When I have free time to read it is often European history or historical fiction. The ‘plague’ figures predominately in many of these stories and I have often been fascinated about its “spread”. These stories rumbled around my mind as the bleak news from Asia was coming out in January and February accompanied by drone videos of a completely empty Wuhan. This story was certainly not ‘history’. A few coworkers politely ribbed me for buying a little extra when I went to Costco in February. My thought was pasta will last and frozen chicken can be frozen for a while. If I had purchased my pasta for the summer, so be it. Walking through Costco during my next visit in early March confirmed my suspicions as they were already out of several major items including eggs, chicken, peanut butter, pasta, and the now famous toilet paper.
Going to work early March felt like a waiting game. Would they close, if so when and how would we manage. I was firmly in the ‘when’, not ‘if’ camp in terms of it happening. I joked with colleagues about all the home tasks I would complete with two weeks off. We started making our ‘to-do’ lists with excited anticipation. This was not to diminish the severity of the virus, but the anxiety about “the decision” was heavy and we all needed a way to lighten the mood and not stew in the uncertainly of the moment.
With news of the initial two week closing, my plans sprung into action. I first began painting Will’s room. Out with the light green and cartoon dinosaurs and in with blue walls and baseball. Half the room on Saturday, and the other half that Sunday. I hung artwork and shelves, did a good vacuum and stood back with a quick glance of pride. He was pleased it was done but I don’t think he was as excited as I was. I guess he has more free time than I do.
School in pajamas...why not??
My next project was to tackle an overgrown and under-kept slope on our front yard. It is newly exposed due to a tree coming down and it begged for some TLC, or rather, just ripping out of weeds and vines. In typical me fashion I tackled the hill and in three days I had cleared heaps of unwanted vegetation, tangled vines, dead plants, and downed branches. Apparently one of those vines, however, was position something; ivy, sumac, does it matter which? Really, without the leaves, who can tell?? I ended up enjoying a nasty rash all over the bottom of both legs, on my right wrist, behind my right ear, and a variety of other small spots. How the oil seeps through your shoes and socks to reach your feet I will never understand…
I tackled the homeschool challenge with as much gusto as both of these early projects. I would think older students may be a bit more independent in their work (not saying motivated, that’s a whole different challenge), but with two in elementary, some external structure was warranted. I felt a responsibility to not only “fill their time”, but to help to reinforce their remote learning while managing to maintain my relationship with them.
I started with a word doc to capture their envisioned schedule. This one-page document, however, was quickly not enough. I switched to Google Sheets. This allowed me to create a “master document” which I now copy weekly and add the work their teachers are providing. I have hyperlinks on the top to most of the sites they need to reach, and links on the schedule blocks for specific assignments. I spend about an hour on Sunday evenings looking through their work and deciding when each assignment (or which assignment) would be tackled. The second-grade team provides choice boards. I have no idea how an 8-year-old would sift through 10 pages of slides and choose his activities for the week. If I allow that his only activities would be games on the kindle and cartoons on TV. The fourth-grade assignments are fewer, but many of them require multi-steps and multiple-days to complete. As amazing as my children are (sarcastic eye roll here) there is no way anything would be completed without me scaffolding the week. It is worth the time on Sunday to get ready cause on Monday we jump on in. Oh, and did I mention I need to work each day too?
My family made the decision to jump ship and come to our small condo in New Hampshire about 3 weeks back. Yes, we are those people. As the virus progressed, it felt safer to be with fewer people. So, we packed up and left the house leaving my “to-dos” behind as we drove away. I know it sounds crazy cause I clearly have enough to-dos with 15 hours of “homeschooling” and working from home on top of it, but I had pangs of guilt about not being as ‘productive” as I possibly could be with this extra time. But like so many unexpected twists in life, the “tasks” I am accomplishing now are amazing, and none were on my original list of to-dos.
As I am finally home with the boys I can reinforce their skill development in the way I’d always hoped. Both boys have grown in terms of independence and responsibility. Simple, but wonderful things are happening. They are not only clearing their own plates but loading them in the dishwasher. They are preparing their breakfasts. They are even remembering to flush and turn off the lights in the bathroom without being reminded! They have learned how to find clip art online and how to navigate Google docs and Google draw. They are champs at Google Meet and have quickly mastered Messenger for Kids. They are even learning how to manage their own schedule and take pride in completing their work. They appreciate their friends more, and especially each other. I am thrilled to see brothers turning a little more into friends.
Now every day is not perfect, I don’t want to present a false narrative. But each day I am mentally recording mini victories. I am witnessing first hand their maturation and their sense of self. No, these changes were not on my original list. But in the long term, this “project” is the most important one I will ever undertake. It deserves all the time I am currently (fortunately) able to give.
Wisdoms of Wine
As we know life is never simple and it throws at us many curve balls, "A Matter of Heart” includes reflections related to my younger son’s heart defect then and now
“The Search for Perfection” includes those regular trials of parenthood and how we must balance our goals for our children and self with the reality that –no – we cannot quite do it all.
“Gear” is simply tirades related to the stuff of parenting & life
“Insights & Inspirations” contains my thoughts on items not necessary related to being a parent,
but simply life in general.