot of time outside playing on the swing set, riding bikes, and splashing in the sprinkler!”

With energy levels dipping low, they also finally took some time to go up north to visit family and enjoy Lake Michigan.

“This has been a very stressful time with all the unknowns of the pandemic, working remotely and ensuring our kids are safe and still learning,” Branden said. “We know how hard it has been on everyone, so we are trying to stay positive and focus on all the things that we are thankful for.”

Fall would have included a fair amount of change, with their oldest heading into kindergarten, but things look much different now.

“Normally the fall is an exciting time of football, cider mills, and new kids at school,” the couple shared. “We love our neighborhood and community. We are feeling worried about what the fall will bring, how school will work, and how people will stay healthy with the pandemic and normal seasonal illnesses.”

The Reckers said they are focusing on what is within their control and being proactive, turning their play room into a classroom, stocked with supplies to support virtual learning.

Taking a summer break

The Switlik family of Farmington took a break from schooling this summer, which has reduced stress for everyone. Patrick and Lisa’s children are 19, 17, and 13.

“Since March, my husband and I continue to work from home weekdays and do some light travel for baseball with our son,” Lisa said. “Extended family is important and frequent phone calls help keep bonds strong during a time of necessary distance.”

“Living in a community surrounded by good friends and neighbors helps us stay social and connected, even while distanced,” she added. “We remain active, running and walking our parks and streets. We love our little city!”

While they have done their best to simply enjoy the summer, the fall brings a change of focus.

“I am nervous for the school year to begin,” said Lisa. “My heart aches for my high school senior who has been looking forward to this time to be with fellow classmates, but we are trying to remain positive.”

Preparing for back-to-school has been less about supplies and schedules, and more about emotional balance.

“We’re simply trying to clear out clutter and organize a work area. Supplies have been accumulating throughout the years and are not a necessary buy,” Lisa shared. “Stress is increasing for us as parents with the thought of having to help with schoolwork, keep everyone emotionally healthy and handle our own workloads. We know there will be challenging times ahead, but being able to be home with the kids is something we are extremely grateful for.”

The Paulson family
The Paulson family: Erin, Tempie, Lincoln, and Dan (contributed)

Fighting the ‘summer setback’

Erin Paulson of Farmington Hills and her family have worked to offset the “summer setback.”

Erin, a molecular specialist, and her husband, Dan, owner of a local audio/video and smart home store, have two children: Tempie, 7, and Lincoln, 3. Tempie attends Forest Elementary,  and her teacher set up 30-minute lessons on the apps Lexia, Dreambox and Razkids, along with some fun worksheets to help keep her on track.

“For some summer fun, we have been heading out to the 150-acre Detroit Polo Club for some socially distanced entertainment, tailgates and picnics,” Erin said. “Tempie has been ‘helping’ with the horses and hanging out with the pups, and I have been able to enjoy exercise. We also did a ‘Mom and Me’ campout with tie-dying, s’mores and sleeping outside, and it was a huge mom win.”

To break up the summer, Erin’s parents have taken the kids to their lake home up north for some boating, swimming and pirate treasure hunts.

“The stay home order definitely slowed down our busy family, but I found that it actually helped my stress levels and patience,” Erin said. “Working in the hospital the last few months has been challenging to say the least, so to come home and relax has been a nice change of pace.”

Like most families, the Paulsons have had long discussions about how school may look this year, and what scenarios would be comfortable for them.

“Unfortunately, there is no easy answer about back-to-school, and what is right for one family may not be right for another. We are optimistic that with the numbers plateauing and the 3.1 percent positive rate, Tempie will be able to see her friends in school in the future.”

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