Many years ago, I wrote an article for this paper about home-schooling. I came away with a deep sense of awe about what these teacher-parents had decided to take on and what they managed to accomplish with their kids.
I also experienced clarity that this would not be my path. I didn’t have the aptitude or desire. Thank goodness, I thought, that will never, ever be me.
Flash forward seven years – to this incredibly weird and scary time that we are all in – and my never-a-dream has become reality. With the announcement that school buildings would stay closed for the rest of the year, and at-home learning would be a thing, parents everywhere geared up for the grind.
Except what I am doing could not really be called homeschooling because I am not schooling anyone. Which I suppose is good because, as I mentioned I’m not really qualified. I’ve been trying to think of what a good title is for what I do. So far it eludes me.
“IT helper” isn’t accurate because my kids know their devices better than I do and have quickly learned how to navigate their online resources. “Holder of the Zoom Codes” is more on point because invariably with 60 seconds to go, the piece of paper with those digits will be misplaced and it’s like defusing a bomb to get the right numbers entered by the start of the meeting.
“Chief Nag” is probably the best title. Did you log on to so-and-so? Are you on track with this? Are you secretly playing Roblox or binge watching “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix or looking at other people play other games on YouTube? I can’t even argue that those YouTubers aren’t going anywhere in life because I recently learned that many of them make more money than most teachers. It’s a messed-up world.
My kids are upper elementary and middle school so they are fairly self-sufficient, which is nice. I feel for those with littles. I do think schools are going pretty light on the work – which is a plus on one hand and a minus on the other because that’s a lot of hours in the day to keep kids from drawing on the walls or cutting their brother’s hair. Never have I seen so many people taking neighborhood walks. A large number of them have a cup of “something” in the other hand. Cheers.
Much like most things during this pandemic, everyone’s experience is different. I’m also acutely aware that I am lucky – and privileged. We have the technology to keep going. We have food. We have financial security. Too many do not.
Still, I was curious about the experience of other parents I know. So, I asked them to try to sum it up in one word. Their answers were all over the map.
Stressful. Flexible. Lonely. Independent. Lackluster. Impressive. Ridiculous. Relaxed. Unusual. Adventure. Eye-opening. Wilson (as in the movie Castaway). Aspirational. Adaptable. Roller-coaster. Revealing. Reflective. Busy. Structure. Responsibility. Grateful. Patient. Freedom. Routine. Argumentative. Thoughtful. Endless. Gut-wrenching. Inconsistent. Uninspired. Exhausting. Unsocial. Grace. Challenging. Booze. Soul-searching. Fine. Dreaded. Video games. Welcome. Blah. Necessary. Happy. Distraction.
Some of the other answers were unprintable.
I think most people probably cycle through many of these descriptions, maybe in one day – heck, maybe every hour.
There was a week between Spring Break and the start of school-directed, online learning where I thought – ambitiously – about what I might want to accomplish. Where was that Latin book I bought two summers ago? What about the write-a-poem-a-day book I got at Barnes and Noble on some long ago sunny day? What Christmas presents can finally come out of the closet so we can all learn how to make crystals or erupt a volcano? That online cartooning class looks cool. What was that website?
We wrote a handful of poems and I learned how to draw a sort of demented-looking pigeon who definitely does not know how to drive the bus. I got tired. We took turns passing the bad mood around the house. I thought about the awesome things I was going to do for our teachers if we ever got to see them again. I reset. And repeat.
I still think about a U.S. Presidents project I want to try while I sit in my $20 blow-up pool and listen to Bob Marley. It may happen. It probably won’t.
Personally, I am glad my kids have some kind of structure or blueprint of how we might go from day to day. And I like to try to find connections with them where I can. My daughter has drawn a family tree of the “Once Upon a Time” characters. Spoiler – everyone is related to everyone. And my son’s English class is reading “The Outsiders,” a book I loved as a teen.
When he’s done, we’re going to watch the movie. I plan to chime in on why Matt Dillon was not the right choice to play Dallas “Dally” Winston. We may even start riffing off the other actors in the film. Ralph Macchio leads to “The Karate Kid.” Emilio Estevez was in “The Mighty Ducks.” Patrick Swayze was in everything.
In college, I took a class called Cinema as an Art Form. Everybody took it because it was an easy A.
My grading system will be similar. My kids will be quiet. My life will be better. A girl can dream.