Weekend 4.18

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On Monday, Mike came down for a coffee refill, and, after a quick glance at my face, paused. “Babe,” he said. “You OK?”

Not really, no. 

The boys and I were sitting around the kitchen table. Each kid had their laptop out, attempting to do assigned schoolwork. Pax, who couldn’t sit still any longer, was actually on his feet, wielding a pencil like a sword, and using the other hand to half-heartedly poke at his Chromebook. He was eating something (Cookies? Candy? — I had lost all control) and bouncing up and down, asking questions incessantly:  “MOM! What’s the login? MOM!! I can’t login!! MOM! It isn’t working!! MOM! Can we print it? MOM!! How do we print?? MOM!! MOM!!”

Raines was clearly miserable too, hunched silently next to me, head in his hands, as I read through his daily assignment list, my voice tense and clipped.

The scene must’ve looked as bad as it felt because Mike actually stopped. Setting down his empty mug, he pulled up a chair and sat, his hand on my leg. “Talk to me,“ he said quietly.

I took a deep breath. How do I even begin to explain this…this…online jail we’ve been living in for weeks? 

“Well…” I began. “Things are not working…and I’m not even sure why.” Mike nods, waiting. “I mean – it shouldn’t be hard? Right? It’s not that hard!! For example, for math today, all Raines needs to do is learn about box plots in Khan Academy. And then next he takes a quiz  in…wait no. Box plots are not in Khan Academy? It’s this link — is this the video? OK, but there’s THIS link too…oh wait. This is the video that explains how to login to…somewhere? But there’s also a math game the whole class is playing in — oh god it starts in 10 min — and Raines! Do you know how to get into Google Meet?? And then there’s still the Khan Academy assignments — where are those again? Raines, are those listed IN Khan Academy?? And that’s just math. I haven’t even gotten to language arts, or social studies or science….”

About halfway through this little speech I had started crying. And now? I was outright sobbing. Like…big, gasping sobs, while babbling about Khan Academy and Google meetups. Raines and Pax were both frozen, staring at me in shock.

Mike, whose eyes hadn’t yet left my face, leaned forward and peered at the screen. He read through the checklist for maybe…four seconds? (seriously maybe even three) and then sat back.  

“Babe” he said. “I have no idea what-“ here he waves his hands vaguely in the direction of the screen “-this says. And, well….we both know I’m not gonna do it.”

Yes, Mike. I’m well aware.

He continues, “But this is clearly making you miserable. And I don’t see why you should have to do this either. Why don’t we just…I don’t know…fuck it?”

And we did. The End.

No, but seriously — here’s the thing: those tears of mine were not sad tears. They weren’t even frustrated tears. My tears were tears of fear and of release. They were the tears of a mom who knows — to the bottom of her heart, to the depths of her soul — what the right answer is. But the right answer — so nicely summarized by Mike as ‘Fuck It’ — is scary. Raines is in 6th grade. By all accounts, grades in 6th grade matter — especially in Philadelphia, where getting into a ‘good high school’ looks more like a collage application process. And yet.

Mike was still looking at me, expectantly. I took a deep breath.

I turned to Raines, who had been trying to apologize this whole time, swearing he’ll ‘do better’ and that he’s ‘so sorry, Mom, so so sorry’.  God. He breaks my heart. “Raines,” I said softly, “you are misunderstanding my tears.”  

He stopped and looked at me, in that serious, unblinking way of his.

“Raines, if I told you that you could study anything you wanted…what would it be?”

The kitchen had fallen silent. Pax was staring at me, dumbfounded, but Raines was thinking, a look of wonder on his face.

“I want to learn more about ancient Athens” he said. “Maybe Sparta. Their battle strategies. And physics  I don’t really know what it is, but I think it’s important.”

Pax piped up, “I want to learn how to be a YouTuber! I want to be a better skier and snowboarder, and I want to learn how to make school fun — you keep talking about that mom, and I keep trying, but it isn’t WORKING.”

Mike and I looked at each other. He patted my shoulder — his work here clearly done — and headed back up to his cave.

I told the boys to each make a list. On paper, not the computer — of things they’d like to study. And that their Mom needed some space to think. So they set aside the laptops and made lists and played. I thought and stress-baked, and remembered all of those times in the last few weeks I had barked at Raines for missing yet another assignment, or snorted in disgust because he didn’t understand something —horrible, bad behavior on my part because I was also stressed and pressed for time — and after a sleepless night and lots of Googling and a four-mile run…I sent Raines’ teachers an email telling them that this family needed to make some changes.

“If our situation at home were different, perhaps we (Mike or I) could better support Raines’ school duties during this tough time.”  I wrote.  “…Raines (and Pax) have been virtually left to their own devices. I pop in to help when I can, but the net result is that none of us are happy. Raines is constantly feeling like a failure, and, as a result of trying to balance both my own work and the kids’ school work…so am I.  After a series of hard conversations, Mike and I have decided that we need a change. Our kids need our support, and Raines, especially, needs to not feel like a failure, on top of all of the stresses that a worldwide pandemic brings. So going forward, we are going to dial way back on school.”

In truth, we’re still doing some school. Before I sent the email, Raines and I had talked it over and came up with a plan. He’s going to continue doing his IXL language arts assignments and the Khan Academy math assignments. But after that…we’re going to supplement with things that he wants to study. It turns out that IXL also has a unit on ancient Athens & Sparta, and that Khan Academy has basic physics. I ordered a few science kits online, several books on relevant topics, and some LEGO robotics stuff (Raines has promised to teach his brother the coding needed to program the robot). And I’m still making both boys do 20 min a day of Typing Club. The boys have been playing logic board games and D&D, learning dances on TikTok, reading books, actually using our vast arsenal of art supplies and learning how to cook.

And YES: when all else fails, the boys play video games (if I’m fed up) or watch documentaries (if I still have some fight left in me). Screen-time is simply not the worst thing in our world right now.

It turns out that my boys, when pursuing their own interests, work independently for much longer periods of time. And the time I am spending with them is now enjoyable. Instead of going over missing assignments, or trying to navigate through endless systems of logins…we’ve been spending time talking through physics concepts (haha — this is fun for me), doing a science experiment, reading a book together, baking or playing logic games. These last few days have been tear-free. We’re feeling more…settled. More connected. 

At times, we’re happy.

And Raines isn’t feeling the pressure of performing in a system that fundamentally doesn’t work for a kid like him.

There wasn’t (isn’t) a problem with Raines’ teachers — they’re all amazing, incredibly gifted educators, who found creative ways to implement their curriculum online. I’m excited for Pax to have them in a few years. But this entire concept of schooling mass amounts of children from home is one that — for a kid like Raines — is flawed. Raines either needs a ton of my help to keep up with all of the various assignments, or he needs enough space and time to pursue his own interests.

We’re choosing the latter. We’re choosing to prioritize Raines’ self-worth, to, quite simply, trust the kid we’re raising. He’s an awesome kid.  One who, I hope, will look back at this time and remember — if nothing else — that his parents chose him. That his parents believed in him.

And, if he’s behind when school starts up again, he’ll do what a kid like Raines has always had to do in school: work hard and catch up.

Untamed. I’m ordering Glennon Doyle’s book. Primarily because I find myself breathing out a relieved yesss whenever I come across her Instagram feed. She has a way of bringing clarity — via pointed, eloquent words — to some of my gut feelings, especially the ones that are always floating just outside my line of sight, the ones I have trouble looking at directly. This business with Raines’ school was one. And as I was deliberating, I came across her recent IG post about kids. “Instead of teaching them to never disappoint us — let’s teach them to never disappoint themselves.” yesss [and breathe]

My latest crush. I’ve got it bad for Sal Khan. Between Raines’ online math courses and now his physics courses (narrated by Mr. Kahn himself), Raines has switched to using headphones because he’s sick of hearing his mother laugh at allllll of Sal’s jokes. “OMG isn’t he funny, Raines?? He’s SO FUNNY!!” [cue eyeroll from Raines]. Anyway, Khan Academy has recently launched a new course on income inequality. You can watch two of the videos for free on the NYT. Am thinking this may be a family summer project.

Back at the Rack. My absolute favorite heeled sandal — the one I wore allll over Italy last year, the one I keep getting compliments on — has suddenly re-appeared, on sale at Nordstrom Rack. I realize that their use is limited at the moment, but these PAIGE mules are ones I’ll be wearing for years to come. The leather upper is buttery soft, and the mules are actually walkable. Fit is TTS. Can’t recommend them highly enough.

I have until midnight Sunday to decide…which pieces I’m snapping up at NINOBrand, 50% off with code TME50. I know I’m keeping that Thea top, but am deciding between the dresses (practical Millie, or go with crazy Prudence???). You can see all of the pieces – mirror selfie style – here. HELP. PLEASE.

On the topic of forever-classics…the stars of the current Shopbop sale, IMO, are all by Loeffler Randall. If anyone has had these tall boots (with a walkable heel) or these tall boots (*cough*Gwen*cough*) haunting their dreams…they’re now alllll on sale. Actually, it’s worth taking a peek at Shopbop’s entire LR sale selection, there are SO many good options.

Let’s round it out. Since everybody always asks…my top picks under $100 in the Shopbop sale are….this striped pullover, this Anine Bing tee, or these fancy sport sandals (I have similar and LOVE them).

You had me at ‘coral sunrise’. I came across Atelier Cologne’s Pomelo Paradise while perusing the Sephora sale…and while I admit to being a sucker for a good marketing ploy, I find this one especially hard to resist. This is literally the scent’s description I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP:

“Was he a fool to drive all night just for a chance to see her? Perhaps it was adrenaline and the lack of sleep, but as he pictured moments they had been together, the word destiny stuck in his mind. The coral sunrise burned bright and he drove faster. There was no choice but to see her again.”

RIGHT??? I am powerless to resist!! (Except for the fact that it’s $140.) Happily, Atelier Cologne has a mini perfume set for $55 that includes eight small bottles to try, including Pomelo Paradise. Swoon.

Like a lemon souffle. For your eyes. Elemis recently sent over a few goodies to try, and I was completely blown away by their Pro-Collagen Eye Revive Mask. My eyes have been looking uh, tired/crepey/wrinkly, and this overnight mask was so quenching that I noticed a difference immediately. Like…within seconds. Even better, it works as a makeup primer so I’m now wearing it daily, around the clock. The texture reminds me of the yellow layer in a lemon meringue pie, and the official description uses words like “bouncy gel texture” and YES. Truth. This product seemed so freaking good that I assumed I was simply hormonal…until I checked the reviews. Whoa. I’m not the only one raving about it. If interested, I’m also impressed with Elemis’ decidedly non-greasy face oil (I’ve been using after cleansing in the morning) and am a solid HELL YES on their SPF 30 face cream. It smells delicious and sinks in effortlessly.

I hate all of my makeup. The entire team put together a post about the makeup they’re wearing on the regular. If you missed it, I’m finding it really helpful. I tried to come up with something myself…but I’m either wearing no makeup, ancient makeup (that should’ve been thrown out years ago), or makeup I hate. The only exceptions are that Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter, which I still adore (but haven’t been wearing because I’ve been trying to ‘test’ other no-foundation foundations and I GIVE UP), BadGal Bang mascara that literally looks like giant, goopy fake lashes (which I normally LOVE but feels like too much right now), and this Ilia Beauty multi stick. I have ‘Dreamer’ and it’s perfect for making a no-makeup face look a little better.

I’m off to (hopefully) clean out my sad and disappointing makeup drawer which desperately needs a clean slate. But quick, before that Sephora sale ends (actually, it’s only Rouge members right now, VIB can start shopping on Tuesday, Insiders on Thursday).

We were teasing Raines about his ability to attract wild creatures (bees, squirrels, geese have all attacked him at some point), and Mike jokingly referred to him as the male version of a Disney Princess. So tonight we’re watching Enchanted — seems appropriate (and funny).

And yup: Mike is finally getting a movie night with us. Makes me hopeful that next week will be better than this one.

Whew. What a tough one. Hope you guys are staying sane and safe.

xo,

S

28 COMMENTS

  1. I was a homeschooling mom before the pandemic and the homeschooling path you will be taking with your kids is exactly what I do regularly. Academic essentials mixed in their interests. School is so much easier when my kids have a say in what they study. And even though I have been doing this homeschool thing for years, I am definitely giving myself and my kids a lot of grace during this stressful time. Hope next week is much better. Sending love.

  2. Untamed is AMAZING!! It was exactly what I needed as a parent and a woman struggling with the world right now. She is so wise and frank. I hope you love it! I laughed and cried (but pregnant so maybe not everyone will ha).

  3. I love reading your weekend posts! Somehow it makes me feel better about everything that’s currently happening in our lives.

  4. Reading this while holding my breath. I feel you big time. I’ve got 3 kids (11, 9 and 7) and trying to manage all their online schooling is making my head spin.

  5. Ah. I feel this so much. I absolutely lost it on my kids this week. My kids are older than yours (they’re 13 to 20) and one of my boys and one of my girls are just not doing their work. I keep getting emails from teachers and I just. can’t. deal anymore on top of everything else. I think I am going to take a page from your book and email the teachers. Something has to give at this point and sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be work. Love your weekend post, as always! Hang in there!

  6. Thank you for your honesty sharing a less than perfect moment with us and the beautiful way your family chose to learn from it and move forward. You guys are amazing.

  7. Untamed is absolutely what we all need right now! You’re gonna love it. I totally feel you and this week I am nervous as I’ve finally pulled the plug to pursue some further schooling for myself and hence will be tucked away in my office everyday leaving the boys to school themselves… I’ve made my 9 year old in charge of the 6 year old and am hoping they just let me have this one week to do this class…. idk how are people managing that actually have to do other things besides homeschool!??? And just as you have said do a few basic subjects and then learn about things you are interested in! I’ll try this approach this week…

    Xoxo xoxo

  8. AMAZING! As a homeschool mom to 5 kids (my oldest is a junior in highschool but full time college and my youngest is 8), you made the best choice for your sons. Absolutely let them study what they want. Fuck it at this point, with these circumstances is 100% appropriate. THIS WILL NOT SCREW UP YOUR CHILDREN FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE.

  9. Ufff, uff, UFFFF, I feel you on the “teaching kids in quarantine“ pain! And I was a teacher for 14 years! A little habit I started last week that’s yielded a decent result: I’m now looking over my son’s classwork the night before he completes it. This enables me to both familiarize myself with the content and make little formatting changes that I know will help him work on it more independently. Is it 20 minutes of my life each night that I’d prefer to spend, you know, DOING PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING ELSE? Yep. Do I think it’s saving me WAY more than 20 minutes of hassle each next day with my kid? Undoubtedly yes. Good luck, all; as Glennon Doyle says, this is hard but we can do hard things!

  10. “Fuck it.” AMEN. My husband was hospitalized with the virus in late March. Then I got sick while being the sole caregiver for our 6 and 8 year old boys. It was bad – to say the least. We are all fine now. But it gives us a different perspective on this time than I think we would have had otherwise. There are more important things in life than being a perfect home school mom, and frankly, I’m still recovering from the trauma of it all. So, we will try. We will fail. There will be math induced tears. There will be pride induced tears when I get to see FIRST HAND what my kids are capable of. There will be MANY screen filled days. And there will be TeleMed sessions with my psychologist, while I sit on the floor of my closet, because it’s the only room in the house with a modicum of sound proofing (thanks to all your shopping enabling). 😉

  11. Wow, such an amazing post. When I thought I had already read your most moving ones… In tough circumstances, you guys manage to realign yourselves with your priorities… A great reminder to not loose sight of our personal values (vs social expectations)- it takes courage- and to see that at the end of the day, being a parent is about showing our kids that we love them and believe in them. Inspiring, thank you.

  12. All of these things, Shana. Also I bought the Kamala top. I shall wear it while trying not to flip out over the fact that my first grader seems to have more work than my third grader.

  13. This. Is. It. Thank you. The knot in my stomuch I was getting while I help my kids do online learning, was not coming from frustration (although it sure is frustrating)….!! I guess ultimately it comes down to why we school and why we teach our kids.

    Last a few days, we have been quickly going through school stuff as fast as we can, and move on with our day. Your post helped me feel confident that we are on the right path. I will now fill the rest of the day with what they want to learn. Thank you so much for for this post.

  14. Thanks Shana as always for sharing your story. A few paragraphs in, I started crying and gasping too because I can relate. I threw a toddler like tantrum last week complete with stomping because my son was having trouble logging into a zoom meeting and I was about to be late to my own work meeting. ?. That was not pretty… I’m so glad you found a new homeschooling plan that will work for your family. Kudos to you for being brave and making that decision, and to Mike for supporting you. ❤️

  15. You sound like such a great mom. Your post actually brought me (no kids, absent mom) to tears. I just received Glennons new book and can’t wait to read it. Maybe a MomEdit Zoom book club?? Much love to you Shana. I love the blog!

  16. A lovely post, and kudos to you, Shana. To anyone who needs to hear it, this is NOT homeschooling, it’s crisis schooling. Whatever helps all of you to weather this as a family…is more than fine. Loving to learn and feeling as safe as possible are the most important things (from a child psychologist and fellow mom).

  17. I don’t have kiddos but have still found this blog to be exactly what I need, as a woman in her 40’s who said “fuck it” to stilettos and clothes I can’t move in a long time ago. Thank you for your honesty and inclusivity and distractions, and also wisdom. (“Untamed” just arrived yesterday, I can’t wait to dig in.) It’s such a strange time – my work just furloughed a lot of people, and so I am very much in a “savings” mindset – but I love all of your recommendations, and there is still some satisfaction in adding things to my “Loves” in Sephora to try someday, and to “save for later” in my Nordstrom cart. I think the Kamala top is going to be my splurge for this month. It’s so good!

  18. I was already a homeschool mom before all this. I love that you had the confidence to find out what will work best for your family during this time. If you ever have time to read (or listen), Peter Gray wrote a book called “Free to Learn” that really made me re-think my opinions on education.

  19. Girl amazing post you put everything I’m feeling about online school and two work from home parents…thanks for keeping it real and really saying the stuff that’s in all of our minds

  20. I also have a HUGE crush on Sal. The way he says “so over here, we have…” and then draws in a different color. Swoon.

  21. Yep, right there with you. My 9 year old refused to do the “persuasive essay” on the topic she was assigned and instead wrote a compelling argument about why she should be allowed to do her learning through doing a project on Ancient Egypt instead. What’s the point of trying to recreate normal school at home? They just miss out on the flexibility to pursue passions that homeschool offers.

  22. Thank you for writing such honest and heartfelt words. I have two small boys (5 and 7) and this online learning has been a nightmare. I was already planning on email our teachers with the same thing. The only difference I was going to ask was min requirement for the district to get credit for funding at this time.
    I would suggest keeping the dress that is short with the see thru overlayer. I can see that be really fun to style once this is all over.

  23. You hit the nail on the head S, everyone must accommodate and do what works for their own family. I like that the school provides ideas and resources for the “I have no idea what to do” moments and I appreciate all the teachers who have had to overhaul their lessons and methods of teaching (and trying to accommodate all the learning challenges thrown their way from parents at the same time), but I have not encountered one teacher who has expected our kids to “proceed as normal” in these unprecedented times. Patience for one and all, hoorah!

  24. I work in an elementary school (not a teacher, but I do run a literacy intervention for 54 students, so that’s something). I wish all of my students had families as loving, encouraging, and thoughtful as the one you and Mike have established for your kids. Pax and Raines are going to grow up to be curious, smart, and caring. I hope more families feel empowered to try the approach you’re taking and allow their kids to pick something they’re interested in and pursue the subject. I wish I could do that with my students every day because I know it’s what excites them (not whatever common core thing they’re supposed to learn that day). This was so powerful to read and I’m excited to hear more about the awesome things Raines and Pax are learning!

    P.S. I also have my fingers crossed that I end up having a partnership with my future spouse like the one you and Mike have. From the way you describe it, you are in tune with each other and supportive in the ways you need it. I can only imagine how hard things are for you all right now, but the love that came through this post was so evident.

  25. The homeschooling (and working from home) pain is real. I’ve been gorging on various internet pieces about how to resist the pressure for my 9 and 4-year-olds. It is hard. I have guilt. I worry about what other kids are doing, about what their teachers will think of our relative absence, about my kids boredom, and then I gorge on more internet think pieces about letting it all go. So this helps.

    A friend also just shared what I think is possibly the end-all-be-all of anti-homeschooling think pieces, about what we can teach our kids about inequity and the real world during this time. It’s not home-schooly. It’s just perfect, it feels real and true, and I feel like the TME crew might appreciate it too: https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/first-person/2020/4/22/21230201/homeschooling-lessons-coronavirus-pandemic.

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