Metro Detroit native Karen Gold Stillman has decided it’s time to speak up and put her own personal stake in the ground regarding plans for schools this fall.

I’ve been (mainly) sitting on the sidelines watching the rhetoric about plans for school this fall unfold, and have decided it’s time to speak up and put my own personal stake in the ground.

I urge parents to consider an attitude change on this topic and seize the opportunity to be a role model for our children in this incredible teaching moment— rather than spinning in constant negativity, frustration and opposition.

Karen Stillman
Karen Stillman

I believe the leaders of our schools and districts are doing their best to consider the safety of all in their decisions amidst ever-changing guidance from the Board of Education, Centers for Disease Control and other expert sources. There is no great option right now — not for families, students, teachers or administrators. Personally, I’m relieved my district (in Illinois, where I live) has made the decision to start the year with fully remote learning out of an abundance of caution for everyone’s well-being.

I am frankly disturbed and disappointed by the outcry of parents — who live in affluent areas, not low-income communities — who claim their kids are going to be so heavily disadvantaged by not attending school in person this fall and who are ranting and lobbying to get their kids back in the classroom full time.  Of course, that is what we all want — when it can be done safely.  I ask you to consider these points:

  • In other generations, parents sent their teenage students off to war. Many were killed; many came home wounded or traumatized. In comparison, being asked to attend school via virtual instruction hardly seems like a hardship.
  • What if, instead of worrying about the lack of social and peer interaction and missed school activities (or even a weaker academic experience), you took this moment to teach your children the important life lessons of resilience, positivity and development of new skills that include self-initiative, self-organization, adaptability and the emotional growth that comes from controlling one’s own ability to see a “disappointing reality” through a different lens?
  • It may not be the exact education you were hoping for this fall, but it’s one that will certainly build any child’s skills to be successful in college and in life — and something that simply can’t be taught in a classroom.  Yes, that takes some hands-on time and dedication from us as parents; but that’s what parenting is — it’s modeling positive behaviors for our kids and teaching them how to face and navigate life’s challenges. It’s exactly what we should always be teaching them “outside the classroom.”
  • I would like to see parents not only focus on this teaching moment for their kids but to further model this resilient behavior themselves by redirecting their own energies to helping to make the e-learning/remote school reality the best it can be for our students and communities. There is so much power in what these parents can do if they use their influence, creativity and commitment to developing innovative ways to make this experience the best it can be for all involved, instead of fighting against it. Their kids will all learn a thing or two watching them turn lemons into lemonades by being a part of the solution vs. the opposition.

I speak from personal experience, and as a single mom who has to juggle a demanding career with providing full-time childcare and housekeeping during this pandemic. I also have a kid on a 504 plan, so I’m sensitive to the needs of students who especially struggle with the challenges of e-learning.

My kids are weathering this pandemic beautifully and making lemonade out of lemons at every turn. They missed having a bat mitzvah, going to Israel, seeing their family and friends, participating in theater and a summer full of camp fun — just like so many others have missed out on many experiences these past few months.  But they haven’t whined about it for one moment. Not one.

Instead, they’ve acquired new skills and hobbies — tie-dying at home, learning to help with household chores, visiting faraway places virtually, learning how to play card games and coming up with creative crafts projects, even launching a new “business” selling things on Instagram.

I hope this can be a lesson for all of us, parents and children, to use this time to deepen our character and fortitude by accepting what the year ahead will bring and finding ways to see the silver lining.

Our kids have all had it relatively easy, growing up in loving homes with many wonderful privileges and trimmings. If missing a year of in-person instruction is the worst thing they have to deal with, I consider them pretty damn lucky.

If we don’t teach our kids how to deal with this level of adversity, how will they ever face the inevitable challenges they are bound to confront in their lifetime journey?

We cannot make everything perfect for them, but we can teach them how to make the best of every situation.

Metro Detroit native Karen Gold Stillman is a single mom living in Skokie, Illinois with her two children.


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  1. Wow. This is quite the privileged piece. I’m glad her kiddos are weathering the storm well, but she should shy away from grandiose statements. Yes, it’s dangerous for many public schools to open but who is she to judge others? The focus should be on facing the pandemic on a national level, not on filling the hole with a bucket.

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