Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Make Decisions about Going Back to School

I have a psychology degree and I spent a decent amount of time studying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (and sat through an hour long senior thesis class where one student said “self ejaculation” instead of “self actualization” every single time and I kept a straight face and if that doesn’t make me an expert, nothing does.)

Basically Maslow is saying that until your most basic needs are met, you can’t move on to meeting your next level needs. So if you need food, water, shelter, etc., you aren’t worrying about making friends or gaining skills or becoming a fulfilled person.

Needs start at the bottom and you move up as they are met.

Your very bottom needs are physiological- the things you need to survive the week basically. Next are safety needs. Then you start to get into the more abstract needs, like friendship, feeling like you belong in your community, that sort of thing.

For some children, school is important to their basic needs. They are getting food, warmth, or safety from school. For other children, their basic needs aren’t coming directly from school, but more indirectly. For example, if they aren’t in school during the day, their adults can’t work and therefore can’t provide for their basic needs. So school may be providing for their basic needs just by being a place for them to be for the day.

For a lot of children, school functions primarily in the upper levels of the hierarchy of needs. They are getting socialization, learning, accomplishments- all the things school ought to be providing in an ideal world. (Because in a perfect world, we wouldn’t NEED school to provide the basic needs I talked about in the last paragraph, but in the real world, school does.)

In making the decision whether to send your kids back to an in person classroom, you need to evaluate what needs they are getting from school. Safety- which means not being exposed to a deadly global pandemic or spreading it to others- is very low on the hierarchy of needs. Socialization is above it. And believe me, I feel you. Elizabeth is suffering from this pandemic. She cries a lot, she’s miserable, she’s having a very hard time. But her safety, and the safety of our family and community, outrank those needs. Unless I felt that her safety was being threatened by keeping her home from school, it would be irresponsible to send her to school because doing so threatens her physical safety and that of those in our family and community.

Obviously there are dozens of different factors going into school decisions and nothing is ever this simple. But I have seen so many parents talking about their kids needing socialization and how they just need some time to themselves and everyone is miserable at home all the time. Yes. All of this is true. But we aren’t picking from good choices. We are choosing from a pile of a bunch of choices that really, really suck.

Keeping my kids home (and I am still waiting on options from their school- I’m really hoping that school at home is an option) is both important for them- because their need for safety outranks other needs- but it’s also important for the kids who need school because it provides more of their basic needs. If my kids aren’t there, there is more room for other kids to be there and to be safer being there. There’s less exposure for the teachers and staff who have to be there to provide for the needs of the students who get their basic needs from school.

And as a society, let’s work on getting better so that this wouldn’t have to be an option. We wouldn’t have to open schools because there would be safe and healthy options for kids other places.

Quarantine Bullet Points

  • Well. This is something, isn’t it?
  • I am really glad we moved before this all happened.
  • But I wish we’d moved a lot longer before this all happened. (We got into our new house about a week before everything shut down.) There are still boxes and work and organizing that needs to be done here and that makes me unsettled. I don’t need anything else unsettling.
  • I’ve been making masks for family and friends which means my neck and shoulders and back always hurt.
  • I’m pretty much out of fabric that’s big enough.
  • Ryan loves sheltering in place. He could do this forever.
  • Elizabeth needs to see some other people soon because she’s losing it.
  • Elizabeth is also not sleeping. She’s been up past midnight every night.
  • Alex is fine with all this, her life has barely changed.
  • Matt has to go to work sometimes but he’s doing all the calls and computer parts of his job from home.
  • I’m really enjoying the lazy mornings and not getting out of bed immediately parts of this.
  • I’m not enjoying the constant worry about everyone I know dying.
  • Will this be the first time I actually finish setting up a house, putting everything away, and hanging all the pictures before anyone sees it? (Not at the rate I am going, but we will see.)
  • I highly dislike the unknown. I like having a plan.

How are all of you? I have definitely been worrying about all of you.

Room Sharing

Alex suddenly stopped sucking her thumb a few months ago. She’s sucked her thumb since she was born but only when she was falling asleep or when she was upset about something. Her dentist said he couldn’t even tell she sucked her thumb by looking at her mouth so as far as I was concerned, she could continue forever.

Well, she got a cut on her thumb and then another a few weeks later and apparently that was it. She was done. Which would have been a great way to stop a habit, right? Except that she also stopped sleeping.

Suddenly she was taking two or three hours to fall asleep every night and she was waking up repeatedly during the night. She wasn’t usually just lying there quietly either. She was spending these hours screaming and crying.

Eventually I moved her to the tiny bed in my room and just let her sleep with me. This helped immensely except that my alarm in the morning woke her up. I started putting her to bed an hour earlier to compensate for the fact that she was getting up an hour earlier than she used to. All of this finally got her back to the base level of behavior that we were used to. (Squish is never particularly calm because she doesn’t have that kind of personality but at least she was only yelling at us some of the time again instead of all of them time like she was when she was over tired.)

So now she sleeps in my room. We’ve adapted to each other enough that it’s working. (She no longer wakes up yelling for me to turn the lights on in the middle of the night any more, for example.) She wakes up earlier than I do on the weekends and stays quiet enough for another hour or so.

She also really, really likes sleeping in my room. When she’s awake and I’m in the room with her, she just lies there and grins happily at me. Whenever I get out of bed, she runs around to my side of the bed and arranges my slippers for me. She also whispers “night night, Mama!” in her happiest little voice. It’s not the worst.

Little Good Things

It was a rough night here (children) so I’m going to share some good things.

  • Matt sent me sushi and stir fried udon from my favorite restaurant (he’s at work) because he felt that I needed a treat.
  • Ryan leaves me notes by my bed almost every night. They usually say “I Luv Mom Luv Ryan” and such things. Tonight I got five hearts that he cut out, colored, and stapled into a book.
  • The second heart in my book was colored with crayon, not marker, because “I had to make it blue and robin’s egg blue is the best blue.”
  • He used the scented markers for all the other hearts because obviously those are the best.
  • My baby nieces are coming to visit in two weeks.
  • I finally got the house cleaned up again after fighting it for five days after getting off schedule.
  • We got Christmas pictures taken of the kids already and in the sneak peeks I’ve seen so far, they look like they are going to be great.
  • I went to bed early tonight and 2/3rds of the children fell asleep without a fuss tonight.
Heart book by Ryan