Up until this week, I have been a firm believer in routines and sticking to schedules. After my husband leaves for work – his job in the water department of a local city has not changed – my three daughters get up, have breakfast, get dressed and then school work starts. I try to encourage the oldest to work on her math or reading independently (she’s in grade four and a strong independent worker), while I help my middle child with her book report or something called Translations, Reflections and Rotations. (The horror…) At some point in the day, I sit down and do my best to patiently help my kindergartener with her reading. We gave up on all other kindergarten-assigned crafts and experiments long ago.
Somewhere in there, I also do my best to get my work done at my full-time job, break up sibling fights, make lunches, clean up, do laundry (because for some reason they’re still wearing a LOT of clothes) and say hi to my husband every once in a while. And even though I was proud of myself when I decided to let the job of dusting go and actually be okay with it, there was something continually nagging at me in the back of my mind.
Too much iPad time. They watched movies all afternoon so I could work. They seem to really dislike one another right now. They aren’t interested in any of the extra ‘fun’ educational stuff.
Yesterday, my kids brought it to light. They told me something that I should have known all along: This is not working.
They aren’t enjoying school anymore, they need more help than they’re getting, and they think I “can be mean” at times. (Reader, my heart broke into a million little pieces when my 5-year-old told me that one.)
And yet, we still get up every day and try to struggle through an online system that isn’t working thinking today will be a new day. Teachers aren’t allowed to help one-on-one with the kids and, I’m assuming, most parents haven’t been trained in teaching so we’re all just winging it and hoping for the best. Long division. Short division. French. Ancient Mesopotamia. It’s a lot to re-learn and teach while also trying to do my regular job.
When I’ve stressed out about it online, well-meaning parents have told me to ‘just snuggle them’ and the kids will be fine. Or, focus on life skills like baking and cleaning together. While I love the idea of this in theory, all of this requires me to not work, to focus solely on my children and to teach them each and every thing they need to know.
And while I also love this idea, I mean, I think I’m a good mom and I know I love my kids more than anything in the universe, I can’t do it all. And I bet many of you feel the same.
First of all, I can tell my kids are getting a bit tired of me. I’m around All. The. Time. They need their teachers. They need their friends. They need camp counsellors and grandparents and people who aren’t me who can show them things, teach them concepts.
Second, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. This isn’t a short-term solution like we once thought. If schools don’t reopen even in the fall, then what? Are we going to recreate this process that isn’t working for many of us?
Yesterday, I told my kids to ditch their school work. On my lunch hour, I told the kids to get into the van. We went in search of one of the newly-opened provincial parks and went on a hike. They ran down trails, got mud on their knees, their cheeks were pink from the sharp spring air. They smiled up at me and laughed together.
My mind and body were flooded with relief for a brief, lovely moment. Is this the way forward? Not for every parent that has to work, I suppose.
I don’t know what approach to take, I don’t know what is right and what is wrong, but I do know that the longer this continues, the more reports will be released proving all of our fears to be true. This isn’t working. The kids are scared and worried, the parents are stressed out and running out of energy. Whether you have older kids or younger kids, two children or four, everyone is having a rough go.
So can we all admit it to one another and find a new, more sustainable way forward?