The Kids Will Be All Right

The amount of sleep, mental energy, and anxiety I have given up to worrying about my kids’ education since the schools closed on March 16 could easily fill a dumpster. My thoughts have constantly slalomed between “everyone else is in the same boat” to “OMG they are not going to remember how to even read when this is all over” and neither place has been particularly comforting.

Their teachers pivoted as best they could. The first grader had thrice-weekly Zoom lessons for 30 minutes on reading and the fourth grader had daily assignments on Google Classroom through the school-issued Chromebook. None of this mattered however, because neither of my children took to remote learning, homeschooling, or anything in between. I learned early on that my children were NOT a joy to have in my class.

At the beginning, I really thought I had it made with the Fourth Grader, though, because he had his Chromebook and his daily lessons via Google Classroom. I imagined that he could be self directed and get his stuff done and then spend the rest of the main part of the day reading or experimenting or creating or doing interesting things that would spark his curiosity. This was a pipe dream from the very start which I didn’t realize until we were a week in and I saw that he was not turning in his assignments and bribery was required to get him to read.

Neither kid was interested in the DIY science experiments (that somehow required half of my kitchen utensils to complete), the drawing sessions with famous authors, the webinars of famous people, or pretty much anything that I thought was educational or cool. All they wanted to do was lay around in their underwear and watch Disney Plus – and not even the documentaries.

In the end, what worked was of course old fashioned ingenuity. I decided very early on that there was no way I could keep up with the 3+ hours of work the first grader was being given in various formats ranging from PDF to You Tube all of which required one-on-one supervision which I couldn’t provide while working. So, for her, we limited it to math, handwriting, and reading. She had to do so many pages of math, handwriting and then read us one book. Otherwise she was on her own for play.

As for the fourth grader, he was beginning to shut down with the Google Classroom assignments. He was not the kid who was sitting by the computer waiting each day for the assignment to be posted and he made no secret of his absolute thumbs down when it came to any kind of work. We settled on him doing one Achieve module and one Zearn per day with reading. Later we added tutoring via Facetime for two days a week. Otherwise, he was playing with Legos or tormenting his sister.

But this also opened up a whole new realm of practical life learning opportunities. Questions about when it would be snack time turned into lessons about reading the clock and calculating time. Requests to rent a movie on Amazon became opportunities to count the money in the piggy banks to find enough to pay the $3.99 rental fee to mom and dad. The request for a giant Lego set turned into a full page contract dictated to and written by the Fourth Grader promising that he would make his own dinner for 30 days in exchange for the purpose of said giant Lego set (I’m a lawyer; we speak in contracts).

School is out and I swear they are more excited for that now than they ever were when physical school was actually in session. Yet, I am comfortable with the level of “schooling” that they have received these last nine weeks and their placement for next year. We will continue the Practical Life lessons as they present themselves and tutoring and reading over the summer, but overall I am optimistic that they will have weathered this setback just fine. And when they get back to school – whenever that is – they will be in the same giant boat as everyone else.

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Elise

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