Our distance learning home classroom

I never planned to homeschool my kids, but along the way I created a space in our home that has become almost perfect for our sudden switch to schooling from home in 2020. Technically, it’s what would normally be a formal living room and dining room, but there is nothing formal about our home. This space has morphed as our kids have grown and it will now become the distance learning classroom for the foreseeable future.

Honestly, I had most of the items on hand from my years of thrifting vintage schoolhouse items, so it wasn’t hard to create a classroom feel while shopping my own house. A large vintage chalkboard, a schoolhouse clock, vintage locker baskets, globes, painted signs, and thrifted school chairs provide a classroom feel around our farmhouse table.

The kids each have a wall mounted file that they can organize by subject or day to keep papers off the table. We have a cart below that where there is a charging station for their iPads. The hutch shelves hold more school supplies and storage for notebooks and anything else they may need.

My plan is to keep the table as clear as possible (some days it is more crap table than craft table), so that they are able to stay on task and we can get started when they need to get started without a lot of hassle.

I feel blessed that we already have this space in our house. Thankfully, we have chosen to use this space in an unconventional way that has worked for our family. If you are struggling to find space in your home where you can work, or your kids can do school, it doesn’t need to be an entire room. This space is definitely a multifunctional space for our entire family, but will be dedicated to school during the weekdays when we need it to be.

A few of the things we changed caused a ripple effect around the house, so there is more cleaning, organizing, and other small projects happening. I am hoping to share those as a bit of inspiration and to keep myself accountable on getting them done.

One Month

It’s been one month since the schools were shut down in Oregon. Today also marks the first official day of Distance Learning for All, the first day of the 4th Quarter. Since Friday, March 13th (yes, this all started for us on Friday the 13th) we have been working with a loose schedule (I personally prefer the word routine) here at home. More for my sanity than anything else. The routine is written on a large chalkboard where everybody can see it, but I still seem to have to remind them on a daily basis what they need to be doing.

From the beginning of this situation, it has helped cut down on the questions that I hear throughout the day: When can I play? (Never. We are Social Distancing), When can I be on electronics? (If you ask me that question again, you are losing all electronics for the rest of this quarantine. Wait, I will give them back to you now because you are driving me crazy telling me you are bored), When is dinner? (You want to eat again?! I just fed you a couple hours ago, and I have been picking up snack wrappers all over the house since then), When do we have to do school? (ALL. DAY. LONG. Wait, I didn’t mean that. Just do what you can and call it good). We still have plenty of battles, but the routine written in big letters on the chalkboard is something I can direct them to when they ask a question.

With a consistent routine my kids, who are 10 and 12, know when to expect the two most important times of the day FREE TIME and ACADEMIC TIME. We definitely don’t start at the crack of dawn. In fact, I got quite used to sleeping in until 8 or 9. It was quite lovely until it felt really lazy, and then I felt really bad about my momming skills. I started out strong with a couple days of yoga. I even made timelapse videos and posted them to social media! Now, I have figured out that it is important for me to get up early and go for a long walk by myself before I get the day started. If I can get home and help the kids get some EXERCISE in before ACADEMIC TIME it definitely helps to get wiggles out, but it doesn’t alway happen. We dedicate two hours in the morning to ACADEMIC TIME. If sitting for that long becomes a battle, we have super flexibility in our schedule to switch some ACADEMIC TIME around with OUTDOOR PLAY or CREATIVE TIME.

My kids are at the age where I don’t need to be constantly engaged to help them with ACADEMIC TIME. My 4th grader doesn’t want me to help her with anything and usually heads outside to the playhouse to get her work done. My 6th grader knows everything and gets it all done in minutes. Both of those facts are true in reality, but I also read over the emails that the teachers send, help them figure out what to get started on and how to manage their time, and am available to help them when they have questions, which happens multiple times during those two hours. They are reading and processing a lot of the stuff that teachers would be teaching them on their own, of course they might need me to explain it to them. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as I would like and I have sent my 10 and 12 years olds to have time outs in their rooms. However, it’s usually me who needs the time out. I try to sit with them and work on something like this blog post so that I can be available for their questions. I cannot imagine trying to do this with younger kids (or kids who have extra needs) who really need the help that they can only get from the teachers and specialist at their schools.

After ACADEMIC TIME, we eat LUNCH at the same time so nobody forgets to eat, or snacks throughout the day. After LUNCH the kids have to do a few CHORES (this term is used lightly, but they are learning to put away their own laundry and clean bathrooms…sometimes bribery is involved) before they can have their FREE TIME. FREE TIME is whatever they want it to be…FaceTiming friends, playing outside in our backyard, or playing video games. This is their time to do whatever they want, but it is also my time. I’m a stay at home mom, and I am used to having the house to myself all day long. With all these people in my house all day long it gets a little cramped. This is when I can make an escape and go grocery shopping with my mask and hand sanitizer. Or, lucky me, get other housework done. It is also a good time for me to do something for myself. And, I want to make this clear, I don’t know how parents who have to work from home and do this, teachers included (because lots of them are trying to teach their classes and teach their own kids), are able to do it all! My husband has had a home office since our kids were babies and they know if the office door is closed that it is off limits, but if you don’t have an office door to close and this is the first time you and your kids are all at home working and schooling together…all bets are off. You’re going to get caught on a Zoom Call with your kid in the background. Heck, you might even get caught yelling at your kid to stop making noise while you are on your work call because you forgot to turn your mute off. Your kid is going to be playing videos games instead of doing schoolwork just so you can get a tiny fraction of your work done. It’s all good. This is hard.

Our afternoons have a lot of room for flexibility. We can move FREE TIME to later in the day if we still need time to work on schoolwork, chores, or anything else. We also have some CREATIVE TIME built into the afternoon. This is for those times when the kids ask if they can bake something, paint something, or create something like play dough. Truthfully, CREATIVE TIME started because at the beginning of “quarantine” the kids each had an interest in baking cookies, but most times they would wait until after 7 o’clock in the evening to ask to do it. I would just about lose it every time they asked, “Are you kidding me? I just made dinner, the kitchen just got cleaned up, and now you are asking me to get up off to the couch and help you?” Now, they weren’t always asking for help, sometimes they just wanted to do it themselves, which is great if they actually cleaned up the mess they made. So, by having this hour of CREATIVE TIME before dinner they know it is a time where they can be in the kitchen and it won’t get in the way of making dinner or make a mess after the kitchen is cleaned up for the day. It also allows me to give them a little grace. They need to clean up their messes, but I also know I will be in the kitchen after them making dinner and the real mess with get cleaned up at some point. Plus, we have had a great supply of baked treats for when they ask, “Can I have a treat?”

Finally, there are a couple of hours between the CREATIVE TIME and DINNER when I ask the kids to get outside and play (otherwise known as, go outside and give momma some space). The first couple of days of “quarantine” I sent them out to ride bikes, but when social distancing became a requirement, I stopped. There is no way a 10 and 12 year old know how to social distance. In fact, we went for a family bike ride and ran into a few friends in the neighborhood and the kids automatically ran right up to each other as we were yelling, “SOCIAL DISTANCE!” Eventually, this hour of time has become a time where the kids jump on our new trampoline (thank goodness we spent the money we would have spent on skiing over Spring Break on that), help out with a project that we are working on (Ryan has been repairing and refinishing our deck), or spend time talking with our neighbors who live behind us from over the fence (it reminds me of the show Home Improvement and their neighbor Wilson). They are also taking turns to occasionally help cook dinner, and get the table set. Chores that we have always wanted them to do, but in the busyness of life (shoving dinner in front of kids as they get dressed to go to sports practice only 45 minutes after they get home from school) we have not had the time. There are blessings in all of this if we look for them…they are finally learning life skills!

In the evenings, we spend a lot of time together as a family. Walking around the neighborhood waving hello to our neighbors from a safe distance, riding bikes, playing card games (some of which may be mildly inappropriate), or watching 80’s movies (which I made an extensive list of and we are working our way through… it amazes me what was considered PG when I was young). We are also revisiting Stranger Things, and are a bit saddened that they had to halt filming of Season 4 because of all of this.

The kids and I are each keeping a journal during this time. I found the words that were handwritten in my grandfathers journal during the time he was in WWII to be so very interesting. The words he wrote as a young man were so very different from the words he spoke years later. I hope that generations from now our family members will be able to read our handwritten words and learn a bit more about each of us. My blog posts are here to share with the public. To give hope. To share our reality. And, hopefully, to lighten the mood. I do not have answers for any of us. I can share my life, and hopefully in sharing that, we can feel connected in all of this.

You are not alone. We are all in this together.

before COVID-19

There will be a time in the future when we think back to 2020 when we had to “stay home to save lives” during the Coronavirus Pandemic. In the span of just a few weeks our lives went from the “before COVID-19” normal to the “during COVID-19” unknown. What “before COVID-19” consisted of was different for all of us, but we each had our “normal”, which has now been turned upside down.

Our “before COVID-19” normal was heading into the busiest time of the year for our family. Spring would have been full of Reece playing lacrosse, Ryan coaching lacrosse, Lorelai playing volleyball and riding horses, along with school events that would keep us going through the end of the school year. This year I was also working part-time, and had just gotten started with a home based cookie business. We had plans to ski and visit the coast over Spring Break along with visits from grandparents. It all came to a screeching halt on Friday, March 13th.

The first case of Coronavirus in Oregon was announced on Friday February 28th. We were at the elementary school STEAM night when the news started spreading. That same night we went to Reece’s first round basketball playoff game at one of the middle schools. The next day was filled with a district OBOB competition for Lorelai and more basketball for Reece…all in the packed classrooms and gymnasiums at a local middle school. The following week, the first week of March, life continued on as normal. Work, school, social lives.

At the end of the first week of March the kids had a three day weekend, and with no sports activities scheduled between the end of basketball season and the beginning of lacrosse, I booked a house at the Oregon Coast. I knew that it may be the only time for our family to get away for a while considering the full spring schedule we had ahead of us. The kids and I left Thursday after school and drove down to Salem to give the new In-n-Out a try. The drive through was packed, so we decided to go inside to eat our food. We were able to quickly order our meals, but stood in the crowded restaurant waiting for our food and a table to clear. We were able to get a table, ate our food, and got on the road to the Oregon Coast.

We arrived at the beach in the dark, and moved our stuff into the house. We checked in with Ryan, to make sure that he made it home safely from Bend. He had car problems earlier that morning and said he would probably need to get a new car sooner rather than later. The kids and I played some games, watched a movie, and got to bed for our adventure the next day. We drove to Newport and visited an antique mall and a couple of rock shops at the Aquarium Village. One of the shops had just been opened by a couple that moved to the coast from Nevada. We had a nice time visiting with the people who were eagerly anticipating the crowds that Spring Break would bring to the coast. We stopped along the 101 at all of the scenic overlooks, had lunch at Rogue, and stopped at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It was such a fun day with the kids, and were all looking forward to Ryan joining us for the rest of the weekend.

Ryan arrived at the coast on Friday evening…just in time for sunset. The kids and I were already down at the beach and he came down to meet us. The kids were so happy he was finally with us and especially excited to see the new truck he bought the night before. We ate some dinner and then took a drive down the 101. We woke up the next morning and drove down to the Sea Lion Caves. The kids (and Ryan) were not thrilled with the drive, but it was beautiful and we ended up seeing hundreds of sea lions in the caves. Definitely an experience they will remember. We drove south to Florence, ate lunch at Mo’s and drove back to the beach house. I noticed a sign for Corona Street both times and jokingly said we should stop and take a photo. Sunset, dinner, hot tub, and family games finished out the night. The next morning we would head back home to get ready for the busy week ahead.

School, lacrosse, after school play dates, a concert at the Moda Center, and the 4th grade music program were the activities that would fill the calendar that week. By the morning of Thursday, March 12th it all changed. On Wednesday, March 11th, while Ryan and Reece attended a TOOL concert at the Moda Center (the last event held there and the last concert TOOL played) Governor Brown announced that all activities with over 250 people were to be canceled. This was after an NBA game was canceled as the players took to the court after one player had confirmed to test positive for Coronavirus. This was the day that things in the US started to change. The NBA suspended their season, lacrosse practices were canceled, the 4th grade music program was canceled, and by the evening of March 12th, the school district had closed the schools until March 31st. In a matter of hours, we had moved into the unknown of “during COVID-19”.

Summer 2019: the halfway point

We’re halfway through our summer break here in the Pacific Northwest.

Today felt like the first Saturday in a LONG while were we did not have to be anywhere or really do anything.

Realistically, as I type that I am realizing that is true for only half of our family. The boys got on the road this afternoon to go on a fishing adventure to celebrate Reece’s 12th birthday.

Lorelai and I, however, are still lounging on the sofa.

Truthfully, I had a couple days this week where all I did was relax. After we returned from of weekend lacrosse tournament in Central Oregon we were all beat. The kids and Ryan were sick with a head cold and I think I was doing everything to keep from getting sick…including a lot of reading.

I’ll get back to what I have been reading later. For now, I want to do a brief recap of our Summer 2019 adventures up to now.

Our adventures really started before the kids got out of school for the Summer.

Lorelai and I road tripped to Spokane, Washington for The Farmchicks Show with our mom and daughter besties! We enjoyed a weekend of girl time while the boys had their own boys weekend at home.

When they returned to school Reece took part in the Junior Rose Parade with all of the 5th graders from his school.

We hopped in the car again to drive to Sunriver where we joined Ryan for a work trip and enjoyed time together in our friends beautiful Sunriver condo!

Horseback riding, pool, fishing, golf, and bike rides to see horses kept us busy.

Ryan’s parents arrived a few days after our return and we closed out the end of the school year with Field Day, a 5th grade promotion ceremony, and a celebration at the park with friends.

Father’s Day and my birthday were celebrated while Ryan’s parents visited.

The next weekend we went to the Tigard Festival of Balloons…unique annual event within walking distance of our house. Carnival rides, beer garden, henna, hot air balloons, and lots of steps walking to and from the park a couple times each day of the weekend.

While all of our summer fun was happening, Reece was also practicing 2-3 times a week for a travel lacrosse team. Ryan and Reece flew down to California for his first lacrosse tournament the last weekend of June. California sunshine, travel fun with teammates, half a season of games, and a visit to in-n-out filled their California days.

Lorelai and I had our own adventures a little closer to home. Paddle boarding and an amazing early 4th of July celebration with friends.

The kids and I took a day trip to the Oregon Coast to see one of the lowest tides of the year on July 3rd. We are so blessed to be able to get in the car and drive less than two hours to soak in such beauty.

On July 4th at 12:00am. Wait, let me start over. On July 3rd at 11:55 pm, Lorelai and I woke up from a couple hours of slumber to watch the entire Season 3 of Stranger Things right after it was released. No spoilers here, but it was intense and left us asking lots of questions. She continued to stay up for 23 hours until she crashed after watching 4th of July fireworks. I, on the other hand, took multiple naps on the 4th of July and it still took me a couple more days to recover.

Reece’s 12th birthday was on the 5th of July and we celebrated with bowling and ice cream with friends.

We caught our breath for a couple of days and ended up planning a spur of the moment camping trip. Lorelai had been wanting to camp since winter break and I decide that we should make it happen. It was a lot of effort, but I venture to say that we all thought it was worth it. I will write more about that adventure in another post.

Once again, a few days at home to catch up on regular life and we were on the road again to Central Oregon for the last lacrosse tournament of the summer. We stayed in a charming Airbnb near downtown Bend and got to spend a bit of time away from the lacrosse fields.

And, that puts us here. In the middle of Summer 2019. It’s been full. Really full. And, I am so thankful for all of the fun that I get to have with my kiddos each and every summer.

skeletons in the garden: football fans

the skeletons were feeling pretty confident about the buffs beating the beavers this weekend…a bit of a risk living in oregon.

it was the homecoming game at colorado and the beavers were 1-6…how could they lose?!

the rat and bird were even showing their skills as “ralphie runners” and dressed the spider up with buffalo horns!

unfortunately, the buffs blew a big lead and lost in overtime.

i found them like this in the morning…devastated.