I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be chatting with my therapist in 2030 about homeschooling my children in 2020.
Right now, I’m working from home. I have three children. The youngest is in first grade, and she is allowed to go to school in person. The older two are 11 and 13, and they are learning remotely in what can only be described as a test of Zoom endurance.
My wife is a teacher at the kids’ school. And even though her class is learning from home, the school is still requiring her to go into campus and teach from her classroom. Now listen, I’m not going to get into my feelings about Mel teaching from the classroom. I don’t think it’s safe or needed, but that’s not what this post is about. What I want to express here is that I am working from home, while managing two kids learning from home, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been mentally tested at this level.
I spend most of the day with one foot in my job online, and one foot (and two hands) in trying to help my children navigate their online classes. I spend an alarming amount of time trying to get my children to stop being procrastinating little something-or-others that I shouldn’t say out loud because I’m an adult, and I’m required to be better than that. The stress level has been very high, along with the stress eating, and the other day I literally had to find my emotional center by locking myself in the bathroom and saying to my reflection, “You graduated from college. You got married, and a bought a house, you can help with 6th grade math!”
The kids have cried. I have gotten rage-misty from time to time, and I’ve eaten an alarming amount of graham crackers. The other day, however, my 11-year-old daughter gave this suggestion: “Can we just take the day off, and eat toast, and watch SpongeBob?”
We were only two weeks into this pandemic homeschooling adventure when she asked that question, and you’d think I still had enough gusto to keep going. But I was good and tired already, and I must admit, what Norah suggested caused me to be conflicted on a level I’ve never felt before as an adult. I mean, I don’t even like SpongeBob, and I’m indifferent with toast, but the thought of just putting school work on the sidelines for a day felt as refreshing as a cool drink of water after a hot trek across hell.
She kept saying please, and I kept not responding; eventually, she dropped it. Yes, I am as surprised as you are. She’s 11, and dropping a topic that she’s fixated on really isn’t in her DNA. But I must admit, even with her not bringing it up anymore, I couldn’t help but think about taking a cheat day from homeschool.
I was actually up that night, sitting in bed, thinking about how nice it would be to just not do anything for a time. So after much internal negotiation, I decided that we were taking a three-day weekend. I mean, honestly. I was the teacher now. I was in charge. I had the power. There really was no reason I couldn’t make this decision.
That Friday, we had Friday fun. We set up camp in the living room. We selected a collection of streaming shows and movies. Some of them were educational, like The Magic School Bus and National Geographic. And some were just for kicks, like Dennis The Menace, Infinity War, and yes, SpongeBob was invited to the party. We ate toast, and we ate graham crackers, and we broke a hard family rule by having juice boxes and popsicles in the living room.
I couldn’t completely take the day off from work. So I sat on the sofa with a laptop answering emails and such — but I didn’t have to do it while fighting my kids to do their homework, and I had a juice box, so in comparison to what I’d been living with in the past, it felt amazing.
All in all, I couldn’t help but notice how much happier my kids were at the end of the day. The next week they came to their school work with more enthusiasm. Once I decided to make this a regular thing, it gave my kids something to look forward to each week. And right now, in 2020, finding something to look forward to is a pretty big deal.
So my friends, my suggestion is, schedule a pandemic homeschool cheat day. Take a break from the madness. Put the Zoom classes and the homework aside for a day, and just eat toast and watch SpongeBob with your kiddos. It’s totally worth it, and it will change the whole mental health game in your home.