As the 2019-2020 school year started to ramp down, COVID-19 started to ramp up in the US. Madison got sick with the flu mid-March 2020 and was home starting March 12. By Monday of the following week (March 16) schools were closing and my kids were home indefinitely.
As you’ve likely read in the Welcome page, my husband and I work full time and bringing a then pre-schooler and 1st grader home and supporting their education had a very steep learning curve. Babysitters were scarce as folks started to quarantine – fearful of getting the virus. We had just moved into a new house at the end of December 2019. Our new house has a pool (thank goodness!) and the winter was mild so we spent a bunch of time enjoying the pool. We were also able to work Madison’s curricula into my day-to-day priorities and it was fun. When we baked muffins for breakfast we talked about fractions. We caught and released a lot of toads, frogs and turtles, and got the opportunity to discuss ecosystems and habitats for various animals that live around our new home. When we had to go to the store we discussed the value of money – how much money we had, the price of the items we had in our cart, want versus need, etc. We did science experiments and art projects. We even spent one morning walking through our new home talking about emergencies and planning our evacuation route and talking about how we would get out of our house if we were stuck on the second floor, reciting our new address, and discussing what would happen if they ever had to call 911. It was fun and it wasn’t “work,” but valuable real world learning nonetheless.
After spring break our school system required weekly packets to be completed. Packets for first grade covered math, reading, writing and Spanish. Madison was in a dual language program and as such her math and reading were in Spanish. I don’t speak, read or write Spanish and we had a tutor we would call on occasionally, but to be honest it was a nightmare to coordinate with my work schedule. I found myself trying to squeeze in half a worksheet between meetings and when I was free my daughter didn’t want to do school work. We fought so much as we failed to balance the need for her to get her work done and multiple deadlines I faced at work. Our language became too transactional – you can’t do this until you do that, I’ll give you this if you complete that, etc. I yelled a lot as my kids would play (or more often fight) and I feared my colleagues could hear them through video and teleconferencing.
I felt like I was failing at everything every day.
That lasted until early May and after 3 weeks of not being able to attend all of the Zoom meetings, not getting all of the required work done, working nearly around the clock on multiple project-related deadlines at work – I quit. I took inventory of where I felt like I was failing – every where. What my priorities were – my relationship with my children, maintaining my employment, and getting some sleep. I quit my teaching job. We did no other required work after May 6. In my next blog I’ll post my open letter to Madison’s principal and both her English and Spanish teachers.
Looking ahead to the 20-21 school year, yes, I’m apprehensive about being able to balance expectations and workloads for school, work, family, life – but I feel better about it because we’re making decisions now that put us in control. Rather than submitting to “leaders” in our community who don’t have to live our life, we are taking our children out of the public school system and are committed to creating Kindergarten and 2nd grade curricula that keep our children on track (if not ahead) with educational milestones. We believe our plan for homeschooling allows us to get back to working education into the life we live rather than trying to live any life outside of all of the required school work (~6 hours per day per the public school system) for elementary school-aged children.