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Several families I know have withdrawn their kindergarteners from the public schools to do home schooling instead.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

Picture Day Pitfalls

Last week we saw the poster up on the front door at school and got the flyers in our cubbies:

Picture day! Hooray!

The Bug and the Bear were pretty excited, and we went clothes shopping on Friday afternoon.

We picked some cute plaid shirts, some nice trousers, and the boys got to choose some fun items, too.

We have a rule in our house. The boys choose their clothes on a daily basis. I only require that they dress appropriately for the weather, but then they have full autonomy.

However, on special occasions, Mama gets to choose.

Since they usually get to pick, I rarely run into problems when it comes to special occasion dressing.

Normally, I give them a choice on those occasions. We’ll lay out some nice shirts and trousers for them to pick from.

For Picture Day, however, I was adamant. Bug was to wear his lederhosen.

Yes, lederhosen!

They’re beautiful, green leather, Bavarian lederhosen. They fit him perfectly, and come with a sweet coordinated plaid shirt embroidered with edelweiss.

For the Bear, we put him in a little Bavarian checked button-down shirt with a jaunty boiled-wool hat given to him by his aunt and uncle.

They look so handsome. Their shirts are pressed, their hair is combed… But then…

Remember, everyone:

NEVER EVER LET YOUR CHILDREN EAT THEIR BREAKFAST IN THEIR PICTURE DAY CLOTHES.

Or, if you do, don’t serve scones with strawberry jam.

back-to-school-feeling

That Back-to-School Feeling

Ah yes indeed, there’s a nip in the air and the days are shorter. I’ve got that back to school feeling!

There’s always a wistful feeling in September. Summer is over, it’s getting colder, and the year is winding down. But it’s also a time for a fresh start.

Figuring Things Out

Since my mother died, I have learned a lot. Without her to motivate me and encourage me, I have found myself coasting somewhat aimlessly through life.

As you may surmise from other articles I have written, I enjoy being a mom. My Bug and my Bear are delightful people, but as children they are not the most intellectually stimulating folks I know.

It’s taken me a while, and I’ve had to beat down some guilty feelings about this, but I have come to the conclusion that I am not meant to be a stay at home mom.

I don’t get much satisfaction from running the household. I’m not much interested in cooking (baking is another story, and my waistline is paying for that). I get bored and lonely being at home all day.

I need to get back to work. The only problem? It’s so much work getting back to work.

Lighting the Fire (under my butt)

After more than 4 years of either working very little or not at all, it’s not easy to find the energy required to get back to work.

Job hunting is a tiring, discouraging and slow business. Alternatively, building up my freelance business has its own challenges. I have to go out and look for clients, market myself, and throw in lots of time and effort.

It is so much easier, once the boys are out of the house and I’m on my own, to slip into habits of inaction or switch on autopilot. Laundry, meal planning and prep, cleaning, grocery shopping… All these things need to be done anyway, and they’re easier to do than job hunting.

But they’re driving me mad.

So I’m Heading Back to School

My long summer holiday is over. It’s time to gather my qualifications, my experience and my talents, and actually do something with them.

I’m going by baby steps here. As my little Bear goes through his “Eingewöhnung” process at daycare (a four-week period of settling into daycare routine), so must I go through my Eingewöhnung of getting back to school, and gradually increase my working time as the Bear increases his time away at daycare.

Hard to do it Without Mom

Mom didn’t let me be lazy. She would offer advice and motivation over FaceTime, or show up at my home to take over with childcare so that I could do what I needed to do to get back to work. She rode in like the cavalry to rescue me from inertia and idleness.

It’s hard to find the same motivation to do it without her. But now that the umbilical cord has been so definitively and abruptly cut, I’ve got to.

For my sake, and for my family’s health and happiness, I need to figure out how to push myself to do my best, with only the echoes of my mother’s voice to nudge me along.