Today was the first official day of homeschooling that we decided to try. As a family, self-isolation isn’t the hardest. We’re a tribe of introverts whose matriarch (me) owns a shirt that says, “Indoorsy” (stained). The kids were let out of school 4 days before Spring Break was to start, and so I didn’t make a huge deal about starting any official learning or classes. But today…today was the day I could vacation mode no longer. I woke up the kids. I made them get dressed and make their beds and eat breakfast all at the same time (this routine lasted one day, half a day tops, when the youngest declared after lunch was a reasonable return to pjs and I found it hard to argue).
8 am: Kids up and dressed and groomed. Beds are made, all requests for video games have been patiently and calmly denied. Kids have made their own breakfasts, and cleaned up afterwards in my wholesome, Laura Ingalls attempt at Home Ec. Overcooked eggs, and minor burns lead to grades of C+.
8:15 am: Scatter panic-purchased workbooks on the dining room table and gesture to them. Kids stare at me blankly.
9 am: Youngest and middle are chasing each other around the living room couch, my only grown up piece of furniture, with a marker, halfway through their “Doing Mazes” schooling.
10 am: My husband, who is working from home decides to start burning all the tree bits in the backyard. Still trying to hold onto the idea that homeschool can be full of rich experiences they wouldn’t get in a classroom, I try to take it up a notch by pulling out the flame colour change packets I found weeks ago in the corners of the back closet. Remember Chem teacher burning strontium. Get excited. Don’t bother to read the instructions. Put chunks and heaps of blue powder in my kids’ hands. Delight in them throwing them into the fire, shouting, “Diagon Alley,” as the flames turn green. Feeling pretty good about myself, I look down at the torn pack, and see the words, if in contact with skin flush with water for 15 minutes. I then go further backwards and read the instructions which advise to not open the pack, not touch it, not inhale it, not anything it. Just throw the pack, intact into the fire. I turn to the kids and calmly tell them to go inside and wash their hands for 15 minutes, as per the poison instructions. Homeschool win!
After that debacle, I’m summoned to the strange wind turbine my MacGyver husband has stick-and-daubed together with remnants from here and there, and everywhere. (His garage is a visual that must be seen to be believed). I’m hugging a post with my bad arm (mini van snack distribution injury), holding a huge pole with my Sorel boot, and my husband is telling me to pivot (Ross’s voice in my head), when we hear a scream and cries from all three boys. My oldest, who lacks, at times, common sense, has tried to impress his brothers with his ability to put out fires with his feet and smashed onto a burning hot nail with the all the vigor of youth. I’m still koalaed around a pole, trying to pivot a huge metal pole, and my husband has just removed the final screw holding this turbine in place. My snack mangled arm is our last defense against family tragedy. More screams, and shouts from the others that my oldest has maimed his foot. The littlest, who is squeamish, has run away, the middle, who is likely best in a crisis, (and most like my husband), has run to get ice of his own volition. I do the full dancer wrap of the pole and ask my husband to go have a look. He goes, takes a quick look, and comes calmly back while I hug and pivot and fret. Again, you want him in a crisis. You want me for dinner and drinks. He calmly lowers the turbine to the ground and I gallop over to my son who has truly pierced his shoe, and his foot with a nail. A burning hot nail. Things that go through my head are the dread of the possibility of going to the hospital in this time of COVID-19, and also, annoyance that he’s ruined his good track shoes, and then the wave of realization he won’t be going to track any time soon. And then the acceptance of the complete and utter failure of our first day.
Class is cancelled, kids. Let’s watch a movie with a bag of chips.