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Parent Perspective: Life Goes Sideways by Alicia LaJoie, mom of JJ in 4th Grade

Since the ripe old age of 6 weeks, JJ has been in the care of others during the day. As a full time working family, it has been a necessity we couldn’t avoid. When summer vacation became a thing we had to tackle, I had him signed up for camps by March to ensure we got in. Google calendars were made and deposits paid. I coordinated with other moms to try and make sure he had a friend in every camp. Then, March 2020 went completely sideways.

When Mike and I got the word that the schools would be closing and the kids would be doing school from home, a million things went through my head. How do I do this? I’m not a teacher, I’m a software geek. How do I keep him engaged while I’m in meetings or talking with a customer? How do I keep him up to speed on math when I can’t even remember how….and how do I handle that Priority 1 call from Big University #10 when I’ve got my 10-year old Priority 1 sitting in the living room?

That first weekend, we got a big desk set up in the living room with his computer and other resources that he needed to get started. We were all set. Let’s do this! I made a Google calendar (of course) and tried to lay out what the day would look like. Log in to Schoology! Spend time in Typesy! Break at 10:05! The first couple of weeks weren’t too bad. Mike was still going to a co-working space as the “stay home, stay safe” order hadn’t dropped which was a challenge but we muddled through. By week 3, Mike had to come home and needed the desk. We set up a new, much smaller desk for JJ but there was nothing cool about it. I thought….okay, how can I make this feel special? How can I help him feel connected to Hope? I grabbed the picture that his class took together at Alki Beach last year and set it above the desk so that he could remember something fun that they did together. Then, I grabbed a few more Hope items from past fundraisers, LEST, etc…and set them by his desk. We started logging in to watch the live video from Hope every morning….just so that we could see and hear Sally and others.

For spirit week, I thought….okay, we are doing this thing! We are going to stay connected and what a great way to do it. We also hoped to encourage others and put a smile on their faces. JJ was a good sport and did something every day, including being turned green by Mike, in Photoshop of course.

It’s week 7 and I’m not really using the Google calendar anymore. Instead, I’ve made a list of JJ’s To Do items that he manages daily….complete with wacky fonts and checkboxes. Log in to Schoology? Check. Respond to Ms. Kuhn? Check. Hope Lutheran Live on Facebook? Check. Time for art and music… ask Dad, those are his strong suit. One day, he wrote in “Hug Mom” as an item on his list. That’s the best connection of all.

One revelation we had recently is that we all learn in different ways. Trying to impose a classroom schedule is not going to be productive when our home is now the school building and there are no other students. If JJ needs to crawl under the desk or in a hamper on the bed to read, then so be it. It has not been perfect by any means….I’ve woken up on a Monday morning with anxiety about what work and school combined might mean that week. Other times, I’ve been happy and encouraged to see JJ responding to something and realizing that we’ve found a strategy for one little thing….that works.