Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Last week I was a mess. I had a migraine that wouldn’t go away, I couldn’t stop reading social media posts and horror story articles about school. I was spending my whole day everyday worried about my school decision for my kids and any leftover energy wondering if I had Covid since I had a persistent headache and stomachache. Well, it turns out that stress symptoms can mimic the growing list of what may present as early Covid. The good news is I’m healthy, the bad news is my stress isn’t going anywhere. I decided I needed to take some control, whatever control I could in this ever-changing unpredictable nightmare we are all living in. Here is how I changed the narrative -- in my head.
1. Acceptance: I accepted that my children’s school would likely drop their face-to-face option like the surrounding districts and even if they didn’t I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending my kids with the information I have right this minute. So no more decision making stress.
2. I challenged myself to answer: “How can I make this feel somewhat positive?” I’m going to be straight with you, this is not what I want. I have not ever dreamed of homeschooling my kids. I like being a working mom. However, I knew I could find the positives if I looked hard enough! I love surprising my kids. I used to be an elementary and middle school classroom teacher and decorating the classroom in the beginning of the year was the best! It created an awesome energy, a new beginning with endless possibilities. So, I’ve been focusing on that. I talked with my kids about the best place to build their learning areas (we did not do this last spring, because we were crisis schooling, so we mainly used the kitchen table and beanbags strewn about.) Then I thought about themes!!! I went to Amazon and ordered a pennant, rug, decorations and some fun Tigers Baseball things for my 8-year-old. You can see my finds here:
I also ordered a desk that matched my living room (if I’m going to be stuck inside I may as well like what I see) and was foldable, so I could move it if the initial set up doesn’t work. Here is the link to the desk:
My middle is Harry Potter obsessed! She has this awesome, low ceiling “bonus” closet in her room we call her secret hideout that she has a little art area in. I bought a black tablecloth to recover the old table, brick sticky paper, a platform 9 ¾ sign, some Hogwarts paraphernalia and so on. See my finds here:
Gabi is going to dance in a couple of weeks (social distanced, small groups, masks, sanitized!) and when she is out of the house, we are going to transform her space! Avi is playing baseball (outside, with many, many Covid rules) and at his last practice I will surprise him with his Tigers baseball learning space. My oldest already has a desk in her room and she asked for more organization so I bought these amazing carts for both of the girls:
She also asked for a white board, but to be more “playful” I bought her a 7-foot white board :
decal to transform her school spot. Having these fun projects to focus on has done wonders for my mood and mental health. It was important to me to see the silver lining. The kids keep asking what I bought them and I won’t spill, so that’s added a fun element, too.
3. More positives: My son is young for his grade and a major goofball. Not all of his skills have come easily. And while I firmly believe that it can feel impossible to wear both my teacher and mom hat at the same time, it has been interesting to see both his strengths and weaknesses up close in the spring and I like being more involved directly with his learning. It’s cool that he may benefit from my career this directly. I’m sure many of you are reading this and thinking, “That’s nice but I’m not a teacher!” That’s ok. I am positive that every one of you has special skills that you are sharing with your child, spending ALL of this time with them! My middle has found the social jungle of upper elementary/middle school not so fun, she is not into friend drama! So she gets to take a year off from navigating that, and focus on a very small and safe close knit circle of peers (I’ll explain that plan later in the blog.) My teen is not so interested in spending time with us as you may expect; she’s a teen! However, she is getting very interested in politics, history and the world around her in general. I like the privilege of being the one she is asking questions to first, the lens in which she is seeing this pivotal presidential election through. We are working on voting initiatives together safely from home.
4. Nesting: I feel myself thrown back in time to my pregnancies and preparing for all my babies. That moment where I foolishly felt that if I had the perfect nursery, stroller… my baby would sleep and be easy! Ha! I’ve been spending my days cleaning out shelves, moving furniture around and organizing for the school year at home. It gives me control and a purpose. And hey, it’s way more productive then reading a million articles about gloom and doom! Here are some pictures of what I accomplished. Stay tuned to my Facebook and Instagram pages for the big reveal of all of the learning spaces as I decorate them.
5. Flexibility! Yes, all of the kids have desks and learning spaces. The girls are upstairs (they need quiet) and Avi is downstairs in the living room, because he will need more assistance getting on the right Google meet and staying focused. I also have clip boards, lap desks
so that the kids don’t have to be tethered to their desk chairs. Kids need to move! This can help them stay focused and happy.
6. Setting MYSELF up for success. While we crisis-schooled last spring, I sat at the kitchen table with my son and worked side by side. With the uncertainty of the world at that moment, and the foolish notion that this was temporary I paused my business about 90% and was therefore privileged to be able to give him and my older two most of my attention. Going into this with a different mindset this time, I want to work on Avi’s independent learning skills. Luckily, my district has promised live teaching throughout the day and more direction so this will make all the difference. As one of my pandemic purchases, I decided to go back to school and get my MSW. I’ve also reopened my business as much as Covid will allow. My workspace will now be my bedroom, which is right next door to Avi’s workspace. This allows me to make sure that he is logged on to a Google meet and then go into my room and close the door to take a phone call. I will use the time timer to let him know visually how long he needs to work independently. ( https://www.amazon.com/shop/faabfranki?listId=3NJ1TXZRHX5XP&ref=idea_share_inf) I will also use these Stop and Go signs (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/My-Products) so he knows when he can interrupt and when he can’t. Throughout the past few months I have spent much of my time recognizing my privilege in this situation. Both my husband and I are working at home 100% for the time being through the end of 2020. I am able to cut back on work hours to give more time to mom hours, not without sacrifice, but it is a choice I can make.
7. Socialization. Before I explain how I’m going to offer some social opportunities for my crew, I want to make it clear that I am not an epidemiologist and this is what my husband and I have decided we are comfortable with as of today. We will likely change our minds constantly. So I am not advocating or recommending anything, just sharing!
a. I will allow my kids to have one friend over to do school with outside while weather allows. We will put out folding banquet tables and the kids will sit at opposite ends. If they want to get a little closer to see each other’s screens they will wear masks. These friends will be from the small group of friends they have been seeing while social distancing already this summer. We are only including friends whose families are social distancing and mask wearing. We will only allow this outside. I bought a patio heater and fire pit to extend our outside life as long as possible. Links here:
More than likely this will only be for my 6th and 8th grader who can work more independently.
b. Activities: We will attempt to offer our children each one vetted activity that is following all Covid precautions. Baseball and softball are areas we will look into. We will try to keep them with the kids they have already been on teams with, who we trust, and not open up our “circle” anymore. My children know that even if others aren’t, they must social distance during these activities and mask up when warranted. Gabi, my middle, has been dancing indoors with a mask in a small homogeneous group this summer successfully. We will continue this throughout the year, as long as it feels comfortable while keeping an eye on numbers growing. Winter will come fast and furious in Michigan. I am upgrading our winter gear so that we can still be outside as much as possible. My kids ski, so I’m hoping that we can utilize this activity for some social time that is still outside. Sledding, snow forts and snowball fights will be big this year! We will continue to see our local family this way as well. We may even have s’mores in our fire pit on a mild winter day!
c. Zoom! The Jewish holidays will be upon us soon and we will utilize Zoom to celebrate. We love playing games online with another family and fun extended family reunions.
d.Socialization for the adults: I am walking with a small group of friends spread out, masked when the path feels too congested. Occasional backyard drinks or coffee, and couples plans under our canopy.