Physical distancing, family time

So much has happened this past school year, who would’ve known this year would be peppered with strike days followed by complete at home and online learning?

Here’s how it started:

Our baby hasn’t dropped his nap yet, but he’s going into kindergarten. He survived the first few years (with close calls, like the time he almost drowned during swimming lessons, and I had looked up and saw him floating face-down. Seemed odd since he can’t float, so I got up and made a “aaahhh” noise, the instructor either saw or heard me, put the other kid down and made sure little brother was okay. *scary*)

His kindergarten teacher called me to discuss his allergy needs the other day, which was rather thoughtful. After that call, he’s wanted me to call her every day since. While I’m quite disappointed that he’s not getting Bean’s SK teacher as his (especially given that both the parents and the teacher requested it as well), he seems to like his teacher already!

August 28, 2019

The struggle between active and passive screen learning was real; the latter winning the most often, but being more involved with the kids’ learning in this hybrid learning model was a nice blessing!

We’ve gotten through our first week of being at home with school-aged kids. I’ve discovered that I feel like I’m more productive when the kids come to work with me at the office, but I also learned a few things while home with them.

Personally, I’m really excited about doing some learning activities with them at home (simplified homeschooling?) and having them actually participate. We started off with this home-DIY science experiment (and illustration of why washing your hands is important) and now they’re looking forward to doing more science experiments at home!

March 20, 2020

But then, the two weeks leading up to Easter, I felt very overwhelmed; the days blurred together, and I was often confused what day of the week it was, and I needed to figure out a good balance between keeping up with the kids’ learning and getting work done. I soon discovered that a daily (loose, flexible) schedule for the kids really helped set expectations, which also allowed them to look forward to certain things *ahem, screen time*, particularly:

  • Educational games like Prodigy math and Teach Your Monster How to Read
  • Reading programs like Epic (popular with my youngest as he’s a reader!)
  • Movement music videos by GoNoodle

Math Bingo (using paper and got them to do simple adding, subtracting, multiplying with the numbers in Chinese) was really popular at the beginning, but by the time teachers released online learning material, the limits on screen time has pretty much gone out the door, and they now prefer to learn using videos, which I’ve resigned to let them do. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that they’re learning independently; I still have to guide them through and review concepts with them.

What else have I discovered while being home (and working from home) with school-aged kids?

  • They can play endlessly with each other – thankful that they still haven’t really gotten bored of each other yet. Little squabbles happen but they seem to forgive each other quickly (especially important now that they only have each other as companions). I honestly think that if there was no pressure to keep up with their schooling, I’d just let them play all day, every day.
  • Our oldest is at the age where she is starting to enjoy playing card and board games. She taught our youngest how to play the never-ending card game War (which I didn’t even realize she knew how to play!), and we’ve played Ticket to Ride: The First Journey, Coaxis (a much more interesting matching memory game than just Memory is), and Sushi Go as a family; her current favourite is probably Ticket to Ride: First Journey as she somehow seems to win almost every time! I’ve also taught her how to play Mastermind, and while it was tricky to explain first, she soon got the hang of it.
  • They continue to enjoy playing with trains daily, building floor puzzles, playing with their own games like family (guess who is the baby and the mommy), Guess Who? and Operation.
  • J.w and I have picked up playing table tennis against each other almost daily, which gives us a bit of exercise, and we get to connect with each other over this game, differently than if we were playing a board game.
  • Now that we’re home more, we run at least two loads of dishes a day, the house is almost constantly in disarray, but we both are doing little improvements with it (like storage organization, but the best improvement is the oven: it used to make a combustion sound if you turned on the stove first before turning and which used to take 1h to preheat is now ready in 10 mins because j.w finally replaced the igniter, YAY!)
  • When our oldest started kindergarten, she went for half a day until December, so she had a chance to nap which helped with minimizing meltdowns from exhaustion. When kindergarten started for our 3-year-old, I felt sad that he had to give up naps when he didn’t seem ready (which is evident by the number of times he’s fallen asleep at the end of the day, while waiting for his classmates to get ready to go outside). Now he gets naps again! (though it also means that somehow they don’t fall asleep until after 10 PM even though they still wake up at 7:30 AM, though that beats the 5:30-6AM wake-ups last summer)
  • Our kids are more literate than I thought! It’s a special moment when you catch the oldest reading a story to the youngest or having her teach the youngest how to write (making him practice how to write).
  • While our youngest enjoys reading, I’ve discovered that our oldest can enjoy reading independently, even though that’s usually not her first activity of choice
  • Screen time has increased for everyone in the house: we meet with people online, play games online, learn online, do work online, go to church online…
  • Sticker incentive charts with small prizes really help with encouraging them to do certain things; it’s fairly arbitrary but I’ve made up rules around tidying up toys, putting away laundry, dishes unasked; completing workbooks and reading books, they have to do it X times that match their age to earn a sticker (e.g. read 6 books if they’re 6 years old, or finish 4 workbook pages; 5 stickers = 1 small prize or 2 stickers towards a bigger prize on a different chart)
  • The oldest has also grew a lot – she’s finally into the next size before her birthday; she lost a tooth, and another tooth started growing in before the second tooth started getting loose

Other than hitting a big milestone birthday in the middle of this (when my mother was at the same age, my brother thought she was 80! perhaps this is why I always thought this age was “old”), the reflection that I started in the middle of this pretty much sums it up:

I hear more and more people say that at first they had a lot of energy to weather through this and that it was almost novel, but now they’re are starting to feel impatient and restless. In contrast, I’m realizing that I’m feeling quite the opposite, and probably because we are a family with privilege: we have a family, we’re still employed, we aren’t at risk or have close family members affected by covid, we have space in the house to move around, easy access to a forest to take in fresh air, and we have copious amounts of technology. I’m saddened that they can’t play with their friends right now, or miss practicing new skills (like French or swimming). However, I’m really appreciating the time that God has given us to spend with each other as a family, and the slower pace of life; I don’t have to feel guilty about FOMO because everyone else is stuck at home, and I don’t have to rush to get the kids or me to/from school/work or from one program to another (other than weeknight meetings right after dinner), which is not nearly as exhausting or stressful. I do feel a bit bleh from not getting nearly as many steps or exercise in (10K steps before, now down to 6K is maybe considered a good day) and maybe suffering a bit from eating way too much baked goods. To think that if my kids were at school, I may have missed the momentous moment when Bean’s first tooth fell out, a moment that was only made possible because her brother sat on her face.

May 10, 2020

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