First things first, I have to confess: Although my husband and I are both educators, we have chosen not to impose a militarily strict schedule upon our
captives children. We are not actually homeschooling in any way; luckily our children’s school very quickly and quite impressively prepared their teachers and students for online learning in a matter of days. (Thank goodness since my husband and I are also working from home all day, and creating a home school for our children while keeping up our own work would be impossible.) We make sure that they are logging on, checking their assignments, attending any required Zoom class sessions, and completing their homework – kind of the same way we always did. When they aren’t doing that, we tell them to play outside. Luckily, we live in a small, rural town and have a big backyard. Usually we all watch a dissatisfying 45 minutes of a “family” (aka Mommy chooses after 20 minutes of sibling fighting) movie before the 10pm “Mommy’s Tired So Everyone Has to Go to Bed” bedtime.
Let me introduce you to my cherubs and share how they are faring during our introduction to online schooling. Shout out to Venerini Academy in Worcester, MA, a pre-K through 8th-grade private Catholic school who is doing amazing work in their humble and loving way. I have been so impressed with how Venerini’s principal and teachers have handled this very trying situation!
Exhibit A: Cameron. Age 8, 2nd grade, working on an incredibly healthy plate of nachos a mere hour before dinnertime. Beside him is the sea creature he had to mold out of clay for one of his assignments. His teachers chose to collect all of the materials the children left behind when they fled school and offer to meet parents in a spacious Worcester parking lot in order to deliver the stuff the kids would need to do their work in the coming weeks. I mean, are teachers superheroes or what?
Earlier this week his teacher emailed parents with information for the math education website www.ixl.com. Cam immediately became absorbed with the diagnostic test and resulting tutorials on there, giving his brain some great exercise. Cam is currently missing his piano and trumpet lessons, so his brain needs something to keep it busy!
His teacher has also given the students a week’s worth – broken down by day – of classroom work and activities still covering math, reading, social studies, etc. It’s all due on Saturday morning. Cam has the list and we check in with him a few times a day to remind him to accomplish his tasks and check them off the list. He loves getting them done and checking them off so he can earn screen time!
Exhibit B: Olivia. Here she is, Sleeping Beauty, completely unaware that she is about to be roused to get dressed and have breakfast before her 10am Thursday meeting with her saintly teacher attempting to educate a chatty bunch of 4th graders about reading, social studies, and science. They have math lessons Mondays and Wednesdays, and every Friday morning is a parent meeting for questions and concerns. Olivia has become a pro at logging on to Google Classroom, joining her Google Hangouts meetings, and organizing her time so that she completes the necessary assignments each day. Maybe this bizarro experience is actually helping her form strong executive functioning skills?
Olivia is missing her long course swim season, and she just got moved up to a higher group before the virus struck. Gets the wiggles out on the trampoline since she can’t get in the water lately.
Exhibit C: Nicholas, the Big Man. Just turned 13 yesterday in what had to have been the most boring birthday celebration ever. However, after a little morning sulking and self-pity, by the end of the day when I tucked him into bed – because of course, our kids are never too old not to be tucked into bed, right? – he sweetly smiled and said to me, “Thanks for trying to make my birthday really special today.” Maybe all of the family dinners and togetherness watching the nightly news – to talk about what is happening around us and acknowledge our fears – is strengthening our bonds after all?
My Big Man is missing his first AAU baseball season after playing Little League in the past. He was all set to play his favorite position, catcher, before he broke his finger and then COVID-19 struck. Super bummed dude but trying to keep strong by shooting hoops in the driveway when it isn’t raining or snowing!
Nicholas, as a 7th grader, has the most rigorous online learning expectations, and he is single-handedly keeping track of his Google Hangouts meetings by putting them on his new Google calendar, and despite the photo, spends a good 2-4 hours a day at his desk in his room doing his homework. He makes sure he wakes up in time for his meetings, and he is also learning to manage his time when some assignments are due soon and some aren’t due for a few more days. He is learning that he can’t wait until the last minute to complete a large amount of homework. He is also learning that if he wants to buy time and have a day free of homework, then he’ll need to do more homework earlier in the week. Score!
That’s an update from the Christie bunker in how we are learning, adjusting, and still growing with online learning. We are so grateful for the dedicated, caring, incredibly conscientious teachers at our children’s school who are working so hard to make this not just an educational time but also a happy, healthy experience to stay in touch and socialize with their peers. We wish you luck as well as you and your family live through this surreal experience. Amidst the tragedy and fear around us, hopefully we can find a source of constancy and strength among our loved ones at home.