As I start writing this post, it is Sunday morning, and our 2.5 year old, Jack (a.k.a. The Munch), is wailing at me from the other side of the baby gate. I have no idea what it is that he wants me to do right now, only that I am failing to do it.
We’re a week and a half into having both kids at home, and a week into attempting to facilitate — with the help of some packets and apps — the learning that used to happen in-person with a range of people.
Up until the week before last, our kids’ learning team included:
- Two occupational therapists (one for Jack, one for Ryan)
- Physical therapist (Jack)
- Speech therapist (Jack)
- 1st grade teacher (Ryan)
- Special ed teacher, for supplemental pull-out lessons (Ryan)
- Swimming teacher, for Ryan’s form of physical therapy
- Mommy, who could only occasionally participate in conferences and sessions, but who asked lots of annoying questions whenever she did
- Dada, who case managed and participated in the Munch’s various therapy sessions every week and was responsible for implementing the therapists’ suggestions the rest of the week
As an aside, I want to name that I’m clear on how privileged we are to normally have access to this level of support for our kids’ developmental delays. It’s all provided as part of county early intervention services (for the Munch) and the school district (for the Woog).
There are many places in the U.S. that don’t provide those kinds of services for their residents, including the county that is five blocks from our house. Both Dada and I passionately believe every child who needs such services should have them, because we’ve seen how much of a difference they have made for our kids.
Now our kids’ learning team consists of:
- Mommy, who is also trying to work full time from home
- Dada, who is also trying to work at home
In case you were wondering: no, neither of us have training in physical, speech, or occupational therapy. We don’t have any teaching certification (both of us taught college students), nor do we have any training/experience needed to be a special ed teacher. And while I tried teaching Ryan swimming last summer, I sucked at it, and also there are no pools currently open to take him to anyway.
Given all that, you’ve probably already guessed exactly how amazingly well things are going in the We Heart household right about now.
Here’s a daily rundown of last week:
Sunday: I join a text thread with 12 other moms from the block, many of whom are educators, where they are sharing their learning at home schedules, resources, and plans.
I show the thread to Dada and ask what he thinks about implementing their scheduling ideas for Ryan.
“Totally doable,” Dada says. “We’ll just need to carbon freeze the Munch.”
I scowl. Dada shrugs.
I note that one of the families on the street has a two-year old and a 7-year old. (The 7-year old is in Ryan’s class).
“He’s almost three,” Dada says, “and unlike the Munch he’s not a tsunami in human form.” Furthermore, they’re going to have both parents on hand since they’re furloughed.
“Are you going to take off work?” Dada asks.
I can’t. At least I think I can’t. Or I don’t know. It’s a scary time.
“This whole thing is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” Dada says. “Let’s get the kids through tomorrow and Tuesday.” The school district has promised to send out an at-home lesson plan on Wednesday.
“I’m concerned Ryan is going to fall behind,” I say.
“I’ve been at-home parenting for a long time,” Dada says. “By mid-week these schedules and activities are going to get chucked.”
I look at Dada skeptically. “So you’re predicting that all of these parents we know, some of whom are teachers or school administrators are going to blow off these schedules they spent time developing.”
“I’m saying that doing this at home is radically different than doing it at school, especially with kids of different ages.”
What he’s saying makes sense, and I don’t like it one bit. I’m worried Ryan will fall behind.
“Look,” Dada says, “Mike Tyson said it best: everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.”
Monday-Tuesday: Dada has Ryan do 20 minutes of Dreambox, 20 minutes of Kids A-Z each day, quickly whisking Jack away before he can run interference. The three of them watch Wild Kratts and Ryan delivers a lecture on various dinosaurs. Dada asks him questions. The Munch gets bored and slips away to vandalize the rest of the house.
Dada spends most of the day outside, where Ryan rides his bike up and down the street with the other kids on the block.
Weds: The school sends a massive packet of math, writing, and reading materials, along with a schedule of required activities for every day of the projected two-week closure.
The packet warns (well, they probably didn’t think of it as a warning but I sure heard it as one): The goal of this material is prevent learning loss during the anticipated 2 weeks of closure. Should school close for longer, we are working on ways to create actual learning gain from home.
I read this and panic.
I cut out the clock cards for the time-telling game that is supposed to happen on Thursday. I records a half-funny/half-angry video rant for my sister of the mess that’s made.
I write, “seriously, wtf?!?” on the packet’s math assignment for Friday, which would require not one but both parents (or an older kid and a parent) to pull it off.
Without a blow dart for the Munch, that’s not happening. I pick a different activity for Friday instead.
Thursday & Friday: I reapportion an hour from my solo work time on each day to supervise math and writing activities for the Woog while Dada occupies the Munch somewhere else on the premises.
Once Ryan comes downstairs from my workspace, Dada puts Jack in an Elmo coma and continues activities with Ryan until lunch.
In order to get Ryan to sit his letters on the line and put spaces between them (the two writing things the Woog’s OT from school has emailed to say we should focus on in daily writing), I make up all kinds of silly games, including calling the bubble on lower case letters like p and g their “bubble butts” and doing a bad, 40 year old’s impression of someone with rhythm by trying to — hip hop dance style — drop my own butt as close to the floor as my bad knees will allow, while singing “bubble butt, bubble bubble bubble butt, on the line, bubble bubble bubble butt.”
The Woog finds this hilarious, and it probably causes him to be more likely to stick his letters up in the air in future writing so he can see me make a fool of myself some more.
I count the one hour of interactive learning that happened on each of these days as a huge win, while simultaneously feeling guilty for not figuring out how to do more.
Saturday: Dada tries to catch up on the necessary paperwork for the state tax deadline, which hasn’t been pushed back even though the federal one has, while I walk up and down the block outside in giant sunglasses, full hat, and mask, supervising Ryan and Jack as they ride their bike and scooter respectively up and down the street in a way that keeps them at least several feet away from anyone else who is outside.
(Incidentally, no, I’m not one of those phobic mask hoarders. It’s an allergy mask, because the tree pollen this year is making me feel like mules are repeatedly kicking me in the face. Saturday I finally decided “Fuck it, I don’t care what I look like, I’m keeping the pollen out any way I can.”)
Today: I laugh at the increasing numbers of social media memes about parents who have given up on their homeschooling schedules and are now just trying to keep their kids from killing each other, while secretly still wondering if I’m actually a failure for not figuring this shit out.
Hence, I refuse to give Dada any credit for being right.
Meanwhile, Dada is relieved he doesn’t share Mommy’s perfectionistic, self-destructive, anxiety-laden tendencies (not his words, by the way).
And I’m now beginning to worry about the Munch, and whether the lack of attention to his speech, OT and PT is going to set back his developmental curve.
So now we’re caught up to today. How’s this going for the rest of you?