Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

An Adventure in First Time Homeschooling (We Miss You Teachers)

6:00AM: My house is silent. By some stroke of #Coronamiracle I’m up first, trying to settle myself as we step into our new normal. Time for coffee. Bible. And a self pep talk.

I’ve got this. HOMESCHOOL, here I come.

7:00AM: Online Yoga. For peace. And strength. And sanity. And, yes, another pep talk.

7:45Am: Coffee (you’re going to start to see a trend here, wait for it…)

8:00AM: Class begins.

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Middle Child: The studious one, jumps in feet first. The lessons their amazing teachers spent hours over their spring break preparing are beautiful and clear and concise. He’s a self-starter and he’s off to the races. Godspeed, little buddy. You’re on your own.

Youngest Child: Still in PJs. Hair’s a rat’s nest. Checks first assignment: record a virtual video greeting for her entire class. Runs upstairs to change and brush her hair. Because (and I quote), “It’s embarrassing to be in your PJs at school.” Touché, baby girl. Touché.

Oldest Child: Refuses to get out of bed.

8:30AM:Take 352 of aforementioned video greeting (apparently the first 351 weren’t good enough). Struggle to maintain patience.

8:45AM: Silent self pep talk, coffee, and attempt #3 to wake oldest.

9:00AM: Help middle child with science questions which I, in fact, answer incorrectly because I have no idea what fossils belong in the mesozoic era. I’m not Ross Geller, buddy. Though I do know an awful lot of appropriate Friends quotes, so there’s that.

9:30AM: Technical difficulties with the youngest child’s math program. CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Twice. It’s working. I’m basically an IT guy now too.

9:45AM: Whoops. Forgot about breakfast. Serve Gogurts and hard-boiled eggs. Because, balance people.

10:00AM: Coffee. Attempt #4 to wake the oldest who is insisting that he works better in the afternoon anyway. Silently pray for patience.

10:30AM: Middle child finishes his classwork. Immediately runs to iPad. No energy left to fight it.

11:00AM: Proofread youngest child’s essay on spring break and fight through feelings of parental inadequacy because we “didn’t go anywhere fun.” Also fight the urge to rewrite completely. Settle for a hybrid edit/rewrite and dismiss her for the day. She, too, runs right for the iPad.

11:30AM: Physically drag oldest from bed. (Don’t judge—he was not hurt in the process.) Prop him up, half awake, in front of the computer. Semi-monitor his half-a$$ attempts at online school work while semi-working, because momma has a job too, you know.

12:00PM: Lunch. I’m also a lunch lady, don’t you know?

12:45PM: Exit bathroom to find oldest and middle engaged in an all-out brawl because (and I quote), “He was looking at me funny.” After physically breaking them apart, I explain that the cops and paramedics have bigger fish to fry with a global pandemic on their hands so they should probably get their acts together so they don’t have to show up here. Gladly accept their eye rolls.

1:00PM: Catch the oldest attempting to play online games instead of school work. Redirect. Threaten detention until I realize I’m the detention monitor too. Retract threat. More coffee.

2:00PM: School is out. More coffee. Clean our “classroom” (because, SURPRISE—I’m the janitor too!). Make peace with the fact that the children, now dismissed from learning but hemmed inside by the torrential downpours outside (thanks, God), are making a mockery of the APAs recommendations for screen time for children. Give self major grace.

2:30PM: Email every single teacher my children have ever had with profuse thanks and then blow up my congressman’s inbox petitioning for their raises.

I know you’re probably reading this and thinking to yourself there is no way this is not a major exaggeration. But, honestly, you’re wrong. If anything, this was a gross under-reporting of the number of times today I was asked a question I don’t know the answer to, calmed a frustrated child while simultaneously trying to bat down my own mounting frustration, or felt myself split nearly in three different directions with three different kids trying to learn new technology at three different grade levels with three different learning styles. Truthfully, this is mild compared to how it really felt.

These are unprecedented times. No one ever could have predicted we would end up here, as a nation, social distancing and now, for the vast majority of us, attempting to homeschool for the first time. This is, in fact, our first rodeo. And it shows.

But maybe that’s OK. Maybe this is exactly what we needed.

Maybe we needed to disconnect a bit from the hustle. I was secretly kind of tired of it, weren’t you? Maybe we needed to stay in more, look our children directly in the eyes when they’re talking to us, feel the touch of our spouses arms as we fall to sleep, craving the nearness and security of family and love. Maybe we needed the reminder that what and who lies between our own four walls is what really matters and what lies on the outside can be put second, or in this case, dead last. Maybe we needed to remember that we are not completely in control. There is a captain of this ship. And no, it’s not always us.

And maybe, for the love of all that is holy, we needed to realize that our children’s teachers are amazing. They deserve all of the love and adoration and, yes, a gigantic pay raise. All of us parents struggling through homeschool today, wondering how on earth these monsters children we created learn anything at all during the day, need to recognize they do so because professionals—yes, people who went to college for this—pour their hearts and souls into our children every day.

The rub in all of this, of course, is that these professionals actually missed the opportunity to teach our children today; they felt the void of walking into the classroom just as much as their students did. They worried about the ones who would fall behind, because not everyone has the luxury of staying home to homeschool and the unfairness of life will push some of their students beyond the brink of the school year. They changed their entire job, on a dime, shifting from traditional education to e-learning, with little to no warning or training. They jumped through hoops and put themselves outside of their comfort zones and worked tirelessly to make sure our kids didn’t fall through the cracks during this crazy time in our world.

In our school district, they even did this over their own spring break. The hustle to turn out comprehensive and reasonable homeschooling programs came during a time when they should have been enjoying vacations or, at the very least, quality time with their own children. Instead, they were busting their behinds to make sure ours were going to be OK.

Just like homeschooling is uncharted territory for us, home facilitating (because I don’t know what else to call it) is uncharted for them. It will not be perfect or pretty or smooth for these first few weeks. We should not expect it to be. But we know they will keep trying and keep working to make sure our kids, their students, get the best education they can under these extremely unique circumstances.

Y’all, it’s going to take some serious grit and grace to get through this. On all of our parts. But we can do this. The best of humanity seems to come out when we are faced with the worst of circumstances. It’s happening now, in our own homes and around the world. We’ve got this, friends. Stay safe (and sane).

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