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Surviving Sudden Homeschool
posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - March 19th, 2020
Today we are introducing Joanne, from our TestingMom team. Joanne and Karen will be starting a NEW live event next week called 2Moms@Home. We can’t wait to share more! Without further ado, meet Joanne!
Failing. Maybe even flailing. I knew this was going to be difficult. I was prepared for the challenges. I mean, I thought I was. Right now I am feeling the frustration of my own expectations. I really need to give myself the freedom to breathe, but I just keep feeling like I’m failing.
There is a lot going on outside my doors, and I am so grateful for all of the essential members of our community, including my husband. Those are the people I try to remember and send my gratitude and prayers to when I start to feel this overwhelmed. I don’t always have the ability to see through these fingermarked (oh my god, is that PEANUT BUTTER ON THERE??) windows to see beyond my own space. I think listing my current challenges might help me find some perspective and maybe… MAYBE help me to regain my footing a little.
Challenge One. WORK. I am lucky. I have an understanding team around me. They really do get that it’s not them I am shooting dirty looks at, and they don’t worry when I am putting myself on mute to remind the kids to let me have this meeting in peace and to get their own snacks. I am not meeting every deadline, and while that stresses me out a little, I am also learning to live with the fact that it’s not business as usual for anyone. I work for a company who is always looking to help families help their kids. Even now we are brainstorming and creating new and exciting ways to help keep parents and kids engaged and invested in their education. I love this part of my job. I love connecting to people and finding ways to encourage them as they work towards educational goals with their kids. I can’t wait to see what comes out of TestingMom.com during this strange, claustrophobic period.
Challenge Two. MY HOUSE. I really do want to be tidy and have things in their proper places. I want to be able to Zoom from any place in my house, and not have you distracted by the piles of clean laundry on my couch, or the art projects/math sheets/book piles on my dining room table. I dream of a kitchen big enough to house every pot/pan/drinking glass I have acquired over the last 15 years of marriage. Alas, this isn’t my life. Not before Coronavirus and certainly not now. Saturdays are our usual “catch-up day” but I’m going to have to create some new expectations in this current reality. I just haven’t had the energy to put any focus on that yet. In the meantime you’re going to get the exact same view of my hutch, and the pile of board games that are regularly and happily used.
Challenge Three. ME TIME. I grew up in a large family. I LOVED any moment I had to be alone, because they were so few and far between. My nose was usually deep into a mystery or horror novel from a VERY young age. When I went away to school, I loved being able to close my door and read something NOT school-related. Even after I got married, I have always enjoyed retreating into a good book, where I didn’t need to explain the plot to anyone to catch them up, or pause it while he went to grab a seltzer. Reading has always been what I would consider ME TIME. I began working from home over a week ago and I realized late last night as I was deep into the “why can’t I sleep” portion of my day, that I hadn’t picked up a book that didn’t belong to one of my kids over that whole time period. “When do you have time?” I asked myself from under a pillow. “Find me the time,” I begged myself.
Challenge Four. THE KIDS. Finding the time on weeknights for all of the after-school sports and activities and homework was always a challenge for us. Just three weeks ago my daughter turned to me on the way home from dance, before we rushed over to tennis, and asked me, “Why can’t we just have ONE weekend where we don’t have to run around?” Be careful what you wish for. With everything that they do outside of the home canceled, we’re now pushing our floorboards and upstairs neighbors to their limits. My kids are very active children who, when given the chance, are racing/climbing/throwing ANYTHING. You can only run the stairs so many times before the neighbors come out to say you woke them up at 9am. (Do you realize that 9am was a compromise?? They’ve been begging to do it since 6:30am!) So, what do we do? We operate on a flexible schedule. We are trying to find compromises, as one child loves to write and the other dreads it. We have a daily “PE” class, which means that sometimes we do run those stairs. We are doing the best we can, but it’s hard to give them a “math class” and expect them to be able to do it on their own. My second-grader came up to me this morning as I was working with a colleague, yelling “I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS!” So, I paused my work to try to help her. Her frustrations were so high that any sentence I began was shot down with a “MOM. THAT IS NOT HOW MY TEACHER DOES THIS.” Baby. I know. I’m trying.
Challenge Five. ANXIETY. This is something I will be doing a deeper dive on in the very near future. It’s not just me who is feeling it, it’s my husband out there working every day, and it’s also the kids. My daughter had a very difficult fall season. We had to work through a lot to finally find the heart of her anxiety. When we did start to recognize what was happening with her, we started finding her tools to self diagnose and calm herself. She really turned a corner in January. Her teacher and I were just discussing how proud we are of her and how she has been using her “toolbox” on a regular basis! This week, I have watched her retreat back into her previous ways. She is lashing out with angry words and actions, she has back aches and tummy aches that don’t go away, and she is contrary at every turn. I finally put it all together myself two days into this quarantine, and implemented a daily snuggle time with her. This seems to be helping for now, but it made me realize that despite my best attempts to be honest with my kids about what was happening, and how we as a family were going to make the best of it, she was feeling untethered and confused. Which of course only added to my own anxiety and sense of failure. I remind myself that like the airplane pre-check says, I need to put my mask on first before helping others.
MY TAKEAWAYS. It’s ok to feel this way. It’s ok to need to take time to wipe the windows and look at the sunshine (seriously though, how did they get peanut butter on the window?). And it’s important to allow myself, my husband, and my kids the freedom of “grace.” We’re not trained to live like this. We can make mistakes and learn each day from each other. Lesson plans can be flexible. “Free Time Friday” can be a thing. Enjoying board-game time, movie nights, and dance offs are great ways to connect with my kids and remind them that we’re all ok. They are learning how to pivot and how to become more self reliant. I’m learning to reach out more to my community of friends and family. Above all, I am learning to recognize that I’m not failing. I’m learning.