When “distance learning” began, I thought to myself, “Whatever this brings will be my next blog entry.” I just didn’t know what it would bring. Folks, I’m here to tell you that distance learning has not brought good things. Not at all.
Let’s start with the scorecard:
Number of F’s on high school student’s quarter 3 grades: 1
Number of F-bombs dropped on high school student by his mother: 2
Who’s winning? Well, I would say that it’s a wonderful time to not have a child, so kudos to those of you who had the foresight to wait until after a pandemic to have children. Also, kudos to the empty-nesters. You did it! Congratulations to all of you. You’re the winners.
If you’re reading this and you have children, there isn’t much more to say that you haven’t already experienced, but obviously I’m going to try! I can say when this first began– like the very first weekend– when I saw people’s extravagant schedules for “homeschooling” and the very positive attitudes, I was both jealous and realistically choosing to wait until I knew more about what was happening to create something I may need to toss to the curb once we got started. I wonder how those schedules are going now. I am sure some of those people are rocking them, like they seemingly rock life, according to their social media. I prefer to display the shitshow that my husband and I ringmaster over here.
We have a schedule, which truly does help focus the day. What it does not help is how much assistance my child needs to complete his work. Let’s review the kind of learner he is… Oh wait! I still don’t know what kind of learner he is! He’s 15, reads like a champ, does crazy math in his head, can’t stay on task for longer than it takes for me to set him up and walk to my desk (dining room table) in the other room, and gets so caught up in minor details of assignments that he becomes stuck for literally hours if I don’t help him unstick. He’s so bright but lacks the things that all the important people say he needs to succeed: grit, effort, determination, focus, etc.
So, here we are, drowning in missing assignments, emails to and from teachers, Post-it notes, Google Classroom updates, Google Hangout invitations, and more. These things are nearly impossible for people who have solid executive functioning skills to navigate, let alone someone with severe deficits in that area. This is not a “distance learning” situation where he receives assignments, does them, and turns them in with little to no help. This is a situation where we review what’s due each morning, create Post-its for each assignment and place them accordingly on his laminated calendar (laminating that calendar was the best part of this process), review the Post-its a few times each day, remind him of what he should be doing dozens of times, argue another dozen times while trying to help him with assignments, and thank Baby Jesus when we throw in the towel for the day. Notice I didn’t say, “when he completes his assignments for the day,” because that just doesn’t happen.
Do you want to know the worst part of all of this? It’s me! I’m a mother-f-ing SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER! Yes, I teach Deaf/Hard of Hearing students, but I know the drill. So while I make videos for students, contact parents and teachers, work with interpreters who’ve suddenly become captionists, “attend” meetings, and plan lessons done from afar, I’m empathizing with the parents who have to work with my students who may or may not be struggling like we are. I’m also trying to help my struggling child who has an IEP in the midst of this, and I AM FAILING!
So, where are my words of wisdom? Hahaha! My first bit of advice is probably not to listen to me, as I co-captain this sinking ship. However, here are some things I’ve learned so far:
- Do not, under any circumstances, allow my husband to help our son with homework. This only makes things worse. No matter how badly I lose my shit, it’s 1,000 times worse when he helps him. Neither of them know when to just be quiet, so they argue and argue and no one wins. This helps me find some patience sometimes when I know I have to pull it together or the house will fall rapidly into a scene from “Shameless.” (Disclaimer: My husband is amazing. He’s an incredible father. He also doesn’t have the stomach for the useless arguing and banter and lack of effort coming from our little angel. I don’t know many people who would. Remember when I told you I’ve dropped some f-bombs?)
- Praise, praise, praise. When kids are actually doing what they’re supposed to, tell them. It’s hard to find those moments lately.
- Stop checking grades so often. It causes trauma in the family, and is simply not worth it.
- Sometimes mediocre work is all we can expect, and right now, that is okay.
- If kids are truly working throughout the day, but they still hand in late work, it’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.
- Frequent breaks are a must! Our son runs with his dad every few days, he bakes cookies during “creative time,” and he sometimes just looks at memes. This has to be okay right now.
- Go outside as much as you can. All of you. It’s healing.
- At the end of the day, have fun together. We play games or watch a movie almost every night as a family. It’s helped us have good times even if we’ve had a really bad day together.
- It’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes, we all feel frustrated, we say things we shouldn’t say, we swear, we cry, or we just feel sad. Feel those feels, but then find the things to be grateful for and focus on them. Maybe even write them down. I’ve found a TON to be grateful for right now, especially being able to walk every day and having more time with my family.
- Speaking of writing things down, it may be a good time for you (and your kids, although mine refuse) to keep a journal of what’s happening in your home and in our world right now. It’s soothing to write and it’s an excellent record of this crazy time.
- Also, breathe! School districts of the world, take a breath and stop keeping such high expectations! If we’re struggling in a house with two parents who work (from home right now) in education, imagine what is happening in the homes of students who aren’t as fortunate, or who struggle with abuse, lack of resources, etc. It makes me really sad for so many kids and families.
- Do your best to not compare your situation to others, unless it makes you feel better. This may mean limiting the social media, even in this time when we’re all looking for connections. Sometimes less is more. It makes me feel bad when I see the happy kids doing their schoolwork while their parents bake fresh bread, plant their herb garden, sew some masks, and organize their closets all in one afternoon. Step away from the Facebook!
Again, I’m not sure why you’d want any advice from me, but do know that if you’re struggling, you are definitely not alone. I’m taking everything one day at a time, and I’m practically counting the minutes until Friday, when my kids won’t have school for 10 days! THANK YOU, BABY JESUS!