i think the spanish language has it right on the notion of punctuation. to say right up front, this is a question, helps the reader understand how to read what’s coming. sometimes you get to the end of a sentence and realize you’ve read it all wrong. it wasn’t a statement. it was a question. in fact, the upside down and backward question mark is even cooler because it says: this a question to me whether or not this is even a question.

and now you know how i feel about what to call “school” this year. ¿school? what exactly do you mean by this word “school”? because school means one thing. and what’s happening right now is like nineteen other things, yet none of them, all at once. 

welcome to pandemic parenting 2020. it’s the new hip dystopian reality that makes you drink more and wonder why you can’t drink more. 

lemme ‘splain.

samson’s school is beginning online classes—for everyone. cool. 

samson on day one of 5th grade

for the next few weeks all the kids will meet virtually at 9am four days a week and see their fellow travelers on the education train. so far so good. community. continuity. 

because it’s a montessori school, they have three grades in their upper elementary class: 4th, 5th, and 6th. samson is in 5th grade so he’ll meet with his fellow grade 5ers every day as well, but at a different time each day. the times are staggered to be fair to all the grades. okay, makes sense. it’s a little disjointed, but we can deal with that. again, so far, okay. 

one day a week is “home school day.” this is the day the teachers have school meetings, deal with administrative stuff, catch up with students who need extra attention, what have you. friday used to be home school day, but they’re changing it this semester to wednesday. why? okay, i’m glad you asked. now stay with me. 

they’re changing the home school day to wednesday because, beginning september 28, they’re planning—and i do mean “planning”—on going to the hybrid model. ¿hybrid? yes. in this model there will be two “cohorts.” i don’t like that word either. it is neither a co, nor a hort, but that’s another rant entirely. back to cohorts. two of them. beginning on the 28th. 

the plan is that the first cohort will be half the class coming in on mondays and tuesdays to the classroom, spaced at a safe distance from each other and the teachers. on wednesday somebody will clean the heck out of the classroom (disinfect, etc.). and finally on thursdays and fridays the second cohort will go in to the classroom. 

did you follow all that?

and now you’re asking yourself: but what about samson? what’s he going to do? is he in a cohort? what the heck? also, what do the monday/tuesday cohorts do on the other two days? same question for thursday/friday peeps. 

i’m glad you’re paying attention because yes, there is still another group of children unaccounted for: the stay-at-homers. that subgroup of children whose parents are extra cautious—for reasons all their own, which we won’t get into for other and sundry reasons—and so will not be sending their children to commingle with cohorts or any other sort of horts.

and the stay-at-homers don’t have just ONE option. nay nay. they have TWO. 

  1. door number one for children whose lives remain solely ONLINE is to be virtually on their own. no more meetings with other children. community, gone. the parents would be their sole teachers, although they will be allowed to check in with their primary teacher once a week so the teacher can check on their progress. if later everything goes back to the way it was (everyone in the classroom), or the school ends up doing EVERYTHING online for EVERYONE, the students will retain their teacher and all will be well. 

  2. door number two for stay-at-homers provides students with much more support and assistance from a dedicated teacher, but it will NOT be their original teacher, because that original teacher will be teaching those two cohorts mentioned above. it may, or may not, provide some virtual community with other students. if later everything goes back to the way it was (everyone in the classroom), or the school ends up doing EVERYTHING online for EVERYONE, these students will NOT retain their original teacher. they are SOL (stuck outta luck).

is that confusing enough for you? 

we haven’t even gotten to the curriculum yet. or the fact that if the covid19 cases in the county rise to a certain threshold, they might not be doing this hybrid/cohort plan anyway and EVERYONE will be online, in which case all that work to arrange people and schedules and multiple curricula will have been for naught. goose egg. the big fat bupkis. but i’m sure the teachers will have enjoyed the exercise. (that was sarcasm, surely.) (shirley says, yes, it was.)

let me be clear about this: i think our teachers are fabulous. i think they’re way overworked and under compensated. i blame teachers zero. i feel for them and their families. they’re struggling under nearly impossible conditions. the fact that they’re continually reassessing and re-designing curricula is crazy. and i know that this is just one example of the issues that surround the world at large.  

we are lucky. we are able to home school our child. we have an option. (we chose home school option door #1.) 

we have internet connection and a computer for him to use. we have at least one stay-at-home parent to be here for his home school needs. we may not be very good at it, but we’re here—and we CAN be here. but good golly miss molly, those who can’t... are pluck outta luck.

the permutations of struggles with schooling are overwhelmingly complex. but no issue seems simpler to me than the question of whether to stay alive—or risk the opposite. but, how you do that, or try to do that, remains a question only you can answer.

and so, i say to you—or rather i pregunta you: ¿school?

my little home schooler… on a good day


  1. Your description of the "cohorting" reminds me of something... Ah yes, see if you can identify it:

    HUMPHREY: All right, settle down. Settle down. [clunk] Now, before I begin the lesson, will those of you who are playing in the match this afternoon move your clothes down onto the lower peg immediately after lunch, before you write your letter home, if you're not getting your hair cut, unless you've got a younger brother who is going out this weekend as the guest of another boy, in which case, collect his note before lunch, put it in your letter after you've had your hair cut, and make sure he moves your clothes down onto the lower peg for you. Now,--

    WYMER: Sir?

    HUMPHREY: Yes, Wymer?

    WYMER: My younger brother's going out with Dibble this weekend, sir, but I'm not having my hair cut today, sir.

    PUPILS: [chuckling]

    WYMER: So, do I move my clothes down, or--

    HUMPHREY: I do wish you'd listen, Wymer. It's perfectly simple. If you're not getting your hair cut, you don't have to move your brother's clothes down to the lower peg. You simply collect his note before lunch, after you've done your scripture prep, when you've written your letter home, before rest, move your own clothes onto the lower peg, greet the visitors, and report to Mr. Viney that you've had your chit signed.

    I do wish you'd listen, Beth.

    1. ah, yes. listening well. that, in sum, is the meaning of life, is it not, my friend?


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