We’ve made it through two full weeks of remote learning. I still have five people living in my house. Was it relaxing as a spa day? Ummm… no. Was it the firey pits of hell? Also no.
When it was becoming clear that there would be at least some amount of remote learning this fall, the Warden and I started brainstorming ways that we could make it better than it was in the spring if we were going to survive. Spring was chaos, mayhem and frustration. The inmates did their school work (with endless hounding from me) all over the house: at the kitchen table or island, in the playroom slumped in a gaming chair, in a huge treadmill box filled with pillows and snacks in my dining room (can you guess who created that hot mess?) No matter how I tried to keep them on task and organized, it was futile. If I made them all work at the kitchen table, it was bedlam, fighting, yelling and tormenting (me included.) If they went and did their school work where they wanted to do it, that meant I had to run all over the house helping, monitoring and riding herd on them. I was a gray hair’s width away from completely throwing in the towel.
So when the Warden came up with the idea, “Why don’t we make the living room into a school room?” I had serious doubts.
“They’re going to kill each other,” I said. “It’s going to be one big MMA Cage Match in there every day!”
“And how is that different than any other day here? At least they’ll all be in one place and easier to manage. We can get some desks and they can keep all their stuff there and not all over the house. I think it could work.” He looked hopefully at me.
I started warming up to the idea. “Well, they’ll have to have good headphones for sure. And we use that white noise machine from when Warrior Princess was a baby to drown out the sound of her brothers killing each other. If it does turn into a MMA cage match, we could live stream it and Young Son could finally have the monetized YouTube channel he’s always dreamed of. Warrior Princess could be the bookie.”
The Warden ignored my brilliance and immediately turned to his computer to search for desks. He found some really cool corner ones at Ikea (I reminded him that he was in charge of assembly and the inmates would guaranteed want to “help” him. That did not deter him.) I found some desk chairs on Overstock.com and desk lamps on Amazon. Ooh! I could shop for office accessories!
“What did the inmates think of the idea?” you ask. They actually were on board with it. We talked about how eLearning in some capacity was going to happen for at least awhile, and we wanted to make it a better experience. We showed them the desks and chairs and told them they could personalize their space how they wanted (within reason!) They were sold!
Since our “living room” has never been a “living room” and has always been a playroom, I had some purging and clearing out to do. It was actually pretty satisfying and I even got out the carpet shampooer.
After a couple trips to Ikea and a few hours of some assembly required, voila! Behold…
The sChOOL clASSroom!
Has it been perfect? No, but we’ve tweaked things here and there and it’s starting to work pretty well. The inmates are driven by money, so they have a reward chart for every week. Here’s an example:
So far they’ve been doing a pretty good job too. For now I’ve been reminding them about charging electronics and being ready for the next day as we get used to this new system. The Positive Attitude can trip them up. Give your brother a wedgie while he’s on a Zoom meeting? No star. Start complaining about school work or classmates? No star. Distract or annoy classmates on purpose? No star. Make Mom come out and yell? NO STAR!
Is this ideal? No. We all are longing to have our kids back in their classrooms with their teachers and friends. But in the meantime, we’re grateful to be together and healthy, and the inmates are liking their independence and taking pride in their special work areas.
Do you want to know one of the craziest things to come out of quarantine and remote learning? The inmates have become closer with each other. I see them looking out and caring for one another more and wanting to be together in their free time. I’m really proud of them for taking this in stride and with grace…as much as possible. (I’d be worried if they didn’t murder on each other at least once day!) If one good thing comes out of all of this, may the great bond they are creating last a lifetime.