'Snow Days' Are More Important Than Ever––Even If There's No Snow

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
Katie Cloyd/Instagram

School might be virtual this year, but I’ll tell you one thing: My kids are still going to revel in the magic of an occasional “snow day.” My family lives in Tennessee, so there probably won’t be a single, blessed flake in the air, but that’s not the point.

Honestly, I put nothing past 2020, so maybe we will see a nice, old-fashioned blizzard this year for once. Maybe a polar vortex will hit the mid-South. Maybe a zombie king will ride into Nashville on a dragon made of ice a la Game of Thrones.

Who even knows anymore?

This year, due to COVID-19, we chose to embrace our school district’s distance learning option for our second grader for the first semester. It’s already…a lot.

We are three weeks into distance learning, and I still have to go into the initial email from my kid’s teacher to find the damn Bitmoji classroom in the morning. Not to be confused with the Google Classroom, which is not the same as the Student Portal.

God bless these teachers, man. Every morning, my son and I sign into his school-issued Chromebook. Then we log into 25 apps using an assigned password that is an un-memorizable string of gibberish. I feel like all of these apps do the same damn thing, but none of them communicate with each other, apparently. Nothing is graded, but everything counts?

My school district has curated an experience for these kids that feels like a mix of winging it and faking it, but with really great intentions and the most loving, committed staff alive. We are confused, amused and rolling with it.

To be fair, your guess is as good as mine as to how my district will handle snow if it happens. They could tell me they’ve gotten a government grant to shuttle in fresh powder from the Alaskan wilderness to boost the school children’s morale at this point, and I’d probably just shrug and go with it.

At this point, I don’t even freaking know.

What I do know is that whether the Volunteer State sees one blessed flake this winter or not, my kid is getting a “snow day” or two or more.

He is in second grade, and he’s already stressed to the max. Last week he had trouble falling asleep. He came running into my room at 10:30 pm to ask me to calculate how many hours of sleep he would have left if he was able to fall asleep at that exact moment.

I let him sleep in my bed for a while. Poor thing looked like he was about to sprout a gray hair or two.

One of these days when my son has been working from home for the longest four months of his life and the sight of his Chromebook makes him want to cry, I’m going to turn off the alarm and let him sleep in. We will make hot cocoa and watch movies and stay in bed the entire day. Never once will we consider doing a minute of school work.

Virtual school is still school. Imagine being eight years old and frustrated by the isolation that comes with a global pandemic. Now imagine trying to manage your own time and complete all your work. Factor in that you don’t get to take a day off for a sniffle or a sour tummy anymore because your work is at home.

Now think about the fact that you never get a single minute time away from your (also very stressed out) mother who doesn’t know a ten frame from her elbow. It’s just a lot.

Academics come very easy to my kid, but I know the stress is going to pile up eventually. This is all brand new, and he is already over it. Today, he dropped his seat work binder. Papers went flying everywhere, and it took me over an hour to sort and reorganize it. I thought my kid was going to have a full on come-apart. I had to reschedule recess so he could collect himself. Distance learning is not for the faint of heart, y’all.

I am infinitely more concerned with his mental health than his second-grade education right now. He’s bright. He will be fine academically if he misses a day or two here and there so he can build a snowman. (Or ya know, whatever Southern kids build in the yard on a “snow day” when it’s 50 degrees out.)

Sometimes, knowing when you need to give yourself a break is more important than learning place values. Phonics is great, but trusting your mom to understand when you’re approaching your limits is better. Does he need to know how to read a map? Yes. But he also needs to learn to read himself. There is value in knowing when you just need to pause.

No, he isn’t getting up and leaving the house for school every day, but in some ways, that’s making his life even harder. There is no whispering to his buddy in the line. No playing Ninja Turtles on the playground. There are no Fun Fridays, no blacklight parties for the class who sells the most cookie dough. Absolutely nothing feels like a regular school year.

When I see that all of this is starting to weigh on my kid, I’m going to step in and declare that he gets a break. We might even coordinate with one of my husband’s day off. The whole family gets to be home together on our “snow day.”

I’m not saying every time my kid grumbles or gets frustrated with school, he gets to play hooky. Most of the time, he will be dragging his groggy heinie out of bed at 6:30 a.m. as scheduled. Letting him fall behind academically is not okay, and I’ll make sure he’s keeping up. Like I said, virtual school is still most definitely “real school.”

It’s just that so many of our kids’ formerly valid excuses for taking a little time off are now gone. Our school district issued Chromebooks to everyone. Even the kids who are attending in person are also working from home on a hybrid schedule. During a regular year, a mild illness, a missed bus, or a dentist appointment might be enough to convince your mom to give you the entire day off. Students don’t have that anymore. Everyone is set up to continue working like trusty mail carriers– through snow, heat and gloom of night.

I’m not suggesting we are going to go bonkers with weekly spa appointments or anything. But if once in a while my kid just needs a day off, he’s going to get a “snow day.” When he is a grownup, he will have sick days and paid time off. He will get a chance to dictate his own schedule and fend off his own burnout by making good use of those days.

Why not start teaching him those skills now by making sure we get a “snow day” or two, with or without actual snow?

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