“Put the hammer down” I heard my wife yell at our 8 and 10-year-olds. That’s how our 1st week of school closures/homeschooling started.
I wrote last week about how our family was looking at how to survive (dare I may have even thought thrive) during the school closures and our attempt at homeschooling. (https://theordinarymom.com/81nl)
So much has changed in the last week. As I write this I am so grateful that no one I know has gotten the coronavirus but, like everything that is happening now, that could change at any time. I’m so heartbroken for all of those families who are dealing with having it and/or death because of it. Thank you to all of the health care professionals who are leaving their families every day to help those in need. We are all grateful! Right now our whole state of California is on “shelter at home” and other states are following.
We have been trying to support our local businesses that are still open, mainly it’s just restaurants for take out. Sadly, a lot of restaurants have closed this week but we have started doing deliveries from local farms. This is something we already decided we’ll continue to do once this is over to support our local farmers. I have relatives who are ranchers and farmers and I know how hard they work so thank you to all of the ranchers and farmers for all you to do to feed the rest of us.
Week 1 of school closures and homeschooling is now under our belt and we survived. Trying to maintain a normal work schedule and having kids around 24/7 is somewhat unrealistic but we did our best. I love kids but they are inherently loud and needy. They are loud when they talk, when they walk, when they come into your office and they try to whisper when you are on a work call or video conference and they are certainly loud when they fight. Our girls were definitely loud when they were beating the poor toy electronic dog with the hammer and laughing like maniacs.
The hammer incident occurred because the girls wanted to play with a toy electronic dog that needed new batteries but when they went into the garage to find new batteries, they saw a hammer. They decided it would be more fun to destroy the dog with a hammer than fix it with batteries. Hence the, “Put the hammer down!” on the first day.
Both of us parents were actually busy last week working (from home, of course) and we had 3 kids (did I mention loud?) in the house with no school to send them to. . Bless you to every teacher who has taken our kids while we worked and actually taught them something. I admit that our original schedule may have been a bit rigid. Our friend, Randy, who is always direct, pointed out, “I didn’t see that you scheduled a time for them to poop”. We readjusted the schedule for next week (see below) but I’m sure by week 3 or 4, we’ll have been worn down and the schedule will just say “9-5 screen time”. For now, we continue to be somewhat optimistic that our kids can be independent, creative and learn something.
My learnings for the first week of school closures were different for each kid.
Our 13-year-old, Jackson, is very independent and self-motivated (when he wants to be) and followed the schedule well with a few tweaks– sleeping in later, exercising in larger chunks, reading more and doing more mindfulness. He spent his creative time working on a screenplay. If I were the type of homeschool teacher to give grades, I’d give him an A and us an A- for making a schedule that worked well for him. He’s an easygoing, independent kid but we realize we’d better check in more and carve out time to do 1 on 1 time with him so he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle during this time with having 2 younger and needier siblings.
Our 10-year-old, Lucy, did a great job of being mostly independent and spent a lot of time doing creative things– she made tons of rainbow loom animals and fuse bead designs. The problem with Lucy was that it’s hard for her to “just be” so she took the schedule very seriously and was freaking out over being off schedule. On the first day, she missed the first exercise break because she ran over on her educational time and so she was already distraught when she ran into my office at 12:05 screaming, “We are late for lunch!”. We had to work with her throughout the week to let her know that the schedule was a guide to give them some structure but she didn’t need to freak out if she wasn’t exactly on schedule or if something didn’t happen one day. I’d give Lucy an A but us a B- for not realizing that she was going to take the schedule so literally.
Our 8-year-old, Ellie, tried her best but I can now say that we were expecting too much from her. I was expecting them all to be totally independent during our workday and that’s just too hard for an 8-year-old. Sometimes, I’d check on her and she’d be watching one of her favorite shows, Garfield, and she’d say, “I’m just taking a short break”. I’d check on her 30 minutes later and Garfield was still on (“I’m just finishing up this one show”). When on Friday morning, I caught her at the breakfast table watching Garfield on the computer, we realized that both parents need to take breaks during the day to do something with her like help her with her educational time, play a board game or have her join us as we walk the dog. She is only 8 and we can’t expect her to be totally independent and we need to remember that, although we are trying our best to work during this time, Ellie needs more parental support and attention than the other two right now. I’d give her an A (see, I’m such a sucker as a teacher– all my students are brilliant– no grading on curves for me) but I’d give us a C for not realizing that she was going to need more support.
Working at home with kids there all the time has been a challenge. One day the girls interrupted a video conference 3 times. As I hope all parents are doing during this time, I didn’t apologize but told the person on the other end (who doesn’t have kids) that we parents are doing the best that we can with the schools being closed. I used to stress out when the kids were home from school and they would walk in when I was having a work call or video conference. No more stress. No more apologizing. I’m not going to be shamed about being a working parent and having child care issues and I kind of want a medal for just getting through this.
As the first week of school closures/homeschooling has come to a close, here are some thoughts and memories (both good and bad):
- The girls played “mostly” nicely together doing fuse beads during creative time.
- Fuse beads require an iron so during the first couple of days, the girls would yell, “Iron!” and want a parent to come immediately to iron their creations. On the third day, I got them to yell, “Iron, please!” and wait 5 minutes before yelling again. On Friday, I taught them how to use the iron themselves and just hoped for the best. This homeschool teaches life skills.
- We had a Virtual Cocktail Party with friends early in the week that lifted our spirits and that inspired us to try to do that with other groups. After the first one, my wife said, “That was a great idea although I might need some without you”. I guess we are practicing a little social distancing in our own house.
- It wasn’t all roses but we spent time quality together as a family and played fun games like Clue and chess. I also liked that we met up for lunch every day.
- There was still yelling and fighting but I think the positive to negative ratio went up (Yep- this homeschool teacher is talking about ratios. Hope I said it correctly).
- There was a post on our neighborhood Facebook group to color shamrocks and put them on our windows for St. Patrick’s Day. Kids could then walk around the neighborhood counting shamrocks. We participated and it made us (or maybe just me and my Irish self) feel festive.
- We ordered a mini-trampoline and everyone loves jumping on it. I even gave the kids some extra screen time if they would jump as they watched.
- We canceled the housekeepers this week (but still paid them) and made our kids help clean the house. I mean a real deep clean like cleaning toilets, emptying out the trash and vacuuming. It was eye-opening for them to know the house doesn’t just magically get cleaned.
- Speaking of cleaning, we instituted daily 15-minute cleaning breaks where everyone has to participate. It did wonders of keeping the house not a pigsty.
- I noticed that each day I was in my pajamas a little later and on Friday I didn’t change out of them until 11am. The new normal, I guess.
- The dog loves that we are around all of the time and he doesn’t know why he’s getting so many walks around the neighborhood but he’s good with it
- I started stress eating chocolate on Friday afternoon and my friend, Liz, said, “Put on your shoes and walk around the block”. Great advice.
- I’ve now stopped reading social media and news by 9pm so I can sleep better.
- I have always been supportive of teachers– my job is in education but I’ve never been a teacher. I hope that we finally prioritize the importance of teachers as a nation and raise their pay A LOT and their status to be similar to doctors. Teachers are amazing and I bow down to each and every one of them.
We still have a schedule for the weekdays but we created a new (more relaxed) for the kids for this next week. We won’t be as strict and we will make exceptions (online field trips, creative projects, extra dog walks, hikes, building and cleaning up a cool indoor fort, more reading are all ok).
The bottom line is we want our kids to be as self-sufficient as possible without watching screens all the time. We’ll be more lenient in the evenings and we often like to split up in groups for shows or movies. Here is the revised schedule:
By 10 Get up/have breakfast/chill/ready
10-10:15 Family mindfulness
10:15-11:15 Educational time (can be a fun online class)
11:15-~12 Exercise/outside time
1-1:30 Free time (screens are ok)
1:30-3 Call grandparents/play with dog/creative time/read (do one or more)
3-4 Free time (screens are ok)
4-5 Something for the house/family and exercise (read if done early)
5-6 Free time (no screens)
Good luck to all of you forced homeschooling families like ours. I’ll check in again next week.
P.S. Teachers rock.