How’s it been working from home with three kids in virtual school? My first grader refused to do any work because he “knows everything.” He knows a lot about beyblades…I’ll give him that. But he could use some schooling. I convinced him to at least go to his class meeting. He did; the teacher never showed. The other day, my second grader interrupted my meeting with an emergency announcement. “Dada! I have to boo boo!” As for my fourth grader, he’s a professional when motivated. Goes in his room and knocks out his work. He even choked his brother (with two hands!) for bugging him during math. That’s dedication.
Ideally we’d want the kids in traditional school. It’s one of the reasons we live in the comfortable boredom of suburbia. In exchange for ever-increasing property taxes, The Man guarantees safe and educational childcare that runs concurrently with the traditional adult workday, though the hours aren’t ideal for youth learning.
But covid made the decision to do 100 percent virtual learning easy. My job’s been remote since the good ol’ days when you could go outside without ninja wear, but my employer, a healthcare conglomerate who spends millions on real estate, isn’t allowing its 50,000 in-office employees to return. You figure if gathering indoors was safe they’d be the first to encourage it.
I know kids handle the virus better, and the death rate for young and sexy adults around my age is relatively low. But there’s more to this virus than “Did you die, though?” I’ve read research—not memes—on long-term effects, even in children, including depleted brain function, severe fatigue and de-swagnation, and loss of lung capacity.
Anyhow, back to virtual school. One of the good things is that I’m able to give the boys individual instruction. Though it’s often in quick spurts between my own work, it’s still more than they’d get in a traditional class of 25. In a way it’s like private school, though in our case the one-on-one help is from an unqualified but determined teacher. Even if the best advice I can give is “Finish what you can…Mama will look at it when she gets home from work,” it’s a little more than what they’ll get from a busy teacher, who’s underpaid and dealing with kids who are unprepared due to lack of parental involvement. (Read to your kids, man!)
Another positive is having a real recess. In their normal school they get 30 minutes of outdoor activity per day, which is about the same amount of yard time you get in prison. In the Gibson School For Rona Prevention, they get at least an hour of running through neighbors’ yards, often with friends who “mysteriously” show up during school hours. If they sleep in their beds for the entire night prior, thereby allowing their parents to have uninterrupted coitus (I have to watch my words, they read this stuff), they might get an hour and a half of free time. If I’m occupied in a work meeting, they might get two hours. Combine exercise with healthy meals, and hell, that’s covid-19 protection right there.
Also, there’s a virtual school bonus: Kids dress up as superheroes during the school day just because.
Still, despite my privileges—a home with space to separate the kids into work stations, a low-stress remote job that pays well, kids without special needs, and the technological acumen to navigate what I call “app overkill”—man, there are some rough moments. A lot of ’em.
For example, the boys ask 50 questions a day. They’re not bad questions, just untimely. I tell ’em to ask Google. They seek praise for finishing work and I’m too busy to offer much. Maybe a “Man, that’s good!” I’ve yelled like Principal Joe Clark. I snatched my oldest off the floor and damn near put him in a full nelson when he “passed out” in frustration over a writing task. And lastly, helping out with assignments is hard. I consider myself a numbers guy, but 4th grade math has made me reevaluate.
But we get through it. Even though our district made us commit to an entire academic year of virtual learning, it’s only temporary. Plus the boys are growing up. They’re writing love letters to little girls down the street and asking to go to the creek alone. (The creek is big s**t in our neighborhood.) This might be the last time we get to hang out like this. Unless there’s another pandemic. Man!