Outbreak Journal, March 25th

When I imagined living through a pandemic, I did not imagine painting my nails to remind me not to touch my face, using all the good face creams because now I’m *definitely* not going to be out in the sun after putting them on, or putting on perfume so I’ll notice if I lost my sense of smell.

My kids are going to remember us stress cooking through the French Chef (not *quite* literally, but I made stuffed eggplant last night, which is not a typical Tuesday night supper), candlelit dinners, and being allowed a little bit of wine because “what if?,” their father home for every meal, and extended bedtime stories.

The things that send shivers through my soul are not the big tragedies unfolding but the one key on the piano sticking and thinking forward to a time when I may not be able to play the piano to unwind, delays on a shipment of yarn and wondering what will happen if I can’t get any once my stash is used up, being down to my last potato with no delivery windows available and the kids singing “Potatoes & Molasses” in the next room. I look at my husband and my sons and think “most of the fatalities are men.”

I have friends in the hospital now, on the working end and the sick end.

As always, we have kept busy. I have been calmer, outwardly, then I usually am. I do not snap at the kids as much when they won’t let me complete a thought, I don’t tell them I’m busy even when I am, I answer their questions until they are satisfied or figure that they aren’t actually looking for answers so I hug them. I’ve stayed the course, maintaining routines so that the rising and falling of their moods can play out on a familiar background like variations on a theme. I have not lied or held back any realities from them and they have risen to my expectations.

There’s minutia I could report, but the only things that seem especially noteworthy are that I have secured the means to an almost normal Easter for us, have video chatted with friends and family frequently, have pursued adopting some cats since we lost Tober and am hopeful we can keep to our time table for that.

The only signs that I’m not at 100% are that I have trouble sleeping and reading for pleasure now.

Homeschooling 101: Skip The Busy Work

This series aims to help out parents who have been thrust into homeschooling by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yesterday I said to take extra time to practice skills your kid is struggling with, today is the counterpoint:

Homeschooling 101
Drill the skills that need work, not the ones they have down.

There are some advantages to homeschooling, one of them is that a child can and should work at their own pace, not at the average space of a whole classroom. Busy work certainly sounds good when you’re trying to do your job at home while the children are simultaneously learning at home, but trying to get kids to spend more time drilling skills they’ve already gotten down will be a Pyrrhic victory, if its any victory at all. They might put up with it at school but they have the consolation of their peers around them going through the same thing, that’s not working for either of you at home.

If you see, and can quantify, that your child does not need to work on a particular skill, give them a choice between continuing to practice the skill that they already know and practicing a skill they have trouble with. Odds are that younger children will resist both options unless you make the skill they’re frustrated with especially engaging (like you’ll take time to work through it with them or make a game out of it).

What about assignments? If they know it and can prove it, do the bare minimum, keeping an eye out for new skills being introduced so you don’t have trouble down the line. Reach out to the teacher* if there’s a lot of assigned work that your child is already competent in, ask if they can test out of it or do an alternative assignment instead. Since your child’s teacher is no doubt as overworked as you are, try to make it easier on them, make one or two suggestions of your own of the alternative work, ones that won’t take a lot of effort for the teacher to grade.

The goal is to learn not to stay busy.

  • Why do I keep saying to reach out to the teacher? Because I’m a homeschooler, we don’t have a teacher outside of ourselves that will have to grade our child’s work, your child is beholden to a larger system, so you will have to touch base with them. It may happen that they will insist on assignments that you don’t think your child needs, but they are familiar with your child from the classroom and may see a weakness that is not being picked up on the tests. Anyway, if the teacher insists and it is both work the child is proficient in AND work they hate doing, you’re going to have to resort to bribery.

Hello world!

Watch this space for a Caruso family newsletter and digital receipt book (that’s an old-fashioned household notebook that would contain recipes, hints, tips, and notes about things like squeaky floorboards).