When I became a mother, I learned that I had to make choices. Washable or disposable diapers? Jogging or mall stroller? Public school or home school?
In my social circle, I have a lot of friends who teach their children at home. They have fun outings, fun social clubs, and happy, prosperous kids.
But home schooling has never been for me. Until it is this month.
Before having children, I didn’t know how noisy they were. With three children, I reached the peak of parental decibels. Every person with teenagers and adult children said to me, “Take advantage of this time, you will miss this later,” but I never could hear what they said.
I am joking. Kind of.
Being a parent of three children under the age of five is a beautiful and exhausting feat of pure perseverance. For 10 years, I waited impatiently for the year when all my children were at school, where I would have real hours of silence to do my work. It was the year.
Now the last two weeks have knocked the whole world down.
Four in five of our family have chronic health conditions that put us at risk if we were to catch COVID-19. Last week, before the province announced the closure of the schools, we already decided to withdraw our children.
We were going to be students at home.
The first day of school at home, I was awakened at 7 am by several little feet hammering hard in my room.
I felt small hands pat my face and tried to simulate sleep. They took off one of my eyelids and pressed a piece of paper on my forehead, then two others. They each had their own strict timetable for the school day, starting at 8 a.m.
They wanted business.
That first day, my adorable darlings turned into drill sergeants. We were late and I got a reprimand every time we lost a minute in the day.
I put my older daughter on a laptop, I agreed with her crash (she has a knack for crashing computers) and put her to work on math. I gave my seven year old son a video and craft mission on the clouds. I told my five-year-old to draw a dinosaur and explain its photo in French.
Fifteen minutes after the first day of home schooling, I learned that my French accent is of poor quality and my syntax is appalling. I couldn’t say a word in French without being politely corrected. Each time, I asked Google to agree with me and Google roughly took the side of my children.
I gave up speaking French.
By 11:15 a.m., they had finished the six hours of work I had planned. At 11:20 a.m., my 10 year old child had indeed crushed the laptop, my five year old child was fighting against the dog for colored pencils, and my seven year old child had compiled an alphabetical list anyway whose school the teacher is better at teaching.
“Did I teach you how to sort lists alphabetically?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” she said, looking at me with pity. “My teacher did it.”
The rest of the day, they begged me for school work. I couldn’t even pee in peace. They walked through all locked doors like tiny Kool-Aid men, demanding knowledge that I don’t have. (I have a growing list of questions to ask Google in secret).
It is now day 4 and each surface of my house is covered with a fine glow of glitter. Even my precious Lysol wipes do not remove it.
We don’t have glitter either. We have been socially isolated for five days now. Where does the glitter come from ???
Yesterday I lost my five-year-old child for two full hours. I still don’t know where she was hiding, but she looks strangely well fed and I’m afraid she’s safe from our pandemic supply of potatoes.
Are raw potatoes suitable for children? I’ll add this to my secret “ask Google” list.
There is paper everywhere. The cotton stick is glued to my dining table. This morning, I groaned helplessly as an entire container of yogurt fell from the refrigerator and sprayed the entire length of the kitchen.
I randomly developed hives on my arms. I don’t know what I’m allergic to, but I suspect it’s math.
I feel like a mom again for the first time. I am sleep deprived, ruffled and confused by the sudden changes in my world. There is an unidentifiable stain on my shirt, and I am overflowing with love and I desperately seek solitude.
I cried at least six times this week.
The stress, uncertainty and fear are overwhelming, but I try to remember to breathe and know that my children will be fine, even if I can’t teach them anything. I try to find gratitude in an impossible situation.
I am grateful that we are all together and in good health.
I am thankful that my husband and I have flexible jobs that can be done at home and that allow us to be with our children during so much turmoil.
I am grateful to be able to spend so much time with my children.
Because despite the chaos, the noise and the glitter, I know that when it’s all over, I will miss it.
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