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.
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?”
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.
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.