August 25, 2020
I remember getting the text from my friend saying, “You gotta check this out.” I was outside watering the plants, enjoying a minute of quiet as the girls were playing inside. I opened the message and could literally feel my heart drop as I read the announcement that all schools in our county would be starting virtually this year, even tiny private schools like the one my older daughters go to. A wave of emotions hit me. On some level, a bit of relief. Now I didn’t have to make the choice in a couple of weeks of whether to do in-person or online learning. Instead, the decision was made for me. My kiddos would be doing school at home this Fall. Then a sadness started to wash over. Sadness that this virus is still running rampant, sadness that the kids won’t be able to be with their friends and teachers, and even a bit sorry for myself as this Spring proved homeschooling to not be an easy feat. Even 6 months into this pandemic, I still don’t want to accept it as normal. There are definitely days when I want to kick and scream, shake my fist, and declare that this is all spectacularly unfair.
But I’m the adult here and there are already enough tantrums taking place without mine. I’m also acutely aware that my children are watching me. They are listening and taking it all in, especially my oldest. So I must fight the urge to throw myself on the floor and instead take a deep breath.
And make a plan.
The pragmatist in me determines the first step is to get organized. For us, this looked like searching high and low for desks. As expected, everyone is doing the same thing. After a full day on the hunt, we settled on two desks that fit our space and would fulfill needs beyond the immediate homeschooling. Truth be told I had been thinking about a desk for myself and this simply sped of the process, albeit I’ll be lending it out for a while. With new desks and chairs ordered, my next step was the stuff. Pencils, highlighters, whiteboards and dry erase markers, pens, crayons, markers, and of course a cute little caddy to put all the stuff in. This is where I am so grateful for our neighborhood dollar store and dollar bins at Target.
I also knew I needed to get items for our resident preschooler as we decided I would be homeschooling her this year. With the big girls being home, it didn’t make sense to be running to preschool twice a day. Not to mention the greater issue of her not wanting to go if her sisters are learning from the living room. Lastly the cost, especially with my hubby’s fitness business being so vulnerable to shutdowns, we decided it made the most sense to keep her home. So with a heavy heart, I just gave up her preschool spot for the upcoming year and pray that she will be able to return next Fall. I am a bit sad knowing she will be missing so many fun activities, like the Pumpkin Party and Christmas performance. But I am grateful she was able to participate last year, even if it was cut short. I just can’t dwell on it. One more lesson of 2020. Instead, I need to take a cue from Frozen II (which has been watched a ridiculous amount of times over the last few months) and take Anna’s advice when she says to do, “…the next right thing.” So here we go.
With all the stuff ordered, I am now turning to my house. It’s funny in a way, this emotion that has been rising up feels a whole lot like “nesting.” Like when you’re super pregnant and have this insane urge to get your house ready for the upcoming baby. For me, I needed the nursery done, baby clothes all organized, nursing bras washed, car seat installed and, stroller ready to go. Yup, I am fully type A, as my sweet husband saw on steroids when baby number one was getting ready to make her entrance into the world. We even ended up moving when I was 8 months pregnant. Random side note, aren’t we funny creatures that we choose to have two huge life moments within months of each other? Ah, humanness at it’s finest.
Anyways, back to my house and the homeschool stuff. This nagging voice, the cousin of pregnant nesting, is pushing me to move/organize/arrange/rearrange my house as we figure out where to set up our learning stations. The trial run in the Spring proved the girls can’t sit right next to each other because their Zoom calls were too loud and distracting. So they need to be separated, but my eight year old still needs help from time to time, so I must be close enough to assist. Then of course there is my four-year-old to consider who needs me all the time otherwise she screams or strips down, neither of which are helpful during live Zoom calls. I will say that having a plan has certainly helped and unlike the Spring when we fell into homeschooling literally overnight, this time feels more calculated which gives me some level of comfort.
Lastly, and quite possibly the most important step in my preparedness is my mindset. I have come to the conclusion that I must be flexible. I cannot take any part of this too seriously because it will ultimately lead to my undoing. I know that about myself. This season has been filled with too many twists and turns to be surprised now. So when my mind starts to wander down the road of self-pity, I have to steer it back to all the things I’m grateful for. The blessing of our home, the teachers working tirelessly to bring lessons into my living room, the technology that makes learning even possible. The time spent with my kids and the gift of the girls having each other. Thinking back over these past six months I keep coming back to the choice I have to make. Maybe that’s the biggest lesson in all of this. I can’t control any part of this, but I can control my response.
Whew. That’s a tough pill for me to swallow. Playing the victim is so much easier and there is certainly enough blame to go around, simply turn on the news. But that also means someone else is in control of my life. Andy Andrews paints a big picture view of this idea in his book, “The Seven Decisions,” when he shares that if we blame others then we hand over the keys to our own happiness. If the blame falls on everyone else’s shoulders, then how will we ever find any solutions or joy? This is coming from a guy who went from losing both of his parents and living under bridges, to becoming a best selling author. His life was destroyed by circumstances, his mom died from cancer and his dad was killed in a car accident shortly thereafter. He went from a normal, ordinary life to a life of utter devastation. And he was only 19 years old.
After spending several years being homeless, he stumbled upon a local library and began reading hundreds of biographies about the great people in our history. The common threads he found and the title of his book, The Seven Decisions, ultimately was what lifted him from his current situation. Through his own sheer will, he made choices that completely transformed his life. So how does this tangent relate to school at home? I think it has everything to do with it–not to mention quite possibly every aspect of how we view our lives. I know my attitude will certainly shape how my kids see school this year. How I present it and speak about it will most definitely shape their perspective. So I’m challenging myself to see the light and speak the good as often as I can. I’m human, I know criticism and disappointments will slip out, but I have to try my best to see the positive. This lesson of how to handle a challenging situation is one that will serve my kids throughout their lives. As we all know life is filled with difficulties and our response could be the very thing that either fuels us forward or is the beginning of a long road of disappointment.
I have to remind myself of Andrew’s story for many aspects of my life, the big and small. The annoying and the life-altering. No matter the gravity, there is ultimately a choice in how I respond and that will inevitably affect the people around me. If my kids see that I am grateful for the technology, that I am pouring out kind words about their teachers, I am praising their efforts even when inevitably the internet glitches and they miss part of their lesson, maybe those are life skills I can instill during this unique moment in time.
I’ve been entrusted to teach my kids and perhaps the greatest lesson that may come from learning at home has more to do with all of our heart attitudes than anything else. This is a big ask and not easy by any means. To be stretched in ways I know I don’t necessarily want to be. Yet here we are with uncertainty sitting on the horizon and our children staring back at us.
As we get ready to take on this upcoming school year, sweet friends, I’ll be praying for you. And maybe if you get a minute, please include a quick one for me too. I’d be so grateful. During the process, through the refinement, as homeschooling becomes part of our routine, perhaps the life lessons will be brought to light and teach us more than we ever expected.