I have my masters in elementary education.
I taught 6th grade in a self contained classroom in Pennsylvania for three years, and then I taught 4th grade in one of the top school districts in Connecticut for 6 years.
I have been a swim coach for over thirty years, and I have five kids at home between the ages of 8 ad 14.
I have a lot of experience with kids.
I have a lot of experience with teaching and coaching.
I have a lot of experience working with multiple kids who are at different levels of ability at once.
Today was the first day of distance learning in our school district.
And it was one of the hardest mornings I’ve had in a long, long time.
Let me rewind for a minute.
Last week we got back on track with all the kids consistently doing jobs around the house, and this morning when Number 3 — my 14-year-old high school freshman — came downstairs he said, “Mom, the house is actually noticeably cleaner when we all do our jobs every day.”
The kids have been really, really good about contributing without me even having to say a thing.
I did this purposely last week knowing that today was Day 1 of distance learning for the kids.
We needed to gradually add things in because I knew today was going to be rough.
Instruction in our district is taking place via Google Classroom.
This is not a big deal for the older three who are in 5th, 8th and 9th grades since their teachers already utilize Google classroom and both teachers and students are familiar with how it works.
But for the elementary school teachers and students, this is new territory.
I knew it would take us a while to get into a good groove with my 3rd and 4th grader.
My youngest two don’t tolerate frustration all that well.
Online learning via Google classroom when you’ve never used it before and giving your kids some self-designed instruction via whatever ways you are most familiar with are two totally different things.
I purposely did not have my kids do any type of home instruction last week.
Their worlds have been turned upside down.
So rather than throw them headfirst into a homeschooling mode that neither of us opted for, I just let them enjoy freedom and flexibility while implementing a little bit of structure and significantly more responsibilities around the house.
There was a lot of outside time and creative time and together time last week.
There was also a lot of technology time for one of my kids in particular.
I let him spend a lot of time on the iPad playing and connecting with his friends.
I did that partially because I was trying to figure out how to best navigate the next couple months and I needed the kids to be occupied, and I did this because I just didn’t have the energy to implement serious structure immediately.
Last week the kids and I came up with the first draft of a schedule to follow once distance learning officially began.
I say first draft because I knew we would have to make changes after actually beginning and seeing how everything realistically worked for us.
Or didn’t work for us.
We decided that the day was beginning at 7:30 a.m.
That would give the kids time to wake up a little before heading into the day, just as they would wake up at least 30 minutes before leaving for school if they were still going to school.
Breakfast was from 8 – 8:30.
Jobs/responsibilities from 8:30 – 9.
School from 9 – 11.
I did a really good job staying on track with the schedule.
Breakfast was ready by 8 a.m., and the kids all ate breakfast together.
They completed their jobs early, by 8:45.
The house was neat and clean and the older three all got to work right away on their school assignments and were completely independent. I knew they would be fine since they already do lots of work via GC so they know how it works.
I was really, really pleased.
The ship was running smoothly!
I had a Facebook live for my membership group scheduled for 9:00, so I had Number 6 and 7 wait until I was done with that to start their school work.
Number 6 was able to figure out how to watch a couple videos his teacher had shared while I was live on FB, and Number 7 just hung out in my office working on a search and find book she really enjoys until I was finished.
The kids were really good.
The ladies in my membership will concur!
When I was done with my FB live, I told Number 6 and 7 I would help them.
We had taken care of all the preliminary stuff — logging into accounts, making sure everything worked, etc. — over the weekend.
My youngest two each had an iPad to work on, and each had logged into their Google classrooms a couple days ago, and all that info was stored in their devices.
So we were prepared and ready to start this morning.
I knew there would be issues.
They presented themselves almost immediately.
Number 7 is not all that adept in the technology department.
Neither Number 6 nor Number 7 tolerate frustration well.
Plus, this whole online learning thing is something they are completely unfamiliar with, and they were really struggling with not comprehending how it worked at all.
They weren’t just out of their comfort zone.
They were in a completely different universe.
It was really, really overwhelming for them.
Tears came almost instantly.
Followed by complete meltdowns.
While we had logged onto iPads in advance to avoid technological issues, we soon discovered that some of the assignments could not be done directly onto the iPad. For whatever reason, they just didn’t work with the links or the platforms or whatever else the teachers had designed for them.
Number 5 (who was functioning fine independently) was also unable to record her answers to some assignments using her iPad.
So I had to get them set up on computers. Everything worked on computers.
I put Number 5 on my laptop, Number 7 on my computer, and Number 6 on the kids’ computer upstairs.
This threw a couple more wrenches into the first draft of our plan.
I spent the next 45 minutes going up and down the stairs, back and forth between intermittently crying Number 6 and Number 7.
Number 7 really requires quite a bit of guidance right now.
That’s hard to do when you have other kids who are also in need of guidance and even more of a challenge when you have to work from home and have to be productive. I cannot be teaching my kids one-by-one, all day long.
By 11 a.m. Number 7 was completely shot.
Number 3, 4 and 5 were completely finished with their work. Thank God for that.
Number 6 had managed to finish the day’s math, but we didn’t get to any of his other subjects.
I told Number 6 and 7 they were done for the day.
BUT I DIDN’T FINISH!!!! Number 6 cried.
NOW I’M GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH EXTRA WORK TOMORROW!!!!! he screamed.
He went into freakout mode,
I did damage control and got him calmed down.
On our schedule, it was time for reading.
11 – 11:30 was read aloud time followed by independent reading from 11:30 – 12:00.
And then our school day would be officially done.
We have been reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and the kids are really enjoying it.
Normally we read before bed, but we decided to switch that to during the day.
This would be a nice break for them and it would give them time to just relax.
The kids said, “Can we read in your bed?!?!?!”
I have a king size bed, and it’s plenty big for Number 5, 6, 7 and me.
We all got comfy, and I started reading.
It was really nice.
And then Number 7 realized that Number 6 was wearing her socks, and that was the final straw.
The fucking meltdown of the century ensued.
I had to remove myself from the room.
I had already yelled at them earlier, and I was feeling really shitty about it.
I put the book down, told them we would try again tomorrow, left my room, and started making lunch.
Number 6 immediately transitioned into guilt mode.
Number 7 transitioned into FUCK YOU mode.
Number 5 transitioned into I better not piss Mom off mode.
I was literally clenching my teeth together to avoid saying anything else regrettable while I made ham and cheese sandwiches.
As I was making lunch, Number 7 told me she was running away.
She ran outside, barefoot and in her pajamas.
She came back inside when she realized she needed to take water with her, and then she ran away again.
Oh, also it was snowing outside.
She played a game of I’m running away chicken with me, and she eventually gave up and came inside.
She went upstairs into the playroom and stayed there for about an hour.
About 25 minutes after her self-imposed time out I asked her if she wanted any lunch.
She declined, and I left her alone.
A couple minutes later, Number 6 walked into the kitchen and handed me this note:
Mom, I’m sorry for being your kid. All I do is make you sad, and mad. I yell at you, and be mean. I am sorry.
I am an idiot. I suck.
thanks for lunch
The first part reminded me that sometimes our kids just lack the self-control or the self-awareness to be able to ask for what they really need and they lack the ability to express their feelings clearly and/or accurately.
And those feelings of confusion and uncertainty often present as rage.
The poor kid felt so guilty.
Also, that last little line thanking me for lunch was so cute.
After lunch was over, I sent the Number 5 and 6 outside for “recess.”
I told them they needed to be outside for an hour. At least. They needed to burn off some steam and I needed a break.
Number 3 and 4 had both gone for a run so they were already outside.
Number 5 and 6 complained about the snow and it being too cold, and I told them to suck it up and get their snow pants on.
A couple minutes later, Number 7 came downstairs and into my office.
She handed me this:
She had made a little popsicle stick person.
It had a personalized message.
I asked Number 7 if she needed a hug.
She said yes.
I gave her a hug and then asked her if she wanted to go outside.
She ate some lunch, and then she got her snow stuff on and went outside.
Number 5, 6 and 7 were outside for well over an hour.
They were having fun in the snow.
Until someone destroyed somebody else’s snow pancake, and then there was a scuffle, and the three of them came inside.
Two of them were screaming bloody murder.
They needed to chill out.
We got their snow stuff off, and I asked them if they wanted to relax and just have some time on the iPads for fun.
They all found a quiet, cozy spot, and they decompressed for at least an hour.
While they were relaxing, I started writing this post.
As I was writing, Number 5 came into my office.
Her face looked sad.
“Mommy, I’m so tired,” she said. “And we have to do the same thing all over again tomorrow. And then the next day. And then the next day. It’s so hard.”
She leaned her head against me and wrapped her arms around me.
She was right. Today was hard.
It was hard for me and I have a background and a masters in education.
I already talked to Number 6 and 7 about tomorrow.
We are doing an hour of work.
I’m spending one hour with Number 6, and one hour with Number 7.
Whatever we get done in that time is what we are getting done.
I am not worrying about finishing everything assigned for the day.
I am not worrying about finishing everything assigned for the week.
I am more focused on getting my kids familiar with how Google Classroom works so next week they can (hopefully) function more independently.
I am emailing the teachers with our plan, and I am letting them know I’m not going to kill myself (or my kids) trying to check off a bunch of assignments just for the sake of checking them off.
It’s too much right now.
If you are struggling with the distance learning, if your kids had a rough time, I want you to know you are not alone.
This is really tough.
Your kids are still adjusting.
You are still adjusting.
And you are not required to homeschool your kids.
It’s not your job, and you were not trained to do this.
You can scale back the expectations.
You can ease into this.
You can give yourself and your kids a break.
There is a lot more going on under the surface than we realize when these meltdowns happen.
And learning how to address those feelings and expressions of anxiety and frustration in a way that lets our kids know they are safe is truly the most important lesson we can help them understand.
The other stuff can wait.