California Schools Closed for the Rest of the Year due to COVID -19: Don't Panic!
Updated: Apr 9
“I like the cover," he said. "Don't Panic. It's the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody's said to me all day.” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I needed to relax after a long and busy day, so I decided to scroll Facebook absent-mindedly for awhile. I was enjoying Disney posts and funny memes until I got to an article that said Governor Newsom has closed California schools for the rest of the academic school year.
©2020 Heather Anne at Heather Anne Art and Soul. All rights reserved. See my copyright notice here.
I was hoping it was a really bad April Fool’s joke. It was April 1st afterall.
It was not a joke.
My heart sank and I felt a heavy knot in the pit of my stomach.
The look on my daughter’s face when I told her just about broke me.
The "what about" questions just would not stop running through my head.
What about graduations?
What about music, dance, martial arts, sports?
What about auditions and tryouts?
What about dance competitions?
What about social life and friends?
What about the teachers? They are hurting, too. They care about your little humans. They form relationships with them and with you, the parents. They are hurting and afraid, but they are getting on camera… CAMERA, and dealing with all of the insecurities that brings, to teach your children. They are pushing the limits of their technical knowledge and their learning curve is STEEP! Some of them have sick family members or spouses who lost jobs, yet they are getting on camera and putting on a brave face to teach kids. Teaching dance in a Zoom room? I have watched my kids classes and I am amazed at how the teachers are handling that.
What about learning and progress? Yeah we already homeschool, but like I said in my most popular article, Homeschooling is NOT the Same as Crisis Schooling: advice during coronavirus COVID -19 shut downs, this is NOT what homeschooling looks like! We don’t homeschool under duress of a pandemic, alone, isolated, locked in our house!
If you are not in California, you might be worried your schools will close, too. In California we are dealing with the finality of this brand new decision. Other states are dealing with uncertainty, wondering if their schools will be next.
How is it possible to have HOPE right now?
Well… it’s gonna be tough in this immediate moment because you just got hit by a metaphorical truck. So did your kids. So take a breath and deal with just that. Just those emotions. Right now, in the minutes and days after you got hit by the Schools are Now Closed for Really Real truck, just BE.
TAKE TIME OFF TO PROCESS AND CATCH YOUR BREATH
Your whole family has to process the emotional roller coaster. It’s not two weeks or three weeks without school anymore. This is months.
It might mean that you just need to put schoolwork aside for a few days or even a week.
If you are working, you might need to take a sick day or two if possible.
For some of you, a long school closure like this is traumatic, especially for graduating 5th graders, 8th graders and seniors. If you have a kindergartener that was going to have a graduation, that’s a big loss, too.
The “what about” questions bring up a lot of emotions and profound loss. It's okay to just take a minute and catch your breath.
BE PREPARED FOR THE STAGES OF GRIEF
Profound loss, especially when it involves dashed dreams or loss of relationships, can be as traumatic as a death. Know that some or all of you might feel traumatized, and it might compound as you think of more things that you are losing and cannot get back.
In On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross found in her work with terminally ill patients that grief has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Your kids might go into denial, shrug their shoulders and say okay, then skip off to their room. They might act like they are fine, but odds are high that they are not.
Your kids might express anger, lash out, snap at you or each other, talk back, throw things, or start fights. You are going through these stages, too, so be prepared and don’t let tempers boil over. Plan NOW for the anger stage so that you can find a way to be the parent and remain calm, as well as understanding.
In the bargaining stage, they might imagine scenarios in which they will still have soccer tryouts, graduation or dance competition. It’s best to listen and then redirect them to the truth. Hope, magic and dreams are wonderful things, but not when they skew reality and take away our ability to face the Jabberwocky like Alice did in Through the Looking Glass.
Pretending the monster is not there does not make the monster go away.
Depression might look like not speaking, not wanting to get out of bed, and especially important, academic and behavioral regression. They might forget math facts or spelling words you know that they were able to do before. They might act out, act bored, and be unable to concentrate.
Acceptance might not look like happiness. It might look like going through the motions.
Kubler-Ross explained the five stages of grief as going in sequential order with her terminally ill patients. Her book was written in 1969 and researchers have found that the stages don’t always go in order and they are experienced by people grieving other types of profound loss, not just death.
Bottom line, you and your kids might be all over the place emotionally. That's okay. Honor it. Feel it. Grieve it. Process it. You WILL get through it.
Now is the time for cuddling and blankies. Now is the time for fort building and piling on the couch for family movies. Anything you can do to create a sense of comfort and peace in your home will go a long way for all of you.
When you have cleared your head, think of ways you can create some sanctuary space in your home. Can you rearrange furniture to make things more comfortable? Clean off a shelf for dedicated homeschool space?
Can you rearrange anything in your kids’ rooms to make it more comfortable for them?
With the rains, my back patio has gathered a lot of dirt and dust. I usually just don’t sit out there during the rainy season. This weekend, I’m going to clean if off really well and if it rains, I will clean it immediately so we have that space to sit in.
Is there an extra television that can be put in the oldest child’s room so the kids can cuddle up and watch T.V. in there and you can have your time in the living room?
How can you make your space comforting?
TAKE TIME OFF OF SCHOOL
If you can, take some time off of school. All schools are handling this differently and some of them are requiring kids to be on a screen for long periods. There isn't much you can do about that, but you can set a boundary and take your child out for a day or so if they need it.
If you do not have classes you must attend, take some time off of school entirely, or at least go to a relaxed schedule for a few days. I promise you that extra sleep and relaxation will help them concentrate better later.
You can still be doing something, but it doesn’t have to be textbooks and worksheets. Textbooks and worksheets are not the best pr only form of learning. I have an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction. I worked in my school district to adopt new curriculum for the entire district and I will tell you unequivocally that there are many ways to educate that are far superior to worksheets.
Watch educational T.V. shows.
Listen to audiobooks.
Play board games.
Choose something you all want to learn about and have the kids research it online and show you what they found out.
Make some art together. No need to make it a big project. Just draw or paint.
Take YouTube art tutorials. Now might be a great time for the kids to learn watercolor or color pencil drawing that they always wanted to learn.
Watch musicals on television and learn about the theater.
Read to your children.
Read with your children.
Let your children read to you.
Learn to enjoy new forms of music. Mozart anyone? Vivaldi? New Orleans Jazz?
If they are already readers, let them choose what they want to read and read it, even if it's Captain Underpants and not educational.. they are reading!
Get the Skybrary from Lavar Burton, star of Star Trek Next Generation and Reading Rainbow! I gush about this app all the time! It's a huge digital book library of real, published and even award winning children's books as well as educational videos. Actors read them aloud and the pages turn just like real pages. You can also turn off narration.
Here is a blog I wrote, Disney Inspired Literature Based Thematic Learning!, that has an ENTIRE YEAR of curriculum for little to no money using the classic literature that inspired Walt Disney to make his movies and create attractions at Disneyland. There you go! The whole year is planned for you and it includes science, art, history and literature, as well as a little bit of math.
Did I remember to suggest doing a lot of reading? Just making sure!
just for a little bit...
Don’t do any of that for a few days and just process. That’s okay, too.
I promise you, after 25 years in education, your children's brains will not shut down if you are not doing worksheets! They are going to learn because that is what human beings do! We learn all the time! Your child would actually have to make a monumental effort not to learn just by doing life, because human children will learn. They just do.
It is wisdom to slow down, take a breath and think before your next move. It is wisdom to get your bearings before you set on a path.
ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Facing reality… it might be difficult if not impossible to make huge educational gains this year like kids would if they were not crisis schooling, IF you are going by the standardized testing, worksheets driven education model. If you shift your thinking about what it means to learn and what it means to educate, an entire world can open up to you.
My dad used to quiz me on trivia and spelling words while we drove in his V.W. Bug in the 70's. I learned so much about so many things during those quiz sessions. He always threw in a ridiculous question like "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?"
Maintaining is okay. Everyone else is in the same boat. Shifting your mindset is even better!
As I said above, there is a good chance that stress and isolation will cause regression. Expect it to happen and be happy if it doesn’t.
Release yourself right now from the pressure to be a Crisis Schooling A+ Parent right now.
We all want to come out of this well adjusted. We want our kids to come out of this well adjusted! The way to do that is to ADJUST.
Life just took a left turn at Albequerque (a little Bugs Bunny reference for you), and there is no sense tearing yourself apart trying to live as if there is not a pandemic.
Take a deep breath.
Now take three more.
And… again breathe.
You can do this! These are YOUR children and nobody loves them more than you do. You are Mama Bear and Papa Bear, maybe Grandma Bear lives with you. The bears stick together!
You are not going to screw them up by educating them. I promise.
You are not alone!
Education does not have to be so complicated. Keep it simple. Read, read, read, read, read, If all you did was read books to them and with them for the rest of the year, imagine how much they would learn!
You might even find some blessings in the tragedy. Maybe you will get to know them in new ways. Maybe your family life will take on new meaning. Maybe the “what about” questions, in time, after the grief process, can turn into you new “why” and a new purpose for you and your children.
Many blessings to all of you. I’m right here with you on this roller coaster ride.
We got this!
This article is ©2020 Heather Anne at Heather Anne Art and Soul. All rights reserved. See my copyright notice here.
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