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The First 20 Weeks of Virtual Kindergarten = Barely Hanging On

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“Is today another computer school day?”

As soon as I said yes, my son flopped back down against his pillow and pulled the covers up over his head. “I don’t like computer school!”

I curled up next to him and peeled the covers back. “I know. Maybe you’ll get to go back soon.”

Back in August, he started virtual kindergarten. While we were hoping for a “normal” start to the school year, he was thrilled to “meet” his teachers and see new school friends on his computer screen. Every day he bounced out of bed, ready to see what he would learn and do in “computer school.” Every week, we would go to school and pick up a packet of assignments that he would work on throughout the week.

It wasn’t ideal, but we muddled through. We would take breaks in between classes and, since my husband was (and still is) working from home, we’d all meet up at the table for lunch.

In November, we were thrilled when our school district decided it was time to reopen in phases, starting with the youngest kids first. When we told our son the news – that he would finally get to go to school – and presented him with his brand new Pokemon backpack, he was so excited you’d think we’d just promised him a trip to Disney.

When the day came, we took “second first day of school” pictures and walked around the corner to the bus stop. When the bus roared down the street, lights flashing, the driver honked the horn and waved. My son, wearing his mask, waited for the bus aide to check his temperature before taking his assigned seat. He was so happy he almost forgot to yell goodbye over his shoulder.

He got to go to school for two weeks. The school district decided that it wasn’t safe to reopen after Thanksgiving, so he’s been back on “computer school” ever since.

The mixed emotions from the start of the school year have resurfaced, along with frustration, anxiety, and despondency. I wish he was back in school with his teachers and his friends. I wish he could run and play on the playground at school. I know it’s selfish, but I wish he was back in school so that I didn’t have to supervise virtual learning and listen to the “Banana Song” over crackly computer speakers every day.

I can see that he is annoyed by the technical aspect of “computer school” – when a classmate has microphone trouble, when there’s a delay in video, when the online learning platform crashes. I can see that he’s bored by the same thing every day, even though it’s the teacher’s way of establishing routines. I can see that he’s sad because things aren’t the same here at home. But every morning, he logs on to his little computer and gets to work, setting aside his frustrations and losing himself in the novelty of Venn diagrams and counting money.

There was a week where the was a possibility of the schools reopening again, but at the last minute, the school district backtracked on that idea and instead announced that schools would remain closed until the end of February.

I wasn’t surprised; the school district had hinted that if our COVID numbers didn’t improve, they wouldn’t be able to open. In addition, the school district announced that they were going to rearrange the daily schedule, to provide better consistency for families, even though we’d all already been on the same schedule for two months… It didn’t make any sense to me, but we have adjusted to the change.

I am filled with dread at the thought of almost another month of this. It’ll be another three weeks of my kid rolling out of bed and trudging to the computer, sighing that he doesn’t like computer school and that it’s boring. Of me trying not to be a helicopter parent but also constantly checking in to see if he’s completely checked out. Of me either barking at him to pay attention or letting him draw and doodle his way through the weather song and the calendar study, because I know he just wants to get on with the business of learning.

I want to get on with business, too. I want to be able to sit down and focus on my job search. I want to be able to write without interruption. I want to be able to think clearly for five minutes without being distracted by the sounds of virtual kindergarten. I want things to go back to normal.

It’s finally gotten to me. I originally saw the silver lining of pandemic parenting – more quality time together, getting to see what my kid is doing in school. I was optimistic at first, thinking that once schools opened, we would finally be on the road back to the way things are supposed to be. I was hopeful, after school closings, that we’d get back there sometime. Now I’m barely hanging on. Now, even though there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, these days are darker and gloomier than before.

I worry that my son will lose his enthusiasm for learning. I worry that I will lose my patience. I worry that I will become the “mean” parent because I’m the one who (mostly) supervises online learning and insists that he gets his homework done. I envy at how friends’ kids in other states (or in private schools here in town) are able to go back to school in person, but I understand that our school district is waiting for teachers to be vaccinated. Still, I worry that my kid will spend the rest of kindergarten hunched in front of a computer screen, not really tuning in, because it’s not the same. He’s had a taste of what school is like, and he knows this isn’t it. I worry about how this will affect him, but I know that kids are resilient.

I could learn a lot from him.





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