Over the past femty weeks, our once, regimented days of; wake, swim, school, swim, schoolwork, shower for 1 hour (no wonder she wanted that shower chair), sleep, have taken an interesting spin.
We used to wake up at 4:30am most mornings to get between one and three of the kids to a pool for one of their 17 weekly practices. Since mid March, when some of my kids were smart enough to bring home their indoor shoes and their French play and some wonder if there’s a sandwich rotting in a locker somewhere, we have whittled that number down from 17 to….zero.
Things change when you go from 17 workouts/week to zero.
The van has gas in it for the first time in yonks.
The alarm clocks are set to “F-Off”
The food in the house is no longer organized by how much water can I fit in this pot to maximize the amount of pasta I can consume within a 12 hour window.
The kids aren’t tired–ever.
Enter, Home School Education Specialist—Mom. Age 44. Days in Teachers College–0
Rather than waking up and starting our school day at 8:30am, the home school opens at 9am(ish) for grade 5 and somewhere around 10am for grades 8 and 11. It’s a one-room schoolhouse and that room is the dining room. We like to get the younger kids settled before the big kids swoop in with their oatmeal-y fingers, messy buns and sharp tongues.
Our morning announcements focus more around what our next meal will look like, who will walk the dog, who didn’t fold the laundry (Hanna) even though it’s her job and if I have to do the garbage, you don’t let me off the hook (Ellie) and who isn’t allowed to stream while the others have a zoom call because it messes up the WiFi. It’s usually during this set of announcements, when we hear for the first time of the morning, a loud voice from behind a door and a set of stairs, “Who’s streaming? I’m on a video call and it keeps cutting out!” I wonder if the one-room schoolhouse/home office has ever been wired correctly in any of these local buildings.
I open Chloe’s grade 5 assignments for the day and pray for something I know will chew up a minimum of six hours not including trampoline and Friends re-run breaks.
When we finish early, we read her French play. She is always the Narrateur (two lines) and I am the; lion, witch, wardrobe, tortoise, rabbit, mole, skunk, fox, mule, chicken, salamander, Monica, Chandeler, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross.
Chloe has been tasked with watching an episode of Scooby Doo as an intro to mystery writing for her language class. This is a twenty minute video PLUS questions. Serenity now. This will give me enough time to, hmm, do absolutely nothing. Questions following the episode include things like; “Using full sentences, name the characters in the story and a little bit about each of them.” I think it’s a fair question. Her answer, “one likes Elvis, one likes computers” is not a reasonable response. I’ll give that a “Needs Work” in my secret marking journal doubling as the white board we use to keep score of our games of Guess Who.
Someone bakes cookies and I allow it because they are a) measuring—math, b) mixing—science, c) baking—yum.
One of the kids asks me questions about grade 11 biology that I have no memory of ever taking. I look confused but I never lose my game face. I just nod, look down and furl my brow. The nodding gets faster the more words she uses that I don’t think I’ve ever heard. They need to assume I know the answers to all of life’s questions or the inmates will take over the asylum. I suggest, “Well, this isn’t my project is it? I passed grade 11 biology.” But then I wonder, did I?
Ellie is whipping together one of her projects that will chew up hundreds of hours. She will wake in the night obsessing over how she can make it better. She peruses colour wheels from paint samples for the slide show she is creating so the background is both calming on the eyes and complimentary from screen-to-screen. She can’t have pale green and then, bam!! red, or she’ll have no choice but to flush the whole thing and start over. She researches background information, hems and haws about the right graphics, outlines each page with a crisp border she thinks will both pop and highlight the details provided without seeping onto the page deterring from her content. She will adjust this border 426 times, calling me in to get my opinion on each one before she’s satisfied with the colour, boldness and thickness and then she will begin interviewing a series of font applicants that never quite offer exactly what she’s looking for but settles on something she sees has potential.
“Mom, what grade would you give this?”
“An A+ Ellie, now move on.”
“Is there anything you think I could improve?”
“Yes, your insane ability to let things go. Your obsessive…..oh, you mean with this project. Nope. All good.”
Chloe appears to be watching Minecraft on her laptop. I’ve lost her. “Hey, are you streaming over there?” “No, I’m watching Minecraft.” “That. Is. Streaming. Shut. It. Down.” If she had been playing Minecraft, I could perhaps assign some value to her building, problem solving, killing time while I make a twelfth cup of tea but she’s not even playing. She’s watching strangers play.
“Has anyone fed the dog today?” I calmly throw it out there in my sweet, Head Mistress voice, high on oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookie dough someone left unattended on the counter. No one blinks, except the Wifi that glitches and eventually fizzles out entirely.
Ellie informs me she hasn’t needed to use her shower chair in weeks. She actually has enough energy to stand upright like our forefathers before us while detangling.
“Done!” I hear Chloe proclaim from the next room.
“I’m done my work for the day.”
“It’s 9:17am. Are you kidding me? Okay, come into the family room. Je m’appelle, Chandeler…….”