Change of Plans

We’re on Day 3 of distance learning of kindergarten, and I have realized several things:

  1. Our son has incredible focus and does amazingly well participating in class over the computer.
  2. We are EXTREMELY LUCKY that this is the case, because man! This is not easy.
  3. Despite his patience and being engaged, an out-of-home distance learning program is NOT for us.

Now Don’t be Judging

Yes, we had originally planned to put the Bug into a distance learning program.

He and the Bear have actually been back at their preschool since July. We decided that after months of being at home, that they were simply too miserable.

They’ve been going half days, and it’s been like night and day. They are so happy, energized and glad to be surrounded by their peers.

Their groups have been small, and their teachers are all masked. We’ve been very happy with their school’s policies and its cleanliness.

Seeing how happy they were to be with peers, we thought it would be best to enrol the Bug in a distance learning program.

That way, while he was doing school online, at least he would be surrounded by peers and would be able to interact with other kids.

Turns out that’s not really how distance learning support programs work.

Why They’re a Life Saver

First off I should say that these distance learning programs offered by community centers, daycare centers, churches and sports centers are definitely a life saver for working parents.

We know many households of two working parents, and the expectations for distance learning, even for kindergarteners, are quite high.

For kids to be in a place where they are safe, taken care of, and monitors are helping them is very important.

However, we found some issues with the out-of-home distance learning program we tried.

Why It Wasn’t For Us

The Bug was to go to our local sports center, which is part of our homeowner’s association. He knows the place, though the people were new to him.

I had every confidence that the director and monitors would do their very best. Their normal job is to run after school programs, so while facilitating distance learning is new for them, they’re seasoned professionals when it comes to working with kids.

The main issue we encountered was one that I don’t know any distance learning program could solve.

There were eleven children of all elementary school ages in the program. Our Bug was one of only two kindergarteners. The other kindergartener is doing DL from a different school. So while their schedules were similar, they were not the same.

Each kid was plugged into their computer with headphones, joining into their DL classes. I think there were only two kids who were in the same DL class.

The issue is, that even though the monitors and facilitators have the kids’ schedules, within the class periods on their schedule, the teachers have the kids take short breaks.

Especially for kindergarten kids, they’re only doing face-to-face blocks of about 15-20 minutes. Then they get a 15 or 20 minute break before coming back. But if the kids are on their headphones, how are the monitors to know it’s break time? How are they to know what instructions the teachers have given the kids?

Our Bug is a smart cookie, but he couldn’t always remember exactly what his teacher said about what he had to do next.

The result was that he ended up spending most of the day sitting in front of his screen with his headphones on. When he did have an official break in his schedule, he looked around to find that he was the only kid on break right then.

So essentially, while surrounded by other people and kids, he was still alone. It was very isolating for him.

(I should note that had we decided to keep him there, he would have been just fine. But my gut told me that he wouldn’t thrive.)

And So We’re Home

I’m set up in the next room, writing or studying, and I have one ear trained on what’s going on in the Bug’s class.

Whenever it’s break time, he knows how to turn off his camera and either plays happily in his room, or comes to find me and we have a break together.

Because I’ve heard his teacher’s instructions, I know when to get him settled and ready to start class again.

It’s going to be hard. I’m going to feel like I can’t get anything done, and there will be ups and downs.

We may also have to find another outlet for him to interact with other kids. Perhaps soccer, tennis, or something like that.

For now, though, we’ll take one day at a time.

As For the Other One…

The Bear is still going to preschool every week day. He’s completely mad for his teacher and doesn’t want to leave school when I go pick him up.

As I said, we’re taking one day at a time, and if for any reason we don’t feel comfortable, we’ll keep both boys at home and somehow make it work.

For all those who are at home with their kids and are juggling work, my hat is off to you. You are superheroes. Remember:

This, too, shall pass.

Won’t it?

Power Trippin’ No

50. Just Say No: Write about the power you felt when you told someone no.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“No.”

Such a tiny little word, and yet! And yet how powerful!

I’ve come up with lots of different ways to say “no” these days. As a mom, I think it’s important to have a variety of ways to destroy your child’s happiness.

“Now’s not the time, love.”
“Not likely.”
“Never in a million years.”
“Heck no!”
“What, do you think I’m stupid or something?”
“Ix-nay.”
“Let’s all have a big tall glass of nope.”

It feels like I have a whole arsenal of “no” weapons, ready at a moment’s notice!

A Bit Carried Away

At one point, though, I realized that perhaps it was getting a bit excessive.

This dawned on me when my three-year-old threw himself on the floor and screamed when I told him, “No, you can’t play the piano.”

That’s normal, you think. Any three-year-old would throw a fit about something like that.

True, but hear me out.

I have fairly high noise tolerance. This piano has survived lessons from four kids: it’s not like it’s delicate. My kids aren’t that rough. We had just finished one activity and hadn’t yet moved on to another. He had washed his hands and everything.

Could It Be That…

Perhaps I was saying “no” too much??

But how can that be?! I must be FIRM with my children! They can’t have everything they want!

This is true. They cannot have everything they want. But not everything has to be a battle. After all, we got the piano for the kids to enjoy!

So after watching him scream for a minute, I thought to myself, “Do I really care enough about this situation to worry about seeming inconsistent if I change my mind?”

The answer was (you guessed it!), NO. No, I didn’t care that much.

“You know what, love? Why not? Of course you can play the piano. Go ahead.”

Picking Your Battles

His face immediately cleared, and he clambered up onto the piano stool and started plonking away. He didn’t last long, and soon became interested in his trains.

Noise gone. Happy child. Happy mother.

That was a battle that didn’t need to happen. Others definitely need to happen (like reasonable bedtime, brushing your teeth and OMG STOP EATING TOOTHPASTE HOW DID YOU FIND IT GAAAAAAH).

But when we’re all cooped up at home together, and things are tough enough as it is, picking your battles is an important skill to learn.

It’s also good to realize that sometimes…

“Yes” Is Powerful, Too

(Or, if “yes” feels too permissive, try, “What the heck? Knock yourself out, kid.”)

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.

A Judicious Use of Silence

Today’s prompt got me thinking about how I’m trying to learn to BREAK silence, rather than keep it. But in an effort to lighten up a bit, here’s one about staying silent.

43. The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“Ma-MAAAAAH!! HE HIT ME!!!”

Before the pandemic, this cry would elicit an almost immediate response from me.

“Don’t hit your brother!” for minor infractions.

“Go to your room!” for slightly more serious crimes.

“THAT’S IT, I’M TAKING AWAY [insert favorite toy here]!” for the most grievous offenses.

But as the pandemic wore on…

I became inured to the call, impervious to their cries.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things I will not tolerate (just ask me how I dealt with a biting habit).

But when it comes to the whiny, peevish cries of, “He pushed me!” “He hit me!” “He took my toy!”… At this point, I am basically deaf to them.

A Newborn’s Cries

You know how parents learn to understand their newborn’s cries? One for hungry, one for sleepy, one for fussy, another for gassy…

It’s actually pretty easy to tell when your child is seriously upset or injured. Just by listening closely to their shouts, I can tell whether my 5- and 2-year-old are actually in pain, or if they’re just kvetching.

So now, when they kvetch, I say nothing.

Blissful Silence

After the initial outcry, when they realize no response is forthcoming, they usually simmer down.

They’ll move on, either play something else together or each move on to his own thing.

It’s only when the outbursts become more frequent and reach a fever pitch that I then intervene.

And then, it’s usually to throw them outside, down to the playroom, or to their respective rooms.

And enjoy a few more minutes of blessed silence.

And maybe a cup of tea…