And Here We Are

I never thought I would ever seriously consider homeschooling Max. I joke a lot about slowly turning our little apartment into a pre-school, but not in a million years did I consider homeschooling.  

I know that our educational system has serious problems and it’s far from perfect. But when schools and teachers care about their students, even when they don’t have a lot going for them, amazing things can happen. I’ve seen it happen many times over. I wanted that for Max.

We were so excited when Max started school last year. We were excited about what he would learn about himself and the world. I never imagined that the world would turn upside down. 

We’re about eight weeks into an enhanced community quarantine. Basically, only one member of each household is allowed to leave to buy essentials.  This means that Max and I haven’t been outside our apartment for two months. 

It hasn’t been that bad for me. I love my boys and the days go by pretty quickly. But my heart aches for my three-year-old who loves connecting with other kids. 

So here we are. It’s been a month since Max’s teacher decided to hold regular online “classes”. Before that, she would just send a list of to-dos for us to accomplish every day. At first, I thought the online classes would be great, but they’ve actually been problematic.

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Circle time at home. Each Duplo represents a classmate that he misses.

Depending on the day, 2-3 teachers will send videos, instructions for activities, or Zoom links for “online classes” between 8:45-11:30 AM. The videos and activities aren’t too bad because we can do them at our own pace, but the online Zoom classes have been a huge struggle for us. Max and I end up fighting because these classes require sitting in front of a screen for 20-30 minutes.

Sometimes, the teachers have intermittent internet connection and there’s a lag or we can’t understand them at all. Even when the internet is stable though, Max doesn’t know who to focus on—his teachers or his classmates (who, naturally, are also active).

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Max’s first zoom class. We were so excited that we dressed up for it. Then we were told that it would happen every day, so we stopped dressing up in fancy clothes. Hahaha. 

It’s been pretty hard. Max and I sometimes end up fighting and we would start off the day on such a foul note. I would end up bribing him with screen time to sit through the whole thing, but he wouldn’t be absorbing anything. I would have to keep repeating the teacher’s instructions so that he could understand what he needed to do. Sometimes, he would have to repeat things multiple times because we wouldn’t be sure if his teacher saw or heard him.    

It works for some of Max’s classmates though. One of them just sits in front of the computer without any supervision. I can’t do that with Max. If I leave him in front of the screen by himself, he’ll lose interest right away and wander off. 

So what ends up happening is that we spend double the time we need to for school. After his morning classes, I spend the afternoon giving him supplementary activities to make up for his Zoom classes. This is especially stressful on the days that I have to focus on work. 

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One day, his teacher reviewed letters A-L during their zoom class and Max didn’t pick up any of it. So I started making him worksheets to help support alphabet awareness. Since then, he’s been working on 1-2 homemade worksheets everyday (we don’t have a printer yet).

It all came to a head one morning when both Max and I were palpably in dread of his online classes. That’s when it hit me—signing on to another year of this is like setting him up for failure.  

That’s not what I want. I want him to LOVE learning. Before all of this happened, Max loved going to school. He would be the happiest boy when I dropped him off and picked him up. Now, he can hardly wait to press the *Leave Meeting* button. Sometimes, I have to physically restrain his hand so he won’t press it. 

We haven’t decided on anything yet, but we’re definitely considering homeschooling him ourselves next school year. What makes this decision scarier is that it’s actually a viable option. 

It feels like a lifetime ago, but I did teach in a preschool and I was somewhat involved in their curriculum management. Mikey also taught preschool music and movement classes for years. And more importantly, we’re super lucky to have friends who are preschool literacy experts and legit homeschooling parents who I can easily run to for advice and support. 

One of my biggest hesitations about all of this is that I love being Max’s mom and I really worry about what this new role will do to our relationship. He’s already calling me Teacher Mama and it kind of makes me uncomfortable. 

After his Zoom classes he’ll sit in the classroom corner of our apartment and say, “Ok. Now you teach me.” It’s cute and I love that he loves spending time with me. But I can feel the pressure rising in my chest when he says things like that. 

When you take on the teacher role, there’s a clear goal that you’re trying to reach. And, with any goal-oriented task, there’s bound to be bouts of frustration if you don’t learn how to manage your expectations. 

I’m already really prone to being anxious about his development, so I worry about adding *real* /concrete learning outcomes in the mix. It’s so much fun to be his mom and I worry that being his official teacher will take away from that. 

It almost feels like we don’t have a choice though. It’ll take some time before there’s a reliable treatment protocol or vaccine. And our country’s testing and contact tracing capacity is nowhere near where it needs to be for me to be confident enough to let Max physically go back to school. 

Nothing is set in stone yet though. Hopefully things will be clearer once we conference with his teacher next week. But I think I already know what I need to do. </3

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