Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Just like every other home in America, we have suddenly become a one-room schoolhouse. Let me be clear. I have never had a desire to be a teacher, let alone to my own children, but here we are. After a week of spring break and a week of winging it, we started our new distance learning programs and it went down pretty much how I feared it might.
My three kids begrudgingly got up with an alarm and then agreed to at least put on shirts, but no way were they going to wear real pants. Homeschool is for pajamas. Even though they have been getting up at 6:30am all school year, the idea that we are presentable in our own homes by 8am is an unrealistic goal. I then educated them on how to be professional up top, while being comfy on the bottom half. We looked to their dad for an A+ example. He’s been sporting button-downs paired with camo cargo-shorts for days now.
Remember three weeks ago when we cared about things like screen time limits and we didn’t want our kids to have their own devices? That’s over now. Unless I want to make the school day 3x as long with everyone sharing one device, each of you is getting your own electronic! What this looked like in our household was one 1st grader getting the “good iPad,” the other one getting the “old iPad” that by the grace of God still somehow managed to run each of the 63 apps we now “need” to make this school thing work, and the 4th grader got a new Chromebook. Bless Amazon for still delivering. Up until last Saturday, I could not have told you the difference between a Chromebook and a regular laptop, but now that I have gotten my crash course in IT Support for virtual school, let me tell you, if you want Zoom to work, you better download that from the Google Play Store or you are going to get some error BS about unsupported extensions. You’re welcome. I still can’t make the gallery view work for the whole class, but you can’t have everything.
At 8am, I got all three kids logged into Zoom for their various morning meetings with their teachers. The whole scene looked like one of those open-concept office plans gone terribly wrong with people talking too loud and other people way too close to their cameras. I also cried a little bit seeing their teachers and wishing we could really be doing school. I couldn’t listen to all of the meetings, but apparently they were instructed several times to “check with your mom” to be sure they had what they needed. No one asked me what I needed, but this wasn’t it.
Once the meetings were over, I mistakenly thought I could get each kid working independently for at least 10 minutes, so I could check my own email. How optimistic of me. The seven-year-old twins, who are in different classes, but have the same assignments, cried out in unison “I don’t get it!” As I was attempting to log them in for music class with one of the 189 passwords I have been emailed in the last two days, apps started crashing. The 4th grader accidentally ditched her live Spanish class because she was figuring out how to use her new drawing tools to try and represent the number 100 in 10 different ways. Ten years old and on day one of homeschool I have turned her into a delinquent. She also couldn’t watch the video on the book they were supposed to read because it wasn’t approved on YouTube Kids and her new Google Family Link blocked it, you know, for her own protection.
I looked at the clock, it was 8:45am.
It was at this point, the girl twin looked at me deadpan and said, “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Cold.
No, child. I don’t. None of us do and you know what, we’re going to be okay. If anything, this pandemic and the orders to stay home to keep others safe have been a huge perspective shift for all of us. It turns out that all of the schedules, plans and expectations we had don’t matter in the face of basic health and safety. While so much of this new way of life can be incredibly frustrating, I am also finding myself deeply grateful. We have the resources and the flexibility to get our kids up and running with the virtual school schedule that our amazing teachers and administrators invented in a matter of days. We have technology that allows us to stay connected, even when we are physically staying apart. I am also keenly aware that schooling may not happen in some homes due to limitations with access to the internet, dual working parents, and a million other obstacles that make this whole affair more challenging for some.
With any luck, in a few years, our kids will look back on this moment in time and remember parents who loved them enough to try their best to keep them learning. They’ll recall video conferencing with their friends and homework that included scavenger hunts. It will be a time when school meant daily meals with their families and countless bike rides. It’s going to be imperfect and messy and we’re going to do it anyway because that is part of the lesson too.
Whatever you are doing, it is enough.