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Shefa: Love (and work) in the time of corona

Jonah (left) and Arie Oziel keep up with their school work during a five-week school closure.

I love my kids. I love being a mom. I loved the time I spent with each of my two boys, now 10 and 7, when I was on maternity leave for a year. But when that year was over, I was more than ready to go back to work and send them to school.

I’m a good mom, but I’m a terrible teacher.

And so when the government announced earlier this month that schools would close down for three weeks – and for Jewish day schools, five weeks – in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, I started to get anxious.

On a good day, with all the time in the world, I dread having to help my kids with their homework. It’s just not my thing. And then, all of a sudden, with merely a few days to prepare, working parents across the country were told that in between sitting in on conference calls, replying to email threads, and meeting our deadlines, that we would have to instruct our kids on every subject so that they can keep up with the curriculum and not fall behind when school resumes after Pesach.

Although we’ve been given instructions and resources from our teachers along with access to platforms like Google Classroom, at the end of the day, I’m still expected to keep up with my full-time work responsibilities while juggling a brand new full-time teaching gig I didn’t sign up for and don’t want.

So how am I balancing work and home-schooling?

Not well at all.

But I’m getting better each day, and that’s all I can ask from myself.

My boys, like most kids, crave structure and routine. When they don’t get enough of it, they turn into cranky jerks. So my strategy was to try to stick to the same routine as if school was still on.

We wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, and get to work.

Although I’m not the kind of mom that makes fancy, colour-coded schedules with stickers and rainbows, I do feel empowered by making lists and crossing things off one by one. It’s both grounding and satisfying.

We take half an hour in the morning to plan our day. I sort through all the communications from our teachers and make a list of all the assignments the kids are expected to complete for the day.

Once they’re set up with everything they need, I spend an hour or two focusing on my own work. If the kids have a question they need answered, and I’m on a call, they get a stern look that says, WAIT.

As soon as I’m available, I can help them with whatever questions they may have.

Free play and recess is an important part of any child’s day. After a couple hours of school work, I send the kids outside (I’m fortunate enough to have a back yard) to run around and get some fresh air. That’s when I prepare lunch.

After recess and lunch, it’s back to work for all of us. We go through our list, determine what’s left to be done and we basically repeat our morning routine.

On day three of this home-schooling experiment, I can admit it’s not perfect, but it’s working.

But then, who’s expecting perfection? I remind myself that the kids and I are all doing our best to adjust to this new, albeit temporary reality. There are no right or wrong answers, since we’re all just making this up as we go along. All this while managing the anxiety that comes with waking up each morning to more unsettling news.

In spite of everything, I’m grateful for all the quality time I get to spend with my boys throughout these next five weeks. Having the opportunity to cuddle my boys whenever the mood strikes me is a major bonus I don’t take for granted.

So while it’s second nature for this working Jewish mom to kvetch about how disruptive this social-distancing experiment has been on our lives, it’s not all bad.