Patience, Self-forgiveness, and Do-overs: Parenting and Home-teaching in the time of coronavirus.

I’m going to admit this publicly, right here and right now. If there is any parent out there wondering “is what I’m doing right now OK?” during this remarkably uncertain and certainly unprecedented time, here me now:

I am right there with you, in solidarity, staring in the face of the hot mess that is our lives right now. There are a whole lot of things we need right now. And a great many things we could be doing right now. But first and foremost, patience (with ourselves, each other, our children, and the situation), self-forgiveness (when the day does not go as planned), and the absolute right on any day, at any hour, or minute, to call for a do-over.

We are going to get through this, but some days are just going to be messier than others.

Case in point, let’s take a quick gander at a recent day in our home. This, despite plans, and schedules, and ideas…not all things go as planned at all times. Here’s the schedule of our day today:

  • Breakfast. Nothing fancy. Cheerios.
  • A whole lot more minutes getting her to brush her teeth than we should have spent.
  • 10 minutes of reading some books she had home from Kinder
  • First argument about why she has to wear clothes if we aren’t leaving the house.
  • Turn on TV because I have a conference call with educators around the state to find out what they heck we are doing
  • Turn off TV because “mom guilt” set in and gave her the tablet to work on reading and math programs from school
  • Lunch. Nothing fancy. PBJ. Cut in triangles, which evidently is still an important thing these days.
  • Did the dishes.
  • 20 minutes reading and practicing some sight word reading and writing
  • 5 minutes on some math, which was planning to be longer but she got bored and cried. Not going to fight her when doing academic things because I don’t want her to hate academic things
  • Turn the TV back on because I have a huge professional deadline tomorrow (think final exam sort of deadline) and am not close to done.
  • Make her turn off TV because it’s internet-based and keeps crashing while I’m trying to upload documents and videos.
  • She plays in her room, coloring and singing, for about 45 minutes while I’m uploading videos. Yes, she comes in every five minutes. Yes, what should have taken 10 minutes took 45 minutes.
  • Turn back on the TV (also, I now fully hate My Little Pony) so I can try and get these documents all done and uploaded.
  • At 3:18pm I finally did. Turned TV off, turned my computer off.
  • Spend 30 minutes together doing the Mo Willems Lunchtime Doodles
  • Spend 15 minutes making duplicate doodles from the last two days.
  • Spent 20 minutes watching her make obstacle courses in the living room and hallway I had just cleaned up.
  • Got her in the bathtub.
  • Made dinner. You guessed it. Hubs has duty tonight so, Mac and Cheese it is. But, not her favorite kind, the only kind I could find in the store when I went last week, so she was angry with me the entire time.
  • Played three games of Uno.
  • PJs on.
  • Brushed teeth.
  • Read three books of her choosing.
  • Put kiddo to bed.
  • Pour myself a glass of wine.

We are going to get through this, but some days are just going to be messier than others.

Notice I don’t have times on anything. Like, none of this from 8:30 – 8:45, then 8:45 – 9:03, 9:04 and 30 seconds to 9:52 stuff. Friends, some days we just do what we can. Yes, schedules are great and important. They can and do really help. And I encourage them. In fact, I made one myself tonight that I plan to try and use tomorrow. And you can see below for links to ideas for creating kid-friendly ones with your kiddos.  Most kids do actually thrive with a structure and a schedule, this is not new news. But when you have days like I did today, neck-deep in “meet that big deadline” mode, I had to just acknowledge that wasn’t happening and let it go. You know, sometimes you gotta just roll with it.

Also notice, I am a teacher. I have a crap-ton of experience. Teaching high school. And Middle school. And Special Education. And College. And I am still STRUGGLING on days like today. I’m a trained educator and an educator of educators and yes, there are days like today where I am going to struggle with this “new normal”.  Here’s what I have to say to that: whatever your background, give yourself a break!!  It’s OK. We all will struggle some days during these next several weeks. Reach out for ideas and help (see below for a list of suggestions with links). Reach out for suggestions (great FB group called Learning in the Time of Corona is curating a bunch of ideas). Reach out for your own sanity. But for the love of all that is good, please do NOT put too much pressure on yourself!

click for a copy

Clearly, today was not a great “homeschool” day for us. But, I know I have lots of days to make up for that. And, for some kiddos, this is Spring Break. Or next week would be. Or the following week would be. At this point, it doesn’t matter when on the calendar Spring Break was supposed to be, give yourself some time to put some ideas and strategies and plans into place. Make this week your Spring Break.

Finally, just breathe. Take a minute and take all the pressure off of yourself to be “doing” the right things or homeschooling all of a sudden, becoming the Pinterest Queen or King to keep the kiddos occupied and just BE. Acknowledge where you are, what you have time to accomplish, what you can and cannot take on. What you have to let go of. And, if you are also juggling having to get to and from work and what to do with the kids, that’s a lot on your plate. Like, that’s the whole buffet on your plate right there. The other stuff, don’t worry about it for now. Just be with your kids. Just read with them. Just play with them, introduce a new game, play old favorites. Just doodle and draw. Just tell stories. My bottom line, it’s ok to just BE during this time of uncertainty too.

Some resources that might help in the coming weeks:

The problem bigger than Covid19

When I began this piece, the morning of March 13, 2020, five states across the nation had closed schools due to concerns over Covid19. Just four hours later, that number rose to seven schools and the District of Columbia closing schools to aid in the social distancing that is needed to stop the spread of Covid19 through communities and states in this country. In other states, this has been a district-by-district and community-by-community response.

The school closures have made this virus seem very real to me, my family, and the students and colleagues I work with at our school. However, despite these closings, and the anxiety they are producing beyond the existing concerns, Covid19 is not the greatest threat our nation faces. Instead, I would argue, it’s shedding light, again and hopefully more brightly, on the larger problem our nation faces.

As our nation is currently facing this Covid19 health crisis, and dealing with the uncomfortable decisions and reality that comes with it, I feel it is unconscionable of us to not recognize the deeper and more dangerously insidious virus that is present with us all day every day…

  • Do you realize that over 20 million children in These United States rely on the breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even dinner they receive at school as their only source of meals? 
  • Do you realize that over 1.7 million people in These United States are hourly wage earners who make $7.25 per hour or less?
  • Do you realize that nearly 78 million people in These United States are hourly workers in general?
  • I’m sure you realize that workers here in These United States who have hourly jobs often get paid less and have fewer, if any benefits, than those of us who have salaried positions. 

I’m writing this acknowledging I occupy a place of privilege in These United States that not everyone has. I want to put that out the front and center. I have a salaried job in education and have paid sick leave. I am a military spouse and I and our family have access to healthcare. If the schools shut down, even though my husband will not be able to stay home from his job in The United States Navy, I will be able to be at home with our daughter and not worry about: food on the table, who will care for her, lost wages.

So while there are arguments happening over whether or not to cancel marathons, sporting events, large gatherings (and arguments over what constitutes large), and schools, and while Covid19 and the spread of this virus is a very real problem facing us, I want to call our attention to the larger problem – the reason why so many arguments out there are taking place. 

According to research from The Pew Research Center, The United States has the highest rate of income inequality out of all the G7 nations. Beyond that, while the economy seems to be, at least in some numbers games, doing increasingly well, in Prosperity Now’s January 2020 Scorecard 40% of households in These United States are one paycheck away from poverty.

I get that some are having the argument because they had tickets to that sporting event, or they had planned on going to the theater this weekend, or they have been training for months for that marathon (hey, me too!). 

But the real arguments – the really important arguments – aren’t about those things at all.

But the real arguments – the really important arguments – aren’t about those things at all.

  • They are arguments about the hourly wage earners who, when we cancel those events, lose wages.
  • They are arguments about the hourly wage earners who, when we cancel some areas like school (which we are doing), cannot take time off to be home with their children.
  • They are arguments about the children of hourly wage earners who, now without school and potentially without parents at home, are left scared and hungry and unattended for large portions, if not all, of their day.
  • They are arguments about the hourly wage earners who have no other choice but to take time off to be home with their children and so, with that loss of income, will have even more difficulty than before making ends meet, with food and housing. 
  • They are arguments about the very real income disparities that exist for people in our communities.

Covid19 is a very serious, very real problem for us all, globally and nationally. People are justifiably concerned and appropriately responding with an abundance of caution. And I appreciate the proactive nature with which many of our communities are handling the situation: shutting down events, closing schools, discouraging large gatherings.

But, I think we need to acknowledge that there are larger, more systemic problems that Covid19 virus is bringing up for so many.

As our nation is currently facing this Covid19 health crisis, and dealing with the uncomfortable decisions and realities that comes with them, I feel it is unconscionable of us to not recognize, acknowledge, and act on the deeper and more dangerously insidious virus that is present with us all day every day: the income inequality in These United States that, when a global and national crisis like Covid19 arises, plummets those in our communities who are already at risk into deeper and more desperate times.

Sources cited for this piece:
Schaeffer, Katherine. “6 Facts about Economic Inequality in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 7 Feb. 2020,

Wiedrich, Kasey, and David Newville. “VULNERABILITY IN THE FACE OF ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY.” Prosperity Now,