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Open Thread for Parents of School-Aged Children

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | January 18, 2021 |

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | January 18, 2021 |


Today is MLK Day, which means it’s a school holiday, which means if you are a parent, your kids weren’t in school, which — for many of you — is not unlike every other day of the week. For many of you, on the other hand, it is different. I read a lot about the COVID-19 situation nationally, and a lot about the situation locally, but what I haven’t been able to really capture day-to-day is what the situation is like in other parts of the country (I don’t spend much time on Facebook, which is where I assume more of this information might be available).

For instance, I am always surprised when I hear that there are school kids going to school every day in some parts of the country, and almost as surprised to learn in some parts of the country that they are still fully remote. Here in Maine, and I think much of New England, we’re still trudging through on a hybrid schedule. My kids go to school for 5 hours, twice a week, and the rest of the week, it’s mostly busywork, because those same teachers have to teach the other half of the class on the off days. There are still a lot of Zoom meetings, which have illuminated how exceptional many of the teachers are because I get to overhear them teaching our kids (last week, a teacher spent 90 minutes teaching the twins — and just the twins — how to do complicated area problems. I was blown away by his ability to teach them math, hold their attention, and make it interesting). It’s been fairly remarkable, too, how strong a connection the teachers have been able to forge with the students given their limited time together.

The other three days of the week, however, my kids are just … home. It’s much easier now than it was at the end of last year, mostly because they understand the technology, and because I have outsourced some of the teaching of the twins to my older son, who has opened what he calls “Rowles Academy,” where he helps them with their busywork when he’s not doing his own. My son has also learned how to maintain a social life with his friends over the computer, which has honestly been life-saving. Schedules are very helpful, too, even if it’s just scheduling lunch at the same time every day.

Like a lot of parents, we still struggle with screen time, and like a lot of parents, we’ve shifted our priorities from avoiding screen time to prioritizing quality screen time, which is to say: If there’s a social or educational component to it, there’s a lot more latitude. A bigger problem, because we are doing no socializing at all, is trying to differentiate the weekends from the weekdays.

There are squabbles. So many squabbles. Children are not meant to spend all day, every day with the same people, and everyone is more thin-skinned and more prone to outbursts than usual. On the other hand, we spend a lot more quality time together, because we’re not dealing with school or rushing to music lessons or gymnastics while juggling homework, and because I’m at home all day (and Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate is home about 50 percent of the time). We watch a lot of movies as a family; we play more board games (we’re really into Pit right now); we try to spend more time together outside when the weather permits.

It’s challenging, and I appreciate how much more challenging it is for so many other families, but I suspect if we all escape with our health, we’ll probably reflect on it years from now with some fondness.

How about all of you? What’s the situation with your schools? Have you seen a lot of outbreaks in your schools? How is your day-to-day? Have things returned to something approximating normalcy where you are? How are teachers coping? How are your kids coping? How are you coping? I am genuinely interested to hear your stories.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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