While some of you are just entering the flaming hellscape that is home-schooling, my kids are starting week four. So here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned and some advice for making sure no one gets expelled or brought up on charges during this very stressful time.
- You will have good intentions. There will be schedules (possibly colour-coded). You will download apps, purchase subscriptions, memorize log-ins. There will be snack breaks, and enrichment activities planned, such as learning how to cook pasta or cross-stitching. There will be excitement and anticipation over trying something new. There will be, bless you, a commitment to making the best of it. This will last approximately 2-3 days.
- Around day 3 you will start to lose it. By now the novelty has worn off and you’ve grown hoarse from yelling things like ‘get back in your chair!’ and ‘try Control-Alt-Delete!’ and ‘this is a video call…. put on pants!” The schedule is now in the garbage and the good intentions around new resources up in flames as you realize the free trial only includes two lessons and none of those are school-approved. You’ll start showing up for class looking even less put together than Miss Hannigan from Annie.
- You now have two jobs. If you’re working from home, as I am, this situation presents a special kind of torture as you attempt to juggle your boss’s constant emails, a pinging phone, deadlines, mass hysteria, and kids who’ve mysteriously forgotten where the ON button is on their computers. On the plus side, parent council is now a one-woman dictatorship, so you no longer have to listen to Janet drone on about gluten-free crust on pizza day.
- Sharing computers will not work. I lasted four hours sharing a computer with my kids before running to Office Depot for curbside pickup of a cheap and cheerful laptop. Technology inequality is a real and serious issue these days but here’s the thing: it doesn’t even matter because you could have a laptop for every kid, smart boards in every room and NASA’s god damn Mission Control Center set up in your living room and they’ll STILL find ways to avoid working.
- The teacher may drink on the job. This is the new normal, just go with it. It’s also okay to cry in your car, not wear a bra to the parent-teacher conference and suspend your entire class.
- The students will turn on you. They will demand things they’d never dare ask their real teachers. They will fight. They will make outlandish requests such as ‘breakfast’ and ‘help with fractions’. They will develop burning questions that must be answered (‘do ants have penises?’) the minute you unmute yourself on the Zoom call. You will expel them and yet they will show up the next day like nothing happened.
- Take the good with the bad. The good news is your kids can now bring nuts and nut products to class, the bad news is they’ll no longer be shy about pooping at school.
- You’re no longer beholden to the school calendar. Is the teacher stressed? PA Day! Is the teacher really stressed? Yay it’s Spring Break again! Maybe school starts at noon and ends at 12:45. I don’t know. There are no rules, embrace it.
- Don’t think of it as home-schooling. Sorry Karen with the colour-coded schedules and $250 worth of star stickers, but you didn’t just become a teacher. To call yourself a home-schooler is an insult to people who home-school day in and day out (ie. the people whose kids actually learn things). What you’re doing is trying to stop your children from getting dumber. You’re giving them something to do, something to distract them, and hoping they don’t regress to hitting each other in the face with blocks and peeing on the carpet.
- You have to get creative. Picking up the mail is now a field trip. Instagramming your kid having a tantrum alongside the wine and eye roll emojis is now known as Picture Day. Microwaving a pizza pop is Culinary Arts. Watching a show with subtitles is Language Arts. Assemblies happen around the dinner table and morning announcements can and will include expletives.
- Similarly, chores are now learning opportunities. Cleaning out the fridge is Science, picking up dog poop is Civics, counting how many bottles are left in mommy’s special cabinet is Math, cleaning out the garage is Phys Ed and appreciating how good they used to have it is called History.
- Don’t expect gifts. Actual teachers can count on a delicious bounty of mugs and gift cards at the end of the school year, but you, you get nothing except a strained relationship with your children, an overall feeling of resentment, and a renewed appreciation for real teachers.
- This too shall pass. One thing we know for sure about hard times is that they end. So even though we’ve been dealt a shitty hand that seems to have come straight from the devil himself, things will get better. If our ‘students’ remember this time as being unique and kind of fun, instead of stressful and scary, we’ve done our job as parents and as educators. So relax on the schedules, cut yourself and your kids some slack and just do your best.