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Yes, this is really happening. And yet, at least once a day I find myself in a moment of hazy denial. If I don’t look at the news, I can almost forget that a pandemic is taking place. I feel extremely fortunate that it hasn’t yet affected me personally, and I can barely imagine the depth of the fear and grief experienced by those in the midst of this long dark wait. I have family and friends all over the globe and know that each one of them is having a vastly different experience. The haze of denial doesn’t last long.

What is lasting, however, is the knowledge that none of us really knows what will happen next. The only certainty at this point, is uncertainty. And that’s hard. At Hoot, we hope you are staying well, and we want you to know that we understand that none of this is easy. We are here to help, even if it’s just to say that we “get” it.

Wearing All The Hats

A friend reached out to me and said “You were MADE for this moment.” I was stunned and asked him what he meant. “The whole homeschool and enrichment stuff – you were made for it. How’s it going?” he asked.

I was flattered, but horrified because it’s not going as well as I had imagined. But why? On paper, this SHOULD be a breeze for me. I have been a classroom teacher, I’m creative, I even have a masters degree in education that was focused on technology implementation. Good grief, I teach at a distance for Hoot Reading! So why was this so hard?

First, this is not homeschool. This is a break-neck shift to distance learning, on an unparalleled scale. Real homeschool is more nuanced and there is more control over your process and end product. What we are doing today is distance learning, delivered in a variety of ways, with zero preparation for anyone involved. There are a lot of bumps on this new road and it’s not a pretty ride. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be a pretty ride (there are some great and really powerful aspects to distance learning), but right now it’s just hard.

Second, I’m not actually the teacher. I’m the sub! I happen to have two elementary school kids, so I am actually a substitute teacher for two grades. And don’t forget, I sub for P.E., Music, Art, and handle any tech issues. I’m the cafeteria and custodial staff as well!

Why it’s Okay to Cut Yourself Some Slack

In short, we are being asked to perform very important roles for our children, in addition to all of the other responsibilities of being an adult. For example, it’s safe to say that your boss would like for you to continue working online at your paid position. If you have a job that can’t be done online, that adds a burden as well. And if you’ve lost your job because of the pandemic, you’re swimming in a sea of uncertainty. So who’s ready to teach kids about long division? (Yah right.)

As far as helping my kids with school, some days it goes fine, and other days it doesn’t. I often tell my girls that we don’t get to become who we want to be in the future, without practicing those actions we admire today, in this very moment. Any hero you can imagine only reached their peak because they made small choices to be a better person than they were the hour before.

When we emerge from this haze, we want to look back and be proud of our actions, and proud of who we have become. So let’s start with three easy things to focus on:

1) Give Some Grace to Yourself And Your Kids

Figure out when and what makes them most productive and capitalize! My girls are most productive in the morning. We wake up slowly, eat some breakfast and then try to be really intensely focused until lunch. I know other kids who are better off sleeping until 11:00 and doing school after lunch. If you can allow your kids to structure the order of their school work, do it. If they can’t get it done, don’t stress. It’s not worth it. We are all stressed enough as it is.

2) Find Humour

One friend shared that she was so pleased at how well her daughter was working independently. She had turned her daughter loose to do school work around 9:00 am only to find that she’d spent the entire day doing a single assignment and at 3:00 she still wasn’t done. We had a good laugh about that and then she just decided tomorrow would be different. Voila. Laugh. Try again. Repeat.

Two weeks ago, my daughter spent nearly 45 minutes working on a fraction activity that involved painstakingly cutting out cards to represent each fraction. She was supposed to save them for a future lesson. But, moments after she was done, our puppy ate them. Literally. He ate her school work. We caught the end of it on video and sent it to her teacher. Why? Because humour helps everyone.

3) Pick Your Battles

Last Thursday morning around 9:30 am, I realized that both girls had snuck off to build with Legos instead of complete their assignments. For an hour I had worked my hardest to keep them focused and productive, but I never got them to do anything for longer than 10 minutes. I felt so defeated.

So, I wrote to both of their teachers in the same email. The subject line was “Kids are melting.” I explained the situation and asked what 1-2 activities they each really NEEDED to complete for the day. Their teacher’s responses were amazing, gracious and humorous (see the trend?) and therefore, exactly what I needed. The 3rd grade teacher said my daughter needed to do two things: First complete a single specific activity he’d assigned and second, to do something fun that wouldn’t give her Coronavirus. The Kindergarten teacher reminded me that during the first three days of that week we had experienced two hail storms, a snow storm, and an earthquake. If all the kids were at school she wouldn’t have expected to get anything “serious” done. She suggested reading some books together, making some art, and playing outside.

We did the bare minimum that day, played, read, watched TV, and dug in the mud. The next day they were totally rejuvenated and ready for school. I’m so glad I didn’t make the schoolwork a battle. Ever since then, I’m more attuned to what’s going on in the day-to-day that will affect my kids ability to focus and produce.

For my younger daughter, she often does better if she gets to put on some play makeup and a tiara. She also likes to work on her bed. My older daughter apparently needs more protein snacks and to work with fewer breaks. She barrels through all of her work so she can be totally done for the day by lunch. She sticks to the kitchen table to work and sometimes likes to stand instead of sit. Who knew?

When things are falling apart, please reach out to teachers and be honest. Ask for help. Ask for guidance. And if you just need to quit for a day or two, I’d say quit and then ask for forgiveness. It will be a rare educator who doesn’t understand your plight or offer something useful to help you out.

All of us at Hoot Reading hope you are staying healthy, and we applaud the extra work you’re undertaking to help your child learn at home! We are here for you if you need someone to tackle the reading, and we hope you find humour and grace this week!

Be Well,
Elizabeth

Click here to learn more about Hoot Reading’s special plans (at discounted rates) to help during this period of school closures. 

 

About Elizabeth Hawkins Lincoln

AvatarElizabeth is a former elementary school teacher who loves to make learning and fun collide. She earned her Bachelor of Education from the University of Montana (Go Griz!) and her Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She taught Gr. 3 and 5, and when she left the classroom, she worked in educational software and online teacher professional development. Elizabeth spends her free time exploring art museums, riding bikes with her family, camping, writing stories, and traveling to new places.

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