The Privilege of Distance Learning

As another week of distance learning draws to a close, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I’ve never looked forward to the weekend so much. I don’t need to set 5 timers on my phone to make sure everyone gets to their class meetings. I don’t have to argue with anyone about what a complete sentence is. I don’t have to worry about our toddler popping into Zoom meetings, possibly naked.

I’m also breathing a sigh of relief because three teachers at their school have already been diagnosed with Covid. I hope they recover well and it doesn’t spread much. But I’m also glad I don’t have to worry about exposure, or have my kids adjusting to substitute teachers a couple weeks into the year.

Distance learning is stressful. I can’t get much done around the house OR errands during the day. Keeping the toddler quiet and out of the way is almost a full time job by itself. Let alone helping a first grader log into meetings, type in Google docs, and stay on task. And helping my very math-minded 3rd grader tackle language arts or answer social-emotional screening questions that he just doesn’t connect with.

Overall, I’m very impressed with their teachers. They’ve done a great job of explaining how to use each app, trying to set up a classroom environment virtually, and they have paced ramping up the work pretty well. I do not envy their jobs.

As frustrating as distance learning is, I have to remind myself what a real privilege it is. I cannot imagine having to manage their learning if I was working from home. If I can barely get the dishes done right now, how would I be productive at work? I’m also grateful that we had the option to distance learn. It was a tough decision, but at least it was a decision. If we were both working outside the home, or even possibly from home, there would have been no choice.

And while parents continue to work or choose to stay home with kids for lots of different reasons, I’m grateful that decisions we’ve made over the last 15 years, as well as many unearned advantages, have paved the way for me to be home right now. I’m so thankful that we’re not having to choose between work and health. I’m glad that the stress of distance learning is not exacerbated by losing a second income.

It’s crazy how even in the best possible circumstances–Neil working from home, no loss of income, no underlying health conditions, me being at home full time–this pandemic is still pretty tough. Once thing I’ve noted lately is that I just need to get more creative as we adjust our schedule to this new normal.

I used to exercise during my toddler’s nap time, when the big kids would have screen time or just play. Now I’ve realized if I want to work out, I need to do it in the morning before school. (We’ll see how long this keeps up!).

If Neil and I want to have more than 2-3 waking hours a week of kid-free time together, we need to get babysitters. We’re also trying to enjoy about 20 minutes of conversation after dinner rather than just rushing off to the next activity or chore.

Our social life has to move to after school hours as well. We added a once-weekly after school option for our play group, which is doubling as a social “recess” for the school-age kids. My neighbor and I alternate watching each other’s kids for a couple hours each week for some focused spiritual time. Even loud chores like vacuuming and dishes (I’m so loud no matter how hard I try) have to be scheduled around class meetings.

I could go on, and I’m still figuring things out. I’m trying new ideas for motivating and keeping the kids on task, giving them breaks, and rewarding good attitudes. And I’m learning how to “be a person” even with everyone home most of the time. My most frequent prayer these days is simply for sanity!

How is pandemic schooling going for others? How have you tweaked your schedule due to pandemic life?

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