As COVID19 cases start to double up in a serious and scary way, we are all faced with doubling down on our social distancing.
Folks, take a look at Italy. We do NOT want to experience this pandemic they way they have. Our huge population and state-to-state response, especially in the face of inconsistent and belated leadership at the national level, we are already in for some of this. But it is not too late for each and every one of us to make drastic and immediate changes in the way we live. We CAN make a difference.
That’s how Philadelphia felt in September 1918. They went ahead and held a parade hosting 200,000 ten days into the flu pandemic. Then they experienced the worst spike and the most deaths of ANY city in the US. At least they got all that death over with in the first two months. San Francisco successfully ‘flattened the peak’ in the first six weeks, then relaxed restrictions and had ranked sixth amongst cities for number of deaths in a 24-month period. You can read about it for free with Apple News, but I suggest going straight to the source and supporting them with a subscription today.
Yes, that’s right. Twenty-four weeks. THREE MONTHS. Our lives are not going to be the same for three to six months and maybe even up to a year, until a reliable and safe vaccine can be developed, produced and distributed. So hunker down and don’t forget to smile, treasure your family, get outside, create something new, do something you’ve always wanted to do, and laugh out loud!
I am grateful to your government for sharing information with the rest of the world that can help us all through this, and for the way you swiftly mobilized all resources available to contain and respond the this health crisis, without. I am grateful to your health care workers for being on the front lines of designing a response to COVID19. I am grateful that you were able to do all this even without knowing what we now know about this virus. I am grateful to your scientists for working so hard to find out as much as we can about this coronavirus and how to survive and defeat it.
You have already faced the worst of this, because you faced it first and alone. We are lucky to be following behind you, benefitting from your wisdom, learning from your mistakes. You shouldered the steepest learning curve bravely and with fortitude. Thank you.
I am sorry that when you were fighting this disease, we were not fighting alongside you. We were not sending whatever resources we could to help. We stood by and watched in fear and overconfidence.
We look to you even now, to learn how this disease will transform our families, our societies and our world. We look to you for the hope of recovery. And to all of you who have suffered and lost loved ones, I know I speak with the voice of many Americans when I offer you our deepest condolences.
Due to the coronavirus epidemic and current shelter-in-place order, the Never Never School (of Witchcraft and Wizardry) has closed for the time being to keep its staff and students safe.
We have sent home: the nurse, all the teachers (including Math, Writing, Reading, Science, Spanish, History/Social Studies, Poetry, Art, etc), the cafeteria staff, the librarian, the computer lab teacher, the cleaning staff and the Headmistress.
Students are still responsible for reading, writing about their reading, getting outside for exercise, using quiet voices inside the mansion, getting along with each other, being exceedingly polite to all elders, completing chores, CLEANING UP AFTER THEMSELVES and going to bed on time.
We will be in touch soon via email with an interminable flood of ongoing, exceedingly verbose and simultaneously obtuse communications providing further guidance as to the continuing education of your children during these challenging times.
Why should I follow these strict self-quarantine guidelines?
Here’s the math and science behind the need to start social distancing right away, and why our leaders and law enforcement shouldn’t have to force us to comply. Because it’s okay to be smart.
What about going outside? What about parks? What about SPRING?
Still dithering? I get it. A week ago that was me. Can I take my kids to a park (click to see a report from CNN on this topic)? If we’re at the park, can they go on a play structure? What about the beach? Should I be cleaning every high-touch surface in my house? Every day? Every hour? Is it okay for my 72-year old mother to be going out? Trust me, better minds than ours are thinking about all this. In the age of information, it’s easy to imagine that each one of us has all the answers. But the truth is, we ARE a herd. We each have different roles to play. Our scientists are doing their jobs. Our grocery store clerks are doing their jobs. If we don’t do our jobs and circle up, we will lose those we care about.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Now that the six-county San Francisco Bay Area shelter-in-place order has been extended statewide, I don’t have to make every decision by myself. Rather than making me feel like my freedom is restricted (my freedom IS restricted, by me – I am choosing to comply with these orders), I feel relieved and reassured. Not just because I don’t have to think about every little panic that rolls its way through the internet. But because we are working together. Scientists, lawmakers, administrators, retailers and everyday citizens are all working together to get through this pandemic as safely as we can.
And working together is how humans do things best.
Let’s face it. We know it’s going to get worse. One week of quarantine already felt really hard. But if we are really going to flatten the curve, that means extending it over a longer period of time. So settle in and get comfy. Because we are going to completely upend our social lives and routines. We are going to have a terrible recession. And people we know are going to get sick or die.
So let’s do something humans do best – LAUGH. Laughter boosts our immune systems. It boosts our mood. It helps us endure and survive. It reminds us that we belong to each other.
For your giggling pleasure, here’s a collection of my belly laughs from Week 1 of California’s COVID19 quarantine:
Been teaching for thirty years, and have so far successfully managed to avoid the one kind of teaching I never wanted to do – teaching my own kids.
When my youngest failed to learn how to read in kindergarten, I didn’t get out my copy of Word Matters. I stayed firmly in Mom-mode: kept taking my kids to the library to quietly help them pick Just Right books (and also letting them bring home whatever they thought they wanted to read), and Reading Aloud every night (No link for this one, because it’s super easy – just open a book, snuggle in and start reading the words on the page. That’s it. You can skip words, skip pages, fall asleep right in the middle – trust me, kids love that! Just read. No rules to remember). I didn’t step in on Study Skills until my middle-schooler ground himself down to D’s and F’s via a doomed hail-Mary disaster-mode of perpetual procrastination.
And here we are. Schools closed for who knows how long, and families confined to themselves and their immediate surroundings. Suddenly I’m not only in charge of reading (and cooking, cleaning, managing activities, health care, household organization, etc.), but also handwashing, super-sanitizing, news-interpreting, and Algebra. All while working from home. Yipes!
So I find myself digging deep for the advice I most need to give myself in these trying times. I can do this, if I can just remember all I’ve learned in all these years of teaching.
Good teachers have a plan.
I knew I had to start with defining my goals. District emails alerted me to probable closure of schools a little ahead of the curve, giving me time to think about the shape I wanted our lives to have during these trying times. I knew for sure that I wanted every day to include time to:
You’ll notice that math was NOT onmy list.
Good teachers ask their students what they want to learn.
I asked the kids what was important to them. My ten-year-old immediately produced a school schedule for ME (the only teacher she could get her hands on). My thirteen-year-old declines to participate in homeschooling in any way, which means he passed on the opportunity for input. When my daughter asked me what our school would be called, I naturally riffed on a J. M. Barrie reference, but that wasn’t J. K. Rowling enough for her. So now, whenever I refer to the Never Never School, she immediately adds “of Witchcraft and Wizardry!” and my thirteen-year-old punctuates the sentence with something appropriately adolescent like “Poop emoji” delivered with an expert mix of sarcasm and glum.
Good teachers have their own style.
After one day of Mommy Madness, during which I consumed every internet article offering advice or information about how to keep a potentially deadly virus away from my 72-year old mother (who lives with us), and underwent the uncomfortable and terrifying Jekyll/Hyde transformation into Plague Mama (more on that later), we tried one day of no plan at all to just see what my kids did with that…
NOT a viable option for me. I promptly came up with Plagueschooling Routine Draft #1.
It’s not perfect, but I’m determined to give it at least a week. My daughter loves the structure, my son non-verbally appreciates the independence, and I’m grateful for time with my kids alternating with sanity-preserving time to myself.
Good teachers keep it flexible.
This is my weakness (as you’ve already no doubt noticed). I tried to plan for my lack of flexibility by building time into the plan when my children could legitimately get away from me to “read a book.” I certainly won’t check up on that. I will be hiding in my room, going for yet another walk down the same street (the only one I can get to on a cane), or obsessively surfing the net. In the sometime spring weather we’re having in the California lockdown, we’ve started a “the sun is out – let’s go see!” routine. Matched by “It’s raining! Does anyone want to go for a rain walk with me?” Also, we will be having a MAXIMUM of four days a week of “school.” Day Five is wide open. My guess is movies and semi-illicit but very sanitized and socially-distanced expeditions to outdoor locations around the Bay Area.
Prepare, Don’t Panic – resources from Kidpower.org, which is hosting free webinars about staying safe with boundaries in response to COVID19, conflict resolution in confined spaces and more!
Mind Up, the program your middle-schooler will LOVE you for bringing home!
Keep checking back – I’ll add more links as I find/need them!
Good teachers are clear about expectations, and calm about consequences.
In addition to our usual family rules:
Take good care.
Do your part.
Be kind and compassionate.
Speak the truth of your heart.
We’ve added a few rules especially for California’s COVID19 Quarantine:
NEVER wake up ANYBODY who is sleeping at ANY time of day or night.
All ANNOYING NOISES will be ejected from the premises.
My children will accurately report to their children years from now that their mother was anything by calm about consequences. More on that later. But I do have a few natural consequences in mind for those times when my children just have to test the limits:
For every infraction, you have to go to bed ten minutes earlier. So I can get a break from your obnoxious behavior (did I say that out loud?)
Just kidding. It will actually be:
Good teachers belly laugh.
I learned this from my Kindergarten teacher – Thank you, Jane! There’s nothing that will put your kids more at ease in troubled times than hearing you laugh. Even better if they’re the ones who made you do it. So look for laughter everywhere – Buzzfeed Parents on homeschooling during COVID19 – and if you’ve found some, share it with me! And let me know…how’s #Plagueschooling going for you?
I am not an adaptable person. Not well-suited to keep up with hourly updates on world pandemics or the cancelation of LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.
If temperament assessments had been around when I was an infant, I would undoubtedly have been the baby with the rictus, red-faced scream at every change in air temperature or illumination. If my mother denies this and tells you I was a perfect baby, then that just means the damage occurred later, probably in middle school. I shouldn’t say damage. I wish I could claim to be a genius like Willow Chance who uses Counting by 7s to to center herself, meanwhile transforming the lives of everyone around her for the better. My adaptation strategies are much less mathematical and not at all inspirational. I match my underwear to my socks. I rewrite the same list over and over until I don’t have to use white-out tape. I make new rules for my kids to follow. My children now call me “Plague Mama.”
Unprecedented times in Unpresidented times (YA biography by Martha Brokenbrough). I was already home from work, recovering from ACL reconstructive knee surgery and getting a pretty good hobble on. I took the cancellation of my kids’ school pretty well. Three-plus weeks of spring break?….Well, I’d already started a list of spring cleaning tasks, and having the kids around would only make the list longer. At the park with my kids playing the newly invented game of Eyeball Tag*, I managed not to jump when my phone blared with The Emergency Signal, alerting me to the imminent lockdown order for six Bay Area counties. But when they closed the Library, that was the last crack in my fragile (fake) equanimity. My fractured thinking shattered around one question: who have they got defining “Essential Services,” anyway?
So I have reverted to the one thing that can make sense of these crazy times. (Yes, you can be sure that my underwear matches my shirt or my socks or both – you’ll never not think about that now, but that’s not what I meant.) No, my lifesaver, my link, my sanity and my savior: The Newsletter.
My mom will tell you – and this is true – that when I boxed up all my possessions at age twenty to leave the country for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer (Peace Corps – CANCELED), I packed as though I would never return. I’m pretty sure I designated heirs for my journals (all that middle school ruination, documented). But before I left for the world I didn’t know, my mom and I set up one essential link to keep me tethered to the world I knew: the Newsletter Tree.
Made of trees, literally. Because it was printed on paper. Handwritten by me, on paper, one copy mailed by post to my mom. Who Xeroxed four copies (we all still said Xerox, then), and sent them on to four folks who diligently made their copies, and sent them on, and so on. And people wrote back. Eventually I came home. People I didn’t even know came up to talk to me about things I had written, having been participants in an ancient form of social media. Some of you still have the artifacts of that time, the actual newsletters. While I was gone, email was invented and stamps became a vanity item.
Now that it doesn’t involve handwriting and photocopying and envelope glue and trips to the post office, everyone has a newsletter. I guess they’re called “blogs” these days. So I’m back, the Mom Next Door, blogging and slogging my way through the latest alerts, announcements, closures and kid conflicts. Tomorrow we start the Never Never School (of Witchcraft and Wizardry), which my 13-year old son just calls, “No.” I’ll be keeping track of myself here, along with:
Updates on our family’s (mental) health and stories from a household spanning ages 10-72
Links for homeschooling, especially in writing, reading, poetry and music (my specialties)
Links to great book reviews for children’s literature of all ages