By now, most schools have shuttered their doors for a few weeks. Many others have already closed for the rest of the year. Such a strange time we are living in. Kids are stuck at home, parents are trying to work amidst this chaos. No one is really sure what they are doing.
In many ways, I’ve been experiencing this with a bit of deja vu. Minus the virus, my entire hometown survived watching our school doors close and lockdown in March of 1993, not to open again until the fall. We made national news. There were tears. Events were missed. Graduations weren’t the same. My 6th grade year came to a halt without the usual end of the school year fanfare.
After years of failed votes to approve raising taxes for operational costs of the school system, they were essentially broke. It was a terrible scenario. Teachers lost their jobs until the following September. My own parents who were educators, were suddenly unemployed.
Today, we are left with the uncertainty of when things will go back to normal. Hopefully sooner than later. Back in 1993, we knew that there wouldn’t be any school for six months, and mom and dad were no longer employed. It was a reality that they protected us from, as much as they possibly could. I remember sitting in the parking lot of the unemployment office, as each of them took their turns going inside. It was boring, but I recall excitedly waving to our teachers as we waited.
Homeschooling was a nightmare. Despite the fact that my parents were teachers, they weren’t prepared to deal with 6th grade math lessons, annoyed reading sessions, and the anxiousness to get outside with our friends. Let me tell you, homeschooling is never easy, even when parents are teachers.
One reminder of my 6th grade year after school closed was our family working to carefully live on a budget. There was the shift to generic products. There was the reliance on staples like canned goods and pasta. Meat became less of an essential and there was definitely a time when we realized our stomachs were upset because mom tried to feed us on way too many tubes of ground generic turkey.
We learned to be savvy and resourceful. Those leftover snacks when the girls go to bed? I don’t just toss them. They get set aside for tomorrow. Knowing that we are doing our job by staying home as much as possible, we are focusing on wasting as little as possible. Less grocery runs help slow that curve!
In the end, we made it out okay. I went ahead into 7th grade doing just fine. Some of my classmates didn’t have the luxury of having parents who could homeschool them. My 10th grade Earth Science teacher recently pointed out that the following fall, our school had their highest standardized test scores and it was likely not due to homeschooling.
The other night, Mary expressed her sadness that school would be closing early and she wouldn’t get to finish preschool. Her disappointment was understood but I pointed out that this was something very rare that hasn’t happened in over 100 years. The last time this happened her grandparents weren’t even born. In fact, their parents lived during a pandemic. They social distanced, and they lived to tell about it.
It was sad to leave my 6th grade year behind. It wasn’t delightful having my parents homeschool us. Living on a tight budget wasn’t easy but we learned from it. In fact, those lessons I learned have been helpful in our current situation.
What I told Mary was that in the end, my favorite memories were the extra family time. We did our best. We embraced our love for each other. It was such a celebration to come back to our friends in the end. I don’t recall missing moments at school. What I remember most is that extra long summer when I got to play outside more and have my family with me.
I don’t recall any of my friends reminiscing about the missed days of school in a sad way. In fact, most of them are posting about how their families made the best of these extra days. This is going to be the longest summer break ever and we are going to make it great.