Remote Learning Results in Unexpected Closeness

This isn’t the school year we planned for.

My work partner, focused and in the zone

Instead of new shoes, piles of fresh notebooks, pencil cases, locker organizers, and backpacks, this year started off more with a tiptoe than a bang. Come to think of it, I never took a “First Day of School” picture like I usually do. On the first day of classes, two of my kids woke up, showered, and unceremoniously walked to the dining room table a few feet away from where they’d just grabbed the milk for their breakfast cereal. Our school, like many across the country during the pandemic, is starting the year out with remote learning, allowing students to stay home and attend classes virtually.

Whereas our house used to wait empty most days, now our entire life seems to play out in two rooms of our house. My son sets up his high school learning command center in our sunroom, while my daughter sits across the dining room table from me. As I clack away on my laptop working remotely for my job at a public library, she attends Zoom classes and reviews Google Classroom for her middle school assignments.

When I check social media groups, parents seem outraged, signified by the number of exclamation points they use.

“We are failing our children!!” writes one mom. 

“E-learning is not working!!” says another. 

“My son isn’t being challenged enough!!” says a father.

I understand the frustration during these times of frequent handwashing and canceled plans. Still, I can’t muster the level of anger some are feeling. In fact, I actually appreciate the surprising advantages of remote learning.

I look over my laptop to see my daughter with her head cocked at a thoughtful angle. She is listening intently to her teacher over a Zoom call as she lazily reaches over to a bowl of sliced peaches positioned between us. We’ve started a new quiet routine with unspoken rules: when heading to the kitchen for a snack, always bring back enough to share with your “co-workers.”

Her classes are the soundtrack to my day—I’ve become accustomed to the voice of her Industrial Tech teacher, who tells stories about his various summer jobs when he was a teen. The social studies teacher always sings “Good morning, Good morning!” before taking attendance. The English teacher affectionately calls the students “my babies” (pronounced BAY-bez).

How often do our plans really work out anyway?

Carol Pavlik

This isn’t the school year we planned for. But how often do our plans really work out anyway? I’m taking this year as it comes, holding on to the things I know to be true: We are safe. We are healthy (today, anyway). We get to be together when normally, we’d be too busy for more than a quick hello before going on to our next obligation. Instead, I get a front-row seat to the expression of bravery on my kid’s face when she pipes up to answer a question, or the way she furrows her brow when she doesn’t understand something. Sometimes, I know how to help her. Other times, her eighth grade curriculum leaves me in the dust and I have to admit that I don’t know.

Remote learning has brought a closeness to my teenagers that I didn’t know was possible. As much as I long to get back to “normal,” I’m trying to hold these days of togetherness close to my heart. I have a feeling I’ll kind of miss them when they’re gone.

Originally published Sept. 10, 2020 on MyHuntleyNews.com

Minimalists: This is Our Moment

Photo by Fernando Rodrigues on Unsplash

Fellow minimalists: We didn’t realize it, but the way we’ve been editing our lives down, tossing out the extra, non-essentials in our lives has uncannily prepared us perfectly for this wave of COVID-19, the pandemic that is keeping most of us at home right now.

There was no way we could’ve guessed.

As I’ve said before, minimalism is an ongoing process, and one person’s minimalism may be completely different than another’s version. But the thread that binds us all together is our desire to get rid of the extra—because we’ve realized that having too much actually takes away from our happiness and peace of mind.

Here are a few ways our practice of minimalism has made this trying time of social distancing a little more bearable—especially those of us hunkered down with our families.

We’ve cleared the clutter
There is more room in our house to play and create. There are clear surfaces for puzzles, games, and art.

We’ve cleared our schedule
We’ve already taken steps to clear our calendars of extra obligations. We’ve had some practice not using busy-ness as a badge of honor. We’re comfortable with moments of stillness and rest.

We’ve practiced sharing space
Our smaller house has one bathroom, and we share bedrooms. We’ve got this whole “living in close quarters with others” down cold.

We know how to communicate with our roommates
Since our house is small, we’ve already learned to say, “I need a few minutes of quiet,” or, “I’m planning to take a long, relaxing bubble bath. Anyone need to get in the bathroom before I start?”

We have a safety net
Minimalism, for us, had a lot to do with finances. We’ve cut down our spending by a lot (hellooooo, small house mortgage payment!), which means that we’re not spending every dollar we earn as soon as we earn it. In these uncertain times, that helps me sleep a little better at night. 

But most importantly …

We’re all doing the best we can.
No one knew this was going to happen. Not really. We’re all just winging it. We’re all coming up with a new normal for right now that works for us. There are no wrong answers! 

If anything good comes from this period of social distancing, let it be that we discover that we’re more resourceful than we thought. We’ll probably discover we are more connected to our neighbors than we originally thought, too. And with all this time at home living a slower pace, I have a feeling some new beauty will be created.

Stay well, my friends. Be kind to yourself and others.

Xoxo,

Carol