September 28, 2020

I'm not okay

Whenever I’m having a tough time with something, I look up articles and blog posts from other people who have been in the same situation. Seeing someone else go through similar struggles and finding a path forward lets me know that my problems are not unique. Right now, no one is sharing the same hurdles as I am. It makes me feel isolated and alone. But after some thought, I realized, the people who are as overworked and burnt out as I am don’t have time for an interview or to post about their current situation. So I’ll give it a try.

Note—Although this post is a bit of a vent, the primary reason I’m sharing this is to update everyone on where I’ve been.

When COVID became a big deal, the school system shut down. I got an email on Friday stating my son would be bringing the entire contents of his desk home that same day and the school would shut down for two weeks. Whenever the public school system closes, my daughter’s preschool follows suit, so I had both kids at home again. Initially, it felt like an early summer break, apart from not going to the pool, library, store, playground, etc. After a could weeks home, the preschool started having twice-weekly virtual class. Another four weeks after that, the public school devised a plan of virtual learning.

To put it mildly, it didn’t go well. I had a hard time remembering when virtual lessons started and put a bunch of timers on my phone so I wouldn’t miss them. My son couldn’t handle being on camera at all. Technically, he hasn’t finished second grade yet.

When the actual summer break started, I was relieved. Typically, summers are awfully rough, but my kids were already home all the time, so at least I got a break from the school shuffle. Then the school system sent a huge package of work for my son to complete by fall. Ultimately, we decided not to do it. Our lives were already miserable and we were stressed to the max.

By the time labor day came around, the kids were so fed up with each other that my daughter locked herself in her room all day except to grab food and use the bathroom, and I was so worked up about the coming school year, I started having anxiety attacks.

I recall chatting with other stay-at-home parents who also planned to pick up career opportunities as soon as their youngest started full-day school. When I started writing, my daughter was an infant. Since her birthday is soon after the age cutoff, she couldn’t start Kindergarten until she was almost six. I essentially had an extra year with her home. I’ve been telling myself for years that once she’s in Kindergarten, I would finally be able to transition to being a full-time writer. But with the kids doing virtual school at home, that wouldn’t be possible. I can’t think about it too much because it makes me so upset.

Virtual school is very different from a typical school day and much more involved than it had been in the spring. There are virtual classes where the teacher and the whole class engage in a Google meet, there are posted lessons outside of the meets which the students need to read and do an activity (usually a quiz) to show they learned something, and there are computer learning programs which the kids do independently. The typical school day includes four hours of meets, thirty to forty minutes of computer learning, and an hour of independent study. Every week, there is one math homework assignment, two language arts, two science, and three related arts. It is way too much for my six-year-old daughter to keep track of, so I’m the one who reminds her when to log onto classes, grab the supplies she needs (since it’s not always announced in advance), read her assignments to her, and scan and email her work to her teacher.

Then there’s my son who’s in third grade. He is autistic. Typically, he gets lots of special education services in school and the teachers are there to keep him on task. Now it’s my job to sit with him all day and make sure he hasn’t logged off his computer and isn’t simply chasing one of the cats around his room. His schedule is incredibly complex and things get moved around a lot. Frequently, he refuses to even attend class or work on anything school-related. Every teacher has a unique meeting code. He’s still not a confident reader, so I need to read his assignments to him. He hasn’t mastered the days of the week. He refuses to talk on camera (which is especially a challenge for lessons with his speech teacher). He communicates with his teachers by drawing pictures on a whiteboard to show the camera and typing nonsense into the chatbox. I’ve never spent an entire school day with him at his school, but I’ve quickly realized that ‘least-restrictive-learning-environment’ doesn’t necessarily mean he’s learning.

I knew virtual school would be rough, but it is really rough. The kids have been home with me for over six months now and there’s no end in sight. Being a learning facilitator is an incredibly grueling job, especially with two kids who can’t read. I barely have any time to write.

My psychiatrist prescribed something to help with my anxiety attacks and I try my best to partake in self-care. But no matter how you slice it, life is fucking hard and incredibly unfair, and I’m barely getting by.


Gary Cohn said...

Hang in and hold on. Do as much as you can and don't beat yourself up if you can't do more. All things pass.

Tim said...

I'm sorry to hear how rough things have been for you. I can't imagine what it must be like to go through all of that. Please know that you have an entire community here for you and that we have your back. You will certainly be in my prayers, but don't hesitate to let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

Craig Bagley said...

So sorry cousin! We will pray for you during all this! Blown expectations can be crushing, and 2020 has done a great job of killing some expectations! We are doing homeschool because of the school mess. We love you guys!

Unknown said...

Hey sweetheart.. Really, this too shall pass... Its more then a huge hiccup.. But it will conclude and you'll still be young and get back to task ;) I know its easy for me to say since Im an empty nester, but try and think of it as temporary. <3