Little Mister, school

Help Wanted: Everywhere

We are three years into life with COVID/pandemic/new normal and companies are still having a hard time hiring staff. Last year I wrote this post about the restaurant industry, and the hit they were taking financially because they couldn’t hire people to work, so they couldn’t fill table, therefore they couldn’t make money.

This is crazy to me.

I know this isn’t affecting every industry, but it feels like it’s affecting most of them. Yesterday afternoon we took Little Mister to his annual physical. We arrived on time, and had to wait until there was a free nurse to take his vitals, etc. There was someone ahead of us who WAS NOT HAPPY waiting. She was so rude and condescending to the nurse behind the window who was calmly explaining that they were short staffed. Ms. Rude wasn’t having it and continued to make snide remarks. When we were called into a room finally – ahead of Ms. Rude, thank you very much – the nurse said to us, loudly in the direction of the Rude Family in the waiting room, “Thank you so much for being nice and patient we are doing out best!”

One place where we are seeing the biggest impact of unfilled jobs is with the school buses. Every day we get an email that this bus or that bus isn’t going to be running, and that’s it’s going to be combined with another bus. They cannot hire bus drivers. I’m not making light of a bus driver’s job: it is hard, and thankless; driving kids around and being responsible for their safety…that is a big responsibility.

And when these buses don’t run, and other buses pick up the slack, it throws off the whole morning. The kids are on the bus longer while they take up an extra route, they are late to school, and the bus drivers are irritable. One day, one of the bus routes from our elementary school wasn’t going to run so they were combined with a bus from another elementary school. And then the kids from our school had to do their entire route, drop the kids at the other school and then drove across town to be dropped at our school. So…they likely got to school around lunchtime.

As a parent, you take a big leap of faith putting your child on the school bus. Last year, we drove Little Mister to school and picked him up (between the first year in the school and COVID, we weren’t ready to commit to the bus yet). But the time commitment for that was not sustainable for another year. So this year, Little Mister took the bus. I was certain that I would be riding the bus the first day with our very shy child, but he surprised us both by walking right onto the bus. He didn’t even wave goodbye.

After a few days on the bus, Little Mister informed us that the bus took too long, he spent too much time on it, and basically he gave it a rating of 0/5 stars. “I’d prefer it if you drove me and picked me up from school.”

Oh, really? Let’s not get into the things I’d prefer in this life.

Little Mister is a shy kid, who won’t go out of his way to talk to new people. So I imagine the bus ride was long and quiet for him. After a few weeks, he discovered that the time would go by faster if he was reading, so now he reads both ways on the bus. And there are no complaints from this parent. Choosing to read? Yes, please!

Our bus is on the tamer side, but I’ve heard some buses are loud and crazy. I can’t even imagine having to drive a bus with 30 screaming kids on it. So I understand why we are missing so many bus drivers…no one wants the job. But on the other hand…someone needs to take the job!

Case in point: today, the bus came 10 minutes early. Ten minutes is a lot of time in the morning, it could be the difference between shower or no shower, breakfast or no breakfast, pants or no pants. Thankfully the bus driver saw Mr. KK and Little Mister in the driveway – and then running down the driveway – and stopped to wait. Because she never stops to wait, even when she’s early. Today she was early because she was trying to squeeze in an additional bus route because one bus wasn’t running at all.

Then, the last 2 days have been half days and the bus was 25 minutes late dropping off Little Mister. The first day it happened, I was starting to get nervous. I was running through a bunch of scenarios in my head – none of them good, mind you – and cursing myself for not having Little Mister memorize my phone number. It didn’t help that the town was picking up the leaves on the curb that day, and were stopped right in front of my house. So I’m standing there, the guy with the blower is literally blowing leaves around me while the machine picked up the piles. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer and I called the school. I knew the secretary would know what was going on. Except a man’s voice answered. The principal! What was he doing answering the phone?

I should have introduced myself as “crazy mom” or “worry wart” because he assured me that the bus did leave a few minutes late (more like 20) and that he was on his way home.

Thankfully he arrived home safely – if not a little annoyed. (Same for me; I was annoyed. I spent 40 minutes of my work day standing at the end of the driveway! I don’t have that kind of time! I thankfully work from home. What about the parents who go to the office every day – these crazy bus schedules have got to be messing with their productivity!

We are powering through, because the bus affords us less time in the car, and less time away from work. Also, it allows us to avoid the pick up line. If you ever want to get back at someone who has wronged you, send them to the parent pick up line to get your kid for a week. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Bottom line: if you need a job, please apply to be a bus driver. If you retired early and are looking for a few hours of work a day, please apply to be a bus driver!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to shop for the best holiday gift ever for our bus driver to show our appreciation.

Kids will be kids, Little Mister, school

School Projects with Kids: I Give Them 0/5 Stars

It was inevitable.

We had reached second grade. The students were expected to be more independent, have less instruction and work on…projects.

Is there a more painful experience than working on a project with an 8 year old?

So far, excuses to NOT work on projects have included:

  • I’m too tired
  • I can’t think about that right now
  • I have to go to the bathroom
  • I have to have a snack first so my brain will work
  • The teacher didn’t say we HAD to do this
  • I think watching TV first will get me in the mood to do my project
  • And – my favorite – I don’t want to

I wish I could say that the teachers don’t give us enough time; however, 3 weeks to complete something that could take one hour is rather generous.

We have had 3 projects so far this year. Each one has been as painful as the last.

As someone who loves to create and is a maker of all the things, it is very difficult for me to understand not wanting to do a super fun project that involves glue, markers, feathers, stickers and other amazing craft items.

Players: creative, crafty mom and anti-everything child.

Project 1: The “All About Me” Poster

This project consisted of students making posters that represented who they were and what they liked. They could draw, use photos, stickers, literally anything to bring this poster to life.

The day the poster board and instructions came home, Little Mister informed us: “The teacher said we could work on this a little at a time. Like, just do ONE thing each day. So today, I’m just going to put my name on it.”

Thanks, teacher.

Note to teachers: your students (at least mine!) take what you say literally. If you said “don’t spend more than 5 minutes on this”, they will spend exactly 5 minutes on that assignment, not a minute more, but possibly 4 minutes less.

First, we didn’t want to share anything about ourself. “But that’s how your new classmates will get to know you!” I told him in my most persuasive voice.

“I don’t want anyone to get to know me,” said my introvert child.

End result: we made the poster over a 3 hour period of time filled with head on the table whining (him) and exasperated sighs (me), on an afternoon when Mr. KK was conveniently “at his parents house”.

Project 2: The Pumpkin Book Report

Our second project of the year was a fun one: read a book, answer a few questions about the book (this was somehow disguised as a “book report”) and decorate a pumpkin to look like a character from the book.

This one sounded fun!

Right away, we identified the book we wanted to do. Yay, us!

Next, we bought a pumpkin that was the right size to decorate and have him carry into school.

Last, was the actual work.

You must be thinking, ‘Oh, Mr. KK missed out on doing the All About Me poster so he probably jumped at the chance to do the Pumpkin Book Report!’

NOPE. Mr. KK was on a golf trip when the PBR (not the beer kind) went down.

I had Little Mister write out his answers to the questions about the book on a lined piece of paper first, so that we could correct any mis-spellings. Then I had him copy it onto the book report sheet. Seems pretty logical, right? Nope! Not to an 8 year old. “Why are you making me do my book report twice?”

Me: “So you can think of what you want to say and we can make it neat and make sure everything is spelled correctly.”

Little Mister: “It doesn’t matter if it’s neat or if it’s spelled correctly.”

Those words? From my child?

We painted our pumpkin and decorated him to look like the skunk from the book. I think we did a pretty good job. The next morning I drove him to school so he didn’t have to carry his pumpkin on the bus, with the chance of banging into the seats or – more accurately – leaving it on the bus.

As we are waiting in the drop off line, Little Mister informs me, “I didn’t want to do that book for my book report. I wanted to do the dragon book. Let’s do that one instead.”

Project #3: The Diorama

Now THIS project brought me back to my youth, making dioramas out of shoe boxes. I loved to make dioramas. And for this project, each student has chosen an animal to study and learn about and would then bring that animal to life in a cardboard box. Mr. KK would like me to note that he was present for the box-sourcing and background painting of the diorama. Objects and details of the diorama were done by yours truly and Little Mister.

For this project, we were to create a diorama about coyotes.

Little Mister LOVED animals! So far, so good!

Little Mister LOVED talking about his diorama and what we could do! Excellent!

Little Mister LOVED painting the diorama! Amazing!

Little Mister was NOT, however, a fan of glueing down the animals we bought for the diorama because he wanted to play with them.

“How about we don’t put this big coyote in and he stays here?” The negotiations began.

Me: “We can glue him down, he goes to school, then when your diorama comes home, you can play with him.”

LM: “But his feet will have glue on them.”

Me: “I will remove the glue!”

LM: “But you say not to get glue on anything because it doesn’t come off.”


Our coyote diorama, complete with 3 different habitats where coyotes can live!

NaBloPoMo, Pandemic, school, work

We’ve Entered the Over Sharing Portion of Remote School

You owe it to yourself, just once in your lifetime, to sit in on a remote classroom with 20 kindergarteners (all of whom cannot read yet and haven’t learned how to navigate Google classroom).

For the first week of school, about 15 kids sat on the Meet NOT on mute. So we heard 15 households’ conversations. Everything from parents’ arguing in the background to Grandmas telling kids the answers.

Every parent should have gotten this t-shirt with their remote learning kits.

Once everyone got the hang of the computer, the kids got really comfortable really fast with their teacher, sharing all sorts of things. Now, I know this sort of uncensored sharing goes on in schools all the time, however, parents are never privy to what’s said behind the classroom door. Now, we have a front row seat.

And kids share everything, especially when they don’t have a grown up next to them who can jump on that mute button to save face if need be.

Overheard in the kindergarten classroom:

“My parents are always yelling at me. So I scream back.”

“The only thing I like to do is watch Youtube.”

“I’m bored. When is school over?’

“Why is your hair like that? What did you do?” (to the teacher!)

“Can you pause the video? I have to pee!”

“I don’t like this part, can we do something else?”

“HEY! PAY ATTENTION!” (a parent, to their child)

We are on live learning for almost 5 hours each day (with breaks). Kids do not have an attention span for that long. And when their minds start to wander, all of the verbal gold comes out.

Though, I feel as adults we can learn a thing to two from these kids. I have been on more than one video call just this week alone where I wish I could have unmuted myself and asked, “I’m bored. When is this over?”

Little Mister, NaBloPoMo, Pandemic, school

Why we Chose Full Remote Learning for School

When schools shut down in March, the sh*t hit the fan for working parents. When we couldn’t send Little Mister to daycare, we found ourselves juggling who was going to watch/entertain/be at his beck and call every hour of every day. It was exhausting, and we weren’t even dealing with Chromebooks and Google Meets and meltdowns like parents with school-aged children.

We endured the pandemic through spring and summer, while the fall school scheduled loomed over our heads. Would the kids be going back to school? What would learning look like? Did the package stores have enough wine stocked for parents??

As August started and the first day of school drew near, we started getting communications about the school year. And the plan changed by the day. Sometimes by the minute. For the most part, the decision on what the schools would be doing was being driven by the county’s health district. Plans were shared. Parents voted. And finally, options were presented.

And let me tell you: there was no good choice:

• Send your child to school full time and risk expose them to the virus of the century
• Keep your child home and risk your sanity while you try and work full time
• Opt for a hybrid model and have a combination of the worst of both worlds: exposure and remote learning while you were trying to work

Plus, our Little Mister was starting kindergarten. This was supposed to be the year to experience riding on the bus, learning to share and making friends. But that wasn’t going to happen this year. If we sent him to school, he would be sitting 6 feet away from the next kid, masked and solitary, not interacting or playing or sharing. He was being robbed of a true kindergarten experience.

Since I always work from home (pandemic or not), and it seemed like Mr. KK was going to be my coworker at least through the first half of 2021, we needed to find a solution that fit our work schedules. As a self-proclaimed crazy person during the pandemic, I had ZERO desire to send Little Mister to school. We had been SO diligent all summer and the thought of sending him into a classroom filled with other kids who could have been licking each for all I knew, was terrifying. Plus, we had just started integrating with our parents so they could watch Little Mister, and I didn’t want to bring any risk to our little pandemic bubble.

Our options from our school district were: a hybrid model where kids were in school 2 days, then home for remote learning 3 days, or a fully remote model.

For us, the hybrid model wasn’t going to work. I know Little Mister, and having him be in one place for a few days then transitioning not only his environment but how he was learning, was not going to work. Plus, on the days he had school at home, there would be no live learning; instead, assignments would be posted for the kids to complete. (And if asking him to do schoolwork on his own was anything like us asking him to do workbooks and practice his writing in the Spring, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive. Did you know it could take 1 1/2 hours to write your name 8 times?). Plus, we were lucky: we had been strict with our activities all summer, and we had resources in our corner: my mother-in-law was a retired teacher and willing to help us out with teaching, and my parents would help with after school care.

So we closed our eyes and jumped feet first into the fully remote model. And we haven’t looked back since.

We started by setting up a classroom at Grandma’s house (in Mr. KK’s old bedroom!). We set up a desk with all the supplies he’d need. And Grandma (in full teacher fashion) hopped on Amazon and dug through her teacher boxes and found decorations that would put any in-school classroom to shame. Days of the week! The alphabet! Vowels! Seasonal accents! We had it all.

Who needs public school when you have Grandma Elementary??

We wanted to make this experience as close to reality as possible so we created a schedule: we got up, got dressed, ate breakfast and packed our lunch and backpack and went off to “school”. Grandma sits with Little Mister 3 days a week, I do one day and Mr. KK does one day. And while he could navigate pretty well on his own, having someone next to him as a cheerleader and keeping him on task has been beneficial. From what I can tell, Little Mister LOVES school. He raises his hand and participates. He quotes his teacher back to me, which is like the holy grail: he is actually listening to her! He loves being on the computer and learning how to read and spell.

Is it perfect? Nope. Is it working for our child right now, during this particular time? Yes. And that is all that matters.

Plus, we get to hear phrases like, “Don’t worry, Grandma, I’ll get us back on The Meet” and “Ugh, don’t they know how to MUTE?” Ah, a smartass, just like his mom.