The Full Suburban: Online school is an education for parents, too

Well, this past couple of weeks have certainly been an education. As expected, online school is a whole other ball of wax than the real deal. Unlike our crash course in the spring, teachers, parents and students are much better equipped to handle virtual learning this time around.

There’s a daily schedule, an actual grading system in place and opportunities for students to learn in real time with their teachers and classmates sitting right in front of them on a computer screen. But still – it’s just not the same.

Consider the essay my second-grader wrote during Language Arts one day last week: “I do not like online school as much as school school. It is just bad sitting in a chair for six hours, sooooo boring. Sometimes I wonder if I will live to see another day. Crazy huh. But that is how bad it is!!! Horibl.”

Keep in mind that this is the same child who once told me he “isn’t into happiness,” so take his words with a grain of salt. It can’t be that horibl, can it? I’ve been most concerned about my kindergartner, little Hyrum, my child most likely to be calling me from prison someday.

Energetic, adorably mischievous and unflappably social, he needs the fun, structured learning environment that a kindergarten classroom provides. And yet there he is, every day, staring at a teacher and a class full of inaccessible friends over a computer screen.

Usually, when a child starts kindergarten, parents cry because the whole experience is so bittersweet – little Billy growing up and leaving the nest and all that. For me, I had to hold back tears on his first day simply because I was mourning the loss of his kindergarten experience.

Instead of sitting at a cute little desk and counting blocks with new friends, his first minutes of kindergarten were spent learning how to mute and unmute himself on Zoom. His teacher – and all my kids’ teachers, for that matter – are doing an exceptional job with the COVID-19 cards they’ve been dealt, but it is obviously not an ideal situation for anyone.

What’s more, having six kids on Zoom classes all day long is like having a multi-angle nanny cam constantly recording our every move. My boys have exhibited some truly mind-blowing bed head. My daughter’s top-of-the-lungs rendition of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” was enjoyed by all during a parent-teacher meeting.

My kids’ classmates have seen me bounce in an out of the frame while carrying bins of laundry, stuffing food into my face and dragging a child to time out all while wearing my very unflattering workout clothes.

“Does this woman ever actually get dressed?” they’re probably wondering. And the answer is, “Yes, eventually, when I’m darn good and ready – and I haven’t had my morning cookies yet, so I am clearly not ready.”

Thankfully, I haven’t yet had a truly mortifying experience, unlike a friend of mine. After getting her two young sons logged into their Zoom classrooms, she left for a few minutes to jump into the shower.

Ten minutes later, as she opened the bathroom door to bolt into her nearby bedroom (less than fully clothed, as you can imagine), she was horrified to discover that her older son had moved himself and his laptop into the room directly across from the bathroom. An entire Zoom class of second-graders certainly got more than they bargained for that day.

Don’t get me wrong: There are upsides to having a constant video feed running in the house. It certainly keeps my kids in line when they know that with one wrong move, I can retaliate by enthusiastically dancing in the background or planting a big old kiss on their cheek.

I’ve told them before about an older friend of mine who, upon realizing that her daughter hadn’t finished her morning chores, wrapped her bathrobe around her clothes, put curlers in her hair and showed up at the high school. I think they’ve always known I am capable of such a thing but would never actually do it.

Now the possibilities are endless. They’ve never been more afraid. I think I might like online school after all.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at [email protected]

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