Searching For Our “New Normal” With School Closures

Ohio: All schools are now closed through May 1, ordered by Governor Mike DeWine.

I doubt the kids will be going back at all for the remainder of the academic year.

For so many parents, this will be the first time for balancing homeschool, working from home, and housework. It’s definitely MY first time tackling homeschool. I’m a veteran stay-at-home parent, so balancing kids and housework is not incredibly new to me. But, having my two oldest do school at home is throwing a giant wrench into our usual routines.

What Our School District Is Doing

First of all, our school district as a whole is just badass.  The Superintendent, teachers, and faculty members have been going out of their minds making plans to get their families through this crazy time.  As far as I know, none of the teachers that are part of our lives were formally trained to teach from home. This is as new to them as it is to us – and they deserve some rock star credit for diving head first into these new waters!

I have a son in second grade and a daughter in kindergarten. Making the abrupt transition from seeing their buddies every day to only seeing their parents and little brother all day, every day has been one of the roughest parts of all this. Our teachers definitely seem to understand. Many teachers in the district have been hosting Zoom Conferences with their classes. My daughter’s first one is tomorrow and she is INCREDIBLY excited.

On social media, I have been seeing lots of different schools, ours included, doing Spirit Weeks. For my kiddos, yesterday was “Silly Sock Day” and today is “Crazy Hair Day.” The schools encourage us to share a photo with a hashtag. I think this is just another fun way for families to connect with and stay involved with the schools, teachers, and each other.

What We Have Been Doing So Far

Originally, Governor DeWine declared a “three-week Spring Break.” Under that order, students would have been expected back in classes on Monday, April 6. WE ALL had the eerie feeling that would not be the case. Our teachers were instructed to give out school work that would not be graded during these few weeks and would serve as just review and keeping minds sharp. The Superintendent made it clear they would be working on plans for graded distance learning, should the order be extended.

We are in our third week right now, so this is the final week of “review” without grades.

My family has had a hard time getting in to any sort of routine. In the beginning, I tried to write us an actual schedule every day to keep us on task. I printed a colorful, fun-looking template that I found on Pinterest. It was broken into a few columns: hourly activities, assignments, and meals.

Who the Hell was I kidding? This lasted, impressively, three days before I decided it was dumb as shit. Thinking about it now, it’s super cute that I thought my kindergartener and second grader were going to have Math Lessons at the same time as each other. If you know anything about second grade math…you know that we parents usually have to YouTube that shit before we can help. Freaking Common Core. So, yeah, it was an adorable thought that I’d be able to help one kiddo do that nonsense, while the other one is just learning to count by 10’s…oh, and all while my two-year-old is running around the kitchen without a diaper.

Anyway – the daily schedule had other flaws for us. First, I was trying too hard to make lesson plans. These weeks were only supposed to be reviewing. Why was I trying to make it more complex than it needed to be? Next, I added chores to the schedule. My kids about had a heart attack when they saw this. They don’t do chores at school, so why were chores fitted into their home school schedule? Last, I did not factor in nap time for Little Guy. In fact – I really gave that poor kid the shaft for a few days there. I was so concerned with keeping some sort of normality for the older two, that I completely screwed up Little Guy’s normal.

SO – we chucked the daily schedule. As of right now, we have been simply opening our binders every day…choosing one subject at a time, in no particular order…If my son is reading and writing on his own, I choose something for my daughter that I am able to give her more attention with. If my daughter is coloring a picture for Art, I break out the Common Core with my son.

This has been going much smoother for us and Little Guy isn’t getting ignored! Of course, now that we are getting a little used to this – next week is bringing change again.

Google Classroom

It’s looking a lot like Google Classroom is going to be our most used tool. I, myself, have ZERO experience with this platform. This is going to be a learning process for me as well as the kids! It has been promised by our district Superintendent that beginning next Monday, our teachers should be ready to start posting assignments.

I really have no idea what to expect from this. My son has his own Chromebook, so I’m sure I’ll be able to get him set up to log in on there. My daughter will have to use my laptop, with my help.

I don’t know if the kids will have daily assignments or weekly. I don’t know how work will be turned in for grading. I don’t know if they will have time frames in which assignments must be turned in.

My son’s teacher says she will be available for help and questions during certain times every day, but I don’t know if that is a chat feature or what.

We have obviously been making lots of adjustments to our lives as of late, and I’m sure Monday is going to be just the beginning of another.

This video was shared with me by a teacher.

The Cooking And Cleaning

Again – I’m a veteran stay-at-home parent. I’m used to cooking and cleaning with kids under my feet.

Here’s what is cramping my style: homeschooling and “Social Distancing.”

Homeschooling – it’s just really freaking new to us all! The laundry and dishes haven’t stopped piling up just because the kids are learning from home. I’m not saying my life is ruined or anything. I’m just adjusting too!

Social Distancing – Ugh! This part suuucks.

My kids can’t go play with their friends at school. We can’t visit a playground. They can’t go to Grandma’s house. I have to entertain them at home!

Yeah, yeah, I have seen all the same Pinterest stuff as you. I know there are 101 ways to entertain your kids on a budget. I know how to make moon dough and puffy paint. We read, we watch movies, play games, ride bikes…We do all that healthy, creative, fun shit. But ya know what? The kids still get bored! And why shouldn’t they? The only human interaction they’re getting right now is from their parents. And, we parents have stuff to do too. I am ALL FOR using this extra time for extra bonding, and we totally have. But as I said, the laundry and dishes don’t seem to care that the kids are home.

Searching For Our New Normal

Unfortunately, our New Normal is flat out Unknown.

We don’t know if or when the kids will go back to school.

We don’t know if or when Social Distancing will end.

I can’t stand the idea that I am unable to provide my kids with stability and give them these answers. I can’t stand the idea that I don’t have the answers for myself or my husband either.

Yeah, I’m sure we will get back into SOME SORT of routine. And it’s going to take a lot of trial and error. The daily schedule didn’t work for our family, but maybe it’ll work for yours. We still try to wake up and go to bed at consistent times. We still have nightly family dinners. We still enjoy one another.

We are grateful for each other and for all the people working together (but apart) to get through this. We are grateful for all our teachers and leaders.

At least we are all facing Unknown together.

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