Tag Archives: learn at home

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.

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?

Hard things are not easy

I’ve noticed a theme in my reading lately. Over the last three weeks, I’ve read Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs and I’m in the middle of Untamed by Glennon Doyle.

I’ve also read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, which I wasn’t going to list here because it’s a fictional story about a woman who is dying, not a self-help book. In retrospect, it fits my theme: doing hard things.

Also, over the last three weeks, I’ve been working from home, supporting my children as they do school from home, parenting in the usual way and navigating new parenting rules, keeping up with friends and family, trying to keep space for my marriage and managing my mental health (but not very well). These are hard things. And I thought I was doing OK. I really thought I was doing OK.

Things seemed almost easy. For sure life was different. But I was once told by a therapist that all my stories and everything I’d talked about in therapy led her to the same conclusion: that I was good at adapting to and solving problems.

And this physical distancing COVID-19 thing is simply a problem to be adapted to and solved.

But then my chronic pain flared up, a bad case of hives and additional joint pain jumped on board and proper sleep evaporated. Oh and my body won’t stop buzzing (whether or not a I drink coffee).

So, not doing so well after all.

I haven’t written on the blog for a few days because I’ve been filling my journal with dark thoughts, paranoia and self-defeating lies.

Today, it’s raining. It’s gloomy. The weather kind of matches my mood. It was sunny yesterday and I tried really hard to let the sun in, but it was just.too.damn.hard. I went for a walk, which only made my pain worse. I tried to focus on work and enjoy the sun beams streaming through the windows. No luck there either. The bright and sunny day brought into focus how little time my kids were spending outside and how much time they were spending on their various screens. Which spiraled into a vortex of parenting guilt.

I know, I know. These are different times and we should go easy on ourselves. But boundaries still need to exist otherwise there’s chaos.

Today, I’m giving myself permission not to do the hard things, like fake it ’til I make it. I’m going to be sad and in pain and exhausted. And I’m going to nap and drink water and go for a walk on my treadmill while listening to a podcast I enjoy.

And I’m going to start to heal…again.

(Because books are always a good balm for my agonies, I read a lot. And this past week, the sweetest and most beautiful story that has kept me going is The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. It is so tragic and uplifting and sad and real all wrapped up in a person’s struggle. I really recommend it, but read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first; also a very good story.)

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?

First day of school…online

School started again today (learning never stopped).

in this strange experiment of learning remotely and keeping kids engaged whilst not freaking anyone out and managing all sorts of emotions (mostly mine), we stepped it up a notch to teacher-led learning.

I gotta say, I’m impressed. I’m not an advocate for online learning and I’ve spent a good deal of time railing against the proposed mandatory e-learning in this province, but in a pinch and with no other options, I am happy that everyone seems to be working together to provide some kind of structured learning for students. They rolled it out well, too.

I did discover a gap in computer skills with my youngest, though. I had suspected earlier in the school year that what teachers were calling “computer class” was likely just a bunch of time on an iPad or Chromebook doing activities on the web. Don’t get me wrong; there is definitely a need to learn how to search and work on the internet. But there are so many other skills that are needed to work effectively (and efficiently) with computers.

I’m not buying the kids-are-too-young-to-learn-that-stuff line. And I don’t believe that they can just pick it up without some formal instruction.

I spent about 20 minutes with my kid today and explained some basic online navigation skills and gave him a quick tutorial on Google Docs and some other programs and then he worked quietly for an hour on a French assignment with his sister, researching things online and using a French-English dictionary (not the online type) where there were gaps in his online research.

It was a good day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Subtract – add – adjust

Didn’t make it farther than the backyard yesterday. But the sun was shining and it was good to be outside.

Quick recap of yesterday: I baked blueberry muffins. Kids did some art. I interacted with my daughter’s school’s reading group a bit on Google Classroom. I did a ton of editing. I worked late. I had a short, at-a-distance visit with my parents in my yard and watched city workers tape off the playground next to our house. The kids resisted me on any work besides drawing and they were unwilling to help when asked, choosing instead to spend most of their time talking to friends on video chat or text.

How I felt by the end of the day: hopeless, worried, exhausted, like a failure.

What I’m doing today to combat those feelings: drinking lots of water (I think dehydration is having an effect on my brain), focusing on the now (go for a walk, listen to the birds, meditate for 15 minutes), play with my kids (board games, cards).

In being overly concerned about the effect this social isolating is having on my kids and the loss of regular school in their lives, I’ve forgotten that they still have their regular fears and worries (that are of course compounded by this distance from the worlds they would otherwise inhabit).

In a chat with my daughter last night, I realized that what we’re all suffering from without really realizing it is the loss of our own worlds and how our worlds have come crashing together.

I’ve always thought of the four of us as close. We have dinner together every night; we often cook and clean up as a family (assuming we’re all home; sometimes activities take some of us out of the house right after dinner). We have movie nights and game nights. We talk a lot and about everything together. Of course, we each have little things we keep to ourselves, but we’re mostly a very open family.

But in this new reality: all of us in the house all of the time (except my husband who is still working out in the world), it has hit me that we each had our own lives, our own worlds, entirely separate from each other. Yes we started each day together and came back together at the end of each day, but my daughter had her social circle and her routine and her teachers and schedules, and my son had his friends and his teachers and his neighbourhood hangout spots and his soccer team, and I had my friends and coworkers and my office and my work-from-home space (for the odd work-from-home day pre-COVID-19) and my errands and my routine, and my husband had his work and social circle. Now all of that is gone and our worlds have come crashing together. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s a new thing to get used to.

When a tween needed her friends in the pre-COVID-19 world, she had access to them IRL. Now, she only texts and talks on the phone with them. And she is having to adjust to what that communication looks like for her group, how they will manage disagreements, hurt feelings, misinterpretations (because I imagine there’s a lot of that when communicating without the benefit of body language and tone of voice). It’s hard to navigate that as an adult with years of experience. Imagine facing that challenge just as you reach the stage in your life where communication and group dynamics carry so much weight?

And for an athletic boy now cooped up in the house or confined to a backyard with no buddies to play with? These are trying times.

And so today is Friday, the last day of the first week of learn at home/social isolation. I went to sleep last night with yet another adjustment to our schedule/routine in my head. And I woke up this morning nervous and worried about how today will play out. But writing this has been therapeutic and, as I often tell myself, take it day by day, make adjustments for what doesn’t work, add in new possibilities, subtract/add, adjust, be kind to yourself and to others, find balance and don’t think that because things went sideways yesterday that they will always be like that. Today is a new day. And it’s Friday, so relax and have a little fun.

Not so paralyzed after all

It’s probably too early to report any useful data, but the first day of Experiment #2 was successful.

I went for a walk with my kids, grabbed a coffee and some lemon cake from a local espresso bar (shout out to Black Cat Espresso Bar) and walked home in the sunshine.

Feelings before we left the house: worried, panicked, nervous.

Feelings while out walking and while chatting (at a distance) with the barista in the coffee shop: calm, happy, energized.

Feelings once we got home: like I had more energy to concentrate on work; felt more connected to my kids (I think they felt the same for just having shared that special time together); I didn’t feel as guilty when I set them up with their school work and then went back to my own work or when I was explaining how I envisioned the rest of our day (and they weren’t agreeing with my vision).

So Day 1 of that experiment went well.

Days 2 and 3 of Experiment #1: Learn at home were not total losses. Some art was done, a writing assignment was done, some online math and logic games were played. There were lost hours where the kids hunkered down with phones and texted friends or played games purely for entertainment purposes and I’m going to let that go.

I’m newly grateful for my daughter’s very social personality. She has already tired of texting her friends and has started a group call and video call (depending on the group she’s “hanging” with) where they can talk and see each other, and they are playing a game together in this group call. I hear endless laughter emanating from her bedroom and she’s happy to tell me all about their shenanigans when she emerges at dinner time. This talking and laughing with other people is doing good things for her. I’ve made a mental note to relax my screen time rules a bit so that she can keep this connection going.

My son, on the other hand, is not into communication by tech. He’s very social with people in real life, but when I mentioned that another mom is going to get his soccer team together for a video chat, he immediately said it would be boring because none of his friends talk. And I get that. We’re talking about a group of 10-year-old boys. They’re great together on the soccer pitch and they’ll fool around and carry on in person, but over video…not sure how that’ll play out. Anyway, he’s doing that today at some point. He needs social interaction with more than his mom and his sister. He needs other guys. It’s obvious when my husband gets home from work at the end of the day. Our son won’t leave him alone for a minute.

Today, I’m going outside again and the kids are going to start school work in earnest.

Let’s see what that brings, shall we?