The past few weeks have been ROUGH. Like I didn’t know my body could produce that many tears. But we have survived our first three weeks of school at home and I’m here to share with you what I learned, what helped and what gear I highly recommend for anyone that is also adjusting to school at home. I know all of you friends are from different parts of the country and world and we are all adjusting to different phases of this huge lifestyle change…so if some of this or all of this doesn’t resonate with you…that’s cool too. Just thought I would share what helped me for those who might be feeling all the same things I did.
THIS IS NOT HOMESCHOOLING
First of all – I was homeschooled. I understand exactly what ‘real’ homeschooling is and what it entails. I have many friends who homeschool. THIS IS NOT IT. Let me repeat that for those in the back. THIS IS NOT HOMESCHOOLING. Homeschooling is a calling. It’s a process for the parents and the student. It involves picking out your own curriculum that is usually specific for homeschoolers, prep time for materials and adjustments, a parent that is free to explore options and connect with other parents, groups for sports involvement, arts, and even social activities.
Friends….we were thrown into the deep end of the home learning pool with a weight tied to our feet and expected to hold up our children and not let them drown. At least that is what my mental picture looked like.
Everything was panicked and surviving this took a huge learning curve and I must say that I feel sorry for myself but I also feel HUGELY grateful to the teachers who felt the exact same and also were desperately trying to figure out how to take their lesson plans and modify them for us ill equipped parents.
(my first ever lesson plan in undergrad)
SHOUT OUT TO THE TEACHERS
Speaking of teachers, I went to school to be a teacher. I knew I couldn’t hang. I completed my student teaching (I cried every.single.day.) and decided “nope….not for me.” SO I can personally attest to the fact that the teaching gig is not for the faint of heart. Both my parents have been homeschool parents, private and public school teachers and also administration. I completely understand what it takes to put together a daily lesson plan for ONE STUDENT IN ONE SUBJECT and it takes practice, planning, dedication and creativity. The fact that during this pandemic, these teachers are now taking lesson plans (that take years to perfect for them to teach in a classroom), trusting us inexperienced parents and handing us the reigns…..it’s insane. They are utilizing completely new resources, new technology and doing it in a time frame that is nothing short of incredible.
So I say this in the highest regard….TEACHERS – YOU ARE AMAZING! We love you. We appreciate you. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We know that this is not easy for us…..and it must be so frustrating and even harder for you. You are STILL our teachers, taking on extra work to prep us for each week, you have become our 24/7 help desk, you are doing it with kids of your own and we can not tell you how much you mean to us. Thank you for putting up with our kids….and with us. We stand and emphatically applaud you.
A CHANGE IN MENTALITY
One of the hardest parts about this – especially for me – was to change my mentality. I wanted to do this home learning thing perfectly. I didn’t want my kids to lag behind or lose momentum in learning. But also I was not expecting this too last long and figured it would just be a blip in the middle of the school year. I thought two things simultaneously…..this is fine….they won’t excel right now and we will catch up in two weeks when school starts back…I’ll write a really nice apology note. But my brain also was pulled in the opposite direction….we must do this perfectly….no excuses….school will come back in session and we will be right on track…maybe even ahead. My brain didn’t even understand my own expectations and was internally felt like exploding.
I couldn’t process myself….my own brain….much less every other thing that was happening…and the result was feeling so overwhelmed that I broke. I had a panic attack on the bathroom floor…right next to the dirty towels and the nail polish that Ella spilled and is now permanently dried into our travertine floor tile. I had screamed into the universe out of pure rage and unadulterated frustration that my voice sounded like a smoky lounge singers. The kids were crying. Jeremy didn’t know what to do. The stress levels soared and honestly – I didn’t handle any of it well…..or even decently for that matter. I had four kids, each with more busy work than I could possibly process, one partially working computer that didn’t have a working touch pad and no FREAKING ERASERS.
I was so mad whenever people posted things like “you are safe at home”….because no….no, I wasn’t…at least not emotionally. I was like this human emotion wrecking ball. I couldn’t do this. I quit. My kids will just fail their classes and I will get a big fat red A on my clothes so that everyone can see I suck at all things home learning. I was doomed……a little dramatic?! Yes…..but honestly that is what it feels like when your world is crumbling and kids are screaming/crying and your mental health is plummeting. Not until I changed my mind. I texted the teachers that the sh** hit the fan and I couldn’t do this. They immediately responded with encouragement (how are these people human?!) and told me the absolute essential items…don’t worry about the busy work. They talked me down and that is when I could decide to not choose one extreme or the other. I wouldn’t be perfect….but I wouldn’t completely abandon this school stuff either.
So how did I change my mind? I decided to adopt the same mentality that I do when DIY projects are physically exhausting. I decided to eat the elephant. Yes. Eat the elephant. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s how. I can do anything….maybe a little late….maybe not perfect but I can do it if I just take one little thing at a time. One kid at a time. One assignment at a time. One problem at a time. Don’t look at the other stuff. Just take one bite.
THE BIGGEST HURDLE – TECHNOLOGY
The first bite I took was one of the most important for us. I had to tackle the issue of technology. It’s ironic that I have a job that is 100% technology related because I am frankly like a grandma when it comes to new tech. I resist. I forget. I am basically a pen and paper girl. And my kids don’t have their own tv’s or iPads or tablets or even a computer they can use. But that all had to change….and I had to be okay with it.
We recognized that part of the problem for us personally was remembering passwords and accessing multiple accounts for multiple kids and things auto-correcting and filling in the wrong kids log-in info. SO we bit the bullet and each big kid got their own school iPad, cases, and bluetooth headphones. Now we can easily access the right accounts. And the kids can listen to their teachers read them a book on Zoom or listen to the class discussion about the Louisiana purchase without creating complete chaos. Also each iPad is linked to our Canon printer – because mama still needs some things printed out.
ANOTHER HURDLE – ORGANIZATION
The other biggest hurdle was organization. I had to create a new school space because our kitchen table was just not cutting it. I think the moment when Ella tried to smear the playdoh into the paper of her brother and he had a meltdown….that’s when I realized….we have to have a dedicated space. Obviously this is just not possible for everyone….but for us…I am so so glad we have the room for it. I immediately grabbed some old shelves and a bunch of paper and school supplies and created a makeshift supply closet. We moved the printer in and a table and a couch for reading. The teacher desk helped too. It’s not perfect but having SOME organization has helped tremendously. Also the idea of a ‘school room’ I think helps the kids realize when they are in it….that we need to focus and try.
Other items that helped us was clipboards and a dry erase board. My kids are at a bunch of different levels of learning. Some can read, some need help, some can’t. Some need LOTS of hands on attention and some can handle certain assignments solo. Printing out some kids stuff means that they can do work (like letter tracing or practicing contractions) and keep their items organized in their clipboards. Also there is something really gratifying about highlighting the items that we finished for the week on a piece of paper!
In fact, I put together this list of things (or similar type items still available for shipping) that I have bought in the last few weeks that have helped us with our home learning adventure…. (CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICS BELOW FOR THE SHOPPING LINK)
LEARN YOUR OWN WAY TO COPE
Lastly I wanted to share something that helped me. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to not want to do this. In fact, you are such an amazing creature that you can feel OVERWHELMINGLY grateful and also super unhappy at the same exact time. You are able to feel more than one thing. And that flood of emotions sometimes grows legs and takes us for a rough ride. Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to cope in our own way. I resist when folks tell me how to cope….so I’m not gonna do that with you. You do you. I cope with joy riding in my jeep, cussing a little, taking really deep breathes, going outside, praying and drinking excessive amounts of diet soda, dancing and DIYing. I like to cuddle under my weighted blanket and have the kids give me kisses and hugs. I am still learning how to do all of this….and that is the crazy thing….this has never happened before….and all of us are going through it together…and differently all at the same time. The point is to come out the other side as healthy as we possibly can and with as much empathy and love as we possibly can. School is important….but honestly I could name lots of other things that are WAY more vital. SOooo I wish you the best of luck….and I send you strength and peace and all the feels. You got this mama. I believe in you!