Tag Archives: kids

The beginning of the last week of school

What worked and what didn’t

We have made it to the end, my kids and me.

This time of year always makes me a little sad.

This year, with everything that has happened, I’m not really sure how I feel. Relief that we can take a break from screens and get on with the business of being in the world, yes. But sadness at not saying a proper goodbye to teachers and friends are with me, too.

And the uncertainty about the next school year… That feels nervous and scary.

Three months ago, when we started this learn at home journey, it took some time to get up and running and familiar with the Google platform the schools use. Once we got going, the tech was the easy part.

Staying motivated was more challenging. Feeling like I was good enough to support my kids, wondering if I might be pushing too hard at a time when the world had gotten a bit scarier and my kids might be feeling things they never thought they’d have to contend with, those aspects attacked my motivation and left me wondering what the point of it all was. Those were hard days.

Knowing that the work didn’t count towards marks unless it improved your standing after March 13th was a welcome relief on those days, but it also made us feel like nothing mattered anymore on the good days.

I learned more about myself and my kids than I thought there was to know. Like, there are two kinds of people in this world: those with patience in abundance and those who need to learn to have patience.

That’s the catch, the learn to have patience part. How do you teach that if you haven’t mastered it yourself?

Not too long ago, kids (and adults) had very little in their lives that provided instant gratification and entertainment. Stories came in the form of books and they took a while to read. Hot summer afternoons were often spent figuring out what to do to stay cool and entertained, which involved a lot of downtime just lazing around with nothing to do until you figured it out. Nowadays, hot summer afternoons are spent inside scrolling Netflix or TikTok on digital devices, searching for the next dopamine hit.

My patience wore thin quite a few times over the last few months. Between working and supporting the learning my kids were doing, I was spread thin. I was tired and torn between competing priorities daily, and some days my kids needed more from me and I just didn’t have it to give them.

Early mornings are best. The will power is strong, the mind is sharp. Unfortunately, children who do not do learning in an environment with morning bells and late slips tend to sleep later and work at their own pace. Ironically, this is something that I’ve always wanted for my children. And as far as their learning went over the last few months, allowing that “get up when you wake up naturally and work on something until you master it” was the right thing to do. My stamina and patience may have worn out by mid-morning, but my kids were just gearing up and doing great work.

But the patience still must be practiced. The kids and I both have to stretch that skill. We have to become people who can focus and wait.

What comes next

As we head into this last week of the 2019-2020 school year, we have some reflecting to do. There is a chance that the schools won’t re-open in September, or they will open only in a partial way. We have to wait and see. In the meantime, we have the summer to practice our patience, read books, brush up on our tech skills and get ourselves ready for whatever the future holds.

I hope you have a wonderful summer full of the things that bring you joy and that you are recharged for whatever the world hands us in the next season.

Systems, goals, failure, progress

The thing is, I like systems. I am attracted to things that are created to be connected and that have reminders and goals and progress reports.

I spend a lot of time coming up with systems. Most of them don’t work. I don’t think that’s because I’m bad at designing systems (ok, maybe a little bit). I think it’s because it’s not systems that I need. Systems are what I want.

A nice tidy box to put all the steps in. And then, as I need to progress toward the goal, I can pull out a step and do it, and that moves me forward.

And I want this for my kids, too. I want them to set goals and work toward them and see their progress, their growth.

But I forget that I have spent years reading about goal setting and systems and growth and my kids have not. And no matter what information I share with them, they don’t get it because my problem lies in translating what I have learned into something they can learn from.

So, back to systems. I am designing a system to teach them about goal setting and progress and growth. And I’ve discovered that not being able to stick to one idea at a time is the real problem. Not the lack of a system or the lack of a goal. It’s the sticking to it.

Are my systems and goals not sticky enough? Maybe. Is my brain too full of clutter to focus properly on only one thing? Probably. So what’s my first step, then, before setting the goal or designing the system?

Learn to focus.

This is the hard thing. This is the not-so-fun thing. This is the thing that I have to do if I want my systems to work, if I want to reach a goal, if I want to teach my kids goal setting and focused growth.

So, I’m going to set up a system, a very simple system, to learn how to focus.

Being alone in a coronavirus world

All day, every day with the kids. Geeesh! This is tough. I love ’em. I really do. But I need to be alone. And not going-for-a-walk alone or going-for-a-drive alone. I need to be in my house alone. I don’t know why. I’ve been thinking about it all week. My mother has often expressed the same need and I’ve understood.

Quick updates on our learn-at-home experiment and get-outside experiment

Learn at home is going better this week. Both kids have settled into a morning school routine, school work is being done and I’m supporting in a minimal manner because they seem to have gotten the hang of it.

Neither kid is particularly happy about all this computer work and would rather be doing hands-on classwork in real life with their project mates in a classroom setting, but their computer skills have multiplied seemingly overnight. And I’m seeing increased confidence coming out of that.

Getting outside has been a bigger challenge. I haven’t been doing it. Full stop.

Being alone

Back to the being alone thing. I’ve let my kids spend too much time in their bedrooms, by themselves this past week just because I want at least the main floor of the house to myself. I’m feeling guilty about every minute that I don’t interact with them. (Although, I’m pretty sure they’re craving alone time, too, and are happy not to have me around every afternoon.)

Sleep deprivation, chronic pain and various other ailments continue to plague me, although I’ve seen some improvement (probably because I’ve been alone and could focus on me instead of everyone else).

Maybe I’ll go for a walk this afternoon and invite the kids to come with me. It would do us some good to get outside and spend time together. It would also probably alleviate my feelings of being responsible for everyone’s feelings.

Or maybe I’ll stay inside and take up drawing as a hobby.

How are you coping this week?

Blending school learning with home learning

I’ve always wanted to homeschool. I spent years curating and collecting information on the topic and researching ideas and methodologies.

The thing I’m not good at, though, was the thing that stood in the way of ever getting homeschooling off the ground in our house: sticking to a plan.

I made plans to leave my job, stay at home with my kids, freelance, etc., but I put exactly none of those of plans into action. So, my kids started school at the required age and I kept working (because each time I returned to the working world after a maternity leave, I couldn’t imagine not working, as much as I missed my kids).

So, year after year, I talked about homeschooling (even got really close once when things went sideways at the school my kids attended), but a solution presented itself that wasn’t me staying at home and, because it’s what my kids wanted, we went with a school transfer into the private system.

We knew that wasn’t going to be a long-term solution (cost being the biggest factor), but it gave the kids a safe learning space while we weighed our options.

Throughout all the years my kids have been in school, public or private, I’ve enhanced their learning by doing after schooling with them.

Each day, after school, we’d come back together with a sweet treat and warm tea or cocoa, we’d talk about our day and we’d shift into slower gears. Once our snack was cleaned up, we’d do homework assigned by teachers (of which there was never much) and we’d read or practice cursive writing or play math games or look up things we were interested in either at the library or at home on the computer.

There were days when this didn’t happen because of after-school activities, but mostly, the kids were at the kitchen table working on something. Our summers were spent like this, too, with learning built into every day.

With a recent uptick in extra-curricular activities over the last two years, we have had to let our after schooling slide to the point of almost non-existence. I still try hard for the summers, though. Two months off school is a long time.

It has always been my belief that teaching is not the sole responsibility of teachers. Parents are children’s first teachers, and what children learn in the home is so important to how they learn in the outside world.

And now, even though my kids are dying to return to school and are retracting every negative comment they ever made or complaint they ever issued about school, I have to say that I’m content. They are enjoying the flexibility that learning at their own pace and in their own space affords them. And I can help and guide them or let them work on their own. We are in a good place after our years of working together. This is not a struggle because we have always learned together.

I now see those years of after schooling as having built a learning foundation with my children. And all those years that I wished I could have homeschooled them, and regretted not jumping in with both feet, I see their worth. Those years were building blocks that will help us through this.

And I think I understand now why I never put my homeschooling plan into action: it was too big of a responsibility for me to take on alone and I’m not one to forge ahead on something where there are so many unknowns (my own mental state prevents me from firmly placing myself in the driver seat of any action plan).

But with this blended learning model where my kids’ teachers are firmly in charge of the lesson plans and I’m back to enhancing their learning and filling in gaps of understanding, my kids and I can thrive.

With as open a mind as I can have, I look forward to the next weeks and possibly months of learning away from school. It will be an interesting, challenging and rewarding time.

What things in your life have prepared you for what we are now facing?

Choose hope

For work and for helping my kids and for social connection, I’ve been spending way more time on social media than I usually do. And it’s wearing me down. I take digital breaks and stay offline when I don’t have to be online, but I feel like because the whole world is dealing with a common challenge (not to put too fine a point on it), it’s harder to just step away. Especially when government and health announcements are being made hourly, it seems.

When the fight was about government cuts to education or health care or tenant rent issues or the climate, even, I felt I could step back and choose what I read and responded to. But social distancing (or physical distancing as Dr Maria Van Kerkhove at the WHO said we should be calling it) has presented challenges to coming together in a real, person-to-person way and COVID-19 is amplified in the news. It makes taking a step back hard when I need to listen to or read the daily health announcements and new rules about going outside (not to mention that what I do for work is somewhat tied up in all the employment related fall-out from COVID-19, so I’m reading this stuff all day anyway).

There’s no break from it. And it gets nasty a lot of the time. Despite what Dan Gardner says:

So, why, if it’s a myth that disasters cause people to panic and the social order to collapse, is everyone being so nasty?

I have an idea. Why don’t we all stop griping and start helping.

In the last few weeks, the last few days especially, while we’re ALL just trying to get through this strange new reality we find ourselves in, I haven’t seen much in the way of support on either side of the political divide, from politicians or the general public. On the left, everyone’s screaming because the right is using COVID-19 to push their online learning agenda. On the right, everyone’s complaining about the money being spent & the power being acquired by the government in a bid to help people.

I get it; I don’t see the full picture, and neither does anyone else, because we curate our news from social media where we mostly just follow people who share our beliefs. But what if we just tried to work on things together instead of assuming that the other side was out to get us or put one over on us? It’s like reading a bunch of mean girl notes passed back and forth between kids on social media.

I may sound na├»ve, but I am going to choose to believe that the only way through this is by working together. It’s what I’m always saying to my kids: Learn to work together. Find a common point and work outwards from that center. The options you come up with may be far out, but keeping an open mind and working together to get all the ideas on the table will help you both get where you want to be.

I understand that teachers have reservations about grading their students given so many different circumstances, but I think what we have to remember, as well, is that not all students face barriers.

For the ones who do, we have to work together to find a solution…and there is one, I truly believe that. We just have to be creative and put all the ideas on the table, even the crazy ideas. For the ones who don’t face the technological and social barriers, we have to keep them engaged.

I’m not trying to minimize the challenges we’re facing. But we have great minds in this province. Let’s put them to work instead of using them to constantly complain on social media about how bad all of the current plans are and all the ways that it’s not going to work.

I am choosing to be encouraged by the TDSB’s Director of Education’s recent videos to students and parents about how schooling is moving forward starting on April 6. He didn’t give much in the way of details, but he gave hope that something is being done. And I know the teachers and staff are all working tirelessly to make the best of a bad situation. This is what humans do. This is how we have survived on this planet. We’ve been so pampered with material things in the last century that we have forgotten how to survive and we’ve become a bunch of whiny wimps. Together we’re stronger. Left and Right.

We’re all in this together. Choose hope, have faith, work together.

Trust and guidance

So, day 5, and I’m officially questioning my ability to parent.

This is not new. I’ve often questioned my ability to parent small humans. But never in this context; never in the context of survival, of coping, of making it through whatever the universe throws at us and working hard to keep it together.

Clearly, I’m not keeping it together very effectively. Day 5, people, and I already wish that I could go back to the office and send my kids to school.

And I’ve got great kids. They are actually not arguing with each other (very much) and they have spent a ton of time outside together without me, so they are proving self-sufficient.

But, in facing the days and weeks ahead, I’m questioning my ability to get them to focus on things like learning, school work, chores, music and soccer practice.

I know what drives this questioning voice in my head. I know what little Miss Judgmental is getting at every time she speaks up. I’m not good at putting aside gratification. I’m not good at making myself do hard things. I’m not good at staying focused.

And because I’m not good at all those things, all those skills that are required to teach and guide and encourage young minds, I’m going to fail at keeping my kids engaged during this time away from school. And my kids are going to languish. They are going to do only what they find (instantly) gratifying. They are not going to focus and use this time productively.

But what if I flip the switch? What if I trust my kids to use this time they have been given? What if we start from a place of understanding on both sides: what I want and what they want? What if, after coming to an understanding of expectations, I just lay out the day’s tasks and options each day and see what they do with that guidance?

Shall we experiment? No judgment. No nagging. No whining. Just trust and guidance.

Let’s call it experiment #1 and see where it takes us. The first day is Monday.

Stuck in the house

Day 4 of…what are we calling this?

The kids went to the park with a friend for several hours yesterday. It’s good that they’re getting outside. I was able to get some work done and they didn’t end up watching too much TV.

I didn’t start with Day 1, but here’s a quick rundown:

  • Monday of March Break (Day 1): everyone in the house (basically me and the kids), are gearing up for working from home indefinitely (me), scheduled hockey and soccer games in the schoolyard for anyone who wants to join (the kids), planning and organizing educational activities to do with my kids and some of their friends over the next few weeks, also trading time with other parents so we can all get work done and our kids can all be engaged.
  • Tuesday of March Break (Day 2): scheduled hockey and soccer games with the neighbourhood kids are canceled. Most of the neighbourhood kids are now staying inside or playing in their own backyards. But, with strict instructions to keep their hands off their faces and to wash their hands the minute they walk in the house, I’m still sending my kids out to the park with one friend each (minimizing contact with large groups is the objective, I guess). Also, I told their grandparents that helping me by taking the kids for a day is not an option right now because kids are vectors and my parents are in the high-risk group. As time passes, I may let up on that rule if my kids aren’t sick and I start to go crazy trying to keep them busy and get work done.
  • Wednesday of March Break (Day 3): The kids were gone almost all day at a park with a friend and her dog. They both came home happy and smelling of fresh air. I haven’t left the house since Sunday. I’m starting to get depressed (made a plan to take a walk on Thursday and maybe go grocery shopping [I miss driving]).

And that’s where we are. I’ve spoken to some friends who are in the same boat. I keep seeing great ideas for keeping kids engaged during this time and I’ve created two folders, one digital and one physical, of things to do, but getting the kids to do anything other than just hang out at a park or watch TV is proving impossible. They’ve made their own lists of activities they can do instead of watching TV, but, like me, they are good at making plans and having intentions, but not good at following through. I’m starting to think that’s a hereditary thing. (Obviously it’s a modelling-the-right-behaviour thing, but that puts a lot of pressure on me.)

So, this is Day 4. The kids are still asleep and I’ve already done a bunch of work, and hey, I’m writing, so that’s always good. Maybe I’ll go for that walk when they wake up.

How are you doing?