So…since we’re all back into the school year in whatever form that is taking for anyone’s family, I thought I’d at least share what form it is taking for my family in the hopes that what we’re doing gives you something to measure your own circumstances and needs against. Getting new ideas, or just seeing that we’re all in the same boat right now can be helpful.
Having three boys under the age of 10 in a school district that has decided to be all virtual for now has certainly upended our lives and redefined every thing we’re doing in raising our kids. And not always in ways that we like!
That said, we adapt…and we’re trying to make it all work while still prioritizing our own family’s perspective on child rearing with a special focus on the outdoors.
Screening Screen Time
The complicated logistics of our circumstances are that our older two kids are in virtual school ALL day — so they’re on screens much more than I’d prefer! Juggling it is no fun either because the schedules differ in slight ways. My oldest, Mason, can be more independent with it, while Ellis, my middle son, needs more help with set up and management.
On a technical note, I purchased blue light blocking glasses for them to help tamp down eye strain during the times they need to be online.
Yet fortunately, by being in home spaces, they don’t have to wear masks. My boys can see their schoolmates’ and teachers’ faces on the screen, which I think normalizes these weird times a bit more.
Since their teachers are trusted role models, I like that my boys can see their faces unmasked, and thus can relate to them more, and be more moved by and inspired by them in personable ways. And I’m happy that they themselves don’t have to wear a mask all day — or be under tense prescriptions to not be near other kids, or remain behind plexiglass structures.
I will also say that by being in “at home spaces” (sometimes our house, sometimes at our extended family), the boys get ample breaks in the day.
We make a big deal out of getting outside during breaks, whether for biking a loop around the neighborhood, or eating lunch outside pretty much every day. And when the school day is over, the boys are outside playing!
Breaking the school day and lesson time up with playful, happy outdoors bits helps my young kids integrate the head-heart-hands matrix. They don’t KNOW that this is what we’re doing, or why. But we (my husband Matt and I) can see in the rhythm of their days that relying on the outdoors as an essential piece of their life and activity and exercise make a positive difference in everything from mood to bedtime routines.
Out and About
Luckily where we live, our covid numbers are fairly low (knock on wood) so certain extra-curricular activities are taking place in a safe way. I have all three of my boys in soccer, and the two older ones in Scouts. (All of these activities have strict covid safety guidelines and procedures and they all take place outside).
Due to acute shutdowns earlier in the year, Mason missed both spring baseball and a full summer of his sleepaway summer camp this past summer. So, in an unusual twist for us, we added a third activity to Mason’s schedule — baseball.
To be clear, Matt and I have always believed that our kids should only play one sport at a time, especially in elementary school. But with so many activities and offerings shut down, and seamless play with other kids pretty much off the table, and the fact that he missed baseball in the spring, we felt it was only right to re-think that perspective and not be too rigid during these circumstances. So we said, “One more sport is just fine for this strange year.”
There are so many other things kids are missing out on right now, from seeing friends at the local pizza parlor to daily class to birthday parties to team sports that we figured that patching in other available sports opportunities under current safety guidelines only makes sense. We don’t want to have an inflexible parenting philosophy, just a guiding one. When one need can’t be fully met, we look to another.
We always talk at camp about the value of friendships, and oh, goodness, it’s so true!
I know my boys feel that.
One of the things my kids say they miss the most about being in school in person is their friends and working together. There’s so much partnering up that takes place in classrooms as a part of teaching, whether it’s pairing with a buddy to finish an assignment, or grabbing a book with a friend and sitting down in the book corner to read it together, or just being coupled up for an art or history project or presentation.
BUT NOT NOW! 🙁
So we all have to look for where getting together is possible.
It might be outdoor sports, or a space-modified Scouts meeting.
It might be a bike ride with a buddy.
It might be extended family BBQs or just packing a picnic for the nuclear family and eating dinner in between tossing the ball, wrestling around, swinging on the swings, or just laughing!
We are ALL just trying to get through and MOVE PAST this blip of a moment in time when everything is and seems so irregular.
I’m no whiz who has all the answers but I do feel confident that pulling together, seeing and nurturing one another’s hearts and souls, working AND playing, being inside and OUTDOORS, and just trying to keep it all normalized until it IS normalized (a little bit of fake it until you make it!), are part of the recipe for surviving and thriving.
Now my work life, that’s another story. Suffice it to say that all of us working from home while being thrust into being un-asked for homeschooling parents are certainly juggling things. With camp registration season upon us, I just do the best I can to stay really focused during the windows of time when I can work uninterrupted. Since camp is our family business, my parents recognize that when they help with the kids, which helps me to be able to work, it’s a way to keep our business running smoothly and on schedule. Teamwork begins in the family in this case, with all of us playing new roles. My parents have simply been invaluable in this regard — thanks Mom and Dad!
Most days at work getting through to do lists is my go-to approach. I try to stay calm when it doesn’t all happen exactly in the right timing, but getting the support does help. Makes me glad I chose to live near my in-laws and then my parents moved here, too. Living closer together is proving to be important in a crisis.
These are just some of the ways that I structure family life until it all gets back to normal. And when it does? Thank God! Because then camp will just be camp. And it couldn’t come any sooner!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls