• Mara Shanahan

Surviving Remote Learning

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Like most families with school-aged children across the US and globe, my household has been desperately grasping the reality of remote school since mid-March of 2020. My son (now 6) was in Kindergarten at the time and only just learning how to navigate the school day and customs surrounding expectations of the school environment as a 5 year old boy. In my experience, and please forgive my generalizations of gender, girls are ready for school from the get-go... eager and bright-eyed and ready to learn. Boys need just a little bit longer to get the WILD out. Anyway, at least my boy did.


However, come mid-March when Covid-19 hit us in the US and schools closed their doors, and us parents found ourselves at home, bewildered and numb, my boy thrived. He loved having mummy home with him all day. He flourished with sleeping in later and more outside play. We both loved creating our own schedule. Not being in the rat race. We quickly realized that the life we had been living - one of rushing and working and no time for play - was detrimental to our emotional and physical well-being. We loved it, this Great Pause. Once our school figured out their plan for learning and his teacher began to post our online assignments, my little boy blossomed with my attention and understanding, sitting together at the kitchen table in the warm kitchen. He no longer had to vie for the teacher's attention in a Kindergarten classroom of twenty 5-year-olds. He had my ear for listening to him sound out his words while reading stories, or his sight-word lists, or while writing sentences. We got along wonderfully and I look back on that quiet spring with fondness, despite all the fear about what was (is) going on in the world.


Summer came and went. Our quiet solitude remained mostly intact, with careful visits to close family and visits to a New Hampshire lake and socially distanced camping on the Maine coast. It was a long, slow, lovely summer.


School has recently started up again, with J in first grade. This time, his classes are live on a virtual classroom video call, not pre-recorded videos or simple work posted into Google classroom. His teacher is holding live zoom sessions for upwards of 4 hours every day, and this doesn't even account for the actual school work. Most days I feel that the screen time is too much. He starts every day cheerful and eager to learn, but by the daily math lesson at 1:15, he has lost his motivation and has a hard time fully paying attention. I feel that his teacher is trying to re-create the traditional school day, but over video. It's difficult, on him and me. I also feel like I'm not the only parent that feels this way. I've taken over a week to write this post. I keep stopping and leaving it, coming back to write some more a few days later. I don't want to speak badly about his teacher. I know it's hard for her as well. I'm trying to give it time and grace. Hoping that we just need the time to iron out the kinks and get back into the habit of a full day of work. But it doesn't feel right. I know his teacher wants to build a community of learners, but it feels forced. Every afternoon by math time, I find myself having to urge J to participate and pay attention. His little body is wiggly and he wants to be done. "Soon", I say.


I find myself quietly Googling homeschooling programs. I daydream about being in charge of our own schedule. Being able to get out of the house and go for a walk in the woods, or bake something, or go on a visit to many of the historical places or museums that we have in New England. Again, I feel like I'm not alone in this daydream. I've found a homeschool curriculum that I'm very interested in, catering to families searching for a secular world-view curriculum based on nature and play. I feel like I'm standing on the precipice of a possible new way of life, unsure if I'm ready to jump. Out there in the wide world, if anyone is listening... are you feeling the same? What are planning for your family? Please share with me and we can support each other!




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