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Day 1: Working from home with kids - a quarantine diary

Me and the boys, 6 and 10.

Monday March 23, 2020

March break is over and normally I would be rejoicing as my kids went back to school and I got to focus on my illustration business. But nope, this is the age of the Coronavirus Quarantine, so they’ll be home with me for AT LEAST two more weeks. (Help!)

My two boys are 6 and 10, and in grades 1 and 5 at a public school here in Toronto. Overall they’re really great kids and I’m thankful. They do fight and drive me crazy sometimes but for the most part they’re kind, caring, creative and sweet kids.

I wanted to share our journey in case it’s helpful for other parents struggling to balance kids and work.

Last night I was really nervous about Monday morning. I felt pressure to keep my kids educated and up to date with the curriculum. I didn’t know where to start and was feeling pretty overwhelmed - so I relaxed and watched Netflix instead. I warned the kids that March break all-out-screentime was over starting tomorrow. They were cool with it. I always try to remember to warn them about things happening in advance. I find it gives them time to process and expect it when it happens.

This morning I decided to reference a schedule I’ve seen floating around the internet. I roughed out a list of times and posted it on the wall. My 6 year old suggested making a classroom up in my bedroom where there’s a chalk wall. He was so excited at the prospect of me playing teacher. I explained that I still have to work, and felt guilty that I wasn’t fulfilling his vision of me in front of a chalkboard teaching him. He got over it faster than I did. Then he suggested that we start a jar and add things to it when they’re really good. I thought that was a great idea.

Our first attempt at a schedule

9:00 - Schedule: Read, write, draw, journal

Actual: They chose to draw for an hour. I suggested that they maybe write a story about their drawing and the 6 year old flat out refused stating “my drawings don’t have stories.”

10:00 - Schedule: Academic time - online tools

Actual: My 10 year old went on his computer, found his teacher’s webpage where she had posted a bunch of online learning resources. He chose a couple and played some math games. The 6 year old disappeared upstairs. After a long silence up there I decided to check on him and found him on my bed reading “Sisters” by Raina Telgemeier with the cat curled up by him (proud Mom moment) I asked if he wanted me to turn on the light and then went back downstairs to my work.

11:00 - Schedule: Creative time - legos, drawing, crafting

Actual: My 10 year old looked at the schedule and said “So basically everything in the morning is just for us to keep busy and stay off video games.” I said “Yeah, pretty much.” He seemed like he wanted some direction for what to do. I had seen a monthly LEGO challenge online so I googled it. We looked up March 23rd and found “You are now in medieval times. You are commissioned to build a jousting arena.”

Both of their eyes lit up with excitement and they ran upstairs to their lego bin discussing their ideas for it. (Yes! A hit!) They worked on their jousting piece all the way until lunch.

The LEGO challenge calendar we’re using

The completed LEGO arena

12:00 - Lunch

Actual: I let them watch tv as I prepped a lunch. The 10 yo wanted a grilled cheese and the 6yo wanted a peanut butter sandwich. I served these up with a bowl full of chopped veggies on the side as they watched a Netflix show that looked like a Harry Potter ripoff. I used this time to scroll on my phone while I ate. I saw more and more posts about not worrying about upholding the curriculum and to just relax. That it’s best not to be stressed. Use this time to connect and focus on lots of reading, writing and creativity time. Seeing that definitely took the pressure off.

Don’t know who to credit for this one - but I thought it was mind-easing advice

12:30 - Chores - tidy, disinfect taps and door handles

Actual: Lunch ran late so we started this at 1:00. I have to admit I didn’t feel like cleaning at the time (didn’t tell them that though.) The 10 yo asked if he could clean the toilets. What Mom would say no to that? So I did my part and disinfected the taps, bannisters and door handles. He finished the downstairs toilet so he asked if he could do the upstairs (yeah, really!) The 6 yo wanted to join in so his big brother taught him how to wipe everything down with a lysol wipe and use the toilet brush on the inside. They also requested that they earn something in the jar from earlier. I said sure, and assigned red lego bricks to the 10 yo and blue to the 6 yo. The 6 yo said the 10 yo should get two lego bricks since he was teaching him how to do it. I said “that’s a really generous suggestion, thanks” and gave his brother the extra brick.

The “good boy” LEGO brick jar. Prize at the end if it gets filled.

1:00 - 2:30 - Quiet time - reading, puzzles, board games

Actual: They went upstairs to play and clean up the LEGO.

At 2:00 I thought we had a livestream kids book class with Arree Chung so they collected up their favourite picture books from upstairs - 10 yo picked Flotsam by David Wiesner and the 6 yo picked The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon and Jake Parker. After fiddling around online trying to get the Zoom link to work I realized the class was happening at 2:00 PST (or 5 am our time) Mom fail. We decided to just wait for him to post the video later.

I looked up the link to the online museum tours and we started watching one that takes you inside the spaceship Discovery - but the 10 yo’s raspberry pi computer couldn’t handle it very well, so the video looked distorted.

They wanted to go outside, saw that it was raining and then started doing jumping jacks in the living room. Soon they were both half naked jumping around. There was a bit of drama when the younger one kicked the older but we sorted it out pretty fast as it was an accident.

The real question: Am I getting work done? Well, I updated my Geeky Pet instagram on Later, so I have posts ready for a few days. I’m also writing this blog, so I’m creating content. I watched Lauren Hom’s livestream - she suggested focusing on just being creative and building things for when life returns back to normal. So I’m doing that. But other than that all this first day setup and keeping the kids off screens is very distracting. 

2:30 - 4:00 - Academic time - online tools

Actual: Who am I kidding? Ha! At this point they didn’t know what to do with themselves, and I was done with directing them. I started to feel like I wasn’t getting anything done so I grabbed my ipad and went upstairs to draw in my bedroom with the instructions “just do whatever - but no video games.” They used Zoom to chat with a bunch of friends and eventually kept coming upstairs to bug me to play video games. I wanted to keep them off until 5 but at 4:30 I gave in so that I could keep drawing.

Tall Dark and Mysterious Stout - a beer label concept I’m working on

Later that night I realized that the school day usually ends at 3:00 - and is chopped up with three different recesses. No wonder they were going crazy by the end of the day.

The 6yo’s contribution to the schedule

5:00 - Dinner

Actual: Nope. I was listening to podcasts and drawing away. The kids were back online with their friends and didn’t seem to be hungry yet and I had some leftovers to rely on. I just kept drawing until my husband came home and then we worked on dinner together and discussed how our days went.

Over all I think day one was a success. I’m going to relax the schedule a little more tomorrow. They also seem happy to give me suggestions and feedback. They seem eager to be on a schedule so they know what’s coming next. They also want to incorporate more ways of doing things from their school. 

First day down! Who knows how many to go. How are you coping with kids at home?

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