I started to write, “It’s hard to believe, but we’ve done second grade remotely for four months already.” To be honest, though, I can hardly believe that only four months have passed. It feels more like a year. 

We have all the advantages that should make remote schooling a success: A space and device dedicated to our child’s school, two work-from-home parents, an excellent internet connection, a devoted and engaged teacher, and a child who adapts to technology easily.

Despite all these advantages, remote schooling feels like a slow slide to failure. I don’t know if it’s his personality, his age, the situation, or some combination, but tracking and completing all his work eludes our child. He drops off Zoom calls early, loses physical papers, and avoids asynchronous work. He wants to play with his toys or with us, and “finishes” assignments with the minimal amount of work, not trying his best, just minimally touching it so he can say he’s done and can move on. 

When we talk with him about school, he melts down. Oceans of tears flow as he expresses feeling overwhelmed and over his head. He compares himself with other kids in his class, always to his detriment. He feels ashamed of skipping or shoddily completing his work. Yet when I encourage him to work harder, he refuses; his pride won’t let him raise a white flag — “Only babies ask for help!”; and he doesn’t want to spend more time on Zoom for optional connections with teachers. 

I keep thinking that if I just wasn’t working, if I could spend more time with him, things might improve. But honestly I’m not sure that’s true. Yes, more time might help, but even stay-at-home (ha! That phrase seems particularly meaningless now) parents struggle with wearing both the parent hat and the teacher hat. Kids already argue back, fight, yell, scream, and disobey parents readily; make it double readily for school-related topics. I don’t think devoting all my time to monitoring his school behavior would actually improve things that much.

Working a full-time job or not, we keep helping to make sure he’s at least getting assignments done. We try to balance monitoring and checking work with the freedom to fail safely. His teacher has a sign up: “I <3 mistakes.” Amen! 

Through the tears and tantrums, through the mistakes and misery, through it all, we do the best we can with what we have. I don’t have any solutions and I don’t have any words of wisdom. We just keep trying, and we don’t give up.

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