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This Working Mom Unapologetically Took Her First-Grade Son Out Of Virtual Learning And It Started A Very Important Twitter Thread

"We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well being come first."

Last week, working mom Sarah Parcak announced on Twitter that she was removing her first-grade son from the online learning that started as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

We just wrote a hard email. I told our son’s (lovely, kind, caring) teacher that, no, we will not be participating in her “virtual classroom”, and that he was done with the 1st grade. We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well being come first.

Sarah is a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a 2016 TED Prize Winner, National Geographic Explorer, 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, and author of Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past.

Don’t any of you dare offer help or resources. We both work full time, I also help run my non profit AND manage a complex project in Egypt AND am running a Covid-19 tracking platform. So, his happiness trumps crappy math worksheet management.

BuzzFeed spoke to Sarah, who said that her family stopped online schooling for her and her husband's mental health — and the happiness of their son. "It all got to be too much, and my husband and I discussed it at length," she said. "It's completely impossible, and it's 100% not OK that every single parent I know is struggling and is 100% miserable. Who of you is happy right now about this? We need to be much more honest about how this simply won't work for younger kids."

Ian Curcio

"We know we have to make sure he [her son] stays as happy as possible, and that does not mean us forcing him to learn when he knows that something is very wrong. It's been a month and kids are super perceptive. He's scared because we cannot hide that we are. We talk a lot about what's happening to him," she said. "This completely stinks for him and all kids. He is missing his friends, his routine, his classes — he loves school — and we cannot even take him to the local park. It's the biggest crisis our nation has faced since WWII. We are all living history right now. Not really a good time for subtraction worksheets, in my opinion."

Sarah said that her son's teacher was very kind and understood that she needed to do what was best for her family. "We obviously have enormous privilege to make this decision. We have jobs, a garden/yard, Wi-Fi, good books and learning materials, and our son has already been all over the world. So many families are struggling with job loss, food insecurity, illness, no internet...and school is where their children may get their only two meals of the day."

@indyfromspace This is my Kindergarteners home school curriculum. And nearly everything requires a printer, which we don’t have. We quit.

Despite not participating in online school anymore, Sarah said her son is still learning a lot. "He watches lots of archaeology documentaries and we read to him a great deal. But, also, we draw with chalk, we garden, we bake, and we watch funny zombie videos on YouTube. By being with us, he learns every day, all day long. We talk all the time about Egypt and archaeology and travel and history and how to make great snot rockets and the best sneak attack farts. Lifelong lessons, the last two. Essential knowledge," she laughed.

He reads a lot. Plays outside a lot. We read to him a lot and talk to him a lot. He gets history lessons. There is an app where he can choose books to be read to him. We watch a fun movie every night. He plays playmobile with my husband (mega imagination)

"He is also learning how to manage joy in the face of unpredictable turbulence. What a lesson. I hope he remembers. I hope he remembers that more than anything else he was loved unconditionally, radically," she said.

Help me self isolation has taken a turn

Many parents on Twitter supported Sarah's decision.

@indyfromspace If it helps, my parents = forestry contractors. Pulled us out in April/May for most of grade school (to work camps in northern BC, where we entertained ourselves). Neither of our parents had uni. Didn't hurt us. 3 brothers: 2 PhDs, other an award-winning sci writer/illustrator.

@indyfromspace My mother used to work for a school that was 100% online. She had the most trouble with the young kids who didn't have an adult available to help them with their lessons. Doing what is right for your kid is more important.

And other parents started shedding light on the realities of online schooling.

@LauraMiers @indyfromspace You're so right. My daughter is a HS teacher in rual TX. Her students are in a culinary voc prgm, yet many don't have internet access due to location and high cost of services. Another issue is access to supplies needed to participate in their culinary classes from home.

@TheWrongQuest @indyfromspace The big problem is the inability to recognize that a few months twiddling around and doing whatever they want/need in the situation isn’t going to hurt kids academically. Also the inability to recognize how much learning happens through play.

Sarah said unconditional love is the only thing that matters right now. "My god, who gets this much time with their families?" she said. "Love them, hug them, tell them all the time how wonderful they are, and how lucky you feel to be their parents. Let what is happening on the front lines of this crisis be a lesson — so many of those patients do not even have time to say goodbye to their children, parents, grandchildren, families, friends."

Sarah is treating every day like it is her last day with her family to honor the tens of thousands of people who have died of COVID-19 across this globe who could not. "Tell your children every day how much they mean to you. Worksheets? Book reports? Algebra? None of that will hold your hand on your deathbed. Give yourself the grace and space to love your children."

PS You do what’s right for your family and mental health. Obviously kids 10+ can cope better with independent work (sometimes). The littles cannot. What in the actual fuck is he missing? Like, he knows more history already than most adults. JFC.

"I can't tell you what choice to make about school — that's so intensely personal," Sarah said. "But I feel very qualified to say — as someone who studies the past — love is the only thing that lasts and matters. Find your way to loving yourself and your children. Someday, they'll pay that love forward, and that's a lesson that no school can teach, online or off."

I give you permission to Let It All Go. It doesn’t fucking matter. School doesn’t fucking matter right now. All your kids will remember is how they were loved. Promise.