Rev Up the Engines

It Was Fun While It Lasted: The Return to the Laptop Education

After several weeks of the Ontario government promising us that in-person learning would remain and even the Ontario Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce posting a letter on Sunday reaffirming that schools would not be shutdown, it is official that Ontario schools are reverting back to online learning after the Spring Break. I probably should have seen this coming.

For those following this site for the past year, you know that Emily and I made the decision for our kids to attend online schooling in the fall because we weren't really satisfied with the communication of how they were going to implement and handle in-person learning, since everything was vague and covered in jargon. We were really blessed that both Everett and Danika had amazing online teachers who had many terrific strategies to connect and teach our kids in a new environment. 

As impressed as I was, having the kids home was a daunting challenge for my work-from-home efforts. My freelance writing already took a major blow with Covid making sales copy and movie writing a rare beast amongst requests from publishers and businesses taking major financial hits. I found my days full of trying to find ways to grow this site into a business while pitching to other potential clients and of course, writing stellar pay copy for those gigs that I found while also frequently needing to play the roles of motivator, teaching-assistant, referee, circus-clown, diplomat and adventurer, 

Despite the challenges, this last year has been overflowing with blessings and rewards. It was a treasure being able to see my kids overcome fears to achieve goals like riding their bikes and be able to revel in their creativity and imagination. I've been very lucky that I worked from home, so I could see my kids grow and develop in their pre-school years, and this past year was the bonus round where I got to bond with them even more and be amazed by what they learned but also taught me so much.

That doesn't mean that I was not thrilled to see them return to in-person learning. It was decided in January that for the emotional and mental health of everyone in the Spicer household that both kids would return to in-person learning after Family Day.

It was hard trying to manage a career while also looking after the kids, and the stress of that whacked away at my own emotional and mental health, Though I'd also say that the energy and joy of my kids is a major thing that got me through this past year. It was a situation of the poison was also the medicine. 

Online school was also a bazooka to my kids' emotional and mental health even if they did love their online teachers and classmates. By February, they had spent a large portion of the year not only at home but with each other and their parents as their main source of social interaction. They needed to get out of the house. They needed to see their friends again.

For the last month, I had become less motivator and teacher-assistant, and mostly referee and diplomat. Before they finished their Cheerios, we were entering the first of the Last Man Standing Iron Man matches for the day, as they would scream at each other over the colour of their shirt or a strand of hair dangling over the other's ear. We'd have temper tantrums and meltdown caused over having a temper tantrum and meltdown, and it would take Detective Benoit Blanc to solve what was the initial cause of the disastrous showcase. It was the Spicer Volcano rather than homestead.

The very first day of in-person schooling and seeing their friends again caused an instant slide into their glorious Moment of Zen. We all started talking kinder to each other and the closing of open wounds became less of a daily concern. We were closer to raining of Skittles rather than toxic sludge flinging. It was a great truth that they needed to be back in a physical school, and they were much happier kids. I was a much happier dad. All was right with the world.

Or as right as can be in a Covid world.

It was a wonderful and glorious month and a half of them being back in school. But all good things must come to an end, and after this Spring Break, it looks like we are in for another extended adventure in online schooling.

It is back to taking out the laptops and setting up three different work areas for each of us. It is back to assuming my work will be interrupted on a constant basis. There will be a kid not doing their work so that they can tell me that the other kid is not doing their work, then they both will yell at each other for distracting them from their work -- I'll be lucky if this only happens twice a day. There will be late nights and early mornings as a I scramble to get work done for clients or this site, because work done during the day is a rare commodity. A video call with a potential or current client will need to be delayed because Danika decided at that moment Everett needs marker lipstick, but he doesn't see the magic in that. What I thought was waving an official good-bye forever in February is now back with a vengeance, because my kids got a taste of the other side and were yearning for a buffet. Cabin fever rages on.

But you know what else is back?

A more leisurely morning wake-up because the four second walk to the laptop eats up less time than the gymnastic routine of getting on coats and bags for the 20-minute journey to school. There will be the golden moments throughout the day when one of my kids; face lights up because they finally figured out the problem that was hounding them. The pure excitement of working alongside one of my kids with a creative and imaginative project that they came up with on their own, and I get the honour to assist or witness. Once again getting more hours to bond with my kids that in a 'normal' year that I'd never have been gifted. My kids teach me so much and remind me of what matters, and I get to be reminded of that and experience it all again for an indefinite time.

I don't want online learning to return. I confess I'm a little annoyed that just a day ago we were told that indeed in-school learning was the top priority to then get the swerve. This isn't the ideal for my career and definitely not for the mental health of anyone in this house. The stay-at-home order is tough enough but now the kids are losing their one major outlet of escaping from the house.

But I also am well-aware that this is the right decision right now and numbers are so out of control that we need another lockdown. 

This won't be permanent. This isn't some grand scheme to make George Orwell's 1984 a reality This isn't Bill Gates' master plan to turn us all into Microsoft zombies. There will be in-person learning again. I can't wait for the day I can see a movie in a theatre and attend a giant feast with extended family. There will be a day where you can give a handshake and hug again without getting a stink eye. 'Normal' in some form will reign again.

But not right now.

Social media has been a cesspool of conspiracy theories and angry creeds over our lost rights. I get it. I have quarantine fatigue too. This year has been a war on my mental health and a challenge for my career. It has also made parenting harder because my kids are still working through this crazy world where they can't just pop over to grandma's house or buy a toy in a store or have a playdate with best friends. Not a single person is claiming this is easy or awesome.

I also have emergency doctors in my family, and I am well-aware Covid is dangerously real. I've been told real stories of patients that are younger and healthier than me that have been fighting for their life due to Covid. This is happening in my own city of Brantford. 

Sometimes we need to make huge sacrifices in order to protect others. We are a community and a society, and sometimes that means we put the need of others as a priority. That doesn't mean we are losing rights. A better world is one where kindness, compassion and generosity are priorities. Right now, we need to make some sacrifices that are hard in order to help strangers and loved ones. We aren't really losing rights. We will get through this. 

I don't want all of us stuck at home again for an extended period of time, but sometimes we must do things that we don't want. Despite admitting this past year has been hard, it has also been overflowing with amazing and spectacular moments if we dare to go looking for them. That is the thing, that even during sacrifice or doing something that is hard, there are gems and treasure to be found. There is greatness in the tough and awful. 

This is another opportunity for me to be innovative and creative with my career and take some big chances to reach my goals and dreams.

Last year, I was inspired by my son facing his fears and within a weekend learned to ride his bike. He now loves riding it and has frequently rode around the neighbourhood and rode to his grandparents' for a quick outdoor visit. It only took less than a week for Danika to follow her brother and master riding her bike. I am really excited to see what fears are conquered this time and what skills get masters. My kids constantly amaze and inspire me.

I get to take part in Danika's creative art projects for class or venture outside on a nature exploration again. I get to spend more precious time and be wowed by my children's imagination, intelligence and passion.

It is another chance to really practice positive thinking and use it as a tool to reach dreams and make a better world for others.

I get to create more priceless memories. Because I get more time with three of the most amazing people in my life, Emily, Everett and Danika.

The dogs get to experience their own wonderland as there will be more people constantly around to pet them and play with them and walk them. Lockdown is their favourite thing in the world. Sometime an animal can teach us to appreciate our circumstances and see the good in what is happening in our lives.

The kids are stuck at home. It isn't what anyone wanted. The past year shows this is when magic and wonder can still happen.