Trying to Go With the Flow

We’re into week 3 of distance learning, and I think we’ve hit a good rhythm.

The Bug is very independent, and gets himself connected on his own in the morning. He only really needs supervision towards the end of class period and for keeping an eye on the time.

Disjointed Feeling

Though he’s independent, as everyone knows who’s navigating distance learning at home, it requires at least part of your attention at all times.

This makes it very hard to sit down and focus on something.

(I’ve had three interruptions just since starting this article.)

Fighting It

At first, I resented this. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

In October, I’m sitting the Praxis exam to qualify to teach English as a second language in public schools. So far, I have been able to do very little studying.

(You may well ask why I’m taking the time to write instead of studying, and that’s a fair point! It’s just that it’s easier for me to leave off and get interrupted from writing than from studying. Whereas I can write in short bursts, to study, I really need to focus.)

I resented feeling tethered to the room next door to my kindergartener, and feeling limited to only being able to get things done in the short stretches he’s doing face-to-face schooling.

(I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who are doing this AND working from home. AND being single parents. You’re heroes.)

Pros Starting to Outweigh the Cons

Sure, I may fail my Praxis exam. But there’s always another chance to sit it, and even if I fail the exam, it’s good practice.

But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gradually come to appreciate some advantages this situation offers.

He’s the priority

First off, because I’m having to dedicate my time to my son’s learning, this has become the priority. That means that I am giving myself permission to set aside other things that I thought were priorities.

Watching him learn

Also, it’s such a pleasure and a privilege to see how much he loves to learn. Being this involved is very special–I would never know this much about his activities and his days if he were at school.

I have had the opportunity to see how he learns, what he enjoys most and what he doesn’t like so much. It’s a joy to see his curiosity and his desire to learn grow.

Quality time together

Another benefit is that I get to spend more time with him. And the time we spend alone together during the day is centered around his learning.

It’s something that the two of us are sharing, and since I do not have the stress of having to prepare the materials or teach them myself, I can participate in the fun of discovery and practice. In fact, I’m getting to enjoy story time almost as much as the Bug does!

Shameless indulgence

When I’m not able to study, I am giving myself permission to simply do something that I enjoy while I listen in on the Bug’s classes.

I’ll pick up my book, which I can easily set aside when I need to be paying attention. I’ll write these articles, or do some knitting. And I won’t feel guilty about it because what else am I gonna do??

Go With the Flow

This is how I’m feeling right now. It might change tomorrow. I could feel differently next week.

But for now, I’m trying to enjoy this magical time and just go with the flow.

It helps that the weather is changing, there’s an autumnal nip in the air, and the Bug and I have shared some pretty charmed moments in these last few days.

A Precious Moment

Earlier today, after taking a bounce break on our trampoline, we lay on our backs, looking up at the sky. Our heads were next to each other, and I could feel his hair tickling my cheek. He was telling me about hammerhead sharks (he really likes sharks) and how octopuses are the most intelligent animals without a skeleton.

Though there are many things I feel like I should be doing (studying, job hunting, figuring out what to do with my life), I didn’t want to be anywhere else in that moment.

This is such a short time, and it will pass. Perhaps too quickly, after all.

First Week Roundup

We survived our first week of distance learning! Now on to our second!

Our Bug is still alive and well. I’m still alive and well and (relatively) sane. Chico is alive and well and still has a job. The Bear is also alive and well, though I have to admit that I nearly forgot to go pick him up from preschool a couple of times. (Don’t judge me, I was in the middle of facilitating online learning for the Bug!)

Here Are a Few Thoughts:

It’s a lot of screen time.

The Bug logs on at 8:00 and has 30 minutes of synchronous morning meeting.

They all get a 15 minute break, and then they’re back on, doing different subjects and activities.

Their teacher gives them plenty of breaks in between activities, so they’re not sitting in front of the screen the whole time. But they’re connected on and off from 8am to 10:30, and then again from 11:30 until 1pm.

This second week, they’ll have to be on even longer. It may get more difficult to keep him interested and focused.

Our Bug has incredible focus.

The kiddo listens, pays attention, and participates. He also is very independent and can get the materials, folders and pages he needs (as long as he knows where they are).

This is a great relief to his parents, so that while we still have to be listening in with one ear, we can be working in the next room and only checking in when needed.

Facilitating is NOT the same as home schooling.

Several families I know have withdrawn their kindergarteners from the public schools to do home schooling instead.

I can totally understand this choice: this much screen time is NOT ideal, and for kids with less capacity for focus and paying attention, it is not sustainable.

Also, children with attention deficit problems or those who simply aren’t used to screens will not enjoy this format.

However, as long as our Bug is managing and we can help to keep him engaged, we’ll stick with it, for two reasons:

  1. His teacher is AMAZING. Have I sung her praises loudly enough? Because she’s awesome.
  2. The fact that someone else is preparing all the materials and I am simply facilitating is A HUGE HELP.

Though I am a teacher, I have only ever taught English to adults. That is NOT the same as teaching kindergarten.

I am no expert in developing age-appropriate content, and it is not what I enjoy or am good at.

I’m good at reading with our Bug, which has already proved helpful in those break times. But preparing or designing activities in math, motor skills, etc., is simply not my forte.

Despite being connected, it’s still a bit isolating.

While the teachers are doing a lot of presenting, and they make an effort to engage the kids, there is no interaction between the students.

Though the Bug can see his classmates, and he’s getting familiar with their faces, the children are not getting to know each other at all.

So Far, So Good

Hopefully this is temporary, but as long as it goes pretty much as well as the first week, we’ll be alright.

I know the novelty will wear off for the Bug and we may struggle to get him engaged, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

For any other parents facilitating distance learning out there, we’re in this together! We’re doing great, and we will get past this.

Have a good second week!

Day One Done

WHEW.

Well that’s done! I cannot describe my feelings of relief. I was so anxious about today, about how it would go…

I should have had a bit more faith in our Bug. He was amazing.

Laser Focused

He was so intent on his teacher, on the class, on the materials… He was 100% into it.

He told me three times today how much he likes school, and although I was in the next room and heard everything that happened in class, he happily told me all that they had done together.

He was so enthusiastic. He loved every minute of it.

And now I’m paralyzed with anxiety, wondering if he will continue to be so happy.

One day at a time, Jane.

In Other News…

Having a kindergartener who knows how to read can be damned inconvenient.

Here’s today’s paper:

Below the fold in the Washington Post

The Bug looked at the paper, sitting on the dining room table. He read the headline and the subtitle, turned to me and said,

“Mama, why wouldn’t he expect to meet his children? What’s a sperm donor? And why aren’t they wearing masks?”

The last question I answered by saying, “They’re all family, so they don’t have to wear masks together.”

The other two I glossed over by saying awkwardly, “Well, he helped 19 people have children but he didn’t think he’d ever meet them. HEY! I have an idea! Let’s finish the last couple chapters of The Last Battle!”

Thankfully, the Bug is sufficiently into The Chronicles of Narnia that my distraction tactic worked.

I silently wiped the sweat from my brow, congratulating myself for narrowly escaping having to explain sperm, sperm donation, how babies are made, genetic testing, geneology and so much more.

Not a conversation I’m ready to have with our five-year-old.

First Day of School Jitters

Tomorrow is the first day of school!

Tomorrow, our big guy, our Bug, our sweet Félix begins kindergarten.

In Germany, preschool is called Kindergarten, so the Bug was a bit confused at first, wondering why he was going to have to start kindergarten again. We’ve gotten used to the new terminology, though, and more than anything we’re excited.

A Strange Start

Since this school year is starting with 100% distance learning, it’s going to be a strange start.

Our neighboring county started distance learning last week, and I read in the paper about the technical glitches and frustrations that many students, teachers and parents encountered.

We presume there will be some fits and starts, but we’ve done everything we can to make sure we’re ready to open up the Chromebook and log right on.

Time Flies

As we prepare for this new phase in our child’s life, it’s struck me forcibly how quickly time flies.

I know we humans take the longest to mature of all the animal kingdom, but I swear it feels like it’s been no time at all. It doesn’t seem possible that our tiny thing has already grown into a school-age kid!

Rip-Roaring Ready

Although it seems like it’s too soon, I know that our boy is desperately ready for school.

He absolutely loved his preK class, and he’s already ablaze with the idea of learning more.

This afternoon, while preparing all the materials his teachers have provided, he opened his poetry folder and promptly read all the poems about animals out loud to me.

The kid is curious and loves to read. I hope he loves school.

Mama’s Ready, Too

Mostly. Connecting for remote learning is going to be pretty involved, and we’ll have a bit of a learning curve.

But assuming the technology works as it should, I’m confident we’ll be able to figure it out.

Mostly I’m confident. I’m also really nervous. And worried. And excited. And sad. And happy… And…

ALL THE FEELINGS!

You’d think it was MY first day of school!

Anyone’s Guess

What. A. Mess.

Here in the States, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is pressuring schools to fully reopen for classes this fall.

All the while limiting federal funding to schools, causing states and counties to have to make budget cuts to already woefully underfunded schools.

Like I said, it’s a mess.

Offering Options

Our local school board has offered two options for the fall semester this year:

  1. 100% distance learning, using online platforms and video call-ins.
  2. Hybrid model, where children go to school two days a week and do distance learning for the other three.

Parents are required to choose one option by next week. The choice is binding for the fall semester, and once made it cannot be changed.

Making A Choice…

We talked about it, considered the options, read and listened to information from health officials and from the school board.

We also thought about what is best for our rising kindergartener, what he needs in a learning environment.

We logged onto the parent portal and made our selection. No going back now.

…And Sticking To It

And then the doubt set in.

I made the mistake of logging onto social media to see what others had chosen.

Many people have remained quiet, but many are extremely vocal about their choice. And those most vocal had chosen the other option.

Immediately, I started to question my decision. Did I have all the facts? Did we really make the best choice for our child? Or did we choose the most convenient option for ourselves?

The more I cogitated, the more anxious I became. I worked myself up into nearly a frenzy when I remembered that once made, the selection cannot be changed.

My Calming Force

I melted into tears, I was convinced we had made the wrong choice!

And then I spoke to my husband.

Have I mentioned on this blog how wonderful the man is? [Quick pat on the back to myself for choosing a great husband.]

He quietly listened to my fears. His calming presence and soothing “Mmhmms” and “Uh-huhs” calmed me down. He then, very wisely, reminded me of a key fact:

Nobody has the right answer.

This is a scary situation. The schools are doing their best to keep children and staff members safe. Parents want to make the best decision for their families.

And while the CDC and state health departments can offer guidance, they do not have all the answers.

No one does.

So, my Chico lovingly told me, there is no wrong choice. There are two right choices, and we must pick the one we feel is best for our family.

And those people, he said, who are so forceful and seemingly confident about their choice on social media are simply trying to convince themselves that they have made the right decision.

But of course they have. Because it is the right decision for their family. And we have made the right decision for ours.

It’s Done, Anyway

I felt better immediately.

But even if I hadn’t, there’s not a whole lot I could do about it. Our choice is made, and though I have doubts and insecurities, deep down I feel that it is the right decision for our family.

We’ll see where it goes, what happens in the fall. What is clear is that if this pandemic takes off again, no one will have any choice at all: the schools will shut down.

In the meantime, we’re wearing masks, washing our hands and choosing to trust our own judgment. A judgment based on the information that is available to us.

A Special Word to School Staff

Stay safe, everyone. Especially school staff.

We love you and value you.

And I will make this promise: I promise to vote whenever possible for the candidate whose platform highlights school funding, so that all schools have the ability to keep their staff and students safe in this pandemic.