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Schooling on the great frontier

I’m not trained to be a teacher.

That was the harsh reality I came to face come late April as my kids returned from “Spring Break” and began the next phase of “Covid Life” by way of distance learning. 

As the coronavirus swept much of the nation, as well as the 209, the reality of what it all meant hit us right about the third week of March as our school district closed all campuses. Each district superintendent navigated the uncharted waters in the way they felt was best suited for their team as well as student body.

Navigating what I like to call that “first” phase as a family, was perhaps where my children learned some of their biggest lessons of the school year. With instruction being sent home directing them to enrichment exercises, actually graded learning was not of concern, prior to Easter. 

This would be the time when my children were put to task by way of chores, mostly outdoors. My partner in life happens to occupy a large piece of property in the country. What better way to pass the time, when in “shelter in place” order than to get some teens outside and put to work.

I actually joked with many of my mommy friends that I’d opted to place my two in a night school program. Outdoor chores by day and laptop dining table learning by night. Before too long, this new normal began to suit us all just fine.

As I too was working remotely from home, much was able to be done via work duties while my students tended to the great outdoors. 

As is customary “Spring Break” (said tongue in cheek) set us all a bit sideways and completely off our routine. By late April, laptops were back out, the directive that students would indeed not be returning to campus was sent and “distance learning” had become a thing.

We’d also added a small student to our program, as a family friend was in need of help with her 5-year-old as she continued with her career in “essential” work. More learning for my 12-year-old daughter, as she assumed the role as teacher for the youngest of our homeschool trifecta.

As I type this from our master bedroom, a college student in his bedroom three doors down is taking a final, my freshman at the dining table is brushing up on Spanish, while the 12- and 5-year-old are out exploring for the science and nature portion of their learning. 

So, here’s the reality and absolute truth, I have no clue how my students have weathered (scholastically) this second part of the school year. Taking it one step further, as a college educated woman with an appreciation for education – I’m just not sweating. Truthfully, I’m more concerned for their lack of interaction with other humans their age who are not related to them. 

It’s been tough. Human beings are social by nature. We are not designed to live in isolation and while I’m grateful to be “stuck” with people I actually like, it’s also challenging when we are all calling work, school and home the same place. I mean, even the traditional homeschool kid gets to take a field trip and gather with other homeschoolers.

As adults, we often sit and wonder how our kids will reflect back on this time. What will they remember? What will stand out as a highlight or a low moment? In short, what will be the most impressionable of all the moments?

Almost three months in, my hope is they remember our efforts as a family planting a large garden and reaping the rewards of our labor. Or perhaps the day spent with numerous outdoor chores mowing, weed eating, watering and yes — more planting. Those days where our cheeks turned red and our smiles shone bright as we ended the day with a sunset and a game of cornhole.

For me, I’ll remember how we were reminded about the basics, what it means to be a family and what hard work looks like. As for us, this wasn’t found on a laptop, it was found in some dirt and some laughs. Now that … that’s the true “homeschool” life.