When the then-emerging threat of COVID-19 resulted in schools being closed for an additional “two weeks” after March Break, I remember wondering how I was going to balance full-time motherhood with my full-time job during the unexpected shutdown. Three weeks without school, I marveled. How are we going to keep the kids busy at home for three entire weeks?
No school. No camp. No play dates. And yet...we’d still be working? In March, when the weather is decidedly terrible?! I could have thrown up.
My family has definitely had it easy in terms of pandemic-related career challenges. For starters, I’ve been working from home for the past twelve years, so there was no real transition for me. My husband already worked remotely two or three days a week, so he didn’t have much of a learning curve either. We have both maintained our full incomes, which is an incredible privilege that neither of us takes for granted. But doing our jobs well, managing conference calls and hitting deadlines with two busy kids underfoot? Yeah, THAT was daunting. Quite honestly, the idea of doing it for three weeks seemed impossible.
(Hahahahahahaha. If we only knew.)
Now fourteen weeks into our new pandemic lives (and counting!), what I’m marveling at is my own naivety. THREE WEEKS! What a breeze that would have been. What are weeks, anyway? Do time and space even matter anymore? How can three months feel like two years and two days at the same time?
Back when this all started, the kids were home and we were working all day and it was chaos, obviously, but everyone was getting by. Then, shortly into our newfound quarantine routine, we were blessed with the introduction of home learning, which basically meant that all parents were to become part-time teachers, too.
Education is incredibly important, but oof. What already felt like a juggling act suddenly felt like a juggling act wherein new balls were being thrown at working parents from all sides and everything was on fire. Listening to Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, speak about how well this was going to work for families, I was reminded that he went to private school, has never worked in education and has no kids. Cool!
Home learning has worked better for some families than others. This is largely a matter of privilege - for example, it’s a lot easier for kids that have access to technology, high speed Internet, a family member who can help facilitate lessons, English speaking parents, no learning disabilities or other barriers to speak of - but it’s also reflective of each school and teacher. Some educators are excelling in this new online world while others are struggling and you know what? It is what it is. It hasn’t necessarily been fair to students and parents but it hasn’t been fair to teachers, either (especially those teachers who are also parents). There have been some wins and some fails but these are extraordinary times and we all did our best. Right?
I tried my best with home learning - I really did. I wanted to be a supermom who lovingly parented her kids, worked 40+ hours a week, ran a household and managed home school with two kids (and was somehow good at all of it). My husband tried, too, squeezing in math tutorials between Zoom calls and practicing spelling words over and over again. Together, we put in a really good effort. But it sucked and felt impossible and our kids were miserable - and truthfully? At an elementary school level, I didn’t feel like they were getting a lot out of it. Not because of the teachers, but because it’s hard for a 7-year-old to learn division from a video recording and a mom who sucks at math. Because Google Classroom cannot replace an actual classroom. Because even when the teachers sent out cool assignments and science experiments, we didn’t always have the time or materials to get it done. Because even kids get sick of video meetings.
Teachers, I love you. I really, honestly do. The problem isn’t you; it’s “all of this.” You worked hard and faced an outrageous number of challenges this school year. Whether your transition to home learning was an incredible success or you barely kept your head above water, I applaud you for making it to the end of June. But holy hell, I am ready to sign off of Google Classroom and say goodbye to home learning forever*. I’m done. My kids are done. And fortunately, this dumpster fire of a school year is FINALLY done.
Our school board recently sent out information on continued online learning opportunities for summer and do you know what I did? I shook my head, laughed out loud and deleted the email. That’s a hard NOPE from us. My kids’ summer learning plan involves a whole lot of outdoor time interspersed with self-led art, free play, reading and yes, screen time. They will ride bikes and run around the backyard barefoot and eat popsicles in the sun, and they will play more Minecraft than I’d like to admit. They will be fine.
When I stop by the school next week to pick up whatever my kids abandoned in their cubbies, I won’t be sad that the academic year is over. I’ll be filled with relief, grateful that at least one thing is being taken off my plate, and sharing in my kids’ joy that home learning is coming to an end. I’m going to write a sincere note of thanks to each of my children’s teachers, tape them to the biggest bottles of wine I can find and leave them in their empty classrooms as a token of our collective efforts. A gold star for everyone - and finally, summer.
(*second wave be damned - I’m being optimistic.)