Last week the world sent kids back to school without leaving the house. I say world, but I mean our little house–as well as many other homes around certain districts in our city and surrounding US. It was a huge deal; educators had to scramble to develop some kind of e-learning based strategy while facing the exhausting, scary, stressful pandemic that still grips us all.
Family First, Work Second
Putting family first and work second has been really hard for me to do, honestly, and I want to say that sounds awful–but it isn’t. In fact, all of us probably have a hard time shifting our priorities and reframing our world to fit a new normal that isn’t normal at all. I miss quiet mornings after my older three have left, and it feel less restful and more stressful a lot of the time. But I’ve decided to remind myself that if I can successfully put the kids before my own work, there will be more time left for my personal work goals after everyone is on task, regulated.
As I shape learning around the online curriculum put forth by the teachers and school district, I try to incorporate learning strategies for myself. I’m as much of a learner in this situation as they are. I’m constantly figuring out how to structure the day so everyone gets the time and attention that they need.
I also see so much of myself in all my kids in the ways they learn, the ways they get frustrated with hard concepts, and the ways they devise coping and learning strategies. If nothing else, that has caused me to have a better sense of empathy and also, I have to laugh at these tiny mirrors of myself all over the house.
Since I’m a writer, this is the subject I get most passionate about–but most frustrated with when I see sloppy efforts from the very people that took up real estate in my own body for nine months. At the end of the day, though, we’ve been embracing the journey together and I’m hopeful my middle schooler, especially, will exit this strange period of homeschooling with a better sense of paragraph and essay structure than she had before our homebound time began.
And since I’m an artist, of course, art lessons are the absolute best part of the day (and please check out the Artful Parent for so many wonderful ideas!!!). So far, we’ve explored paint and composition. We took found objects (rocks, buttons, some destructed dead flowers) and played with the idea of composition on some plain white Bristol paper. It was fun to make moveable art that wasn’t permanent. My five year old asked where the glue was and she seemed genuinely shocked that our art was not, in fact, meant to stay on the paper.
We took pictures, but otherwise it was purely an experiment in tactile joy and an experiential delight. I found it freeing, too, to not have yet another “masterpiece” to store somewhere (or, really, throw away without being found out by the kids).
We tackle the other subjects with the help of Pinterest, IXL, and the lessons we see in the world on a daily basis. It won’t be easy, but I have found the more I give to them, the more I get back. We can’t pour from an empty cup, but sometimes I am too much of the mindset that I need to work or meet a goal before I have time for lessons or games.
I hope I can remember to be a lifelong learning right next to them. I hope I can set aside my emails and work goals long enough to really enjoy a round of Slap Jack and Go Fish. I hope I can genuinely let go of my To-Do list to completely fall into a lesson in composition and an experiment in science with my kids.
If you’re in the same boat, let us know how it’s going in the comments! I’m letting go and leaning in, and I hope you can, too. Be kind–these days are long while the years are short, and we’re all in this together.
Until next time,