Number 6 is nine years old and in 4th grade.
Of all the kids, he is struggling the most with distance learning.
He has very little tolerance for frustration, and his default reaction is crying.
I often call it rage crying.
He goes from zero to a hundred in like 3 seconds.
I think wrestling helped him raise the bar before the default crying kicks in, but there is still a long way to go.
Number 6 is actually the resident tech expert in our house. He knows his way around all things screen related, and he is the go-to guy for help in that department.
But even so, he is very easily frustrated with Google Classroom.
Google Classroom precipitates some pretty high intensity meltdowns in our house.
They were frequent when distance learning officially started in our house nine days ago.
It wasn’t only navigating the system and figuring out how to complete assignments and turn things in, but also just understanding some of the concepts that were assigned and how to do what needed to be done.
He has learned how to navigate GC very quickly. That’s not a source of frustration anymore, really.
But sometimes he just doesn’t understand the assignment.
And that is often from just rushing through reading the directions and missing crucial information, or not reading the directions at all.
As our first week of distance learning progressed, Number 6 become more and more independent.
He had work assigned in all subject areas, but I only had him do his math assignments because the rage crying was happening so often that it was just too much. He was emotionally drained.
And there was a lot going on last week in general.
The crying isn’t because he just doesn’t feel like doing the particular task and he’s throwing a fit.
He has regular chores at home that he does every day.
He folds his own clothes and puts them away daily.
He keeps his room clean.
This week he is responsible for cleaning the dining room every morning. (Every kid is responsible for a different common area room in the house and we rotate rooms every Friday).
He doesn’t lose his shit when it’s time to clean the dining room.
He doesn’t fly into a rage when he has to take his laundry basket upstairs and fold his clothes and put them away.
And he doesn’t want to do those things. But he knows he has to, and he does them without protest..
He doesn’t lose his shit because it’s a free for all here at home and we have no structure.
We have a set routine Monday through Friday.
Breakfast is every weekday morning at 8:00. Lunch is at noon. Dinner is usually around 6 pm. I have been kicking some serious ass in the meal department, and every single meal has looked like this:
No exaggeration. We have been 100% Little House On The Prairie in the meal department and every meal has been eaten as a family.
I haven’t ordered out, and I haven’t even done a cereal for dinner meal.
I have been fucking Julia Child 24/7 (and enjoying it).
After breakfast at 8:30 everyone does their chores.
And then at 9 am “school” starts.
Each kid has their own work area.
Number 4 works in her room.
Number 3 works in his room. If he needs help, he comes down to the dining room and we sit at the table.
This was during a particularly rough Romeo and Juliet assignment.
Number 5 works at this table in the family room or she sits on the couch with my laptop.
Number 7 works in my office.
And Number 6 works upstairs in the playroom. (We are in the process of realocating the American Girl Doll stuff).
At 11:00 I read aloud to Number 5, 6 and 7. We sit on the couch and they snuggle around me.
They rotate who gets to sit on either side of me.
It’s become my second favorite time of the day.
At 11:30 the younger three read independently while I make lunch.
Everyone eats at noon.
12:30-1:30 is “recess.” They have a mandatory hour outside.
We haven’t had the best weather here the last couple weeks, but we have only had one day of indoor recess.
Most days the hour turns into more than an hour.
If they come inside before 3:00, they play inside.
There is no technology (aside from what they need to do for school) between 8 am and 3 pm.
We have maintained this routine on every “school” day.
Number 6’s meltdowns aren’t because he is spoiled. They aren’t because I’m a pushover. They aren’t because we don’t have structure. Or limits. They aren’t because I can’t handle saying no to my kids.
His intense reactions are due to other things going on that we can’t see.
His crying and anger is the tip of the iceberg above the water.
The reasons for them are the whole part of the iceberg that’s beneath the water.
On Monday Number 6 had a great day.
He had no meltdowns. He was able to do all of his work independently except for his writing. I helped him with that and there was no drama.
But yesterday was one of those two steps forward, 500 steps backward kind of days.
He was a disaster.
He didn’t understand something he was supposed to do. Then he misread a comment his teacher left for him.
And he fucking lost it. I was sitting next to him for the final implosion.
When he does this, I calmly tell him I’ll give him some help when he regains his composure, and then I leave the room.
Okay, I usually do this. And I did this yesterday. But last week on Day 1 of distance learning I was not calm after the fourteenth meltdown. I lost it, too.
But since then, I’ve been really good about managing my reactions.
Number 6 was super upset yesterday. He threw things. He screamed. He was out of control.
I walked downstairs so I wouldn’t say something I regretted.
After a couple minutes, he was quiet.
I left him alone and decided I’d wait for him to come and get me rather than going up to him.
About twenty minutes later, he called me from the top of the stairs.
“Mommy!” he said to me. “Guess what?! Miss B is helping me!”
After he had calmed down, he sent her a “private comment” through Google Classroom.
“I told her I’m struggling a lot with reading and writing,” he said.
He was working on the beginnings of a literary essay.
He had to write a thesis statement about a character in a short story he read, and then come up with three reasons supporting his thesis statement with examples from the text.
It’s not an easy assignment for a nine year old to do for the first time even in the classroom, and definitely not easy considering what is going on right now.
I walked upstairs and sat down next to him at the computer.
His teacher was talking him through the assignment right on Google docs, and answering his questions and giving him step by step feedback and guidance.
He finished his assignment without any tears.
“Mommy, I’m done with all my work!” he told me about a half hour later.
I walked upstairs and sat down next to him again.
“Mommy, I think I’m going to just ask my teacher for help from now on instead of you. You are smart and you were a teacher, but Miss B actually made all of our assignments and she can help me better.”
I’m not gonna lie. At first I was a little bit hurt.
He didn’t want me to help him anymore.
That only lasted for a minute and I snapped out of it.
THEN I WAS SO RELIEVED.
“I”m sorry I yelled at you,” he said.
I gave him a hug.
“I know this is really hard,” I told him.
Number 6 continued.
“Mommy, I told Miss B I cried today. I told her I cried because I miss my friends and I miss her and I miss school.”
The part of the iceberg below the water was starting to emerge.
I told him I was proud of him for telling his teacher about his feelings.
“Mommy, you know what Miss B told me?” he asked.
“What?” I anwered.
“She told me she cried today, too,” he said.
Well, now I was crying.
I sent Number 6’s teacher an email, thanking her for taking care of my guy.
I thanked her for talking to him not only on a teacher-student level, but more importantly on a human being-human being level.
I thanked her for establishing a relationship with him where he feels safe enough to be honest and vulnerable.
I still am not a fan of mandatory distance learning. I know it’s not coming from the teachers. I know there is pressure on teachers coming from either the district or the state level.
But I am a big fan of Miss B and all the rest of you teachers out there who are doing your best to take care of our kids in any way that you can.
I know this fucking blows for you.
I know you want to be with your kids.
I know you miss your kids.
And just in case you wondered, your kids really fucking miss you, too.
I appreciate the above and beyond work you have done in the last couple weeks.
I appreciate the formidable task you have ahead of you, both in the immediate future, and also down the road.
And I just wanted to say thank you.