By Deborah Wood, Ph.D.
Prior to the pandemic, I would say that I lived a pretty fast-paced life – about 7 days a week of keeping Chesapeake Children’s Museum going as well as a handful of other endeavors. With the imposed stay-at-home order, and the museum closed indefinitely, I soon found plenty to keep me busy at home. Years of neglect invited me to organize the pantry, match up tops and bottoms for all the plastic food storage boxes under the kitchen counter, recycle outdated handouts for my childcare and parenting workshops, resurrect a sewing corner, and tidy up a space upstairs as a presentable Zoom room. Outside the house were green spaces, and some bare spaces, begging for attention. With the neighbor’s permission, my husband and I lopped off a couple of trees and some vines that had been slowly encroaching on the sunshine for a backyard garden. Over the past two summers, with time for sowing, tending, and harvesting, I’ve grown the best veggie gardens I’ve ever had.
What I longed for was time with my grandchildren.
Suddenly I’m homeschooling a second grader and a fifth grader. A schedule is settling into place around their parents’ schedules, with the added resource of another eager teacher who has been welcomed into our Stay Away Covid-19 Bubble as an honorary Grammy. She’ll use her background in Music to take the lead in that department as well utilizing her impressive credentials for Jewish Studies, while I can take charge of Physical Education (i.e. playgrounds and parks) and Health (with lessons in nutrition every time we eat!). Granddaddy is reserving rights to teaching the children about the Beatles, which came up in a conversation recently. Not even the fifth grader knew who they were.
Truly we have talked more about who gets the kids when and where than we have about content and activities for school. Foremost for all of us as “faculty” is just to enjoy our time with the children.
Time is a Gift
Every now and then, sometimes prompted by a news report about vaccines for children or alternatively, a Facebook post about Covid-19 breakouts in one setting or another, I wonder how long we can keep this homeschooling gig going. For now I’m savoring every moment.
The ongoing pandemic has forced an examination of how to use time. Up until March 13, 2020, any time with my school-age grandchildren had to be worked in around their school schedules, in competition with other demands on my time. Almost overnight, the threat of the coronavirus put a stop to spending any time together. Alas, virtual connections just weren’t the same as really being together. With this homeschooling arrangement, everything has changed again. We can include mid-week overnights and camping trips, and spend our time together learning as we please. Having had to be apart for a year and a half, this is a most welcome change for me.
Since this time is so precious, non-traditional lessons matter. For instance, neither of these students had yet mastered riding a two-wheeler without training wheels. Somehow, there hadn’t been time for that before now. The children agreed this was a priority.
Granddaddy, who has various homeschool roles as custodian, IT consultant, camping trip driver, Beatles expert, etc., took charge of researching how to teach a child how to ride a bike. The Youtubers on this subject recommended removing not only the training wheels, but also the pedals. This transforms a bicycle into a balance bike – something new since our last experiences with helping children learn to ride back in the 1980’s. The students were well-motivated, the older one more than the younger one, as we tried it out on the level and traffic-less pavement at the campground at Assateague Island. The results were shaky at best. (Basically an adult held on to keep the bike upright while the child cautiously inched forward.) Twenty minutes of this was enough for everyone.
The next opportunity for bike-riding lessons came a few days later for the fifth grader while the second grader stayed inside with Daddy. “Step, step, glide!” I coached. A slight incline in the pavement in front of Daddy’s house afforded a chance to coast for a few yards – and a new vocabulary word – with the rider squealing, “This is fun!”
Two days later the children took turns with one bike to scoot and, albeit briefly, glide as we travelled by sidewalk to a nearby playground. There a path provided not only an incline, but a soft grassy area next to the path for slowing down and stopping. By the time we returned to Daddy’s house, there was marked improvement for both students.
We had a mid-week overnight at Bubbie and Granddaddy’s which afforded the next opportunity for bike riding lessons. We had bought new bikes for the children that better fit their growing bodies. Hoping to find a couple of old helmets in the garage I returned to the excited children not only with headgear but with Granddaddy, who was just as excited to resume this training as the children were. Whatever it was that he was working on in the garage was not as important as spending this precious time to coach two novice bicycle riders.
George Harrison, whose time on earth was up at the age of 58 said, “It’s being here now that’s important.”
We are striving to spend our homeschooling time wisely.
Dr. Wood will be Keynote Speaker and one of the workshop facilitators for parents and early childhood professionals at a one-day conference, Come Outside – Where Learning is Great! at Chesapeake Children’s Museum on Saturday, October 23.
Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.