It is currently 9:15am on a Wednesday in mid-March. Normally my four kids are at school, my wife is at work and I am home alone putting off whatever it is I had planned to do today. But with school closed for the foreseeable future as well as my wife’s office, everybody is here. All. The. Time.
We have taken seriously the advice of health care professionals of “social distancing” by remaining at home as much as possible. It is a lot more difficult than it sounds. My kids want to hang out with their friends. My wife is constantly finding something I forgot to get at the store when I stocked up last week. We’re all already starting to get bored.
Life, however, must go on. My kids still need to learn. My wife still needs to manage her team around the country selling food (she works for Conagra Brands which sells Slim Jim, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Birds Eye, etc). I still need to procrastinate.
Our school district moved to “e-learning” for the next two weeks. I decided to create a schedule at home for them that mimics school so they had structure to their day and were relatively quiet while my wife took conference call after conference call. The kids report to “class” at 8am and do assignments from their teachers on their school-provided Chromebooks until 11am. They have lunch and “recess” (basically, go outside) for an hour then get back to “class” until 3pm or they’re done with their work. After they have a snack, they go to “practice” much like they would any regular day except it is at home and they can do whatever they want as long as it is physical activity, preferably outside. They then take showers and have some free time.
Two days in and they are ready to rebel.
E-learning is extremely flexible by nature. They want to take advantage of this flexibility by structuring their time on their own. They are teenagers (or nearly) so they are loathe to follow Dad’s rules. However I believe to maintain a culture of learning they need to maintain a similar structure to their regular school days. Plus, I don’t want to have to spend my entire day asking them if their work is done. Or started. So, the structure is as much for me as for them.
Despite their grumbling, they are sticking to it fairly well so far. In our house we have always had a specific room dedicated as a “classroom” so they spend much of the day in their which is kind of ironic because they rarely use that space for homework on typical school days. My wife and I set up the space, complete with a couple desks and a white board, for them to use, originally as a place for them to play school or do artwork when they were younger and now to do homework. It has a door which is nice so that my wife isn’t disturbed by them and I can ignore their complaining.
As much as I am trying to make things as normal as possible, it is definitely not normal. This “social distancing” is a grand social experiment no one has any idea how it will turn out. I expect it to last for months, not a couple weeks. How will we be in a few months of being together, just the six of us? At least I like all these people, so I’m starting from a good place.
The kids miss their friends and their sports. I miss my few hours of alone time. My wife is just missing out since she is the only one doing serious stuff around here. “Why can’t I get a quasi-vacation?!” she wonders. Ah, somebody’s got to make the dough so we can eat. Thanks Honey!!!
For us, I’m not worried. We are fortunate to have saved wisely the money we have been fortunate to earn. We are all healthy and thus at low risk for serious health concern if we do get the coronavirus. But I am worried about a lot of others. So many, estimates are 40-50% of Americans, do not have enough money to afford a $400 unexpected expense. Our government has been woefully inadequate in testing so we have no idea how many are currently infected and thus have no way to realistically contain the virus’s spread. Many are going to suffer extreme financial hardship and some are going to get very sick.
The human spirit is enduring and we will find our way forward. I personally am doing my best to remember this time together is a blessing, not a curse. Far too soon our kids will be off forging their own paths. But right now, I have them here and I am trying my best to take advantage of this time together playing games, talking and laughing.
As I am finishing this post, the second e-learning school day is coming to an end. Our high school senior is making tilapia for dinner and then we are watching Frozen II on Disney+, all of us on the couch together. It’s an example of how COVID-19 is changing life for everyone and how we are getting through this together.