Like most parents I know, I started our family’s mandatory hiatus from school due to the COVID-19 outbreak with the best-laid plans. By which I mean the best plans I could come up with in two days – a pretty color-coded homeschooling schedule that I downloaded from a Facebook parenting group. I was going to do everything I could to ensure that my five kids (ages 3-14) had the best educational experience possible during this weird time. I mean, I am a creative, college-educated, relatively-fun person. I could do this. It was going to be OK.
Narrator: it would not be OK.
Flash forward three weeks (or four, I’m really not sure anymore), and I can pretty much throw the remnants of that plan straight out the window. I want to quit, and not in the polite, give a 2-week notice and get a glowing reference from my boss kind of way. I want to swear, weep, slam doors, and scream, “I quit,” like a mom who is absolutely not cut out for homeschooling, especially not homeschooling five very different kids – each with different needs and abilities, and often requiring time and assistance beyond my capacity to give.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I think we are doing the right thing as a society, by closing schools and staying home. My kids’ teachers are trying as hard as they can to help us, during this strange and stressful time. They really are. None of them are e-learning experts, or experienced at teaching online. They had only a limited amount of time and training to plan for this. They are doing the best they can with very limited resources to assist kids with varying degrees of technology, resources, and parental involvement at home. If anything, this experience has convinced me that teachers need to be paid way more and thanked way more often than they are.
Like it or not, learning in the time of Corona requires parental involvement. I can’t simply send my kids on the school bus each weekday and know they will receive a quality education from experienced professionals. So, I can’t quit, but I wonder (jokingly), can I get fired? With that goal in mind, I created a list of ways to get fired as our home school headmistress, teacher, cook, and custodian.
I’m happy to report, I have been pretty successful in my quest. If you call getting told, “you are the worst teacher on the entire planet,” and “I’m not doing this, and you can’t make me,” by my young bosses, “success.” If you, too, are interested in pursuing new employment outside of your newly created home school, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Don’t show up. I mean, as long as there is WiFi access and snacks, what could go wrong?
- Hide. If you make the mistake of showing up to your make-shift home school classroom (A.K.A. your dining room table), and have second thoughts about your decision, slowly back away and hide in the bathroom with the lights off. If they knock, try to be silent, while you eat your hidden stash of Easter candy.
- Go on strike. If your kids find you in the bathroom, you can always try negotiating with them to see if they will exchange some alone time for candy, new games, or the promise of extra screen time. If they want you to be their teacher, cook, and custodian, maybe they will meet your demands, or at least find some compromise. And they might just start helping in the kitchen and with household chores, too.
- Walk off the job site. There’s absolutely no shame in telling the kids they are on their own for a while, and going for a long walk. Of course, they might just follow you…
- Drink on the job. Day drinking is totally in right now. I mean, it’s not like you have to drive anywhere or operate heavy machinery. Bonus points for teaching your kids to mix cocktails. That’s chemistry and math. See also: explaining to kids how your anxiety meds work. Did you know the half-life of Klonopin is 30-40 hours? That means it will still be keeping mom from losing her shit and having panic attacks tomorrow! Warning: do not mix these two lessons.
- Delegate. Yesterday, I got so tired of having to literally read every question to my first grader that I had his older siblings take over. It was magical.
- Sleep with one of your students’ parents. Nothing will get your kids through their homework faster than seeing you and their parent make-out in the dining room.
- Make a playlist. My kids aren’t huge Lizzo fans, so I am pretty sure they stay motivated to finish their work primarily to escape my playlist.
- Teach P.E. I am literally certified to teach fitness and yoga classes. My students LOVE my classes. My kids? Not so much. Now, Just Dance, and jumping on the trampoline are their daily exercise. Way better than mom-led yoga.
- Lock your kids outside. Now that the weather is nice, I have started just sending my kids outside after breakfast until lunch. They get fresh air, and exercise and are learning valuable conflict resolution, foraging, and first aid skills that will come in handy in our post-apocalyptic society. Score.
In all seriousness, though. Times are weird, and we need to get used to not being perfect. If you weren’t homeschooling before this, you aren’t an expert, and your kids aren’t either. Even if you were a homeschooling parent already, things are bound to be different, too, with parks, museums, zoos, and libraries closed, your routine disrupted, and emotions running high.
Survival and sanity mean a hell of a lot more than perfection, when it comes to parenting, learning, or pretty much everything else in life, when you think about it. And that is a lesson totally worth teaching your kids, whether there’s a deadly virus threatening our community, or not. So go ahead and quit your homeschooling job, or at least set the bar super-low while you try to get through the next few weeks or months. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and your kids need you to be their parent way more than they need you to be their teacher.